Steamshovel Press


"RIP Ronald Reagan"
by Kenn Thomas

    The best commentary I have read on the death of Ronald Reagan came from Christopher Hitchens at Slate: I liked it for two reasons: 1. Hitchens makes a point I like to make to many people with simple minded political opinions about "the need of so many American intellectuals to prove themselves clever by showing that they are smarter than the latest idiot in power..." and; 2. He identifies Reagan as "a cruel and stupid lizard." I don't know if Hitchens consciously invoked David Icke's imagery of world political leadership as shape-shifting reptilians, but the reference does reinforce Icke's over-arching theme that such leadership is never what it seems.

    I would have been more generous about Ronald Reagan. I think he was funny and charming, only moreso because he was so disconnected from the actual parapolitical reality of his administration. One TV news feature tried to make the point that the true Ronald Reagan was inaccessible even to his wife Nancy, that he kept some deep inner core always to himself. This was a stretch, of course, to fill the 24/7 television time devoted to Reagan until after his state funeral. Most viewers know he was a shallow Hollywood guy as was often parodied. Self-professed shallow, in fact, in that he trumpeted an administrative style that supposedly provided broadstroke values while letting bureaucrats execute the details.

    Americans like a good show and Reagan gave them one. He was affable and articulate and he presented a picture of the country that it really wanted. But the October Surprise brought him to office, a deal made with Ayatollah Khomeini to hold on to the famed 52 American hostages until Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 election. The pay-off for delivering that ransom-an opportunity to illegally profiteer from the super-surveillance PROMIS software-went to a man whose name Reagan conceivably didn't know.

    The sleeping-with-the-enemy pattern it established led to the Iran-Contra deals, the US/CIA build-up of Saddam Hussein and the pre-al-Qaeda mujahadeen, on up to the present awful time of reckoning America now confronts.

    Reagan's motorcade delayed the arrival of the doctor when my daughter was born. My then wife considers it the only favor he ever did for her, since she chose to have the baby using the non-interventionist Bradley method. Somehow Tim Leary got thrown in jail just before his gubernatorial campaign in California could compete with Reagan's. Leary took it as a great opportunity for a break from public life and a chance to work on what turned out to be his greatest writings.

    Governor Reagan refused to extradite Edgar Eugene Bradley from California when Jim Garrison sought to prosecute him for involvement in JFK's murder. It helped cause Garrison to lose the case against the other defendant, Clay Shaw, but Garrison went on to be more-or-less vindicated in the popular culture and became a great folk hero to many people.

    I feel very sad for Nancy Reagan. They were a couple that lived in a little bubble and I am sure their relationship was more real than anything they supposedly believed in or restored to American culture, like limited government. Americans had to wait for Dubya to look at spending deficits as big as Reagan's. And I feel very sad for Americans shedding tears now for the Gipper, made more poignant by the contrast between the feel-good image he transmitted and the hell wrought by the same men who used him as what Bob Dylan called "a front man for a diseased cause."

    The new issue of Steamshovel Press is here. Copies would be ready to ship Friday if the post offices weren't closed for Reagan's funeral!

    (See order page for details)

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