Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Reagan has the last laugh, as he should

Peter Bronson

Remove the filler, and here's the national media's obituary for Ronald Reagan in 12 words: "Great communicator. Star Wars. Trickle down. Iran-Contra, Iran-Contra, Iran-Contra."

Of course, it's much longer than that. There's a lot more in there about Iran-Contra, I think. But that's what we get when we turn our first draft of history over to the liberal elites. It's like giving firearms to chimpanzees. Someone is gonna get shot to pieces.

In this case, it's the Reagan legacy. Even after he is dead and long gone with Alzheimer's for years, they still fear him too much to trust us with the truth.

So we get the rewrite from 1984 - the date of his historic landslide and the title of the book that describes how the media distort his achievements.

Labels invented by his critics are glued to Reagan like a stubborn bumper sticker. They are so common it's easy to forget they are insults designed to propagate myths.

• "Great communicator" was invented to tell us he was "just an actor" who delivered ghost-written speeches. That was before Democrats discovered that Barbra Streisand and Alec Baldwin are political geniuses. Reagan was a dunce, they said - and they're still saying it about conservatives. It's a common delusion among left-wing intellectuals: I'm smart, therefore anyone I disagree with is stupid.

Reagan punctured that bag of gas with pinpoint humor. He showed us that intellectuals without any moral vision are as useless as empty peanut shells.

Reagan was not just smarter than his critics - he saw through the clutter and noise of the chattering "experts" and named the names of our enemies: bloated government, swelling taxes, communism, weak defense and anti-American cynicism.

He was not just a great communicator - he was a leader who communicated great truths.

• "Star Wars" was the mocking label used to make his Strategic Defense Initiative sound like a science-fiction fantasy.

But SDI worked. It caused the Soviet Union to overheat and take a permanent pit stop in the arms race. That set millions of people free from the "evil empire." Today, space-based missile defense is hardly a fantasy.

• "Trickle down" was used to ridicule Reagan's promise that tax cuts would revive the economy. Editorial cartoonists could wallpaper the Berlin Wall - if it still existed - with their predictions that only the rich would benefit, and the rest of us would only get a trickle.

But Reagan's policies irrigated an arid economy for everyone for 20 years.

• Iran-Contra was no Watergate or Lewinsky. Turns out the "scandal" was that a few of the president's men ignored Democrat appeasers in the Senate to prevent another Cuba in Central America. The TV showdown with Ollie North made the Democrats look like modern Joe McCarthys, waving around a secret list of known anti-communists.

Reagan is still being defined with insulting labels. And I think he's probably still having the last laugh - at himself.

"I thought that remark accusing me of having amnesia was uncalled for," he once joked. "I just wish I could remember who said it."

He made a jaded nation believe in itself, and proved conservative ideas work. For all of us who left the left behind during the Reagan years, his best epitaph is something he said to the doctors when he was wheeled into an emergency room after being shot:

"I hope you're all Republicans."

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.

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