Ten years ago, on June 5, 2004, former president Ronald Reagan died after a long illness including severe Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a curious fluke of timing that this anniversary should occur just as some prominent events have sprung up in the news that parallel notable capstones of his term in office. And while many of these affairs have erupted into frenzied allegations of high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of President Obama, they generated a far more sedate reaction from Republicans of that era.
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For almost two years now, the GOP has been furiously scratching at the walls to find something incriminating with regard to the tragic attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. In all that time, and after numerous congressional hearings and independent investigations, they have turned up nothing. So of course they decided to launch a new Select Committee on the Politicization of Benghazi in order to continue their fruitless and frivolous charade.
Perhaps on this day of remembrance, Republicans might take into consideration the fact that there were more embassy attacks, with greater loss of life, during the Reagan administration. And yet, there was never the degree of vitriol directed at Reagan for such deadly serious incidents as this:
“In April 1983, radical Shiite suicide bombers blew up the US embassy in Beirut, killing 63. Reagan did nothing to prevent this attack, and his ultimate response to it and a later deadly attack on US Marines in Beirut was to quietly withdraw from Lebanon.”
Last week President Obama announced an initiative to address the persistent problem of Climate Change that threatens to cause profound damage to our environment and our economy, while triggering profound national security risks. The Republican response to that was typically hostile, with rants about unlawfully overstepping his authority and deliberately attempting to sabotage the economy. However, no such rants were ever issued when Reagan said this in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate requesting increased funding of nearly $500 million:
“Because changes in the earth’s natural systems can have tremendous economic and social effects, global climate change is becoming a critical concern.”
A constant burr in the right’s britches has been their faulty analysis of alleged election fraud. Despite years of complaints, they have failed to turn up anything but trivial evidence of a handful of infractions, which they use to deny voting rights to tens of millions of citizens. Obama’s support for reform has yielded accusations of tyranny and advocacy of fraud. Recently the conservative-dominated Supreme Court drastically scaled back the scope of the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reagan opposed the legislation at the time, but during his presidency he had a somewhat different view that failed to garner the insults that Obama has suffered:
“To protect all our citizens, I believe the Voting Rights Act should and must be extended. […] The Voting Rights Act is important to the sense of trust many Americans place in their government’s commitment to equal rights.”
Another hot topic on the GOP outrage agenda is the news that some of the Veterans Administration facilities have badly failed the soldiers they are intended to serve. While most of the veteran community report that they are “highly satisfied” with the service they receive, the disclosures of malfeasance are serious and unforgivable. The problems appear to be locally based, yet that hasn’t stopped Republicans from placing the blame directly at the feet of the President. Funny, they never did that to Reagan when these VA fiascoes plagued his term:
In 1981 a former Marine committed suicide after claiming the VA had failed to attend to his service-related disabilities. In 1982 VA director Robert Nimmo was “criticized for wasteful spending, including use of a chauffeured car and an expensive office redecorating project,” after failing to address veterans problems with Agent Orange. in 1984 “Congressional investigators find evidence that VA officials had diverted or refused to spend more than $40 million that Congress approved to help Vietnam veterans with readjustment problems.”
Negotiating With Terrorists
More recently, Obama’s decision to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from five years of captivity by agreeing to release some aging former Taliban leaders has resulted in political attacks against the soldier, his family, and calls for Obama’s impeachment. Right-wingers complain that there is no justification for negotiating with terrorists and that Obama has violated a long-standing policy not to do so. That, however, is totally false, as proven by Reagan himself. The notorious Iran-Contra scandal was centered around Reagan’s initiative to free hostages in Iran by agreeing to sell the terrorist nation over 1,500 missiles. The proceeds from that deal were then illegally funneled to anti-Sandinista death squads in Nicaragua. Reagan’s surreal confession to these acts continues to strain credulity:
“A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
Special Bonus Outrage: Setting up a future political battle, Republicans are going after presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Their fear of her is palpable as they struggle to bring down her popularity with the American people. A new survey shows her handily beating every GOP candidate she is matched against. Consequently, the right has gone all in to cast Clinton as “old and stale” (as Karl Rove said). Rove also suggested that Clinton was suffering from brain damage. Then the Drudge Report hilariously misinterpreted a People Magazine cover of Clinton leaning on a chair, which Drudge imagined was a walker.
All of this ignores the reality that Clinton is, by all credible accounts, in good health. But more to the point, she would be younger at inauguration than GOP pols like John McCain, Bob Dole, and, yes, you guessed it, Ronald Reagan, who still stands as the nation’s oldest president. This might be a good time to recall Reagan’s retort to rival Walter Mondale, who made some sly references to Reagan’s age:
“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
While remembering the legacy of Ronald Reagan, which is fraught with disagreement and controversy, on this, the anniversary of his death, it would worthwhile to recognize the hypocrisy of contemporary Republicans who seem to have forgotten history entirely.
Immigration: Reagan granted amnesty to three million undocumented residents.
Al Qaeda: Reagan funded the Mujaheddin, from whom sprung the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.
Gun Control: Reagan signed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act that banned fully automatic rifles.