Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Wilson Reagan

Official Portrait of President Ronald ReaganImage via WikipediaToday marks the 100th anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States.  Reagan was elected to the presidency in 1980, which happened to be the first presidential election that I was eligible to vote. 

I did not vote for him in that first election.  I was registered as an independent in those days.  As a teenager, I could not see me voting for this old man who I best new as having been in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo."  At the same time, Jimmy Carter as president had been a disaster, so I voted for the independent candidate, John Anderson.

Four years later, I gladly voted for the re-election of Ronald Reagan.  His presidency helped to shape my current political views.  He instilled in me a sense of patriotism and love of country that I had not felt before.  During his presidency, I changed my party affiliation from independent to Republican.  Without a doubt, in my view, he was the greatest president of my lifetime.

I will be 50 years old at the end of this month.  The first president that I can remember is Richard Nixon.  I remember joking after the Watergate incident that the only thing that Nixon ever did wrong was get caught.  Still, he brought disgrace to the office and to the country.  When Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford took over and finished the last two years of Nixon's term.  He lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

As I said earlier, Jimmy Carter was a disaster as president.  During his presidency we had high unemployment, high inflation, and high interests rates.  During his term, the Shah of Iran fell, and 52 US citizen were taken hostage.  They were held in captivity for 444 days, and released shortly after Reagan was sworn in as President.

During the campaign, Reagan asked voters if they were better off today than they were four years ago when Carter became president.  The answer was without a doubt no. Under Reagan, the country recovered from the Jimmy Carter days, the economy thrived.  After the Reagan years, I think it was safe to say that the country was much better off than under his predecessor.

Reagan was succeeded by his Vice-President, George H.W. Bush.  A nice enough guy, but no Ronald Reagan.  He may best be remembered for two quotes.  First, "I don't like broccoli," and his campaign promise to Congress, "Read my lips, no new taxes!"  It was a campaign promise he did not keep and probably one of the reasons that H. Ross Perot entered the 1992 as an independent candidate.  Perot captured 19% of the vote and likely caused Bush to lose re-election to Bill Clinton.

I look at Bill Clinton a couple of different ways.  In a lot of ways, he was the first "cool" president.  He appeared on late night shows playing his saxophone.  I thought he would be a fun guy to hang out with and have a beer, but I didn't think he would be presidential material.  To be fair, he did some good things as president, like having a balanced budget during his term.  It should be noted that period came when the House was under the control of the GOP and Speaker Newt Gingrich.  However, there is something decidedly un-presidential about receiving a blow job from a White House intern.

Next up came George W. Bush.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush the younger enjoyed extremely high approval ratings for the way he handled the crisis.  It was the first time in years that I felt a higher than normal sense of pride in the president.  Unfortunately, he was unable to maintain that level of popularity.  In fact, in his re-election bid, I voted against the Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1980.  In retrospect, I am glad that the Democrat candidate lost.

Which brings us to the current President, Barack Obama.  I think it is still too early to make a final judgment on Obama, but suffice it to say that I am not impressed so far.  It took a Jimmy Carter to get us a Ronald Reagan in 1980.  One has to wonder what a Barack Obama will get us.  Unfortunately, at this time, I don't see another Ronald Reagan on the horizon, although I pray we find one soon.

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