Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ronald Reagan's True Legacy: Republicans Continue To Create Their Own Reality

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."  -- Ron Suskind, quoting unnamed Bush aide in 2004 NYT Magazine article.

Robbie Conal
On "60 Minutes," after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor signaled a reluctance to compromise with Democrats, interviewer Leslie Stahl noted that Cantor's idol, Ronald Reagan, compromised by raising taxes.  At which point, Cantor’s press secretary, off camera, bizarrely began yelling that Stahl was lying.  As Stahl told “60 Minutes” viewers, “There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.”

Paul Krugman, Steve Benen, Ezra Klein and others weighed in and demonstrated that President Reagan unequivocally raised taxes during his time in office.  Indeed, ThinkProgress documented that Reagan did not “compromise” just this once, but actually increased taxes “in seven of his eight years in office, including one stretch of four tax increases in just two years.”

Eric Alterman makes the critical point about this incident: "The real story here is the vehemence of the conservative movement’s commitment to ignoring all forms of evidence that it finds inconsistent with its ideological preconceptions, regardless of circumstances or even consequences."

Alterman goes on to say that Reagan's "true legacy" is the tendency among conservatives to "ignore inconvenient facts and unwelcome evidence."
The president tended to “build these little worlds and live in them,” noted a senior advisor. “He makes things up and believes them,” explained one of his kids. President Reagan thought he'd liberated concentration camps. He invented what he called "a verbal message" from the pope in support of his Central America policies, news to everyone in Vatican City. In 1985 President Reagan one day announced that the vicious South African apartheid regime of P.W. Botha had already "eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country." And note that I have not even mentioned the words “Iran Contra,” a scandal that was filled with more presidential lies than one can comfortably recount here.
Ronald Reagan's "preference for fantasy over fact" proved to be such a successful strategy that, as Alterman says, "it became a template for the modern conservative movement, and hence underlies its leaders' statements on virtually every topic from economics to the environment to the beliefs of this country’s founders."

Alterman aptly concludes that it is a "is a shame for Americans, liberals, and conservatives both" that the right wing insists on maintaining falsehoods in the face of reality, and "it is our media’s shame that such lies are rarely, if ever, identified as such."


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