Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan Turns 100 (or You'd Think So)

Trying to beat cabin fever, I took a drive up the road to the Camby Meijer on Friday, and I perused the reading material. More than one book was there on the topic of Ronald Reagan. Life Magazine even has a retrospective out called "Ronald Reagan at 100.

Let's be clear. Ronald Reagan left us in 2004. I watched the funeral, and I was touched when his wife, Nancy, spent some last moments with him in a very public manner. Though Reagan is gone, his sometimes convoluted legacy continues on. Today marks 100 years since Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.

Republicans often call Barack Obama "the Messiah" for Democrats. For Republicans, I think it's fair to do the same with Ronald Reagan. As the 2012 Presidential Election heats up, I think you'll find far more comparisons from Republicans that have them Reagan-esque than Lincoln-esque. The fact is that they have done what you do when you renovate a house sometimes. You put pretty wall covering over some of the rough spots in the wall. Democrats have done it, too. We romanticize Democratic Presidents like John F. Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Clinton even though they weren't perfect, either. There has been, to my knowledge, no perfect President.

The way you evaluate the Presidents of the past, as I see it, was did he throw more strikes than balls? Did he get things done? Were we better off as a country than we were when he came in? In all of these cases, I'm sorry Democrats, Ronald Reagan was one of our most successful Presidents and is worthy of some adulation. Any President would be considered successful with the kind of record that Reagan constructed.

More than nuts and bolts, Reagan constructed a great team of political powerhouses around him. He put figures like George H.W. Bush, James Baker, and George Shultz in his leadership team. Bush and Baker, on their own, were more than qualified to be President in their own right. Shultz's contributions as Secretary of State were also more than notable.

With Reagan, though, I don't think it was his policies or the way he conducted the office as much as that he got the role. He was an actor, and his best performance took place in the last eight years of his public career. He also put on a great performance of class and dignity as his years on this planet came to end. Somehow, Reagan made Alzheimer's Disease something not to be feared....even though we still do.

Now, we can sit here and talk about Reagan's failures, and he did have many, but that would miss the point of a truly amazing American life. Born into relative poverty in Illinois, Reagan started in radio...then got into acting...then got into politics. Third time was the charm for Reagan when it came to running for President. After, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt, served eight years as President, and became an icon.

All-in-all, Ronald Reagan seems pretty darn healthy at 100. Good going Gipper!

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