In an event similar to the everyone-hitting-the-lottery scene of Bruce Almighty, every dead pool across the country suddenly went bust today, as Ronald Reagan, a pick in everyone’s list, died of an extended “no comment” today. He was 146. He is survived by his undead wife Nancy and several estranged children, who will be writing shitty tell-all books shortly.
What can I say about Reagan that won’t be repeated constantly for the next week or two on every news channel around? I admit I watched about an hour of the coverage today, carefully edited retrospectives and news clips from his presidency, probably edited together years and years before he started circling the drain. It was memorable to see all of the events that happened, but they universally left out the bottom line, which was that Reagan was a twit and generations of people grew up hating his extremist views and Jesus bullshit he pushed on people. He fought against abortion rights, named 1983 the year of the bible, fucked the air traffic controllers, said that AIDS was a plague brought by god, and generally acted like a dick to anyone in his path. I won’t even get into Iran-Contra, except to say that it’s nice to know he finally “does not recall” any of it.
I had a long-standing theory-slash-explanation about Reagan and why he wasn’t summarily executed about 60 minutes into his presidency by just about every possible opponent on every side of him. Reagan was a lot like a grandfather figure. Many of us have or had that crazy grandfather that you respected and loved, but maybe you took a lot of their word and action with a grain of salt. I know I had a grandfather who was about as addled as Ronnie who spent most of our family reunions spouting off conspiracy theories about how the Puerto Ricans and the mafia were taking over his neighborhood, and most of us just politely ignored him and thought little of it. He came from another time, another generation, and would never understand our sophisticated world of Apple II computers and Star Wars movies. Of course, it’s easy to put your grandpa in a home, and he isn’t sitting with his finger on the launch button to several thousand ICBMs when he’s talking about the End Times. But my point is that Reagan appealed to a lot of people in the same way as a grandpa figure, and when he fucked up at a press conference or couldn’t remember something, it was just like grandpa forgetting to put his pants on before Thanksgiving dinner. Of course the downside to this is that it meant all of the eighties in America were like living with your grandparent who makes you go to bed at 8 PM on a summer night so you can go to 6 AM church services, but on a much greater scale.
I never really thought I would admire anything about Reagan after he left. I mean, I find myself becoming more financially conservative, but I’m still socially liberal enough that I don’t really appreciate the movement to name every fucking airport and highway in the country after him. But in watching his speeches, I see how much of a person he was when he spoke. He was an actor, and that really showed through. Neither George Bush could give speeches like that. Clinton wasn’t bad, but now as everyone mopes about how great Gore could have been and how great Kerry could be, I see from Reagan that neither can speak. Neither one is a man, they are both the kind of person who would waffle and let people sucker-punch them at every possible opportunity. Both Gore and Kerry would make good high-level middle managers in an anonymous office, but neither one could make a leader. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because Clinton is on his book junket, and I really do think that he can speak. He could take the facts and sum them up in a way that made you believe him. While Reagan was that grandfather figure, Bill was more like the slick dude who could get absolutely any woman by the second drink. And maybe that’s the kind of guy we need to run the country. It’s at least more functional than a spineless twit who answers every question “I, um, uh, I, uh, will get back to you on that.”
A lot of people criticize Reagan for being nothing more than a chimp who read from a teleprompter. But those people don’t realize that he was really good at it. The President of this country is not a person who has really great ideas and wakes up every day and says “what thing on my personal agenda should I do today?” The President is the person at the top of a large pyramid that consists of thirty-three percent of our Federal government. All of those people below him are the ones collecting information, writing speeches, combing through think-tanks, gathering intelligence, patrolling waterways and scanning mail and taking down numbers and doing everything else. When it is all said or done, people come in and out of his oval office and say “this or this?” and he makes a choice. Sometimes he doesn’t even get an “or this”. And then he stands in the rose garden or at a podium and gets on the mic and has to tell everyone on down to Joe Sixpack what “he” did and how it will work. Yes, Presidents set policy, and yes they pass things down the tree so they happen, and yes, they have their finger on that red button so that makes them more powerful than a Supreme Court judge. But American Presidents are not kings, they are not czars. They are figureheads. They are like Dave Thomas of Wendy’s was, the guy who shows up for the commercials and puts a nice face on a large, faceless corporation. And Reagan did that.
Anyway, that’s that. I hope there’s not a big rush on jellybeans anytime soon.