Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

The Trump Report – “Celebrity Presidency”!

From Saturday Night Live:

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By Steven R. Maher

Many Americans are terrified of what Donald Trump will do as President.

Fifty years ago, American anti-war protesters chanted “Give peace a chance.” Nowadays, the anti-Trump crowd might want to say “Give Trump a chance.”
Trump won the election under the constitutional order in place.

The majority of voters found Trump distasteful.

Trump won in three electoral states by 88,000 votes – after Russian meddling and FBI meddling (director Comey’s Clinton email bugaboo just 10 days before the election). The fact that Trump would be Tweeting “RIGGED ELECTION! NOT HAPPY!!!” if Hillary Clinton had won this way is irrelevant.

Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States. Democrats, liberals, lefties and progressives need to adjust to this reality. At this point, everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm down. I’ve noticed a tendency among Trump opponents to become unduly alarmed after reading dire Internet warnings about what Trump will do. This recalls what happened after 9/11, when Americans sat watching over and over reruns of the terrorists ramming jet aircraft into the Twin Towers. Millions of people became paranoid about what Al-Qaeda would do next. But it did not mean the end of the world. Nor does Trump’s election.

Reagan example

I had the same reaction when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. I was sure President Reagan was a war monger who would quagmire us into another Vietnam.

House Speaker Tip O’Neil recalls in his memoirs: “Alexander Haig hadn’t been Secretary of State more than three weeks when he told me over breakfast that we ought to be cleaning out Nicaragua.”

But when Haig tried to raise the issue of Soviet subversion in Central America he was told to leave it alone – the White House didn’t want to divert attention from the economy at that point.

Reagan, in fact, showed himself to be extraordinarily reluctant to get involved in long-term military conflicts. He pulled the Marines out of Lebanon after 241 Marines were murdered by Hezbollah. Reagan didn’t “clean out,” i.e. invade Nicaragua, which would have destabilized Central America the way George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq destabilized the Middle East. Instead, Reagan cleaned out Grenada, where he sent 16,000 American military personnel to beat the bejabbers out of 800 or so Cuban construction workers. Grenada was too small for a guerilla insurgency.

Trump has evidenced a similar reluctance to get involved in long-term military struggles. While he has talked loudly of attacking ISIS, he has also mentioned the expense of going to war, wants to bill America’s allies for the cost of defending their countries and has appointed Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, who lost a son to Bush’s Iraq disaster. Having experienced the agony of losing a child due to Bush’s stupidity, it is unlikely Kelly will be urging Trump to engage in Bush-style acts of imbecility.

Haig and Regan

Trump has appointed people to his cabinet with no experience in their new jobs. Foremost among these is Andy Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator.

Many of Trump’s designees fall into two categories: former generals and wealthy entrepreneurs. Reagan did the same thing – and experienced public embarrassment when the political neophytes he appointed self-destructed.

Haig is a good example. When Reagan was wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt, Haig destroyed himself politically by going on the air and saying: “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him.”

As Haig said this, he came across as anything but reassuring, and his political career was dead from that point on.

Likewise, Donald Regan as the White House Chief of Staff, proved disastrous. Regan was a brilliant Wall Street trader before becoming part of the Reagan administration. “This was one of the President’s [Reagan’s] worst mistakes: Don Regan may have been a financial genius, but he knew nothing about politics,” wrote O’Neil.

Trump not Reagan

Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. As a President, Reagan hated firing people. Trump tried to copyright “You’re fired!” as his signature line!

Trump’s tolerance of the fools he has appointed to his cabinet will end the moment they start embarrassing him.

We are talking about a man who fired two campaign managers before settling on personnel best suited to his management style.

If Trump had appointed Rudolph Giuliani as attorney general and John Bolton as secretary of state, I’d be damn worried. But Trump seems to have kept the most severe political right-wing nuts out of his cabinet.

After Trump won, ICT published my election analysis, in which I wrote that Democrats underestimated Trump the same way they had underestimated Reagan. I quoted George Santana’s adage that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Trump is about to learn the same harsh lesson, repeating Ronald Reagan’s mistakes of appointing to his cabinet financial wizards whose private-sector acumen is not necessarily transferable to political office.

We can expect many firings during Trump’s Celebrity Presidency.

Steve M.’s columns – always in style!

InCity Book Review

Too Dumb to Fail

By Matt K. Lewis

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

This book, “Too Dumb to Fail,” subtitled “How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim its Conservative Roots),” displays the Republican establishment’s mindset as presumptive nominee Donald Trump gears up for the general election. The book’s major flaws are it ignores the catastrophic Presidency of George W. Bush as the main reason for the Republican party’s current predicament, excludes how the party’s business elites deindustrialized America in pursuit of profit (giving rise to Trump), and how “supply side” economics drowned the country in red ink.

Published in January 2016, five months ago as this review is being written, the book’s title is derived from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s “Too Big to Fail,” about the financial crisis of 2008.

Supply Side economics

Ronald Reagan emerges as the hero of this narrative. Lewis paints a picture of Reagan that some will find unrecognizable. Under Lewis’ narrative, Reagan was an intellectual, deeply read in history and economics, who cleverly concealed his in-depth knowledge of political issues behind an “everyman” facade. He even cites a Saturday Night Live skit portraying Reagan in this fashion.

Lewis credits the late Congressman and NFL star quarterback Jack Kemp with converting Reagan to “supply side economics.” Under this theory, tax cuts pay for themselves, spurring economic activity and broadening the tax base. “Previously, Reagan, like the entire GOP, had been a ‘green eyeshade party’ – pessimistic bean counters worried about deficits and balanced budgets,” writes Lewis. In practice, under Reagan and George W. Bush, supply side economics led to trillions of dollars in deficits and the income inequalities which has shrunk the middle class and given rise to Donald Trump’s economic populist candidacy.

It is notable that two Presidents who put balancing budgets above tax cuts for the wealthy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton, had economic booms during their second terms. Americans were much better off with the ‘green eyeshade party’ running the country than the supply side crowd.

If Reagan is the hero of the story, writes Lewis: “[T]here are villains such as Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Scam-PACs [political action committees set up to defraud donors], and others who are (in my view) moving us in the wrong direction.”

The Vultures

In his analysis of how the GOP went wrong, Lewis saw the Republicans making the South their political stronghold by appealing to the racist inclinations of white Southerners as the start of the decline. He leaves out, of course, Reagan’s announcement of his 1980 Presidential candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan. In a chapter entitled “The Vultures,” he goes over how the GOP “made the mistake of building up, or reflexively defending” hucksters such as “Joe the Plumber,” who tried to monetize his 15 minutes of fame questioning candidate Barack Obama; George Zimmerman, who shot to death the teenage African-American Trayvon Martin; and Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who was glamorized by the GOP for refusing to pay the federal government over grazing rights, until Bundy made several racist remarks about African-Americans.

America’s changing demographics appear to trouble the author of “Too Dumb to Fail” most. He writes that the natural adherents of the Republican Party, white male voters, are rapidly decreasing as a percentage of the over-all electorate. He writes that Republican Presidential candidates should be trying to expand their party base by appealing to Latinos and African-Americans. Donald Trump’s negative ratings among these two groups is currently in the stratosphere, hovering above 80%. Short of resurrecting Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez to be his running mate, Trump’s practice of attacking minority voters is likely to doom his White House ambitions.

Lewis ends his book by urging readers to get involved in Republican politics as bit players, self-educating themselves the way Reagan did, and support the billionaire Koch brothers (yes, those Koch brothers), who have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaigns at all levels, and received afterwards legislation favorable to their financial interests.

In A.I: InCity Times book review by Steve Maher

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America, land of the whacky

“Killing Reagan” a controversial look at 40th President

By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Ronald Reagan remains a great hero to many Republicans. One understands, after reading this “killing” book by Fox talk show host Bill O’Reilly, why this account of the 1981 assassination attempt by John W. Hinckley Jr. is so controversial among Reagan admirers.

The Ronald Reagan this books portrays was not the genial “family values” conservative Republicans like to nostalgically recall, but a prolific womanizer before and after his marriage to Nancy Davis. The book also asserts that Reagan spent much of his Presidency in pajamas watching TV reruns, and details concerns among his Presidential staff that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s the last several years of his Presidency. After Reagan left the White House, he got $2 million from a Japanese company for giving a lecture, a la the Clintons. No wonder Reagan partisans are angry with this book.

Very readable

The first adjective that comes to mind in describing this text is “readable.” Like O’Reilly’s other books, such as “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Jesus,” the chapters are short, pithy and written in plain but concise English. While supposedly a look at the 1981 assassination attempt, this is in fact an episodic recounting of Reagan’s life. The tale jumps from one part of Reagan’s life to another, but it all seems to flow comfortably. Footnotes are used frequently but effectively. Liberal or conservative, if you’re a political junkie or history buff, this 289-page book can be absorbed in one weekend day.

As a literary device, “Killing Reagan” jumps back and forth from Reagan to the would-be Presidential assassin. The story tracks both individuals through their lives, up to the point where they disastrously intersect on March 30, 1981, when Hinckley shoots Reagan and wounds several others.

Jodie Foster

Hinckley’s motive for shooting the President sounds bizarre even today – to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley had seen the movie “Taxi Driver,” where Foster played a twelve-year-old prostitute who comes to know deranged taxi driver Travis Bickle, played by Robert DeNiro. Bickle tries to assassinate a Presidential candidate to impress a woman, but is prevented from doing so by the secret service. The movie ends with Bickle rescuing Foster from her pimp, shooting the procurer to death in a dramatic finale.

Hinckley was a loner most of his life. “He has some form of schizophrenia, a mental disorder that causes the mind to distort reality,” says O’Reilly. Hinckley drops out of college, traveling from city to city following Foster, calling her up to ask Foster out on dates, proposing to Foster at one point. Foster rebuffs Hinckley. He then decides to assassinate some political figure to impress her, like the Bickle figure in Taxi Driver.

Carter and Kennedy

Hinckley’s first choice is President Jimmy Carter.

“Losing the election may have saved Carter’s life,” writes O’Reilly. “[Hinckley] will either take the train to New Haven and shoot himself dead in front of Jodie Foster, or he will murder Ted Kennedy, if only to add his name to the notorious list of assassins who have stalked and killed a member of that political dynasty. If that target is not available, he might enter the U.S. Senate chamber and try to kill as many lawmakers as possible. And there is another scenario in Hinckley’s mind: assassinating President Ronald Reagan.”

Hinckley read in the Washington Star that Reagan will be at the Washington Hilton and goes to the hotel. When Reagan emerges, Hinckley is able to pierce the protective cordon around Reagan and wound the President because of two happenstances. First, Reagan would normally be wearing a bullet proof vest, which he was not asked to do on this occasion because his exposure to the public was limited to walking to the Presidential limousine from the hotel exit. It was during this exit that Hinckley put one bullet into Reagan’s torso. Second, two DC policemen acting as Presidential bodyguards were not trained by the secret service to watch the crowds at such events. They were watching Reagan and not the crowd when Hinckley shot Reagan. The point is made that had the two men been trained properly, they would have intercepted Hinckley before he shot Reagan.

Particularly disturbing was O’Reilly’s depiction of Hinckley’s jailhouse communications with serial killer Ted Bundy and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. Hinckley reportedly tried to get mass murderer Charles Manson’s mailing address from Fromme. This was all kept secret from his jailors, as well as the hidden photographs of Jodie Foster in his cell that Hinckley was ordered by the court not to have.

Aftermath

The aftermath of the assassination has become the focal point of some discussion among Presidential historians and Reagan biographers. Reagan apparently developed a messianic belief that he was saved by God because he had a special destiny as President. O’Reilly writes Reagan went back to his church after recovering, and become reliant on his wife Nancy for political as well as personal advice.

O’Reilly’s book is a good starting point for anyone looking to experience the life and times of America’s 40th President.