Ten-gallon hats over pintsize heads

Is the obligatory mourning period over? Am I to be tagged as an unpatriotic blasphemer if I mention Mr. Reagan’s name in a non-heroic, non flag-waving way? Probably… but let’s hope that sooner than later reason prevails and the days of American political fantasy, make-believe and myth find eternal repose in Simi Valley as well.

In a casual, superficial way I, too, was touched by the Great Communicator himself. As a product of California’s system of higher education, the two university diplomas I hold were both signed by The Gipper himself. Well… printed signatures, anyway.

On the Monday following his death, the lead editorial in Portland ’s Oregonian read: “Ronald Reagan, visionary- The country’s 40th president was a man of principle and humility who changed the world for the better.” The world no less! And here I thought that emotions and ignorance were not welcomed guests at either newsrooms or editorial boardrooms. The magic of the moment… the memories, I bet.

Whatever Reagan’s contribution was to an always changing world is far more mythical than real; his legacy to this United States , however, is certainly of note, but in a negative social context. Not only did his economic policies saddled the nation with trillions of dollars in debt, but legislation sponsored by his administration, under the guise of defending private enterprise from government regulations, opened the floodgates to corporate greed. More than anything else, Reagan’s two-term presidency prepared the breeding grounds for today’s proliferating corporate would-be felons.

In contrast to Jimmy Carter, probably the last president to give Americans the un-dyed truth, Reagan only recognized his own version of truth. He was quick to counter Carter’s diagnosis of a national malaise with a Pollyanna postcard of red-white-and-blue optimism over a forever sunrise background. A postcard written in persuasive simple phrases… delivered by a father-figure postman with a wide, trustful smile.

Yep! The election in 1980, Anderson notwithstanding, was no contest: one overly-pragmatic, quasi-intellectual incumbent with myriad problems telling the citizenry that it had to conserve energy and look for alternative sources; and an optimistic challenger who preached that everything would be “swell” if only people had faith in themselves. Would you listen to your Dutch uncle or embrace a doting uncle instead?

No better time than Reagan’s passing for the neo-cons to bring their man out of the Oval office into the patriotic spotlight… out of the penumbra of Iraq and the dark web of complete ineptitude that this administration has woven. Bush is now being presented to the American people as the recent casting made from Reagan’s mold. But in truth, outside of both men lacking intellectual curiosity and good working habits, little in their character or even ideology could put them in parallel worlds.

Although Reagan may have had no close friends, except perhaps for Nancy , and was said to be an impenetrable man by those searching for his soul, he had a loyal and wide audience of Americans with which to communicate complex state matters in simplistic, resonating terms… a la Limbaugh, I suppose.

A smirking, vengeful and inarticulate Bush has no resemblance, absolutely none, to the affable and civil Ronald Reagan. Both may have been chosen as leading actors by their political directors, and given similar right-wing scripts, but while Reagan delivered the lines flawlessly and in a persuasive manner, Bush has totally mangled them.

Although I have never seen a picture of Dubya on horseback, I have no doubt that he would command the same cow-boyish figure that Mr. Reagan portrayed. So we come to the passing of the bridle: a Marlboro man taking up the reins from the now-gone Chesterfield man. In both cases, they are merchandisers of smoke… and mirrors, for sure; both necessary heroes, unfortunately, to the American psyche.

As men, I seem to like one… but not the other. As heads of state, I see them both wearing ten-gallon hats over their pintsize heads.