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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Since everyone is getting sad over the passing of Nancy Reagan, I thought I should post this

From Counter Punch

The queen of head is dead. At 94, the life of Nancy Reagan, the pin-up girl for the genocidal  War on Drugs, finally blinked out. Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford, who frequently appeared on Ronald Reagan’s General Electric Theatre, wrote in his memoir that Nancy gave the best blowjobs in Hollywood. It’s one of the most benign things you could say about the woman who saw herself as a kind of Catherine the Great for the American Imperium.  

Already the airwaves are throbbing with misty tributes to the Reagan years, an age than never really was. Here then is a corrective to the manufactured history of Ron and Nancy and their court that Alexander Cockburn and I wrote on the centenary of Reagan’s birth. –JSC

The script of the recurring homages to the Reagans remains unchanging: with the Gipper’s straightforward, sunny disposition and aw-shucks can-do style the manly Reagan gave America back its confidence.  In less flattering terms, Reagan and his PR crew catered expertly to the demands of the American national fantasy: that homely common sense could return America to the vigor of its youth and the economy of the 1950s.

When Reagan took over the Oval Office at the age of 66 whatever powers of concentration he might have once had were failing. The Joint Chiefs of Staff mounted their traditional show-and-tell briefings for him, replete with simple charts and a senior general explicating them in simple terms. Reagan found these briefings much too complicated and dozed off.

The Joint Chiefs then set up a secret unit, staffed by cartoonists. The balance of forces were set forth in easily accessible caricature, with Soviet missiles the size of upended Zeppelins, pulsing on their launch-pads, with the miniscule US ICBMs shriveled in their bunkers. Little cartoon bubbles would contain the points the joint chiefs wanted to hammer into Reagan’s brain, most of them to the effect that “we need more money”. The president really enjoyed the shows and sometimes even asked for repeats.

Reagan had abolished any tiresome division of the world into fact or fiction in the early 1940s when his studio’s PR department turned him into a war hero, courtesy of his labors in “Fort Wacky” in Culver City, where they made training films. The fanzines disclosed the loneliness of R.R.’s first wife, Jane Wyman, her absent man (a few miles away in Fort Wacky, home by suppertime) and her knowledge of R.R.’s hatred of the foe.

“She’d seen Ronnie’s sick face,” Modern Screen reported in 1942, “bent over a picture of the small, swollen bodies of children starved to death in Poland. ‘This,’ said the war-hating Reagan between set lips, ‘would make it a pleasure to kill.’” A photographer for Modern Screen recalled later that, unlike some stars who were reluctant to offer themselves to his lens in “hero’s” garb, Reagan insisted on being photographed on his front step in full uniform, kissing his wife goodbye.

Years later Reagan boasted (that is: lied) about liberating the Nazi death camps, even as he was forced to defend his deranged decision to bestow presidential honors on the dead at the cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, final resting place for the blood-drenched butchers of the Waffen SS. Reagan possessed a special talent for the suspension of disbelief when it came to the facts of his own life. Perhaps, if the earth in Simi Valley ever decides to disgorge his corpse, the custodians of Bitburg could erect a cenotaph for Reagan on those chilly grounds.

The problem for the press was that Reagan didn’t really care that he’d been caught out with another set of phony statistics or a bogus anecdote. Truth, for him, was what he happened to be saying at the time. When the Iran/contra scandal broke, he held a press conference in which he said to Helen Thomas of UPI, “I want to get to the bottom of this and find out all that has happened. And so far, I’ve told you all that I know and, you know, the truth of the matter is, for quite some time, all that you knew was what I’d told you.” He went one better than George Washington in that he couldn’t tell a lie and he couldn’t tell the truth, since he couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

His mind was a wastebasket of old clippings from Popular Science, SF magazines (the origin of “Star Wars”, aka the Strategic Defense Initiative) lines from movies and homely saws from the Reader’s Digest and the Sunday supplements.

Like his wife Nancy, Ronnie had a stout belief in astrology, the stars being the twinkling penumbra of his incandescent belief in the “free market,” with whose motions it was blasphemous to tamper. He believed Armageddon was right around the corner. He also believed tomato ketchup could be classified as a school meal, striking back at the nose-candy crowd who, as Stevie Earle once said, spent the Seventies trying to get cocaine classified as a vegetable.

Reagan’s view of Nature was strictly utilitarian. When Reagan was governor of California, David Brower, the great arch-Druid, goaded him into making his infamous declaration: “Once you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” That Zen koan-like pronouncement pretty much summed up Reagan’s philosophy of environmental tokenism. Later, Reagan propounded the thesis that trees generated more air pollution than coal-fired power plants. For Reagan, the only excuse for Nature was to serve as a backdrop for photo-ops, just like in his intros for Death Valley Days, the popular western TV series that served as a catwalk for the rollout of the B-movie actor as a national politician.

To execute his rapine environmental policies, Reagan turned to his Interior Secretary James Watt, whose approach to the plunder of the planet seethed with an evangelical fervor. He brought with him to Washington a gang of libertarian missionaries, mostly veterans of the Adolf Coors-funded Mountain States Legal Foundation, who referred to themselves as “The Colorado Crazies.” Their mission: privatize the public estate. Many of them were transparent crooks who ended up facing indictment and doing time in federal prison for self-dealing and public corruption. They gave away billions in public timber, coal, and oil to favored corporations, leaving behind toxic scars where there used to be wild forests, trout streams, and deserts. These thieves were part of the same claque of race-baiting zealots who demonized welfare mothers as swindlers of the public treasury.

Watt, who was himself charged with twenty-five felony counts of lying and obstruction of justice, never hid his rapacious agenda behind soft, made-for-primetime rhetoric. He never preached about win-win solutions, ecological forestry, or sustainable development. From the beginning, James Watt’s message was clear: grab it all, grab it now. God wills it so.

Hearing all the cosy talk about the Gipper, young people spared the experience of his awful sojourn in office, probably imagine him as a kindly, avuncular figure. Not so. He was a callous man, with a breezy indifference to suffering and the consequences of his decisions. This indifference was so profound that Dante would surely have consigned him to one of the lowest circles of hell, to roast for all eternity in front of a TV set on the blink and a dinner tray swinging out of reach like the elusive fruits that tormented Tantalus.

It was startling, back in 2004 when he died, to see the lines of people sweating under a hot sun waiting to see Reagan’s casket. How could any of them take the dreadful old faker seriously? The nearest thing to it was the hysteria over Princess Di.

The explosion of the Challenger space shuttle of January 28, 1986, a disaster that prompted one of the peak kitsch moments in a presidency that was kitsch from start to finish. Reagan ended his address to the nation thus: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God’.”

In fact it was the White House that had doomed Christa McAuliffe and her companions to be burned alive in the plummeting Challenger. The news event required the Challenger to go into orbit and be flying over Congress while Reagan was delivering his state of the union address. He was to tilt his head upward and, presumably gazing through the long-distance half of his spectacles, (one lens was close-up, for speech reading,) send a presidential greeting to the astronauts. But this schedule required an early morning launch from chill January Canaveral. Servile NASA officials ordered the Challenger aloft, with the frozen O-ring fatally compromised.

Reagan dozed through much of his second term, his day easing forward through a forgiving schedule of morning nap, afternoon snooze, TV supper and early bed. He couldn’t recall the names of many of his aides, even of his dog. Stories occasionally swirled around Washington that his aides pondered from time to time whether to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Reagan’s sons, Michael and Ronnie, disagreed whether or not his Alzheimer’s began when he was president. “Normalcy” and senile dementia were hard to distinguish.  The official onset was six years after he left Washington DC.

As an orator or “communicator” Reagan was terrible, with one turgid clich√© following another, delivered in a folksy drone. His range of rhetorical artifice was terribly limited.

The press flattered him endlessly and vastly exaggerated his popularity and his achievements, starting with the nonsense that he “ended the Cold War”. He did nothing of the sort, the Soviet Union’s sclerotic economy having doomed it long before Reagan became president.

He lavished money on the rich and the Pentagon. The tendencies he presided over were probably inevitable, given the balance of political forces after the postwar boom hit the ceiling in the late 1960s. Then it was a matter of triage, as the rich made haste to consolidate their position.

It was a straight line from Reagan’s crude attacks on welfare queens to Clinton’s compassionate chewings of the lip (same head wag as RR’s) as he swore to “end welfare as we know it”. As a PR man, it was Reagan’s role, to reassure the wealthy and the privileged that not only might but right was on their side, and that government, in whatever professed role, was utterly malign.

More members of the Reagan administration were convicted of crimes than any other presidential administration in history.


  1. This little scribe should be required reading.Reagan was a scumbag.Ronnie was no saint.I'll never forget his idea that the United States could win a "limited nuclear exchange".A scumbag and fucking insane.

  2. Thanks for this. The evangelicals luuuurve their St. Ronnie Raygun, ignoring the fact that he was a liar and cheated on his wife.

  3. Read "The Late Great Stae of California" by Curt Gentry.
    H e does a good job on RR.

  4. Interesting read. I could not stand Ronnie or his ankle biting little dog, Nancy. Nasty people that hurt a lot of Americans.

  5. One of my first inklings that $arah didn't know jack shit.

  6. Damage control went into effect immediately to cover for this incompetent asshole. In 1997 Grover Norquist started the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project with the goal of having at least one thing in every county in the United States named after Reagan. That's 3,140 public spaces or buildings of some kind with his name on it. The idea being that since future generations who know nothing about Reagan will assume he must have been a great president because their are so many memorials to him everywhere. There was even a campaign to get his image on one of the currencies so people would see his image all the time.

    I don't think Donald Trump will make it to the presidency. Ronald Reagan will forever remain our nation's greatest presidential embarrassment. I hope that one day history exposes this phony as the total tool that he was, and his stupidity, corruption and incompetence will be common knowledge. May he forever be seen as the punch line in a joke, much like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. And his brainless, heartless bitch of a wife, too.

    1. They call his ranch near Santa Barbara the Western WH, he and his beloved wife ran the country from there. He spent so much time chopping wood. The community must have loved him? How many places are named after RR for his Legacy Project? I know some young Republican projects got the ranch and are perserving it for history and his legacy. There are elite families in the county that were selling the Reagan Country meme. A part from the few elites who could afford Reagan, is there any indication the Reagans were part of the community they profess to love?

      Were they just set up by the rich and money to be interlopers?

    2. There is a map on their website - renamed federal buildings and such. One that bothers a lot of people in the D.C. area was the re-naming of the airport known for decades as the Washington National Airport to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. I don't like it, either.

  7. Ronald Reagan: Amiable B list movie actor who GUTTED the US economy by getting Congress to reduce top tax levels for millionaires and billionaires, and giving us a 30 year period when our budget shortfalls have amounted to a 20 Trillion dollar debacle.

    Ronnie beleieved in trickle down policies, which no less than George HW Bush called "Voodoo economics"

    Nancy Reagan,
    Vapid, vainglorious, and coat tail hanger on who has caused huge damage by getting Ronnie to enhance the UTTERLY FAILED "War on drugs" that Nixon started.

  8. Thanks for giving us this read on Ronnie.

  9. Is it true that Nancy got pregnant on purpose with her and Ronnie's first kid Before They Were Married?
    I have been told this for years! And she did it to insure he would marry her! She was tired of hanging around Hollywood where she was NEVER going to be a success. she SUCKED! See, or try to sit thru, one of her oldies. And she wasn't getting any of the guys she was doing to put a ring on it. She wanted to be a mrs. of some rich dude. Looks like she got it. At the expense of her kids' respect , admiration , and love.

    1. I heard that, too. The way it was phrased was that she did everyone in Hollywood and Reagan was the one who got stuck with her.

  10. She was also a thief; she refused to return items of jewelry and clothing that had been loaned to her as First Lady, amounting to more than $450K, until forced to compensate the providers by a court. And then her rich buddies paid for it. Look it up.

  11. I remember seeing him at Nixon's funeral.This was before his Alzheimers was announced. They weren't letting the press get close to him. When they came out to be seated Nancy had a death rip on his hand and she acted like she was leading him. He sat there with his mouth hanging open and looked like he was totally out of it.
    Also maybe a month after he was out of office he did an interview with Barbara Walters. She asked him a question and he answered her with an incoherent ramble about abortion which had Nothing to do with the question. B W looked on in confusion and Nancy made up the excuse that he cared so deeply about abortion etc etc.He was really confused while still in the White House and he sucked as a President.All This St Ronnie is pure BS.

  12. I wanted Reagans face put on a dime.Nobody listened.

  13. A vain woman indeed. Obsessed with competing for the halo bestowed upon Princess Diana during the 80's -90's. She rehearsed photo opens scenes like an actor in the role of a lifetime, throwing herself onto Reagans coffin ( a act most brilliantly executed in her mind days beforehand no doubt) one of the mist contrived theatrics. The planned reading of that particular Bible passage, about the ultimate wife who farms her own thread, overlooks her own servants...on and on it went this vainglorious yore of fiction. The woman relished the myth she so coveted as Grand Dame of the Reagan years even after her death. Pretentious to to end.


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