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The Diabolical Cunning of The Reagan Revolution

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Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

An excerpt from an interview/conversation between Thomas Frank and Rick Perlstein, which contains this illuminating exchange about the death of Democratic Party populism; how the working class Democrat morphed into Reagan Democrats, who now listen to Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and so on…

Rick Perlstein: And, just to kind of rewind, I was very fascinated to read a book of Mike Royko columns. You know, Mike Royko is this great liberal hero, a real champion of the little guy and the kind of columnist we don’t see anymore. This white working-class populist kind of guy.

Thomas FrankAlthough they didn’t use that term populist back then. They would have just said “liberal” right?

RP–No. They would have probably called him a populist, I think. But I was struck by how many of his columns.… One of his genres was how cruel they’re being to the little guy. One of his genres was the lives of colorful Chicago characters. But a lot of his columns were about how incompetent government was, and he would write about how hard it is to get a refund when the bus token machine doesn’t work, or the lines at the DMV. And, by the same token, when you read the toughest political journalism of the day by someone like Garry Wills, who was writing amazing stuff for Esquire Magazine, it’s so iconoclastic.

TF: How do you mean?

RP: He was so good at knocking politicians off their pedestals and showing them up to be phonies. One of Garry Wills’ favorite rhetorical strategies was to find out what a politician’s favorite book was, according to his campaign rhetoric, and then ask him about the book and prove that, you know, he had no idea what was in there.

So the point is, there was just all kinds of suspicion of government circulating in the culture. It was in the air. I mean, why wouldn’t there be after Vietnam? After Watergate? After the failure of Keynesianism? And one of the sort of diabolical, cunning accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites was to take that free-floating rage, rage about the failures of government and turn it to the advantage of the Masters of the Universe.

TF: Yeah. That’s the story of our time in some ways.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

Sadly, this rings true. The GOP has long been the party of oil barons, media moguls, defense contractors, yet the rank and file of the Tea Party ranks are filled with working class and middle class voters, who consistently vote against their own economic interest. How does tax breaks for General Electric and ExxonMobil help a dude working at a muffler repair shop? It doesn’t, and yet…

Circuit Court of Cook County
POW/MIA Flag, Circuit Court of Cook County

The interview morphs into a discussion about the creation of the POW/MIA myth as a cynical Nixon ploy – 

They were quite heroic and the story holds up on its own terms. Unfortunately, the Pentagon distorted it — for example, made up things that weren’t true about prisoners being hung by their wrists and having their arms permanently broken. Well, that was easily checked once they came back, and their arms weren’t permanently broken. But I have the smoking gun, which is Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, saying the POWs are serving their purpose to basically —you can get the quote from the book — putting the military on a new footing, where they should be—to kind of redeem American militarism.

Illinois still has a POW-MIA remembrance day. So the cynicism is that, generally speaking, when a pilot would get shot down over dense jungle and they didn’t recover the body, they were classified as “body not recovered.”

…Presumed killed in action, basically. And one of the things Nixon did — and the Nixon Pentagon did — was reclassify them as Missing In Action, which served a very important rhetorical purpose: If they were missing in action, maybe they were alive. And if they were alive maybe the enemy had them alive. And so it created this sort of negotiating point. Nixon could accuse them of negotiating in bad faith unless they promised to return these soldiers that they were supposedly holding back. And that turned out to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, because he would always talk about the 1,700 Americans held prisoner or missing in action. And after the war ends and these 600 men come back…

TF That’s how many POWs there were?

Approximately. 592, I think, was the number. People would say “where are the other 1,100?” And their families would say, “where are the other 1,100?” And, basically, this preexisting group that Admiral [James] Stockdale’s wife had started up, the National League of Families of Prisoners of War, the White House basically turned it into their own front group and plumped [it] up into something much bigger than it had been. But then it takes this independent life of its own harassing the government for not more actively looking for their missing family members. So they played with the feelings of these absolutely traumatized families for political gain, and it eventually backfired.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Frank on Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How ’70s and ’80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America – Salon.com.)

There’s more, and you should read it…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 16th, 2014 at 9:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Cranky Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands Book Burning

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Nixon - Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure
Nixon – Reagan (Rick Perlstein) #doubleExposure

If you hadn’t heard, Craig Shirley has been making the rounds accusing historian Rick Perlstein of plagiarism. For the record, I purchased a copy of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan but haven’t started reading yet. Most non-partisan writers, and several partisan writers have disagreed: historians quite frequently paraphrase from their sources, it is how we are taught to write! Perlstein didn’t omit references, just made them available on-line instead of as footnotes or endnotes, nor did Perstein borrow more than a word or two at time. In other words, the accusation seems to be mostly without merit from where I slouch.

Mostly the accusations seem to stem from Perlstein’s lack of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, the so-called patron saint of the Republican Party1.

So if you are at all interested in history of American politics, you might want to purchase a copy of Mr. Perlstein’s book before the pitchfork brandishing hordes manage to storm the ramparts of Amazon.com’s warehouses and burn the books that dare present a nuanced portrait of anyone so holy as Ronald “Bombing Begins in Five Minutes” Reagan.

 

Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) - outtake
Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan (Rick Perlstein) – outtake

Some coverage that caught my eye includes:

Frank Rich reviews the book:

Next to the more apocalyptic spells of American history, the dismal span of 1973 to 1976 would seem a relative blip of national dyspepsia. A period that yielded the blandest of modern presidents, Gerald Ford — “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” as he circumspectly described himself — is not to be confused with cataclysmic eras like the Civil War, the Great Depression and the Vietnam ‘60s. The major mid-70s disruptions — the Watergate hearings and Richard Nixon’s abdication, Roe v. Wade, the frantic American evacuation of Saigon, stagflation, the dawn of the “energy crisis” (then a newly minted term) — were adulterated with a steady stream of manufactured crises and cheesy cultural phenomena. Americans suffered through the threat of killer bees, “Deep Throat,” the Symbionese Liberation Army, a national meat boycott, “The Exorcist,” Moonies and the punishing self-help racket est, to which a hustler named Werner Erhard (né Jack Rosenberg) attracted followers as diverse as the Yippie Jerry Rubin and the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Even the hapless would-be presidential assassins of the Ford years, Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, were B-list villains by our national standards of infamy.

“I must say to you that the state of our Union is not good,” our unelected president told the nation in January 1975. That was true enough. America’s largest city was going bankrupt. Urban crime was metastasizing. The C.I.A. was exposed as a snake pit of lethal illegality. The nostalgic canonization of the Kennedy presidency, the perfect antidote to the Nixon stench, was befouled by the revelation of Jack Kennedy’s mob-moll paramour. Yet the mood of the union was not so much volatile as defeated, whiny and riddled by self-doubt. As Americans slouched toward the Bicentennial celebrations of July 4, 1976, pundits were wondering whether the country even deserved to throw itself a birthday party. “Everyone wanted to be somewhere else,” Rick Perlstein writes in “The Invisible Bridge.”

It says much about Perlstein’s gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan (as his subtitle has it) not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture’s detritus for the telling forgotten detail. Leave it to him to note that the WIN buttons peddled by Ford to promote a desperate “Whip Inflation Now” campaign were “designed by the same guy who invented the yellow ‘smiley face.’ ” Or to recall that the Republican Party tried to combat its dire post-Watergate poll numbers by producing “Republicans Are People Too!,” three fund-raising network television specials starring “everyday Republicans who want to tell why they have stuck with the G.O.P.” Competing against “M*A*S*H” in prime time, the second installment brought in $5,515. The third never ran.

(click here to continue reading ‘The Invisible Bridge,’ by Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jesse Walker from Reason Magazine:

Craig Shirley, the author of two books on Ronald Reagan, has sicced his lawyer on Rick Perlstein, whose ’70s history The Invisible Bridge was published by Simon & Schuster this week. Shirley’s attorney is demanding that the publisher pulp Perlstein’s book, pay $25 million in damages, and take out ads apologizing to Shirley in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon.

What provoked these demands? Basically, the 810 pages of The Invisible Bridge include some information that can also be found in Shirley’s book Reagan’s Revolution, and in some places Perlstein paraphrases Shirley. Shirley thinks this constitutes copyright infringement. If you’d like to read the bill of particulars, Dave Weigel has posted the attorney’s letters and Simon & Schuster’s response at Slate, and Shirley himself has posted a litany of alleged thefts on his website.

In the first item on the latter list, the two books do sound alike: Describing the red-light district in Kansas City, Perlstein echoes not just the info in Shirley’s text but Shirley’s words “festooned” and “smut peddlers.” After that, though, we essentially get a list of places where the two writers cited the same facts. Facts are not copyrightable, and one pair of similar sentences does not an infringement make. I don’t see a dollar’s worth of damages here, let alone 25 million

(click here to continue reading Copyright Absurdity: Reagan Biographer Gets Paraphrased, Demands $25 Million – Hit & Run : Reason.com.)

Dave Weigel from Slate:

This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.

Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God. Thirteen years ago, when Perlstein profiled Goldwater’s movement, there had been only one recent biography of the Arizonan. There will be at least half a dozen new Reagan books this year alone, everything from a deep dive into the 1986 Reykjavik summit to a collection of leadership tips. Perlstein is challenging an image of the 40th president that is built on many such books, celebrated at Republican county dinners, and quoted by everyone from Ted Cruz (in his arguments for conservative revival) to Joe Scarborough (in his argument that no one should listen to Cruz).

Yes, technically, The Invisible Bridge is a history of January 1973 to August 1976, and Reagan’s own presidential campaign does not start until Page 546 (of 810). But in Perlstein’s telling, Reagan was the essential figure who understood that Americans wanted to revise their history in real time. The Invisible Bridge starts with Operation Homecoming, the negotiated release of Vietnam POWs that was preceded by years of patriotic kitsch. Perlstein recreates the mood by quoting copiously from letters to the editor, from columnists, POW speeches and TV broadcasts. He recalls that it was future right-wing Rep. Bob Dornan who came up with yellow armbands as trinkets of POW solidarity, and recovers forgotten tidbits about them, like how “a Wimbledon champ said that one cured his tennis elbow.”

(click here to continue reading Rick Perlstein’s book on Reagan: The Invisible Bridge, reviewed..)

3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan
3/4 of a Kennedy Trumps 1/2 a Reagan

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters:

Right-wing publicist and author Craig Shirley doesn’t like a new book about Ronald Reagan written by award-winning (and liberal) historian Rick Perlstein. So the conservative publicist has threatened to sue for $25 million in damages and has asked for all copies of the book to be “destroyed,” claiming that with Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Richard Nixon And The Rise of Ronald Reagan, Perlstein’s guilty of plagiarism for paraphrasing facts Shirley had previously reported in his own book about Reagan.

But of course, paraphrasing is not the basis for copyright infringement and that’s certainly not what constitutes plagiarism.

Meanwhile, for a best-selling author himself, Shirley seems to have little understanding of copyright law.

He seems to think that because he wrote a detailed book on a chapter of Reagan’s political life (his failed 1976 presidential campaign), every writer who subsequently treads that same ground must credit Shirley because he was there first. But that’s not how it works. “Any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement,” wrote attorney Elizabeth McNarama, responding on behalf of Perlstein and his publisher.

McNamara stressed:

Your client’s claim rests on the misguided notion that chroniclers of history, like Mr. Shirley, somehow acquire ownership and control over the facts and events they may uncover. This premise collides directly with the most basic principles of copyright law and is contrary to the very fundamentals of historical reporting.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering suggests Shirley’s plagiarism claim doesn’t represent a serious pursuit. Instead it’s a way for Shirley to draw attention to his own work and to make life difficult for an esteemed liberal writer chronicling a conservative icon.

(click here to continue reading Ann Coulter’s Publicist Launches “Offensive” Against Historian Rick Perlstein | Blog | Media Matters for America.)

Paul Krugman weighs in, speaking from personal experience:

OK, this is grotesque. Rick Perlstein has a new book, continuing his awesomely informative history of the rise of movement conservatism — and he’s facing completely spurious charges of plagiarism.

How do we know that they’re spurious? The people making the charges — almost all of whom have, surprise, movement conservative connections — aren’t pointing to any actual passages that, you know, were lifted from some other book. Instead, they’re claiming that Perlstein paraphrased what other people said. Um, what? Unless there’s a very close match, telling more or less the same story someone else has told before is perfectly ordinary — in fact, it would be distressing if history books didn’t correspond on some things.

(click here to continue reading Sliming Rick Perlstein – NYTimes.com.)

Vote Reagan - Division Blue Line 1995
Vote Reagan – Division Blue Line 1995

David Dayen at Salon:

Simon & Schuster responded to the letters here, by arguing that “any similarity between facts in non-fiction books – even if first reported by Mr. Shirley – does not support a claim of copyright infringement.” In fact, it’s self-evident that facts should remain similar over the course of histories of the same time period. Perlstein believes he merely built upon the historical record that Shirley helped register in his work.  “He doesn’t like the way I do history,” Perlstein told Salon. “He thinks that if he digs up facts by the sweat of his brow that nobody else can use them. In fact, courts have used that exact phrase, ‘sweat of the brow,’ to say that there’s no copyright protection for such facts.”

In many cases, Simon & Schuster notes, Shirley alleges copyright infringement based on third-party quotes found in other sources. For example, Shirley claims that Perlstein stole a quote of Nancy Reagan’s from him without attribution, even though the quote appears differently in the two books. In Shirley’s, Nancy says “That’s what I like to hear”; in Perlstein’s, she says “Now that is the kind of talk I like to hear.” The quotes differ because Perlstein got it from a different book called “PR as in President” by Victor Gold, which is whom he cited in his source notes.

In another allegation, about a hotel manager threatening to throw out the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1976 GOP convention, Perlstein’s source is Time magazine, not Shirley (although he gives secondary attribution to Shirley anyway). Shirley even tries to claim copyright on a CBS News report of the number of delegates that Gerald Ford had attained near the end of the 1976 primaries.

A final claim of Shirley’s reveals too much. Shirley says Perlstein stole his line about Reagan watching the chaotic last night of the 1976 convention on television, “dissolved in laughter” (which is cited). But Shirley doesn’t add the line in “The Invisible Bridge” that comes afterward: “Then, he saw a televised image of himself on television watching it on television – that doesn’t look good – and his smile disappeared.” This additional insight, building on previous work and incorporating this cunning quality to Reagan, also came from a contemporaneous report in the Atlanta Daily World. As Dave Weigel writes, “In Shirley’s version of the story, Reagan was underrated once again; in Perlstein’s, he is underrated but calculating.”

So Shirley, who as a right-wing operative and professional Reagan biographer is naturally protective of Reagan’s legacy, and doesn’t want a book to rise to prominence that calls him into question for any reason, has basically thrown every allegation up against the wall to see if something sticks. He claims plagiarism over inconsequential, ordinary short phrases. He claims plagiarism over quotes that other people said. He claims plagiarism on passages where Perlstein specifically attributes Shirley’s book.

(click here to continue reading The right’s “plagiarism” scam: How low it will stoop to protect Reagan’s legacy – Salon.com.)

and after the New York Times published a “he said, he said” article about the ginned-up controversy, the NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in, concluding:

My take: There’s a problem here. An article about polarized reaction to a high-profile book is, of course, fair game. But the attention given to the plagiarism accusation is not.

Yes, the claim was “out there” but so are smears of all kinds as well as claims that the earth is flat and that climate change is unfounded. This one comes from the author of a book on the same subject with an opposing political orientation. By taking it seriously, The Times conferred a legitimacy on the accusation it would not otherwise have had.

And while it is true that Mr. Perlstein and his publisher were given plenty of opportunity to respond, that doesn’t help much. It’s as if The Times is saying: “Here’s an accusation; here’s a denial; and, heck, we don’t really know. We’re staying out of it.” Readers frequently complain to me about this he said, she said false equivalency — and for good reason.

So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.

(click here to continue reading Was an Accusation of Plagiarism Really a Political Attack? – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. despite his oft-stated differences with the policies of the current bunch of Tea-Bagger jokers who chant Reagan’s name like it will ward off evil liberals, communists, and immigrants []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2014 at 6:58 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with ,

The Rise of Ted Cruz

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The National Beer of Texas
The National Beer of Texas

Surprising nobody, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans have their own version of history, a version where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were the same kind of obstructionist asshole as Ted Cruz. Of course, that isn’t factual, but since when have the 6,000 year old Earthers required facts to get in the way of narrative?

Jeffrey Toobin hangs out with Senator Cruz a bit:

Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government. “It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency.

Still, Cruz’s historical narrative of Presidential politics is both self-serving and questionable on its own terms. Conveniently, he begins his story after the debacle of Barry Goldwater, a conservative purist whom Cruz somewhat resembles. Nixon ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act. Reagan’s record as governor of California included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests. George W. Bush won (if he won) as a self-advertised “compassionate conservative.” So, at this point, Cruz’s concerted attempt to establish himself as the most extreme conservative in the race for the Republican nomination has not evoked much fear in Democrats. “We all hope he runs,” one Democratic senator told me. “He’s their Mondale.” (Running against Reagan as an unalloyed liberal in 1984, Walter Mondale lost every state but his native Minnesota.)

(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)

Rockefeller and Reagan
Rockefeller and Reagan

I also hope Ted Cruz continues running for President, as I anticipate being amused that the Tea Bagger Birthers will find ways to twist pretzel logic so they can support a Natural Born ‘Murican who wasn’t actually born in the US. Even the most ardent Birthers never claimed Obama’s mother wasn’t American, just that Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii. Ted Cruz’s mother may have been born in Delaware1 but Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada. It says so right on his birth certificate! The U.S. hasn’t invaded and annexed Alberta, yet.

As Jeffrey Toobin puts it:

Rafael Cruz fled Batista’s Cuba for Texas in 1957 after aligning himself with the anti-Batista movement. He returned to Cuba for just a month, in 1959, and became convinced that Fidel Castro was even worse than his predecessor, so he settled in the United States for good. He majored in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, and met and married Eleanor Darragh, who was born and raised in Delaware. (Rafael had two daughters from a previous marriage.) Rafael and Eleanor started an oil-services company after moving to Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, where Rafael Edward Cruz was born, in 1970. (Ted’s birth in Canada, with dual American and Canadian citizenship, has raised the question of whether he is a “native born” citizen and thus eligible, under the Constitution, to be President. The answer is not completely clear, but it seems likely that the Constitution does not bar a Cruz Presidency. Recently, Ted Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship.)

(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)

Ted Is Organized

Ballard Street, via

Footnotes:
  1. allegedly []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 23rd, 2014 at 7:57 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Preckwinkle tells the truth: Reagan deserves special place in hell for war on drugs

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Nancy Reagan - Just Say Yo
Nancy Reagan – Just Say Yo

Kudos to Ms. Toni Preckwinkle for speaking the truth. Earlier editions of this story didn’t mention the subsequent dialing back…

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.

The comment from Preckwinkle, known more for a reserved, straight-ahead political style, came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who’s now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.

Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”

(click here to continue reading Preckwinkle regrets saying Reagan deserves ‘special place in hell’ for war on drugs – chicagotribune.com.)

If I ever have a chance to meet Ms. Preckwinkle, I’d like to shake her hand – too many politicians bend their knee to the War on Drugs, despite the facts.

Patience please
Patience please

While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.

“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.

The resulting policies have had the effect of sending young African Americans and Latinos to jail and prison in disproportionate numbers, she said. They also have driven up government costs and damaged communities, she said.

“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”

Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Jeralyn Merritt, of the seminal blog Talk Left, wrote this about Saintly Ron back in 2004:

three of [Reagan’s] less-than-endearing legacies deserve to be highlighted

Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.

Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing, which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor… Did the law nab Pablo Escobar? No. The law’s first conquest was David Ronald Chandler, known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie grew marijuana in a small town in rural, northeast Alabama. About 300 pounds a year. Ronnie was sentenced to death for supposedly hiring someone to kill his brother-in-law. The witness against him later recanted.

As a result of these flawed drug policies initiated by then President Reagan, (and continued by Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) the number of those imprisoned in America has quadrupled to over 2 million. These are legacies that groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums are still fighting today. Even George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, acknowledged in 2001 that the War on Drugs is a flop.

In Smoke and Mirrors, Dan Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, provides a detailed account of the politics surrounding Reagan’s war on drugs.

Conservative parents’ groups opposed to marijuana had helped to ignite the Reagan Revolution. Marijuana symbolized the weakness and permissiveness of a liberal society; it was held responsible for the slovenly appearance of teenagers and their lack of motivation. Carlton Turner, Reagan’s first drug czar, believed that marijuana use was inextricably linked to “the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations.” A public-health approach to drug control was replaced by an emphasis on law enforcement. Drug abuse was no longer considered a form of illness; all drug use was deemed immoral, and punishing drug offenders was thought to be more important than getting them off drugs. The drug war soon became a bipartisan effort, supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Nothing was to be gained politically by defending drug abusers from excessive punishment.

(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Drug War Legacy | Alternet.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 21st, 2012 at 7:46 pm

The Buffett Rule (fka The Reagan Rule)

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Shouldn't That Be a Right Turn?
Shouldn’t That Be a Right Turn?

Obama calls for some fairness in our tax policy, meaning those most able to pay more taxes, should pay more taxes.

I’m not the first President to call for this idea that everybody has got to do their fair share.  Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept.  He gave a speech where he talked about a letter he had received from a wealthy executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary, and wanted to come to Washington and tell Congress why that was wrong.  So this President gave another speech where he said it was “crazy” — that’s a quote — that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary.  That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan.

He thought that, in America, the wealthiest should pay their fair share, and he said so.  I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days, but what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing that we’re calling for now:  a return to basic fairness and responsibility; everybody doing their part.  And if it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the Reagan Rule instead of the Buffett Rule.

(click here to continue reading The Buffett Rule (aka The Reagan Rule) | The White House.)

The President believes we should build an economy where everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. That’s why he proposed the Buffett Rule. It’s simple: if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year – like 98 percent of American families do – your taxes shouldn’t go up.

 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 12th, 2012 at 8:34 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,