Charles Krauthammer, in his Washington Post column today, agrees with my earlier post on the backhanded way the media is praising former President Reagan's optimisim. I may have beat him to the punch but, in typical Krauthammer fashion, he knocked me out. It's an excellent column.
Reagan RevisionismThere's just one thing I want to know. Krauthammer said "The second-greatest president of the 20th century dies (with Theodore Roosevelt coming a close third), who's first? I wrote him to ask; I'll let you know what he says.
The second-greatest president of the 20th century dies (with Theodore Roosevelt coming a close third), and the liberal establishment that alternately ridiculed and demonized Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency is in a quandary. How to remember a man they anathematized for eight years but who enjoys both the overwhelming affection of the American people and decisive vindication by history?
"Optimism" is the perfect way to trivialize everything that Reagan was or did. Pangloss was an optimist. Harold Stassen was an optimist. Ralph Kramden was an optimist. Optimism is nice, but it gets you nowhere unless you also possess ideological vision, policy and prescriptions to make it real, and, finally, the political courage to act on your convictions.
Optimism? Every other person on the No. 6 bus is an optimist. What distinguished Reagan was what he did and said. Reagan was optimistic about America amid the cynicism and general retreat of the post-Vietnam era because he believed unfashionably that America was both great and good -- and had been needlessly diminished by restrictive economic policies and timid foreign policies. Change the policies and America would be restored, both at home and abroad.
He was right.
They found their way to do it. They dwell endlessly on the man's smile, his sunny personality, his good manners. Above all, his optimism.