Tear Down This Myth

Tear Down This Myth

How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

Book - 2009
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In this provocative new book, award-winning political journalist Will Bunch unravels the story of how a right-wing cabal hijacked the mixed legacy of Ronald Reagan, a personally popular but hugely divisive 1980s president, and turned him into a bronze icon to revive their fading ideology. They succeeded to the point where all the GOP candidates for president in 2008 scurried to claim his mantle, no matter how preposterous the fit.With clear eyes and an ever-present wit, Bunch reveals the truth about the Ronald Reagan legacy, including the following:Despite the idolatry of the last fifteen years, Reagan's average popularity as president was only, well, average, lower than that of a half-dozen modern presidents. More important, while he was in office, a majority of Americans opposed most of his policies and by 1988 felt strongly that the nation was on the wrong track. Reagan's 1981 tax cut, weighted heavily toward the rich, did not cause the economic recovery of the 1980s. It was fueled instead by dropping oil prices, the normal business cycle, and the tight fiscal policies of the chairman of the Federal Reserve appointed by Jimmy Carter. Reagan's tax cut did, however, help usher in the deregulated modern era of CEO and Wall Street greed.Most historians agree that Reagan's waste-ridden military buildup didn't actually "win the Cold War." And Reagan mythmakers ignore his real contributions -- his willingness to talk to his Soviet adversaries, his genuine desire to eliminate nuclear weapons, and the surprising role of a "liberal" Hollywood-produced TV movie.George H. W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's rolling back of Reaganomics during the 1990s spurred a decade of peace and prosperity as well as the reactionary campaign to pump up the myth of Ronald Reagan and restore right-wing hegemony over Washington. This effort has led to war, bankrupt energy policies, and coming generations of debt.With masterful insight, Bunch exposes this dangerous effort to reshape America's future by rewriting its past. As the Obama administration charts its course, he argues, it should do so unencumbered by the dead weight of misplaced and unearned reverence.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2009
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781416597629
Branch Call Number: History 973.927 BUN


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Feb 10, 2018

I was looking for another book on the 973 shelf when this title caught my eye. Governor Ronald Reagan signed my degree from the UC system, and I struggled to get a financial foothold during his presidency. He’s always cited in the conservative pantheon, along with Burke, Hayek, Goldwater, and Buckley. I’m glad I picked up this re-assessment. Will Bunch provided a lot of history behind the headlines, explaining how the “public liked him and trusted him. They were able to focus on the feel-good hocus-pocus of the photo ops and carefully staged events they saw on the nightly TV news,” unaware fact that he supported sketchy foreign policy (Iran-Contra) and runaway deficit spending. According to this author, Reagan’s perceived success was based on an actor’s ability to appeal to his audience and a supporting PR group, not on effective policy. This book could be better written; it gets a bit tedious and circular, but this view of the Reagan presidency makes a number of useful points. Reagan’s “Morning in America” optimism kept people from noticing the president’s weakness on policy (drugs and taxes), willingness to negotiate with stated enemies (Russia), and outright deviation from conservative doctrine (deficits). His generalizations rested on two beliefs: tax cuts are always beneficial, even during time of war, and heroic individual efforts can solve any crisis. Non-partisan ratings put his achievements in the middle of the pack, but in a concerted effort to create a modern iconic president, the right has created a mythical Reagan that doesn’t match the record so much as it does the rhetoric. The Nordquist Legacy Project, the Bush 43 Presidential Records Act, and agitprop groups like the Heritage Foundation all built up the myth of the great president that conservatives cite today as an ideal. Bunch's fact-based assessment places him appropriately between the “ideologues on the right who now cloak themselves in the shroud of a mythical Saint Reagan, and ideologues on the left who will never see Reagan as anything more than the ‘amiable dunce’ who said that ‘pollution comes from trees.’”

Nov 25, 2015

“Not Even a Hedgehog – The stupidity of Ronald Reagan”
by Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

greglibrary Nov 21, 2015

All it takes are life’s experiences...follow the money cartel in California that put him in Sacramento...then watch as R.R. dismantles a public educational system [best in the nation and some say the world], ...quotes film monologues to make America feel good about itself then brings the same ‘act’ to Washington. The ‘teflon president’ amazed other world leaders’ sharing their dialogues opining his lack of and depth of knowledge. Was it not Gorbachev who remarked that R.R. was a good man who made a better neighbor but never a world leader?
Read the ‘Nixon Tape’ transcripts from N. and Kissinger’s meeting with him in the oval office. Even they remarked that R.R. was too shallow and would never [likely] become president.
Fairly good book... however old news to those of us who were watching.

Jun 03, 2015

I always hate reading about Reagan, a former progressive, who embraced wicked capitalism and his 2nd wife's wealth, changing his once honorable ways. Great book!


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