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President Reagan
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Ronald Reagan was really the first President that I associated with the office. I was nine years old when he was elected, and I remember my dad staying up late to watch all the coverage. So through all of junior high and high school, he was our President.

You have to give him this...he at least seemed Presidential. He was smooth and polished, and appeared both strong and comforting.

But like every President who's held the office during my lifetime, he's associated with scandal. They never pinned it on him, but there's no doubt that he was hip-dip in the plan to sell weapons to Iran and fund the Contras, all behind Congress and the rest of America's back. I never really understand Watergate, just reading about it abstractly, but I watched Oliver North testify before Congress, and I was old enough to get what the hell was going on. When people are stuffing documents down their pants and shredding them by the boatload, it's pretty clear they were up to no good.

And the Iran/Contra affair was emblematic of policies in the 80's that have led us to the world we have today. Facing the Soviet Union, we saw the world as a series of fronts in the Cold War, from Asia, to Central America, to the Middle East. And instead of fighting directly, we funneled weapons and money to proxy fighters to fight a proxy war on these fronts. And most clearly in the Middle East, it's come back to bite us in the ass.

So I have mixed feelings about Reagan. He was like our current President in that he was sharper than people generally gave him credit for. He expressed international conflicts in moral terms, often in black and white. Both Presidents spent like mad, sending us into deficit spending. I think both of them felt that the ends justify the means, that it's worth cozying up to bad people to win against the really bad people. Our current President is still pretty tight with Saudi Arabia, and one result of the War on Terror is cozying up to Pakistan. I think Bush and company exaggerated the threat from Iraq, but if anything, I think Reagan's covert offenses were worse.

Anyway, here are a couple of people who don't have mixed feelings about Reagan.

Christopher Hitchens, on "The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan",


Bill Kristol, on why Reagan was so great.

Addendum: In his article, Hitchens has the following snippet:

Ronald Reagan said that intercontinental ballistic missiles (not that there are any non-ballistic missiles—a corruption of language that isn't his fault) could be recalled once launched.

Well, no, there aren't "non-ballistic missiles", but there certainly are anti-ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are for blowing up people and buildings and boats and tanks. Anti-ballistic missiles are for blowing up other missiles. This isn't "a corruption of language", it's Hitchens being a bit stupid himself.

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