Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Monday, March 7, 2016

Nancy Reagan, 1921-2016

It's very strange when you find yourself thinking about someone lately only to hear they have died shortly afterwards--that's what happened this week with Nancy Reagan. I blame the election year. Her husband has passed in 2004--also an election year, and someone had wondered aloud, not cruelly, if anyone knew how Nancy Reagan was doing, and whether she was following the election coverage. We've had scads of Republican candidates over the years compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. I was never a big fan, but the jist of the conversation had to do with the claims of a certain billionaire regarding his, erm, "presidential timber", and how this was a) not terribly Reaganesque and b) the sort of thing we didn't think a certain 94-year old lady would approve of much. And were she to die of shock, we wondered just which of the grasping assbites competing to sit in the Oval Office would be more sickeningly signifying about being an heir to the Gipper.

(My bet is on Ted Cruz. He lacks a shame-producing gland.)

And then, she actually had passed.

Of late, Nancy Reagan earned a measure of respect from me, anyway. It's mixed. She advocated in favor of stem cell research, and her kids are good eggs. She'd borne with dignity the treatment of her late spouse as a kind of saint, and after taking care of him through a decade (that we know of, more, I am certain) of Alzheimer's disease--a condition that is rugged on caretakers. She gave the impression of a person who looked frail on the outside, but was exceptionally tough within.

Of course, my memories of her as First Lady are a bit less kind. The Reagan White House hangs over my memories of the 1980's in a weird way--just skim through Google images and you have stills of her with Alf and Mr. T and Gary Coleman. The Reagan years were age 9 through 16 to me--my father supported him when I was very young as a Reagan blue-collar Democrat. By age 16, the Reagans were a joke to me. Reaganomics was always voodoo, but that mindset killed attempts to unionize blue collar jobs and held wages stagnant. "Just say No" was a simplistic slogan that didn't really address why people drank or took drugs. It was about shaming curiosity and criminalizing addiction. (I used to joke that DARE bumper stickers meant "Dare to pull this car over--we're holding".) Iran-Contra disillusioned me regarding state power--and then the shoe dropped about Joan Quigley. These Hollywood assholes who ignored the AIDS crisis so as not to piss off the Moral Majority and them, had an astrologer who advised them on White House business?

It seemed absurd and insulting. Did these people have no grip on reality? But that was minor, after all. A penny in the loafer. After all, Nancy Reagan's husband had been shot, and had bouts of cancer--astrology isn't as irrational as many other things a person could turn to for comfort and assurance. Joan Quigley advised that Gorbachev was a person President Reagan could talk to. His professional national security advisors sold weapons to Iran to fund support for a war in Central America illegally. Who is to say she wasn't as sensible--or more so?

I don't think Nancy Reagan was to blame for the reasons that folks on the left look back in anger about the Reagan legacy--not really. It's just that if we wanted to mark her passing as the passing of an era, that would be just fine by me.

My condolences to her family and friends.


StringOnAStick said...

At around that time I recall seeing modified DARE stickers at a deadhead-friendly event: Drugs Are Really Expensive.

My first deep dive into politics was Iran-Contra, happening as I started attending a large university and thus had a lot more information resources than I'd had in the insular small town I'm from. I'm proud of the fact that my screeds sent to Elliot Abrams' office pissed off a staffer enough that I received replies that were obviously composed just for me. I'm cynical enough now to know it makes no difference how good your argument is with these assholes, but glad that I forced him to waste a bunch of his time too.

mikey said...

Yeah, I've been a little sickened by the hatred, vitriol and glee over her passing displayed by some of my friends and fellow travelers. I think we're seeing something grossly unfair - blaming first ladies for the actions of their spouses. Both Ms. Reagan and Ms. Clinton were private citizens at the time, holding no office and with no constitutional authority. Do they have influence? Probably on some issues - but how many powerful men regularly defer to their wives on matters where they disagree?

Many people are not as deeply immersed in public policy as I am (or you, I'd wager), and they see this as some sort of football team where our team can do no wrong and the other team is just deeply evil. Doing policy is one of the hardest things in the world - possibly impossible to do right, as it involves so many trade-offs and compromises. Governance requires working with all the citizens and constituents, and hating them to the point of demonizing their families is a strong indicator that someone is not terribly interested in governance qua governance...