On MTP, Andrea Mitchell tried to put a part of Reagan's legacy into perspective, and some of it was that he struck deals with Democrats to get legislation passed; now, Tea Party Conservatives are trying to hijack his name and recreate what he did for their own gain. Peggy Noonan was almost fit to be tied because Andrea didn't articulate her view in its entirety, but Mitchell might as well have gotten this from Richard Norton Smith, who said the same thing recently on CSPAN.
ANDREA MITCHELL: I mean he said, "This is the-- the sound you hear-- around my feet is the concrete breaking around my feet." Whatever the exact word were. People are trying-- Republicans in particular, obviously, trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan for their own political purposes now. But his vision and his ability to work across party lines was so far broader. He stuck to his principles. He was authentic, which is I think one of the reasons why he is admired after all of these years. But he knew when he needed to compromise. And he did. And he reached out with Democrats, not just the bo weevils who were the conservative Texas Democrats, but with Tip O'Neill and liberal-- Massachusetts Democrats as well, when he needed to get something done. And with the help, the-- really-- the guidance of people like Jim Baker. But the genius of it all was that—Ed Meese was there. There were conservatives there. And-- and Jim Baker and more moderate Republicans. And it was a bit messy at times, but he had a range of views. And Nancy Reagan bringing even more people into the-- into play.
DAVID GREGORY: Would he think the key party-- (OVERTALK) DAVID GREGORY: --was of--
PEGGY NOONAN: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
DAVID GREGORY: Yeah.
PEGGY NOONAN: Republicans are not I think trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a Republican. What-- conservatives aren't trying to--appropriate him. He was a conservative. Willie he became a public figure in America two years before he was governor, in 1964. And he laid out a speech as stern, if not sterner, in its conservatism in which he explained his views on taxes. Cut them. His views on the size of government. Too big. Too bullying. His views on the Soviet Union. Hold it back. It is expansionist. This was all very clear. As a President, as a governor, he was--
ANDREA MITCHELL: No, but--
PEGGY NOONAN: --pragmatic in--
ANDREA MITCHELL: --operation of the candidates and the Sarah Palin quotes. I'm talking about one wing of the party.
PEGGY NOONAN: You mean some people are trying to claim his as a mantle.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Exactly.
Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and the entire modern Conservative movement has rewritten his eight-year presidency to fit their current narrative. Noonan, who laces every word she says with phony sentimentality on television, almost needed an adrenaline shot pumped directly into her chest on air because she didn't understand Mitchell's context.
Here's what the former director of the Reagan Presidential Library had to say via C&L's Nicole Belle about Reagan:
As someone born during LBJ's burgeoning "Great Society" who came of age during Reagan's style-over-substance "Morning in America" conservative rebirth, it's a little hard to take all of the deification of Ronald Reagan and the willful ignoring of the darker aspects of his legacy. LBJ's legacy--for which we heard nary a peep on the centennial of his birth--was of true democratization of the United States: of eliminating economic and racial disparities, of fostering arts and culture, of being stewards of the environment. Reagan, on the other hand, offered up a rosy optimism that ignored his disdain for legislation of social justice. The reality of Reagan rarely lived up to his glossy coverage, as historian Richard Norton Smith writes:
Before he became an icon, Ronald Reagan was a paradox: a complex man who appeared simple, at once a genial fundamentalist and a conservative innovator. As America's oldest President, he found his most fervent supporters among the young. The only divorced man to occupy the Oval Office, Reagan as President rarely attended church. He enjoyed a relationship with his own children best described as intermittent. Yet his name was synonymous with traditional values, and he inspired millions of the faithful to become politically active for the first time. During eight years in the White House, Reagan never submitted a balanced budget or ceased to blame Congress for excessive spending. He presided over the highest unemployment rate since World War II and one of the longest peacetime booms ever.
Smith, a former director of the Reagan Presidential Library (and four others) also wrote of Reagan in Time Magazine this week:
If the Age of Reagan is anywhere consigned to the history books, it is among those who claim his mantle while practicing little of their hero's sunny optimism and even less of his inclusiveness. Reagan, after all, excelled at the politics of multiplication. Too many of his professed admirers on talk radio and cable gabfests appear to prefer division.
Will Bunch wrote a great book on Reagan titled Tear Down This Myth -- a great place to start if you want a good look into his life and politics.
Think Progress has a handy post up entitled: 10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan if you need to debate with a Hannity type.
Also, Salon has a blog dedicated to Ronald Regan here.
Check out this piece by Bunch called: When Reagan was (much) less popular than Carter