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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why RWR is such a fun topic for me

The recent passing of Nancy Reagan was for me, an interesting reminder of the past.  I was at the time still what the late Andrew Breitbart would call a default liberal.  Left leaning, not the classical kind, but without being a true believer.  Some time during Reagan's second term, I started to think that he got many things right in comparison to his critics.  I had already been looking beyond conventional notions about many things for over ten years by then even though I wasn't yet 30 years old.  Even media and pop culture sources begrudgingly changed from portraying him as an amiable dunce to a bit of an over the top version the other way as in the SNL mastermind skit.

First, thinking of that time and how the media  treated her:
Mrs. Reagan was hated because President Reagan was hated. There wasn’t a great deal to hate about Nancy, and so such vices and foibles as she had — quaint, in retrospect — were exaggerated to unrecognizable proportions. Spend any time around politics, and you’ll quickly understand that the lie lives forever...
Yes, she was likely far more decent and intelligent...

In an interview with Larry Elder Nancy shared these thoughts:

Reagan: Well, I think his legacy was making the country feel good about itself again, making people feel good. There was a whole optimism that he exuded.

Elder: And is that the quality about Ron Reagan that you most admire -- his optimism?

Reagan: Well, that's one of the things that I admire. There are lots of things that I admire about him. That's one of them.

Elder: Tell us what some of the others are, his qualities.

Reagan: Oh, his kindness, his ability to be a great communicator, to communicate with people -- all kinds of people, all different ages, it didn't make any difference. He just connected with them. He was a very romantic man, as those letters he wrote show. A wise man. I could go on and on. How long have we got? (Laughter)

Elder: The thing that people most misunderstand about Ron Reagan.

Reagan: Well, I don't think it's true any more, since they've published the speeches that he wrote, the letters that he wrote, but it used to be that people thought, well, he didn't know anything -- they just handed him things -- but he didn't know anything. Now, with the publication of all the speeches that he wrote, I mean, it shows that way, way back, he had his philosophy firmly in place. He knew what he was doing.
If you doubt the he knew much, I would simply direct you to read  Reagan, In His Own Hand.
He clearly demonstrates a solid understanding of important ideas about the world:
Scrupulously edited and presented, this book assembles and excerpts scores of his handwritten works, mostly from radio commentaries Reagan wrote in the late 1970s. The collection recovers the most powerful elements of Reagan and Reaganism, such as the depth and clarity of Reagan's principles and his fundamental optimism.
More than 50 years from the time of choosing speech, it is still quite a solid exposition of principles of liberty. (transcript)

A source for some of the material that Reagan studied in refining the explanations of what he believed was FEE, The Foundation for Economic Education:
Another person who got hooked on FEE’s materials was a middle-aged actor named Ronald Reagan. The story is fascinating, as detailed in the 2006 book The Education of Ronald Reagan, by Thomas Evans.

From 1954 to 1962, Reagan worked as the host of CBS’s top-rated General Electric Theater and served as General Electric’s official spokesman. For weeks at a time he would tour GE’s 139 plants, eventually meeting most of the 250,000 employees in them. Reagan himself estimated that he spent 4,000 hours before GE microphones giving talks that started out with Hollywood patter but ended up as full-throated warnings about Big Government. “GE tours became almost a post-graduate course in political science for me,” he later wrote. “By 1960, I had completed the process of self-conversion.”
Aside from having formulated his views with real diligence, Reagan was a successful two term governor of California.  Yet, far more often than not the media referred to him as a B level actor.

The blind partisanship demonstrated by demonizing opponents as well as forgetfulness of admirers in not remembering how hard he battled the establishment in getting elected and pursuing his agenda also come to mind.  The U.S. with leadership and vision provided by RWR liberalized economic policy and led the way amongst developed economies in the economic resurgence of the 1980s.  If you want an appreciation for what that was like:
...the presidency that was by far the most analogous to Barack Obama's in terms of the miserable economic conditions inherited was that of Ronald Reagan. And comparing the Gipper's 1986 address to Obama's 2014 was a startling exercise in contrast, illustrating the wide gulf between their competing economic recoveries.

Beyond being open minded enough to appreciate what I was observing, I took the opportunity to read the works of several authors who were instrumental to providing ideas relevant to this great resurgence.  Jude WanniskiArt Laffer, Robert Mundell, George Gilder and John Rutledge all had valuable insights to contribute.  Anyone can learn a tremendous amount by reading their papers and books.

As a reminder, the four pillars of Reaganomics that were so effective in revitalizing the economy were: sound money, reduced taxation, limited regulation and freer trade.  Yes, it really did work.

(As an aside, David Goldman who worked with the late Jude Wanniski at his firm Polyconomics  has an interesting observation:  Ted Cruz is intellectually arrogant, like Ronald Reagan)

I think you can see why Ronald Wilson Reagan is a fun topic for me.  But Reagan being Reagan with a terrific sense of humor, I think the best way to end this post is with a joke:


Just to make clear - I did not vote for him.  Although far from perfect, he got a lot right.

Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts:
In terms of personal character and ideological seriousness, Trump and Reagan could not be more different. Reagan was one of the most dignified politicians of the 20th century, one who turned his cheek to vicious attacks, refused to use profanity, and rarely showed an angry side. Meanwhile, Trump’s crude and vengeful streaks virtually define the man.

Reagan’s ideological principles were derived from decades of reading, speaking, and debating. Trump, meanwhile, is winging it.

“I don’t think he has an ideology,” Pat Buchanan told the Washington Post. “He very much is responding to the realities that he has encountered and his natural reactions to them. It’s not some intellectual construct.”

Here lies both the irony and farce of the cult-like effort to anoint Trump as the second coming of Reagan. The one meaningful similarity between the two men is that they can both be seen as authentic responses to their times. The difference? Reagan was the right response.
A book review titled: The Gipper Wins Another One 
Remarkably, Weisberg dispenses with the ideological bias that has afflicted the authors in this series, and presidency scholars in general, for he has produced a genuinely fair and somewhat admiring book about Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

This is a nuanced account, detailing Reagan’s hatred of nuclear weapons and his somewhat unique assessment that the Soviet Union was doomed.
Weisberg’s assessment of Reagan’s effort to trim the size and reach of the welfare state is also quite balanced. He argues, contrary to the hysterical rhetoric of Reagan’s critics then and now, that “Reagan didn’t succeed in eliminating a single major program, which illustrates the truth of his adage about eternal life and government bureaus.” He does note that Reagan’s deregulatory drive “halved the thickness of the Federal Register, which complies new regulations.”
And speaking of evil, American liberals hated Ronald Reagan when he was President, although it has become gospel among some of them that Reagan was liked on both sides of the aisle. He wasn’t. Tip O’Neill, arguably the most partisan House Speaker of the 20th century, declared that Reagan, not the Soviet Union, was the focus of evil in the modern world.
Weisberg rejects this vicious and vacuous assessment, for Reagan was one of the few public figures to embody “the idealized national character,” with his elements of “simplicity, innocence, and personal modesty.” These qualities are, as Weisberg rightly notes, rare in public life and hard to fake. This book is a rarity as well, and one that hopefully portends more balance in the future from the American Presidents Series.

Like I said, a fun topic for me.


Harry Eagar said...

He really thought people like you were saps. Remember the story he told -- and expected you to believe -- about the airman who refused to bail out so he could accompany his fellow crewman who couldn't bail out in his last seconds?

Well, the alternative explanation is that he really believed that story.

Howard said...


Your ignorance is "fall on the floor" funny.

Harry Eagar said...

What, did I get the story wrong?

And while you're reading, through filmy eyes, those letters, diaries, state papers etc., keep an eye out for anything negative about nazism. You won't find it. He sat out the war against Hitler and he thought the wrong side won.

Howard said...

Whether the story is true or whether Reagan supposedly believed it, it is difficult to even imagine anyone thinking your point as being anything other than an irrelevant triviality. Just trying to conjure up such a person elicits laughter. The matter is extra funny coming from someone who has demonstrated ignorance of the most basic insights from sociology, political science, psychology and several other fields that can be useful in understanding the world and has also shown a conveniently selective grasp of history. As per attitudes re nazism, that is extra special coming from someone who on several occasions has demonstrated the inability to draw meaningful distinctions between people in free societies struggling to overcome their moral failings and the nature of totalitarianism. Sheesh raised to the Ug raised to the Oy.! I think it appropriate that your contribution be seen like the antics of Trump, of considerable entertainment value alone.

Harry Eagar said...

'people in free societies struggling to overcome their moral failings'

I don't think I have ever said anything negative about such people, who are scarce enough.

If you are on the receiving end of the murder, I don't suppose it makes all that much different whether the murderer was a totalitarian or a free person struggling to be moral.

That is why Obama's statements in Argentina are so startling. They are novel, virtually unprecedented.

On the other hand, over at RtO, when I raised the issue of capitalist genocide in Congo, Skipper has spent weeks denying it happened. But it did.

Last night, I watched a lecture by Vejas Liulivicius on "Soviet Civilization,' in which he listed all the crimes of the regime. What was interesting is that you could take a transcript of it and substitute 'Britain' or 'America' or 'the tsar' for every single one and not be inaccurate.

While Reagan's story was trivial and silly, it reveals a lot about the teller and the listener that he told it. I think -- but of course cannot prove --that he believed it; psychologists have described the 'fantasy-prone personality,' people who do not and cannot distinguish between their imaginary stories and the real world. Reagan was obviously an extreme example.

Pretty scary. It's a good thing there were never any serious crises during his term in office. (This topic can be extended. It is remarkable how many extreme fantasists have occupied the highest offices, like Mackenzie King, and how much they hae been admired.)

Hey Skipper said...

[harry:] Remember the story he told -- and expected you to believe -- about the airman who refused to bail out so he could accompany his fellow crewman who couldn't bail out in his last seconds?

No Harry, I don't recall that story. And I have no idea why you think I'd believe anything you say without attribution.

[Howard:] The matter is extra funny coming from someone who has demonstrated ignorance of the most basic insights from sociology, political science, psychology and several other fields that can be useful in understanding the world and has also shown a conveniently selective grasp of history.

Now wherever did you get that idea? After all, that Harry can't find a stupid leftist is all the evidence you need to know they don't exist.

[harry:] On the other hand, over at RtO, when I raised the issue of capitalist genocide in Congo, Skipper has spent weeks denying it happened. But it did.

I apologize, I am unable to restrain my temper, because I am sick to death of your utter failure to use direct quotes when they are readily available.

In other words, Harry, you are a lying sack of shit.

While Reagan's story was trivial and silly, it reveals a lot about the teller and the listener that he told it.

Hillary Clinton came under sniper fire in Kosovo.

Hillary Clinton didn't have classified information on her private server.

Lois Lerner's hard drive crashed.

You can keep your plan. You can keep your doctor.

Susan's Husband said...

Obama's comments in Argentine were recycled pablum which Obama didn't believe, won't act upon, and quite possibly didn't even understand as they flowed through the teleprompter to his mouth. They were said only to fool stupid leftists. The best evidence of this is Obama's reaction to the crack down on Cuban dissidents while he was there - none. He doesn't care, but he is for good reason confident that as long as he says the right words the stupid leftists will worship him. Which makes Mr. Eagar's comments on Reagan so very ironic.

P.S. Of course, as usual Mr. Eagar refuses to reference specific remarks by Obama because, as with Skipper, he seems to be allergic to facts or accountability. I have no other explanation for his very elliptical style which avoids, when possible, being anything stronger than vague when touching on reality.

Harry Eagar said...

He said:

Wanna bet money he doesn't do it?

Goldberg's interview with Obama in The Atlantic made interesting reading. Compare the intelligence and thoughtfulness that Obama displays there with the idiocy of any and all of the Gang of 17 on foreign relations. The idea that Obama is stupid is way past its sell-by date.

It is curious that some people cling to it so anxiously.

Hey Skipper said...

There's a reason. (Here is a link to the interview):

Red Line. Smart or stupid?

Even commentators who have been broadly sympathetic to Obama’s policies saw this episode as calamitous. Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote recently that Obama’s handling of this crisis—“first casually announcing a major commitment, then dithering about living up to it, then frantically tossing the ball to Congress for a decision—was a case study in embarrassingly amateurish improvisation.”

I don't think Obama is stupid, but he has been hastily and pointlessly divisive domestically, and his foreign policy is generally feckless when it isn't amateurish.

I also can't help but note Obama was against eliminating Saddam, but not in favor of anything. I guess in prog-world, that counts as thoughtful.

And IMHO, anyone who thinks AGW amounts to an existential threat is, if not actually stupid, analytically inept.

Although, to be entirely fair to Obama, I don't think there is a solution to the hell hole the middle East has become. Certainly, Merkle's decision to import it into Europe qualifies as going full retard.

erp said...

Harry can't find a stupid leftist:

Here is the tippety top of stupid lefty statements and the one upon which the whole shaky shtick is based.

From each, according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Susan's Husband said...

On the contrary, what's past its sell date is the idea that Obama is thoughtful or intelligent. This is a guy who doesn't understand how car insurance works[1]. He speaks platitudes off a teleprompter well, but watch any video of him without an external flow of words[2]. It works because the MAL definition of "thoughtful and intelligent" is "says things I agree with".

[2] - one set of examples

Howard said...

I had that Goldberg interview in the Atlantic in mind recently when a prog was complaining about Trump behaving like a jerk. I couldn't disagree but mentioned that O had behaved badly on many occasions including his treatment of allies as evidenced in the interview. The surface difference in behavior shouldn't fool anyone. He of course had no clue. My impression was similar to that of Bret Stephens:

In his place, an exact look-alike of Mr. Obama is giving interviews to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, interviews that are so gratuitously damaging to long-standing U.S. alliances, international security and Mr. Obama’s reputation as a serious steward of the American interest that the words could not possibly have sprung from the lips of the president himself.
Still, it’s a deep dive into a shallow mind.
Summing up the president’s worldview, Mr. Goldberg describes him as a “Hobbesian optimist”—which philosophically must be the equivalent of a Jew for Jesus. But Mr. Obama has shown that he lacks Hobbes’s understanding that Leviathan must fill the vacuums that will otherwise be filled by an ISIS or a Putin, or an optimist’s belief that American power can shape the world for the better.

The French diplomat Charles de Talleyrand once said of the (restored) Bourbon dynasty that “they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Given the mix of score-settling and delusion on display in this interview, that may well be the president’s foreign-policy epitaph, too.

I actually had thought of using this article as an example of "faculty lounge cluelessness" along with a warning: do not eat or drink while reading, especially if your name is Peter.

This phony notion of liberal intelligence is plenty in evidence in a blog search of "the smug."
It really gets a treatment by Sultan Knish in Smartly Stupid:

The infrastructure of manufactured intelligence has become a truly impressive thing. Today as never before there is an industry dedicated, not to educating people, but to making them feel smart.
We all know that George W. Bush was a moron. And we all know that Obama is a genius.
Intelligence to a modern liberal isn't depth, it's appearance.
Obama and his audience mistake their orgy of mutual flattery for intelligence and depth.
The thought never rises within this bubble of manufactured intelligence that all of them might really be idiots who have convinced themselves that they are geniuses because they read the right books (or pretend to read them), watch the right movies and shows (or pretend to) and have the right values (or pretend to).
Liberalism isn't really about making the world a better place. It's about reassuring the elites that they are good people for wanting to rule over it.
Liberal intelligence exists on the illusion of its self-worth. The magical thinking that guides it in every other area from economics to diplomacy also convinces it that if it believes it is smart, that it will be. The impenetrable liberal consensus in every area is based on this delusion of intelligence. Every policy is right because it's smart and it's smart because it's progressive and it's progressive because smart progressives say that it is.

Progressives manufacture the consensus of their own intelligence and insist that it proves them right.

Howard said...

Alternate link to Stephens article

erp said...

... and speaking about George Bush, remember the orgasmic frenzy around his following protocol after 9/11 by sitting calming reading a story to the school children while those responsible for his safety made the arrangements for his departure.

The media went ballistic that he was a coward, he was too stupid to realize the ramifications of the attack ... very similar to the hysteria after Kaktrina.

Facts, they don't need them.

My roomie says Obama looks like a deer in the head lights and anyone who thinks he's calling the shots is seriously delusional.

Clovis e Adri said...

Progressives manufacture the consensus of their own intelligence and insist that it proves them right.

It is very true. So much stupidity travested as smart because they come from supposedly smart people in the progressive world.

And yet, when we look to the other side of the aisle... we have Donald Trump reigning over the GOP.

It is a wide wild and stupid world out there, isn't it?

erp said...

Donald Trump is not conservative nor libertarian and he imposed himself on the GOP, he is not one of them as can be seen by their rush to denounce him and he certainly does not sell himself as an intellectual.

He's been Hillary's man in the past and IMO he is still Hillary's man.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] And yet, when we look to the other side of the aisle... we have Donald Trump reigning over the GOP.

The conventional left wisdom here is that Trump shows how rotten conservatism is.

They aren't entirely wrong -- undoubtedly some conservatives hate some groups of people. But there is some sloppy thinking going on.

First, much of Trump's support is coming from people who, never mind all the fancy economic arguments, feel that their interests have been ignored for decades. That isn't rottenness, that is democratic politics in action.

Second, while the GOP is the party most consistent with conservatism, that doesn't mean its consistency is anywhere near thoroughgoing, or that the GOP isn't guilty of being shorthand for "political class as self-licking ice cream cone".

All that applies just as much for the Democrats.

Trump could have just as easily run for the Democratic nomination as GOP; after all, his concern for political principles is even more shallow than his knowledge of them. Trump is for one thing: Trump. His strategy (IMHO) is based upon a single fact. The nomination electorate divides into two parts: for Trump, and against Trump.

That isn't as self-evident as it seems. He chose the GOP not due to any affiliation whatsoever, but simply because the Against Trump vote was initially divided among nearly a dozen other candidates. If the parties had reversed, with the GOP fielding two white geriatrics, and the Dems nearly a dozen diverse candidates, Trump would have run as a Democrat, and would be getting about 35% of the Democratic primary vote, whilst the rest were sprayed across the field.

His only goal is to secure a major party nomination; whichever one could scarcely matter less -- he would just as happily be making hell for the Dems as the GOP.

However, now that he is running against only Cruz, there is a decent chance that Trump won't get enough delegates before the convention, leaving the GOP with a Hobbes choice, and probably wishing it actually had some principles that it had done something more than nod in the direction of.

If Trump gets the nomination, IMHO, he will get crushed in the general election. All 70% of the Dems who aren't pro-Trump will vote against him, as will 70% of the Republicans. Generalizing from my own opinion -- on account of its sheer brilliance -- as much as I loathe Hillary -- she belongs in prison -- Trump is far worse. Since most Republicans think the way I do, then Trump loses 65-35 (or worse).

If Trump doesn't get the nomination, then that could be a worse case scenario, with possibly no candidate getting enough electoral votes.

erp said...

Skipper, that isn't a bug, it's the feature. Getting Hillary elected is Trump's goal. Either it's Trump vs Hillary and she wins or Trump runs as a third party and she wins -- history repeating itself to elect her just as it did to elect her husband -- twice.

Hey Skipper said...

National Review, the journal of conservative opinion, has what might be considered reservations about the GOP's front runner.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] Getting Hillary elected is Trump's goal.

Trump has no goals beyond himself.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "It is a wide wild and stupid world out there, isn't it?"

Definitely. The main difference might be that progressives at least pretend to be intelligent, whereas Trump and the GOP don't even bother pretending.

On the other hand, I often state that I think intelligence is overrated and I think this is a good example. If it wasn't for Obama's and the Dem's intelligence (pretend or actual), and the actions they've taken based on that intelligence, Trump would not be so popular right now.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper predicts: "Trump loses 65-35 (or worse)."

Is that popular vote?

Hey Skipper said...


Bret said...

I'll save a link to that prediction and we'll see just how good it is.

erp said...

Skipper: Trump has no goals beyond himself. Yes and it's in his best interests to get Hillary elected. He gains nothing by becoming president and having his life put under microscope. He already has all the trappings of the presidency -- lives in houses all upscale to the White House ... and isn't bound by any balance of power ...

My guess -- he owes the banks that own Hillary a sum with an enormous row of zeros.

Wouldn't it be a kick in the pants if Bernie gets the nomination. Did you see the looks on the faces of the kids at Bernie's do's? They're entranced.

Bret: I agree that intelligence, i.e., a high IQ is over rated and even a drawback to leadership. Where genius works is in organization and invention. The president's job is proscribed -- to execute the laws of the land.

Harry Eagar said...

'Trump could have just as easily run for the Democratic nomination as GOP'

True. And he would have been instantly savaged by the party bosses. So there's that difference.

Trump is fishing were the fish are.

erp said...

... that was before Hillary's complete melt down. Lefties have no bench at all.

Harry Eagar said...

That's correct about the bench..

I hadn't heard about Clinton's meltdown. Just like I missed the disappearance of Apple. Damn newspapers, never reporting the alternate universe.

erp said...

Hillary Meltdown