Archive: January, 2010
This Friday marks the 99th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. You're going to be hearing a lot about the Gipper this week, and you're going to be hearing a lot about him for the next 12 months. Already, a Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission -- signed into law by President Obama last June, at a ceremony attended by Nancy Reagan -- is busy planning a slew of Feb. 6, 2011, events that may take the nation one step closer toward Reagan's political canonization. Meanwhile, day in and day out, the legacy of the 40th president still looms large over the national conversation, some 21 years after he left the Oval Office and nearly six years after his death -- thanks in part to a deliberate campaign of distortion by modern conservatives, a Reagan myth has been used to justify disastrous spending policies at home and disastrous militarism abroad .
This week also marks the new paperback release of my book, now slightly retitled: "Tear Down This Myth: The Right Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy." When I was working on the book in 2008 in preparation for the original hardcover version, I did worry somewhat whether the likely election of a center-left Democratic president would render as moot the power of the Reagan myth. As it turned out, the inauguration of Barack Obama and the arrival of a large Democratic majority in Congress instead showed the limits of government in the face of this powerful philosophy that is loosely based on Reagan's 1980s presidency but distorts or exaggerates the reality of much of what happened in those years.
Normally I'd have a lot to say on this, but another long-promised task is interfering for now, so let me just say this: Fear is slowly destroying America from within. It boggles the mind that can spend more than $704 billion on a war that -- now we're told -- was all about bring democracy and American values to a nation 11,000 miles away, but we won't spend $200 million to bring what used to be American values to lower Manhattan. (I also still have questions about the $200 million number worked up by NYC top cop -- shouldn't we already have a ton of expensive security in the neighborhood hit by 9/11?)
Anyway, FDR, who warned America about the price of fear, must be rolling over in his grave right now -- so, too, must be John Adams, who said famously that "[f]ear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it."
Sad, some of the things that happen in this country. The British have a much more civilized way of dealing with their mistakes from the early 2000s.
At least we can look forward to expanded hockey coverage!
In Maryland's 8th Congressional District, we're backing Murray Hill Incorporated. The people have failed us -- it's time to give a corporate entity a chance:
Looking like no NYC for KSM:
I didn't read Howard Zinn's iconic "A People's History of the United States" until appallingly late in life; it was around 2003, the time that the United States invading another country for no particularly good reason both radicalized me and caused me to again search for the deeper meaning of just what the heck was going on in our republic. Zinn didn't have all the answers -- no single book could -- but the bottom line is that he wanted readers to re-think everything you thought you knew, from his epic riff on Christopher Columbus to Watergate (the book was originally published in 1980). It's a book I'd like to see every American read.
Zinn died yesterday at age 87 -- and it would be something of an injustice to remember him as just another writer. He was a fighter -- he fought for his country in the Army Air Force in World War II (where his role in bombing civilian targets shaped some of his later progressive thought) and he fought aggressively for civil rights at sit-ins and other protests in the Deep South. He saw the light on Vietnam and on Iraq before most people, and even before his death he was chiding President Obama to take a more aggressive stance. A lot of the people who comment here at Attytood probably strongly disagree with some of Zinn's underlying philosophy -- but that was the type of argument that Zinn would have relished. He believed that Americans should take to the streets for what they think is right. It is sad to lose him now, but we should be happy that this country had him for so long.
10:20 p.m.: Thank you, Mr. President, and good night.
This was clearly the best speech of Obama's presidency, not that there was much to compete against, and probably his best speech since the race speech in Philadelphia, which was nearly two years ago. Watching Rachel Maddow now on MSNBC -- she referred to his "playful feistiness," which I do think is the operative phrase for the night.
But at the end of the day, it's still a speech. In a matter of hours, everyone will probably be back in the trenches and we'll see how politically viable any of these ideas are. It was smart, politically, for Obama to upload all the most populist stuff in the front, when more people are paying attention. Certainly he's hoping the anti-banker stuff will be remembered.