By Rick Morris
February 6, 2011 marks the centennial anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth. There has been a ton of media attention surrounding the milestone, including significant events being held to memorialize it.
As a child of the Reagan ‘80s, I appreciated his accomplishments in their time as they were happening and was a tremendous supporter. I was very pleased that my high school band was selected to play at his re-election rally in the streets of downtown Cleveland back in 1984. In college, I made some great, long-lasting friendships in defense of his causes, which were beleaguered in radical Athens, OH.
His tireless advocacy of the Free World as it faced down the Soviet beast was tremendous and as such, the aggressive pursuit of victory in the Cold War proved to be the final blow for the internal contradictions surrounding the USSR’s economic and military policies. The hijacking of his “freedom agenda” by neocons – who, in the last decade, have sought to cloak themselves in the mantle of Reagan by inserting ourselves militarily hither and thither – does not invalidate his original administration of it.
I admit to being disappointed at the end of his presidency at the explosion in domestic spending that occurred on his watch, as he had to barter away renewed American military might with a Democratic House of Representatives determined to explode the welfare state at all costs. Inasmuch as my youthful idealism had not yet been snuffed out, I dared to dream that subsequent administrations might carry out his unfinished business. Regrettably, the explosion in spending has continued unabated over the past two decades and has brought us to the current brink of ruin.
But as I look back, even as I continue to hope in vain that someday we will build on Reagan’s accomplishments and take care of all that remained unfulfilled, I realize by comparison to his contemporaries just what a giant he was. The gripes that most people had at the end of the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Bush I and Bush II presidencies were much bigger. And the happiness that accompanied late-term Clinton due to the accident of history known as the Internet explosion occurring on his watch was paired with a wincing sense that his Oval Office escapades had further poisoned a toxic post-Sixties moral culture.
Just as Democrats have done with their foolish Kennedy fetish, Republicans seeking high office have too often sought to identify themselves literally with Ronald Reagan the man. Instead, they should be seeking to apply the timeless principles behind his governing philosophy to meet contemporary challenges.