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Thursday, June 10, 2004

My god, is it over yet? No disrespect, but the week-long Reagan orgy needs to end. News of the former president's passing has trumped all other news this week, including that of J.Lo's fourth wedding, (I guess we should be thankful for that one). But frankly, I'm sick and tired of it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some left-wing nut who's unwilling to recognize the accomplishments of Mr. Reagan, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Republicans and Conservatives have gotten a bit carried away in their deification of the Gipper. In the wake of Reagan's death, Republican senator Mitch McConnell has introduced a measure in Congress to boot founding father Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill and replace him with Reagan's grinning mug. Other proposals this week have included efforts to replace JFK on the 50-cent piece and Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, as well as sculpting Ron's bust alongside Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore. Even before his death, Republicans had pushed to have Reagan knock FDR off the dime. Seriously, I think these fanatics even believe that the opening line to the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven...", refers directly to Ronnie.

But I'll give credit where credit is due. Reagan, the father of the modern conservative movement, did lead the charge in defeating Communism and winning the Cold War, a significant achievement indeed. But in order to do this his administration illegally funded guerilla wars in South America by selling arms to Iran, a founding member of W's Axis of Evil. His administration also propped up Saddam Hussein by turing a blind eye to his atrocities and providing him with the very same WMD we recently went to war over. His heavy-handed policies led to destructive wars all across South and Central America - Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the list goes on and on. I do understand that in order to prevail in something as significant as the Cold War sacrifices need to be made, but to vault the star of Bedtime for Bonzo into the same realm as Lincoln and Jefferson is just ridiculous.

I liked Reagan growing up as a kid, I really did, but that was before I actually started paying attention to policy and politics. I was into image, not substance. Reagan was very good at making people feel good. He was the great communicator. He was optimistic. He seemed liked everyone's grandfather, and how could anyone hate their grandfather? But his infectious smile and outward humility were masks for some of the less-then-honorable things he was responsible for. Aside from his foreign policy achievements, clearly his strongest suit, Reagan is also remembered for crushing the union movement, ignoring the AIDS crisis, stalling civil rights and believing that ketchup is a vegetable. With all that in mind, let's wait a little while before we go so far as to rename ourselves the United States of Ronald Reagan, god rest his soul.

Perhaps, as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle proposed this week, Reagan's legacy should live on by ramping up efforts to find a cure for the disease that took his life, Alzheimers. If our current president would listen to former first lady Nancy Reagan's request to lift his restrictions on stem-cell research, maybe that work could begin.

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