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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

These are excerpt's from this week's Frank Rich's NYT column and it reminds me of many of the myths and forgotten facts of the Reagan presidency:

As the do-something lame-duck Congress’s triumphs were toted up, the White House pointedly floated the news that the president was meeting with Reagan administration veterans (David Gergen, Ken Duberstein) and taking Lou Cannon’s authoritative biography “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime” on vacation. Reagan, of course, was also pummeled (though a bit less so) in his maiden midterms of 1982, then carried 49 states in his 1984 re-election landslide. In January 1983, Reagan’s approval rating was much worse than Obama’s — 35 percent. So was the unemployment rate (10.4 percent vs. our current 9.4 percent) as Americans struggled to recover from what was then the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The present-day radicals donning Reagan drag, led by Sarah Palin, seem not to know, as Cannon writes, that their hero lurched “from excessive tax cuts to corrective tax increases disguised as tax reform” and “submitted eight unbalanced budgets to Congress in succession.” Reagan made no promise whatsoever of a balanced budget in the document that codified Reaganomics, his White House’s 281-page message to Congress in February 1981. The historian Gil Troy has calculated that spending on entitlement programs more than doubled on Reagan’s watch. America slid into debtor-nation status, and Americans “went from owing 16 cents for every dollar in national income in 1981” to owing 44 cents per dollar in 1988.
In a particularly instructive passage, Cannon tells of Reagan’s habit of endlessly recycling an inspirational World War II anecdote that, as the press discovered, was a movie-spawned fiction. His White House spokesman, Larry Speakes, was only half-joking when he deflected critics with the old saw “if you tell the same story five times, it’s true.”

Reagan never backed off bashing the Democrats and the 30-year Great Society “binge” for the fiscal woes of his America. Reagan got away with it because he never sounded like a whiner, and because he paired his invective with an optimism that bleached out any pettiness. A former Democrat, after all, he wisely chose F.D.R. as his political model.

Among many of these memories and reminders, Rich makes the point that "Obama is less adept at keeping his messages simple, consistent and crystal-clear".

It has surprised me how Obama's gift for communication and speechifying that drew so many of us to him in 2008 are now turned off by how unable he is to be entrance us with clarity and forthrightness on the issues of his current Presidency, such as health care, fighting against tax cuts for millionnaires, creating a bill in support of 9/11 first-responders and on and on. It is possible to be supportive and a leader on issues without demonizing the opposition, which sometimes seems to be his larger goal - to avoid upsetting anyone.

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