How the Gipper Got his White Hat & Teflon Coat
Reflections on the Legacy of Ronald Reagan & his Whitehouse Astrologer
by Ted Denmark, Ph.D.
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In a Coast to Coast AM interview with Art Bell, first broadcast in 2006, which I happened to hear on a series of nicely preserved MP3s sent to me by a friend now four years later, renowned philosopher and cultural historian/ astrologer Richard Tarnas, the interviewee, in a rambling conversation over several late-night hours, happened to mention the unusual role of astrology in the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He recalled that initially many people in the astrology community, including himself, had noticed how remarkably well timed—with regard to astrological aspects—the major presidential initiatives had appeared to flow in those well-positioned and well-acted days in the first term of the great American presidential grandfather.
I had also made similar observations during the early Eighties as I habitually correlated newspaper headlines with running astrology aspects, a common astrologer mind game. I can remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is really good; he always waits for the Sun conjunct Jupiter, a well-aspected Full Moon or something similar to step into the headlines.” I was not overly fond of Reagan in those days and subsequently have generally wavered through various conflicted attitudes about him: likeable but lacking substance, well cast but unpredictably confrontational, gifted and photogenic but deceptive and misinformed, etc. As a little personal joke, I always referred to him as “President O’Reagano, the well-seasoned California Governor …”
At the time there was little doubt that he had tapped into some kind of good-vibe scene since he was able to navigate the public relations wing of his presidency so remarkably well and excelled as the “great communicator.” As he memorably quipped, when someone once asked him about his military service and what he had done during the Second World War … “I brought that desk in for a four-point landing at precisely 5:00 PM everyday—on the Hollywood lot.” Reagan had been a Hollywood liaison with the military during that great patriotic time to bring the powerful influence of motion pictures on American life into line with military priorities for appropriate production and theme content, which he later parlayed into his redoubtable military salute made to the official marine reception officer after official short helicopter trips to and from the Whitehouse. The country loved the look of such a well-groomed and agreeably strong presence in their commander-in-chief, if yet so thoroughly a civilian presidential figure with sharpened wit at the height of his appeal, who was obviously … having the time of his life.
Reagan had the relaxed smiling demeanor of an earlier great American president who had been his role model at an earlier stage of life: Franklin Roosevelt—but now with a confident gait rather than a carefully concealed wheel chair. An astrologer probably couldn’t have helped but notice that these two legendary 20th Century American presidents both had Sun in Aquarius, like yet another earlier towering presidential figure: Abraham Lincoln. Reagan’s natural inclinations, along with those of the mature presidential FDR, had originally been progressively optimistic. Later, he saw the skullduggery within the actor’s guild where he also presided as president, as the Communist Party attempted to co-opt the political persuasions of many famous actors and writers to go against the struggling American establishment during the trying Thirties and beyond as the Washington government limped through the Great Depression and the arms buildup of the Axis coalition in Europe and the Far East. In response he made his sharp turn to the Right and shifted his support from the four individual freedoms espoused by FDR (freedom of speech, religion, economic deprivation and … from fear itself) to the conservative Republican Party hard-line ideology of unrestrained corporate free-market capitalism with advocacy of state’s rights and increasingly limited federal government power.
Later he would build on this experience to forge a national political career via the California governorship, where he called out the California Highway Patrol to enforce his uncompromising hard-line to secure the unrest begun at the University of California during the People’s Park disturbances prior to his term in office. Reagan did not ever want to appear weak and vulnerable, and would quickly put up a fight if provoked from his seemingly lethargic comfort zone. But after attempting to further groom his image for partisan purposes and coming up against his testy Aquarian unpredictability, his party handlers, would later have to declare in exasperation, “Let Reagan be Reagan.” He was probably always be too well-tanned and “too Hollywood” for the pale preppy East Coast establishment from the Ivy League and the urban canyon-lands of lower Manhattan.
Reagan, like many Hollywood stars, was reputed to have sought the advice of astrologers to help him during his rise on the movie circuit, but the star-reckoning power behind the throne would eventually appear in the diminutive figure of the “cute lady in the red dress,” Nancy Reagan. She was the one who would find the discreet astrology consultant for “Ronnie,” to map out his itinerary on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis and get it back to the Whitehouse for release … just in time … to the continuing anguish of the president’s Chief-of-Staff Donald Regan, left twisting and smoking till the last minute (later to make his own news in the Regan-Reagan scheduling clash). Ronald Reagan, the oldest president in American history who took office at age 69, was something of a throwback to the romantic 19th Century, greatly resenting bad actors attempting to over-reach their ratings, and would have probably cashiered Regan on the spot—after having made his pre-emptive position clear in a casual luncheon—if Regan had so much as hinted at fear and doubt about the role of the first lady in helping to manage the presidential agenda. The tough-minded former Secretary of the Treasury who had become chief-of-staff, kept it bottled up well enough but only until the time came for his tell-tale book-length memoir after his resignation, evidently at Nancy’s instigation. I might have enjoyed reading this memoir by the frustrated chief-of-staff, but only heard his tricky answers to the pointed questions of an interviewer at the time regarding Nancy’s astrology caper and his conflicted disbelief, still offered in polite and understated diplomatic officialese, explaining his response in trying to keep his job in spite of being upstaged and displaced by the first lady who had also had a Hollywood acting career to maintain.
In the meantime my own personal affairs had encountered a link in this stealthy chain of command, though I would not find out for a few years how close I was to the action back in San Francisco during these redoubtably scary times in the Eighties. Sometime later, after the presidential astrologer’s cover was blown by Regan, it was revealed that Nancy had been the liaison for the Whitehouse with San Francisco astrologer Joan Quigley, for purposes of setting the weekly presidential schedule for Ronnie, thus enabling the mysterious Teflon aura of the Gipper (a nickname he had gained from playing Knute Rockne, the famous coach at Notre Dame University during its football heydays). Of course the notion was that nothing unpleasant ever stuck to him—at least until the troubles of Oliver North and the Iran-gate scandal of the second term when the agenda could no longer be so offensively well managed “in house.” Many additional details were revealed a few years later in 1990 by Quigley in her memoir of the seven year stint as the president’s astrologer in What Does Joan Say at the end of the white-knuckle decade, after Nancy had first written her own memoir that left … some details slanted in favor of her own fading image as first lady. In a private phone conversation with Nancy, Joan contends that she was told, after questioning Nancy about what to reveal had happened over the years of their astrological consultation … she was to “Say nothing and … lie if you have to.” Obviously, it was far too much to ask of someone so ferociously principled and independent as Joan Quigley, and this fascinating book was her answer directed at a popular audience, but it is particularly revealing to astrologers who can appreciate the details and have some idea of how a fairly obsessive astrologer had approached an ultra-modern calling for being the astrological consultant to the President of the United States. It’s quite a yarn in spite of the somewhat de rigeur stiffly righteous attitudes taken. What was a right-wing astrologer doing in wildly anarchic San Francisco (with local expressions of disbelief that such a species existed at all)? Well, for one thing it showed that astrology isn’t inherently radical-chic in every instance of usage but rather more pragmatic.
During this mid-to-late Eighties time I had a wonderful girlfriend whose wealthy mother lived in a posh whole-floor apartment building on Knob Hill in the fabled City by the Bay, complete with sidewalk awning and presiding uniformed doorman, who would somehow find destination visitors street parking in spite of a string of cars continually circling the block on the lookout for the next impossible-to-find street parking place. We would visit routinely on Sunday for dinner and a leisurely walk around some part of the near-downtown cityscape: Chinatown, “the Gulch,” North Beach, etc. And soon after we returned, the upstairs tenant, a middle-aged woman, would often suddenly appear knocking at the door to ask to … please use the phone. There were various excuses for why the upstairs apartment phone was not suitable or was out of service that day or week, but she would prevail upon Bluette, my girlfriend’s mother (who was no pushover) and go into one of the dozen or so rooms with a phone and close the door, before sneaking out, often much later, to head back upstairs.
Susie, Bluette and I discussed this peculiar behavior occasionally, but I never thought much of it at the time—who could explain the habits of eccentric people like this with perhaps more money than a real sense of propriety (?). I hadn’t a clue and couldn’t imagine why this peculiar neighbor would want to make this downstairs phone-run so often. Bluette, however, was very suspicious—and had a history of being overly suspicious—as my girlfriend Susie understood about people like her who had inherited significant wealth, so we discounted the strangeness factor as normal. Bluette was evidently more exercised because she was also seeing this behavior during the week, something we couldn’t really appreciate on our one-day visit. I could tell the scary story of bungling indiscretions by her mother’s stock broker that would have cautioned her to be very suspicious at that very same time, but it would lead too far … She later lost most of her money in market gyrations with this clueless broker when she went to Europe and left him in charge of their market strategy instead of buying the newly-issued IPO from Microsoft as I had insistently advised her. But there are reasons why people are rich … or not: I had the timely breaking knowledge, and she had the reluctant declining money … like ships passing in the night (F. Scott Fitzgerald, get out your notebook).
As you have probably guessed by now, that mysterious upstairs neighbor with the curiously continuing spate of home phone problems, was none other than Joan Quigley, Nancy’s presidential astrologer. She had initially been called in after the attempted presidential assassination, phoning in the carefully structured Whitehouse schedule for the coming week for Nancy to release to the Chief of Staff, the other “ray-gun” guy, who would have to quickly recalculate his options and make the arrangements called for. And if you guessed this one right, you may have also already understood the reason: the professionally suspicious FBI—and who knows how many other curious alphabet soup government agencies—had already traced down the Quigley connection and were carefully listening to the home phone conversations to try to understand the nature of her Whitehouse involvement—as they would have sounded so confident to say in their official memos—to see if there was any risk to National Security involved. The clever FBI guys may well have already gone on to tap every phone line coming into that VIP apartment building—it would have still been easy to hardwire in the days before cell phones—but only an insider would know of their typical methods and sources at the time, of course, now greatly expanded by supercomputing techniques in spite of ubiquitous cell phones. Joan Quigley was surely warned about the FBI by Nancy, and was probably successful with her subterfuge in making an end run around the surveillance net by outwitting the gumshoes and going to the probably still safe downstairs apartment (with its multiple phone lines as the home office abode of Susie’s deceased father, the former CEO of the Dole Pineapple empire).
This was what I wrote mostly before I read Joan’s quite detailed accounts in her book on her personal/ professional stargazer involvement with Nancy and Ronnie. It appears from what she has disclosed that it was actually the Russians she most feared who might be intercepting her phone conversations during the latter years of the Reagan presidency, after she began to suspect they had learned of her role, and as they began to opt out of the proffered Whitehouse schedules she was finessing like the real team coach, sending in the plays from the sidelines to the quarterbacking Gipper in the huddle … to the detriment of the home team. Joan is quite forthright in noting that the first presidential term was where the Teflon coating succeeded while the grinding second term pushed everything past astrological tolerances and breakdown limits for the increasingly exhausted, aging president and his stalwart crew. She attributes all the great difficulties of the second term to the unavoidable timing of astrological aspects then culminating in the life of Ronnie, resulting in flubbed lines by the former actor that conspired with increasing disappointments of delegation in spite of all his attempts to maintain the first-term savoir faire—had the Teflon coat been forgotten at the dry cleaners, in favor of the newly-noted sartorial trend-setting presidential brown suit (?).
But to return to my own real-time adventures, I moved on from this tentative family connection as the girlfriend’s strained relationship with her troubled bi-polar mother grew worse, and our situation together also drifted into limbo … and the Sunday afternoon diners and walks came to an end. In 1969 Joan Quigley had published an aptly-titled astrology book, Astrology for Adults, which quickly gained a second-generation readership after her extraordinary status was publicly revealed! Joan’s astrology is authentically solid and reasonably well rendered, I would say, even if her beliefs about electional astrology (i.e., the exact moment the presidential jet departs on a trip determines the maximum success for the mission, which was the mainstay of her presidential consultation) border on the superstitious to a more dyed-in-the-wool natal astrologer such as myself, ironically gaining prime-time experience in a virtual parallel universe with her major effort in so unlikely a secretive world-class astrology consultation happening under my nose.
Later, when the time came for me to realize how the Whitehouse astrology caper had been pulled off as Don Regan went public with his book, later countered by a similar book-length effort of Nancy, both seeking rights of perspective, finesse and denial, the earlier astrology textbook of Joan began to seem a little more disappointing, I can recall, as a source for her astrological approach and style of detective work. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find her more specific memoir (What Does Joan Say) in which she adds her own adamant attitude to the Regan-Reagan bromance, admitting to the huge amount of work involved in all the laborious chart preparations and hand calculations she had to do to arrive at her timed conclusions as the in-house Whitehouse astrologer (even with the aid of local San Francisco astrologer Nicki Michaels as computing consultant, who nevertheless, was never informed of the identity of the veiled “special client”).
One of Ms. Quigley’s main problems had been that Ronald Reagan’s birth time was never effectively confirmed because it was not on his birth certificate from 1911 in Tampico, IL, and there had been multiple times of birth offered by insiders over the years from early to late morning as well as mid-afternoon. So it is still listed as “DD,” dirty data, in the Astro-databank Wiki. As seems to often happen, different professional astrologers had arrived at different birth time “confirmations” by rectification (working backwards from correlating actual lifetime events to an accurate birth time—always a very iffy prospect, even with dedicated software). Joan, however, does confirm a successful rectification for Ronnie’s accurate birth time after a long and detailed analysis (without giving an exact time or showing a chart graphic) that is, nonetheless, consistent with the time listed by Astro-databank as 4:16 a.m., giving a late Sagittarius Ascendant with a First House Mars in Capricorn, just below the horizon.
Even though the Sun is in Aquarius in the 2nd House, giving him his progressive sympathies in youth (with Venus in Pisces!), his Mercury is in Capricorn, which covers most of the 1st House, along with exalted Mars and Sun-ruler Prometheus (Uranus), allowing him to decisively identify with the tough-minded stance of a conservative Republican. The comfort-loving Moon in Taurus on the Cusp of the 5th House, conjunct the lunar North Node is also widely conjunct Saturn in the first degree of Taurus, giving additional linkage to wealth and ways of getting it via the conservative Capricorn First House. The risen and most-elevated Jupiter in the middle of Scorpio on the cusp of the 11th House, which should have pulled him back to the progressive side in his public presentation, was unfortunately sandbagged by the lunar South Node, tipping the balance to the more conservative demeanor in spite of powerful but hamstrung idealistic progressive desires (late Sag Ascendant lends emphasis to the liberal/ conservative identity split). The Libra Midheaven finally gives him his fittingly handsome and amicably helpful good looks—Midheaven ruler Venus conjunct planetoid Chiron—now here’s a wonderful pun (Chi-Ron, get it?).
In any event the public tip of Reagan’s floating presidential iceberg of the Eighties was often well matched to auspicious aspects that could be tracked in an astrology ephemeris, which had appealed to my impressionable mind at the time—as it had to Tarnas and probably other curious students of astrology … to a remarkable degree! And it was not a mere coincidence. For me it was what I might call a … super-synchronicity. This oft-cited Jungian coinage (“synchronicity”) to describe an alternative to the customary notion of simple physical causality, as “meaningful coincidence,” was displayed in this instance in full dramatic enactment, and is still happening even after all these years, as I was unexpectedly presented with the Tarnas recordings, recalling his own similar recollection of this situation and … then discovering Joan’s book on the Reagan years (while searching through my bookcases looking for something else), which I had forgotten I bought, without having read it yet—until now, at just the right time for this little memoir (!).
To render and interpret the Reagan legacy and outcome of his presidential dynastic succession a bit further, now awaiting the start of the second decade of Century 21, two major circumstances appear evident. The first and most obvious is that Reagan’s vice president George H.W. Bush, who followed with a single presidential term, was the beginning of a transition loop in the continuing development of Reagan-era conservative ideology and strategy that has now closed. The elder Bush was undermined by high unemployment and the Savings and Loan crisis late in his term, which was then targeted by the more appealing Clinton and his famous political mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid …” The increasingly popular Clinton—to the utter disdain of the new wave of arduous conservatives (Neocons) leaning very far forward in anticipation of an extended conservative era—then took it from there and tried to thwart this still swelling conservative surge from Reagan’s afterglow by attempting to co-opt it for his own purposes after the disastrous mid-term elections during his second term by himself declaring that the “era of big government is over.” But the reality was that the era of his big first-term flush was over, not unlike Reagan before him, as he blundered through the final two years leading up to the edge of impeachment to the utter disbelief of the yet sympathetic mainstream which saved him from what would have been the ultimate personal and political humiliation of a sitting president.
This final Clinton flub successfully sabotaged the presidential bid of his own Vice President Gore, who couldn’t seem to overcome his own stiffly-mannered rhetoric to gain enough confidence for the look of a presidential winner. With a little help from an activist and overbearing conservative Supreme Court (and the voting machine hackers who also happened to be the “proprietary” manufacturers), it then became the fated destiny for the country to experience the bully pulpit fiasco of the lesser George Jr. aka W “the Shrub” Bush, for an agonizing two terms, which nonetheless ended the conservative free market free-for-all generation initiated by Reagan (who must have been turning over in his grave every week to get some relief from Jr. whom he was reported to have found very disturbing in real life). Of course it had been the Wall St. friendly economists in the failing Clinton Whitehouse who led the charge to disassemble the Glass-Steagall Act from the early Post War Era, which had restrained and compartmentalized banking activities that then finally culminated in the explosion of the surreptitious shadow banking sector in the full-on financial panic of Fall 2008, now called the “Great Recession.”
The other major political trend that has come down through the decades from deep within the Reagan psyche has been allowing the torch of freedom to pass from the rights of the individual citizen to the financial goals and often desperate needs of the newly reified and expressly targeted “corporate person.” He turned away from being a Roosevelt Democrat who might have supported the Four Freedoms in his youth to this latter day conservative stance favoring market fundamentalism: the freedom to buy, consume and profit … without limit. For Reagan this appears to have begun primarily with the Red scare imprint of monolithic Communism culminating in the McCarthy era, but which then also allowed him to reinforce his professed non-church-going religiosity into a sufficiently impressive conservative amalgam. But at heart, I believe, he remained a reluctant, closeted progressive unwilling to show any ambivalence in favor of a simplistic, if more politically appealing, attitude to a less well educated and less tolerant citizenry who would probably always prefer their guns and Bibles to more hopeful activist liberal attitudes or academic degrees (a frank admission—made in San Francisco—that got Barack Obama into a certain amount of trouble pandering in ultra-progressive San Francisco!) during his second presidential election bid).
As a belated legacy of the Reagan era, this trend has, however, continued to gain momentum even after the culmination and partial decline of some of the high rollers of the corporate plutocracy of the now discredited Neocon Bush-Cheney era (Enron, Worldcom, Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Goldman Sachs, with surely many more to come …) as the same conservative Supreme Court with its majority of six Catholics, held in early 2010 (Citizen’s Untied v. Federal Election Commission …) that corporate financial support of political candidates cannot be restrained at any level of policy or administrative law (“use of money is free speech”).
In adding legal recognition and support for the faltering power of banking oligarchs and corporate CEO’s in the era of general widespread establishment malfeasance or misfeasance in certain business precincts and industrial subcultures—versus individual citizen rights—the court appears to have attempted to try to stabilize fading national allegiance to attitudes made successful in the Reagan era in spite of the financial panic of 2007-2008 (“the Great Recession”) and the resulting Neocon collapse. Presumably, the other three freedoms would also migrate over to the corporate person along with this new “freedom of speech” of unlimited spending for purchase of the commercial media, not already owned, to thereby successfully manipulate and secure the electorate with artfully persuasive propaganda while at the same time securely “lobbying” and binding the elected legislators themselves with financial dependency.
There probably isn’t much need to inquire about mainstream corporate religion; it is worship of profits and the appearance of short-term financial success. In much of Christian churchianity, religion is now more about having faith in financial success than concern about the authentic teachings of Jesus and the salvation of one’s soul, as people unselfconsciously reject the childish stories and medieval absurdities of Christian theology for attaining modern elitist comforts … at any cost. Reagan realized he needed to appear as pious and moral as he could muster, even without church attendance, which was a role he played very effectively most of the time as he wrote his scripted performance with attitudes of good-natured humility, which were undoubtedly genuine, up to a point … but also somewhat disingenuous when detached from the role needing to be played until the presidential movie was finished, which finally exhausted him in his advanced years.
As a lifeguard who became a mid-western sportscaster and later a romantic Hollywood lead actor, Reagan was naturally idealistic about competitiveness and patriotism, with little experience of the obsessive world of business and investment banking and was inclined to believe the good guys in the white hats running the big banks, were as nationalistically patriotic as he was, so all you had to do was get the bad old-fashioned restrictive government bureaucrats out of their way so the financial professionals could finesse the deserved prosperity for the victorious American homeland. But things had already changed significantly over the nearly thirty years of Post World War II America by the time the elderly Reagan took office! By the time Bush Sr. had gotten into trouble with Reagan’s style of “supply-side Voodoo economics,” that led to the horrors of the gambler’s debts of the Savings and Loan associations, it was probably also too late for Reagan to understand the perils of fiat credit creation in the hands of undisciplined and unrestrained personal and corporate greed since he was already losing his memory and critical faculties …
Though there has been convincing testimony that Reagan was probably a lot more savvy and a much harder worker than many had expected of the “great delegator,” realistic knowledge of Wall St. financial shenanigans didn’t greatly interest him, or even seem to matter much anyway since, as a person who had commanded wealth with some ease in much of his personal career, he took the wealth producing capacity of free market capitalism for granted and would not likely have wanted to be confused by too many trends diverging dangerously away from his vision of America as the “City on a hill.” This youthful mythic biblical image was inspirational and comforting both to Americans and what would later be more clearly seen as the right-wing agenda for the consumer society of “American exceptionalism”… and to a frightened world threatened by nuclear weapons of mass destruction. It was a natural extension of his now well-established mythic movie view—with as much propaganda adjustment as needed to bring the correct theme into focus—stemming from the era of his early youth in the pre-World War I, pre-Russian Communist Revolution. Later, the dark-side Neocon ringleader Cheney would claim that it was Reagan who had showed them, the borrow-and-spend Republicans, so-called by the tax-and-spend Democrats, that, for Americans, deficits don’t really matter anymore anyway … particularly for the exploitation program of crony capitalism followed by inflation-theft bank robbery.
Yet on the international front, the remarkably paradoxical and seemingly well-matched breakthrough summits with Gorbachev who was a brilliant technocrat, statesman and negotiator, showed that Reagan was also quite capable of responding to opportunity when it presented itself. He allowed himself to be pulled out of his increasingly unrealistic and unmanageable military spending binge with the cost of the SDI (“Star Wars”) technology bluff he intended to use, either purposively or serendipitously, to competitively break the Soviet economy. Today we still hail his political genius, particularly since it led to Glasnost and Perestroika instead of more Cold War (which it did anyway!) and the breakup of the Soviet Empire, which at least ended the most dramatic stage of the Cold War. At the end of the Reagan-Gorbachev summits, while the two were visiting Moscow and out on a friendly walk with pedestrian passersby, a reporter asked Reagan if he still believed in the danger of the “evil empire,” and he simply said in his inimitable definitive way, “No …” He had been transformed, and fully believed in the success of the peace process he had surprisingly, perhaps almost absent-mindedly, co-created and now embraced, even if today we must be more mindful of the “other evil empire” that Reagan evidently never suspected or could have never imagined in his time (and I’m not referring to the Muslim Jihadists, though they also qualify).
It came as a bit of a surprise to learn from Joan Quigley’s memoir of her years with the Reagans, how much she believed her counseling impinged upon all the ongoing events—often on a daily basis—for the seven years of her active participation in the presidential strategy team (mostly by phone via the devoted Nancy, but there were also a few direct contacts with the president), particularly advising Ronnie to become a peacemaker with Gorbachev in order to reduce the risk of nuclear war and induce the Soviets to abandon their command and control economy in favor of dominant market-based national economies. I had originally thought her astro-forecasting was probably limited to the more routine aspects of timed Whitehouse publicity, rather than applying to almost every move made by the president, up to informing the Gorbachev summits (whose timing may have been carried more by reactions of the suspicious Russians than Reagan’s options in any event), but she has gone to some length to document her role in all the major events of the Reagan presidency and verify her contribution for both operational timing and the taking of strategic policy positions for persuading the president to take Gorbachev’s peace initiative seriously, in spite of (and likely because of) Nancy’s desire to hide the often pivotal role of this principled and very hard-working modern court astrologer. For insiders in the Whitehouse, the “Let Reagan be Reagan” slogan might have been coded to mean, “Let Reagan have his wacky astrologer if that’s the source of the trusty Teflon …”
Reagan seems to have been driven by a haunting fear of the unfathomable desolation of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in an all-out superpower nuclear world war … happening on his watch, in spite of his practiced tough-guy façade when he chose to get into this character (Reagan once quipped that he did not understand how anyone could be an effective president without acting skills). Even though many thousands of nuclear weapons still remain in active placement on both sides of the iron curtain—left over from the Cold War after initial mutually-scheduled reductions—we all felt a great sense of relief from the decrease of tensions at the end of the Eighties, and our sense of Reagan’s historical legacy remains framed by those grateful attitudes, however much his behind-the-scenes demeanor may have changed in going from his early “evil empire” rhetoric to that of a dedicated peacemaker.
He was a “Dutch” (another nickname) treat—I can still hear the almost mockingly severe tone of the savvy, patronizing challenger as he gripped the sides of the lectern to deliver his great winning line against Carter to the huge TV audience in 1980, “Now, there you go again …” to such stunning, if vacuous, effect in their presidential debate that it spurred his momentum, captivated the country and upstaged a second Carter term … and a likely very different national history. Today we are reminded of the loss of Carter’s innovative, conservationist national energy policy, symbolized by his installation of solar panels on the Whitehouse roof—and removed almost immediately by Reagan—and by the ghastly deep-water BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that is already the greatest environmental disaster in American history. Misguided energy policy then becomes the most obvious third stream of obsolete Reaganism that in retrospect must eventually be disposed of properly, along with his blue-sky political and economic homilies that over the course of thirty years have led to such national tragedies when assumed by bad actors in high places—the Neocon conspiracy in the late wake of his departure.
But we can still “let Reagan be Reagan” and hope he may rest in peace—he was a great and friendly—if somewhat passive/aggressive—beacon of civility in a very dangerous time. However, now let us please … move on past the more naïve and faltering parts of his legacy and seriously appreciate the authentic genius of America’s gift to the world … as forged by his mentor a half century before, to whose idealistic Aquarian vision the Gipper finally returned in his last great effort on the world stage as presidential peacemaker … with a little help from his star-struck lady friend Joan in the City by the Bay.
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Dowd’s Hill at Avery, CA
[original text 9/7/10, final edits 9/27/17]
- This “supply-side” theory, credited to Paul Craig Roberts, Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of finance, has remained controversial, even if the latter’s insistent and highly articulate opposition to the Neo-Con takeover of the Republican Party (and the country!) shows the huge clash with many Reagan Republicans. ↑