Bedtime for Bonzo

Ronald Reagan and BonzoDespite the goofball picture, I really don’t mean any disrespect in this posting. I just couldn’t resist. This is Monkey Outta Nowhere after all.

I’m going to come across as a completely uneducated bafoon, but what was so great about Ronald Reagan’s presidency? He passed away yesterday and the homage has been thick and deep. I know I’m a bit biased with my anti-Republican comments in the past, but I’d honestly like to know why people are saying he was one of the greatest presidents.

I blame a lot of my naivete on the school system that never covered anything after World War II, leaving me with a pitiful understanding of modern world history.

On a theoretical level, I know Reagan’s presidency came at a time when things weren’t looking good for the country. There was the energy crisis of the 1970s, the hostage thing in the Middle East, and recovering from a lot of 1970s muck like Watergate and Vietnam. And a lot happened during Reagan’s presidency. There were nuclear arms treaties with the Soviets, that whole Star Wars thing (I was always pissed when the news talked about the Star Wars program because I thought they were talking about the movie and I’d watch to see more about the movie, but they never had anything), and the merging of conservative Christians and the Republican party.

But I know a lot of messed up stuff happened during Reagan’s presidency. There was the whole Iran-Contra scandal. There was El Salvador and other conflicts where we were supporting war and bloodshed for dubious reasons. There’s the fact that Reagan was all about smaller government, yet he also created the biggest deficit in history.

There’s also the whole go-go 80s. The 1980s were really a big business era, and part of me wonders if that’s why Reagan seems so great. The economy was booming and whether or not he had anything to do with it, he gets the credit.

I was born in 1979, so Reagan is the first president I remember seeing. You tend to idolize a world leader when you’re that young, and you don’t know a lot of the facts.

Some of this is probably over-generalizing from what little I know (or think I know) about Reagan, so feel free to correct me. I know there are certain leadership qualities that stand out and would make a good leader, regardless of how you feel about their politics. I’m eager to know if that’s part of what made Reagan such a great president.

One thought on “Bedtime for Bonzo”

  1. It is too much to believe that you “don’t mean any disrespect” by posting a blog entry titled “Bedtime for Bonzo” just hours after the death of President Reagan — and in the same week that thousands of Americans will mourn him. You are not the first to make the Bonzo reference, of course, but in so doing you put President Reagan in good company. One of Lincoln’s many detractors — that great historical footnote named George McClellan — once called him �nothing more than a well meaning baboon.

    I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of Reagan, Kevin, so all the talk about the millions of new jobs created, the dramatic drops in inflation and interest rates, and the record economic growth that took place during and after his presidency aren’t going to make much of a difference to you. Neither will his appointment of 4 Supreme Court justices (including the first woman), his landslide elections, or his influence on a generation of new political leaders convince you that this man made an enormous and lasting impact on American politics.

    If you look at any ranked list of “great” presidents, the men at the top share at least two characteristics: (1) they were popular enough with the electorate to serve at least two terms (or parts of two terms); and (2) by luck, design, or providence they lead the country through a significant challenge, which is usually reduced to a single sentence description of their administration: Lincoln won the War, Washington was the father of the country, FDR overcame the Great Depression and won WW2, etc. Are these gross generalizations? Of course. But U.S. history has a way of crediting great national accomplishments to its presidents.

    Nothing shaped the last half of the 20th century more than the Cold War. Reagan will be remembered for winning it. He would be the first to admit that he does not deserve the credit for the accomplishment, but it will be his one-sentence legacy, and that is why history will remember him as a great president.

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