Destructive Anger

“Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.” — Aristotle.

To even the inattentive or preoccupied, Ronald Prescott Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Wilson Reagan, is outwardly his father’s son.  You can see it in their shared confident gate.  You can see it in their famous and endearing Reagan smiles.  You can even appreciate it in the same way they shake their head and say, “Well.”  However, on a more fundamental level, in their world views, in their personalities, in their decency, they could not be more radically different.

Ron Junior is not only a liberal, but radically so. He has been active in the “Creative Coalition,” a Left-wing group to politically organize artists. Ron Junior voted for Ralph Nader in 2000; Gore was not liberal enough for him. The elder Reagan was not only a Conservative, but “Mr. Conservative.”  Ron Junior is a self-proclaimed atheist, while his father was a quietly religious man. These are important intellectual and essential spiritual differences. Though such differences can vastly separate two people, the hope can remain that through honest dialog some differences might be bridged and those that remain may at least not be the source of prolonged bitterness. But unfortunately, there are ironic and sad dissimilarities in the temperament and dispositions of the former president and his namesake.

Ron Junior had it right when he said of his father when eulogizing him, “He was the most plainly decent man you could ever hope to meet… Dad treated everyone with the same unfailing courtesy.”  It would have been out of character for President Reagan to have descended into the personal vituperative attacks of a political adversary in the same way that Ron Junior has done with respect to President George W. Bush. When exasperated, a smile would crawl across the elder Reagan’s face as he would light up and lament, “There you go again.” By contrast, most are repelled by the single-minded bitterness of the younger Reagan when he says of the current Administration, “they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie.”

Upon what evidence does the younger Reagan assert this pervasive mendacity?  In a recent opinion piece, “The Case Against George W. Bush,” that appears in Esquire, Ron Junior cites George Bush’s presidential 2000 campaign when Bush eschewed an activist foreign policy, with the US actively confronting adversaries across the world.  Now, Bush has deployed troops to Afghanistan and then Iraq.  This might suggest to a reasonable person a dishonest election campaign by a closet internationalist, that is, if the United States had not been attacked on September 11, 2001.  The one most crucial event in the twenty-first century and the younger Reagan seems to have ignored the obvious explanation for the change in Bush’s approach.

Then, of course, there is the shop-worn argument that since we have not yet accounted for large stock piles weapons of mass destruction [1] that the Administration was deceitful. However, this ignores the fact that the former President Bill Clinton [2], the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton [3], the Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry [4], and the British, French, German, and Russian intelligence services had all reached the same conclusion.  Indeed, the evidence for WMD in Iraq was stronger and clearer than the evidence that there would be an attack on 9/11 that Ron Junior criticizes Bush for missing.

Some of the younger Reagan’s claims are so demonstrably false and misleading that one wonders why he could not be a more skilled polemicist.  For example, Ron Junior writes, “If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world.”  What specifically is the complaint that justifies the ad hominem attack?  That level of income is comparable to the incomes during the previous Administration.  Moreover the $32,000 number represents a median wage, including teenagers living at home. The median household income in the country is closer to $50,000 and actually rises to $62,000 for a 4-person household.  The $32,000 figure alone is not false, but certainly does not provide a real context and the single use of this number does not suggest a person who wishes to seriously debate.

Does Ron Junior mean to imply that George Bush is some rich kid with no concern for those who have had a harder life? Surely, young Ron has also benefited from an affluent upbringing in a famous family.  Does that make Ron Junior unsympathetic to those who are less fortunate?  Does it make Senator John Kerry, whose economic fortunes have been enhanced by marrying two heiresses, a mean-spirited multi-millionaire unable to recognize the challenges that face those of lesser means?  One can be rich and cold-hearted, but Ron Junior certainly does not offer evidence to smear George Bush with that charge.

Ron Junior believes the Bush mendacity began during the 2000 election because Gore “would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements —`I invented the Internet’ — that he never made in the first place.” What Gore actually said was “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”  Close enough.

Surely, Ron Junior should be a little more careful in making charges that are so easily refuted.  Of Fox News he says, “…a staff member at Fox News — the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House — told me a year ago that mere mention of bin Laden’s name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large.”  A quick online check refutes this notion.  Fox had many stories about bin Laden from September 11, 2001 to the present, even an interview with his mistress almost exactly a year ago.  This is hardly the activity of a network that does not mention bin Laden’s name. Ron Junior would not have made this simple and embarrassing mistake, if he had simply watched Fox News as opposed to relying on an unnamed staff member.

Some day we may grow weary of pointing out the fundamental inaccuracy employed by Ron Junior and almost daily by others about the 2000 elections, but not today.  The false assertion is that in the words of Ron Junior a “cabal of right-wing justices” delivered the White House to Bush. It seems that “denial” is not just a river in Egypt.  The local Florida judges, the determiners of fact in election cases, all denied Gore additional recounts.  It was a highly partisan Florida Supreme Court made up entirely of Democrats, who made up new deadlines and election rules along the way.  But even if one disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in the Bush v. Gore case, subsequent recounts by US Today and by the Miami Herald confirm that an additional recount as requested by Gore would have still resulted in a Bush electoral victory [5].  Get over it.

Of course, the greatest irony of all is that Ron Junior has aligned himself with that part of the political spectrum that treated his father with the same anger and disdain he now reserves for George W. Bush.  It was President Ronald Reagan that was originally portrayed as the “amiable dunce” who was the pawn of nefarious people behind the scenes, like Bush is now.  It was President Ronald Reagan who was called a liar by the Left for the Iran-Contra scandal, like Bush is now. It was President Ronald Reagan that the Left accused of war crimes for his support of the Contras, much as Bush is now.  But then perhaps the younger Reagan is not totally inconsistent.  He did not vote for his own father in 1984.

  1. It can no longer be said that there are no WMD, some 30 chemical shells have been found
  2. “The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow.” — Bill Clinton in 1998.
  3. “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.” — Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002.
  4. “I would disagree with John McCain that it’s the actual weapons of mass destruction he may use against us, it’s what he may do in another invasion of Kuwait or in a miscalculation about the Kurds or a miscalculation about Iran or particularly Israel. Those are the things that — that I think present the greatest danger. He may even miscalculate and slide these weapons off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States. It’s the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat.” — John Kerry, September 15, 2002.
  5. Perhaps Ron Junior has been watching too many movies and not enough Fox News.  In Michael Moore’s “documentary ” Fahrenheit 9/11 an altered front page of the Illinois Pantagraph newspaper appeared and the paper is suing for the misrepresentation.  They are asking for $1 and an apology. The paper claims that the film shows a December 19, 2001 headline “Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election.” Actually the words were from December 5, and did not appear as a headline on the front page, but rather in much smaller type as a label for a letter to the editor. The letter represented the opinion of the writer not the reporting of the paper. It would seem that if the case against Bush were so compelling, the use of juvenile distortions by Moore would not be necessary.

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