Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Did You Get That Memo?

I was never fan of Ronald Reagan, and the current craze of revisionist history ensnaring our media (Reagan single handedly ended the Cold War; Reagan was the most popular President of the century) is a little out of control. However, a few things can be said about the Gipper.

For one, while the Soviet Union would have most certainly collapsed under the weight of its own economic ineptitude, Reagan or not, he was one of the first elected officials to envision this scenario and actively work toward it. Also, Reagan's willingness to allow the Glasnost spotlight to shine brightest on Gorbachev, rather than himself, almost surely helped to sweep the process along.

Having never received the memo about respecting the dead, on the other hand, is Chris "no respect" Hitchens. Maybe Hitch is still sore that Dennis Miller got a CNBC gig for going Republican, and all he got was a lousy column at Slate. All that becomes obvious is if there's one person the Hitch hates even half as much Clinton, it appears to be Ronald Reagan.

There was more to Ronald Reagan than that. Reagan announced that apartheid South Africa had "stood beside us in every war we've ever fought," when the South African leadership had been on the other side in the most recent world war. Reagan allowed Alexander Haig to greenlight the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fired him when that went too far and led to mayhem in Beirut, then ran away from Lebanon altogether when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then unbelievably accused Tip O'Neill and the Democrats of "scuttling." Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn't sold them (and hadn't traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck. Reagan then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too. Reagan then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran. (If Margaret Thatcher's intelligence services had not bugged Oliver North in London and become infuriated because all European nations were boycotting Iran at Reagan's request, we might still not know about this.)


The fox, as has been pointed out by more than one philosopher, knows many small things, whereas the hedgehog knows one big thing. Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife—the one that you remember—because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.

Hitchens apparently decided to blow past "piling on" and go right to that fine British tradition of spitting on the grave.