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The range of hagiography


Let’s be frank, the Reagan worship is getting annoying. I know it’ll run its course eventually, and I have to be patient. Last night I was at the gym, and Tim “I don’t know when Gingrich took back Congress” Russert was blathering on about Reagan for what appeared to be hours. I’ve never been more greatful I forgot to bring my headphones, because I’m the kind of masochist who would actually listen.

While we’re awash in the vast oceans of Ronniephilia, we might as well make distinctions. There are clearly better and worse forms of Reagan worship. And the Times gives us the complete range.

First, the good. CUNY’s John Patrick Diggins, American historian of a sometimes kind of conservative sort, gives us the best possible kind of Reagan worship. Reagan was smart enough to ingore the strangelovian rantings of a group of advisors and engage Gorbachev. Surely these men were proven so clearly and strikingly wrong that their influence waned? Nope, Dick Cheney went on to become SecDef and VP. But thankfully, Reagan ignored his advice at one crucial moment.

Then, the worst. A comically dishonest and ghoulish attempt to tease forth a favorable position on a pet issue by William Clark. Clark argues that Reagan would have been appalled by the very notion of stem cell research. (And for all we know, Alzheimer’s is a blast!) We can tell because one thing that’s clear from his political career is that nothing, nothing at all, was more important to him than a strong life begins at conception ethic. Sure, there’s nothing in his political record to indicate this–and he did sign one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country as CA gov. in 1967–but look at this paper he wrote for a bunch of wingnuts back in ’83!

I don’t know what’s most appalling about this. One possibility is this jackass presumes to know more about Reagan’s wishes than his wife of 50 years. Another is that he presumes the contraction of Alzheimer’s wouldn’t change his view at all. Truth be told, tramatic personal events often change political positions. Ask Jim Brady. Or better yet, take a look at a social history of pre Roe-vs-Wade abortion. Even when liberalizing abortion laws wasn’t particularly popular, the middle class and up didn’t respond positively if their discreet grey market abortion access was tampered with.

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