Friday, March 21, 2014

The gold standard

Reagan seems to be the gold standard amongst conservative candidates for President. No one can win the Republican nomination these days without promising to be the next Ronald Reagan. Yet, in his time, he was considered to represent the far right wing of the Republican party, with a moderate wing still substantially represented. 

Here is his first inaugural address.


planks length said...

Here is my personal ranking of US Presidents:

T. Roosevelt
F.D. Roosevelt

Near Great

Wilson (?)
L.B. Johnson

George H.W. Bush

Who Cares?
J.Q. Adams
Van Buren
Obama (? - jury's still out)

Mistakes/Bad for the USA
Andrew Johnson
Wilson (?)
George W. Bush

Double (or even Triple) Counting Here, but Absolute Disasters

Andrew Johnson
Wilson (?)
George W. Bush

As you can see, I am seriously conflicted about Wilson. I can make a case for greatness, or one for disaster.

Ilíon said...

Bob, was it really necessary to create a new identity?

Unknown said...

I was thinking the same thing, Ilion.

Ilíon said...

Reagan wasn't all that conservative -- certainly no more so than JFK. But, as the Democratic Party was taken over by the (hard) leftists following Kennedy's murder by a leftist, becoming the anti-Amerikkka party, Reagan realized that he couldn't remain with the Democrats, and acted on that knowledge.

For that -- and for beating their asses ... and for pushing the USSR over the edge -- the leftists, whether hard or soft, can never forgive him. That he loved America and liked Americans, in total contrast to most Democratic national-level politicians since about 1968, that his attitude or philosophy was "We win, they lose", only served to justify (in their deludional anti-American minds) that he was Evil Incarnate.

B. Prokop said...

Who, me? Heavens no!

On my list, Kennedy would have been up there on Mount Rushmore alongside the others (possibly with an even bigger bust), and Reagan would definitely be down amongst the disasters, vying for first (?last?) place with the younger Bush. And I would have had no hesitation about "He kept us out of war" Wilson. What a fraud!

Also... I would never have put them chronological order. The horror! The Horror!

planks length said...

I did not place Reagan where I did because of his conservatism, but rather because today's era of hyper-partisanship can be traced to the policies of his administration. Prior to Reagan, the loyal opposition in the USA might not agree with someone from the other party, but everyone would agree that we were all Americans. Nowadays you can't get a Democrat to call George W. Bush a legitimate president, and you can't get a Republican to even admit that Obama is a citizen.

For that reason, and for one or two others (such as his demonization of government), I place him with the Mistakes.

im-skeptical said...

"For that reason, and for one or two others (such as his demonization of government), I place him with the Mistakes."

The Iran-Contra affair was not a mistake. It was abuse of power, it was illegal, and it damaged the interests of the United States.

Limited Perspective said...

Most US Presidents made great speeches, but spent most of their time caught up in the circumstances of the moment. Very few actually accomplished their vision of benefiting the US (if that is the best way to rank a president). If national benefits is the criteria, then Jefferson and Polk would be at the top. Living in California, Polk is my personal favorite.

Reagan was loved by the right because he was able to persuade people to the ideas they wanted to prevail. Persuasion is probably one of the most difficult tasks in politics (or philosophy, or business, etc.) and takes a certain, though specific, type of genius. Think of Oprah on the left or Reagan on the right.

planks length said...

Very good points, Dave. I also like the fact that California (and the rest of the Southwest) is in the USA. I just can't stand the way Polk went around putting it there. Kind of makes me think of what Putin is doing today in the Ukraine.

The fact that Reagan was beyond doubt the "Great Communicator" (no argument there!) only made him all the more dangerous. The worst thing he ever said (ironically, speaking as head of the government) was "government is the problem." If he genuinely believed that, he should never have run for President (or any other office, for that matter).

I don't know how old you are, but I can recall well the time before the Reagan administration, in which today's poisonous atmosphere of hyper-partisanship was almost entirely absent. Nowadays, it seems impossible to disagree with a person without regarding him as somehow evil. Personally, I think both Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are both decent men and genuinely care about what's best for the country. I think both MSNBC and FOX News ought to be ashamed of themselves and admit that neither one is at all objective. My fondest (political) wish would be to see Senators Ted Cruz and Chuck Schumer (or Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan) sit down and agree on a path forward, each giving somewhere and each taking a bit.

I'm allowed to dream, aren't I?

Victor Reppert said...

I think a lot of the blame goes to the fact that we have "committed" media, which makes it possible for someone to watch the news without having to really hear the other side.

From C. S. Lewis's "Founding of the Oxford Socratic Club."

"There is always the danger that those who think alike should gravitate into 'coteries'… The absent are easily refuted, complacent dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are embittered by group hostility. Each group hears not the best, but the worst, the other groups can say."

You would think that the internet would make that impossible, in particular in the blogosphere, but I think exactly the condition that Lewis was warning about is true even here. People on opposing sides of the question of religion, for example, only really hear their own side, whatever that is. They listen with their answer running.

Limited Perspective said...

planks length,

"I also like the fact that California (and the rest of the Southwest) is in the USA. I just can't stand the way Polk went around putting it there."

Like you, I have read about Polk's dishonest Mexican-American War, but can you explain what you mean by, "I just can't stand"? I only want your honest thoughts.

I have enough experience with Mexico to be thankful that my screwed over Irish grandparents migrated to Los Angeles which was American and not Mexican.

planks length said...

"can you explain what you mean?"

I'm no historian, so I only know what I've read from others. But from what I can gather as a layman, President Polk came into office determined to annex California and he didn't care how it was accomplished. So he basically provoked poor Mexico into a war on the flimsiest (and occasionally quite dishonest) excuses, and used that war as an excuse for one of history's greatest land grabs.

Not that I'm complaining too hard, you understand. I like San Diego, Big Sur, and the Grand Canyon being in the USA. But an honest person will have to admit that we stole 'em from their rightful owners.

Perhaps the transfer was inevitable in the long run even without a war. American settlers were flooding into the area at a rate far exceeding today's migrations in the opposite direction. The Mormons, for instance, were already firmly ensconced in present day Utah. Texas we all know about (and happened before Polk's administration in any case). California was well on its way to becoming majority "Anglo" by the time of the war. So perhaps the Mexican War merely speeded up what was going to happen anyway.

Limited Perspective said...

Thanks planks length,

I appreciate the thoughtful reply.

I am not a historian either, but there is much to ponder in the clash between virtues, culture and politics.

Papalinton said...

Lewis's observation is a truism that has been expounded upon in various forms by a multitude of people over history. There is nothing insightful or particularly Lewisian in his comment.

You go on: "People on opposing sides of the question of religion, for example, only really hear their own side, whatever that is. They listen with their answer running."

That is why belief or non-belief in Christianity is purely a Culture War. It is a battle of ideas. There is nothing intrinsic in christianity that founds it as the premier let alone the sole source for good social governance, morality, ethics etc. in the community. Indeed such a claim is a pious furphy.

Christianity will only continue to survive as an operating idea in the public square if sufficient people continue to be ingratiated into it. One could equally say that of atheism. The point about atheism is that it makes no pretense of having all the answers to the 'BIG' questions of life. But what people are now realizing is that neither does religion have no cogent, verifiable or veridical answers to those questions without punting to the placebo of delusion. It is not the rise of atheism that is the demise of Christianity as a belief system. Christianity is imploding under its own inertia. For too long it has believed its own rhetoric. Indeed most of christianity is factoid-al. It is a product of age-old assumptions or speculations that have been reported and repeated so often that they become accepted as fact. Many and ever increasing numbers of people are seeing through this and are voting with their feet. The rise of the 'Nones' over the last half century is a telling indicator of the groundswell of shift occurring in the cultural wars.

With the astounding success of and the advances in the sciences, the social sciences, medicine, coupled with our significant intellectual growth and insights in research methodologies, the sophistication in our investigative techniques, fact-checking and proofing, through the growth of scientifically-informed mainstream philosophy, the christian narrative is being forensically deconstructed as we speak. And it has been found wanting in such ways that it now occupies a somewhat marginal role as an explanatory or guiding tool, even about understanding the workings of communities. The rise of the Templeton Foundation, the Discovery Institute, Biologos, among others, are a perversely reactionary and desperate responses by religionists attempting to stem christianity from bleeding out from its own moribund and hemorrhagic doctrines.

Atheism is an outcome of this internal culture war not a cause of it. The choice is stark as it is clear. Either we continue to subscribe to ancient myth, superstition and reading the perturbations and signs emanating from the supernatural realm as a basis for progressing and improving human well-being, knowledge and understanding; or we make the transition to a significantly more epistemologically-founded, robust, evidence-based, empirically testable and consistently verifiable paradigm.

See this from the GUARDIAN

Here's an interesting one from the Ecumenical News. After reporting on the world-wide rise of atheism, the paper found solace that the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury won the debate with Dawkins. Visions of Nero fiddling while Rome burned comes to mind.

And this one from the DAILY MAIL. It seems Atheism is the world's third largest 'faith[?]' after christianity and Islam.

And this one from The Huffington Post on August 14, 2012.

We live in interesting and exciting times.

Papalinton said...

The Huffington Post