Thursday, January 17, 2008

St. Reagan Humanized

The GOP candidates have invoked Ronald Reagan's name numerous times during this campaign. He was a great president for many reasons, in my view. And certainly we could use his pragmatic approach to many of the problems we are facing today. But in making him some kind of standard for the 2008 GOP primaries, these candidates are overlooking that Ronald Reagan was a man that was prone to mistakes, just like everyone else. In short, he was a politician.

For a better synopsis of Ronald Reagan the human being, read VDH's latest essay.


7 comments:

Greg said...

How come no one ever references the greatest Republican - and greatest President - Abraham Lincoln?

Mustang said...

Greg, Mr. Lincoln was assuredly the first Republican, the most unfortunate to date, and we can even suggest one of our more humanitarian presidents. But why do you think he was the greatest?

Greg said...

He was the greatest for holding the country together during a time of civil war. He weathered tremendous criticism from the Union during the conflict. He stood up for what was right, even though that was the most difficult path. He understood the need to help the South after the war, though the Presidents who followed him delayed Reconstruction. He did all of this while enduring tremendous personal tragedy. Look at his predecessor and his successor for comparison - he was an Einstein among savages, IMHO.

I put George Washington at a close second.

Who is your "best", Mustang?

Mustang said...

I believe there is a tendency to credit Mr. Lincoln with more than he deserves. Some people proclaim that Lincoln was anti-slavery—and this is unequivocally true. Some people claim that Lincoln freed the slaves — and this is patently untrue. Was he a great president? I suspect that in his time, he was an able administrator and the right man at the right time. As an aside, the South started the Civil War; had they not done that, Lincoln was mindful of the constitutional right of Southern states to maintain slavery.

[1859] I think Slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union. I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists, because the constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so.

[1861] I say now, however, as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question — that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices, — I am inflexible. I am for no compromise, which assists or permits the extension of the institution on soil owned by the nation. And any trick by which the nation is to acquire territory, and then allow some local authority to spread slavery over it, is as obnoxious as any other.

[1861] I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the states where it exists.

In his Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln didn’t free the slaves — in this capacity, such an act would have been unconstitutional. However, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Lincoln freed slaves in territories he did not control, and he maintained slavery within the union states; as a practical matter, Lincoln did not free a single slave. Moreover, the Emancipation Proclamation was “withheld” until the Union had won a major victory — or in other words until such time as it was politically expedient to free slaves in lands he did not control.

[1862] If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. . . I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

If you ask me whom I think out greatest president was, then my response would be George Washington. If you ask me who the greatest Republican President was, then I think it was Theodore Roosevelt. It was TR who reasserted the role of the federalist Presidency, who elevated the United States to the position of a world power, instituted federal proceedings against monopolies, introduced food and drug safety regulations, resolved the Russo-Japanese war (winning the Nobel Peace Prize), engineered the creation of Panama, and he is the only president awarded the Medal of Honor.

LASunsett said...

1. George Washington - Very hard to lead this country immediately after winning the fight for independence. Screwing this up would have meant crawling back to England.

2. Teddy Roosevelt - For the reasons Mustang mentions.

3. Ronald Reagan - Handling of the Cold War. The rest is worthy of debate. Certainly, he had some failures too. But that was the prevailing issue of my lifetime and one that many believed couldn't be done. I know, I was one. I grew up accepting that the Iron Curtain would never fold.

Greg said...

I don't argue Lincoln "freed the slaves" (anymore than I would say Al Gore invented the internet), but he did shepherd us through what was easily the worst time in our country's history.

But it's a good debate with no clear "correct" answer. I think both LAS' and Mustang's arguments are good.

For most underrated President, it's a tie b/w my favorite President - John Adams - and Harry Truman. I also think GWB could turn out to be an underrated President (we'll see).

Most overrated President....JFK.

Mustang said...

A modern analysis of any president enjoys the benefit of hindsight; we too often apply 21st Century ideas to evaluate history. We should be careful about doing that. John Adams was a fine man, well respected among his peers in the Congress — but he certainly lacked the charisma of his predecessor, whose nomination to become Commander in Chief of the Continental Army originated with Mr. Adams at the Second Continental Congress. It may have been at the end of his term of office that Americans began to evaluate senior statesman based on popularity. If this is true, then it is a shame. Adams served his constituency honorably for many years; he sacrificed much for his country — as did most of the founding fathers.

The presidency of Mr. Truman is an excellent argument for choosing the right running mate. He was not prepared to become President, didn’t have the temperament for it, and he required a lengthy adjustment period. Moreover, he was shortsighted after World War II — and along with Secretary of Defense Johnson, stripped away the entire foundation of our military. If the Russians and Chinese had not perceived our military weakness (1946-1950), it is doubtful that they would have started their mischief on the Korean peninsula. We very nearly did not prevail against the North Koreans in 1950, and indeed had it not been for the 1st Marine Division, U. S. Forces Korea would have been tossed into the Sea of Japan. I should also note there is a correlation between the Korean War, from which the Chinese deduced an American threat to their stability and the Vietnam War, engineered by China to keep the Americans occupied elsewhere. Thank you, Mr. Truman.

Mr. Bush may turn out to be our first Arab president. I could be wrong about this, but we’ll never know. He only tells us what he wants us to know.

Was John Kennedy an over-rated president? I suspect he was, but with only 3 years in office, it would hardly be fair to compare him with anyone else of his generation. The fact is, Khrushchev blinked, and “Cuber” was saved. The real fiasco involving Cuba was that Eisenhower didn’t land the 2nd Marine Division, starting from Guantanamo Bay, and sweep Castro and his lackey Ché Guevara right off that island. No, I suspect our MOST underrated president is Nixon — a genius in office, but psychotic as . . . well, LA.