Man, I miss President Reagan. By the way, here is a little known fact about President Reagan- during his presidency, the first openly gay couple spent the night at the White House. He was a remarkably tolerant man when you consider that he was born in 1911, rose to political prominence in the 1960s, and started his presidential campaigning in the late 1970s:
In one of the revealing moments of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama rightly observed that the Reagan presidency was a transformational presidency in a way Clinton's wasn't. And by that Reagan precedent, that Reagan standard, the faults of the Obama presidency are laid bare. Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation's esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was "morning in America" he meant it; he believed in America's miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power.
The failure of the Carter years was, in Reagan's view, the failure of the man at the helm and the policies he had pursued at home and abroad. At no time had Ronald Reagan believed that the American covenant had failed, that America should apologize for itself in the world beyond its shores. There was no narcissism in Reagan. It was stirring that the man who headed into the sunset of his life would bid his country farewell by reminding it that its best days were yet to come.
In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the "Yes we can!" mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path.
Thus the moment of crisis would become an opportunity to push through a political economy of redistribution and a foreign policy of American penance. The independent voters were the first to break ranks. They hadn't underwritten this fundamental change in the American polity when they cast their votes for Mr. Obama.
American democracy has never been democracy by plebiscite, a process by which a leader is anointed, then the populace steps out of the way, and the anointed one puts his political program in place. In the American tradition, the "mandate of heaven" is gained and lost every day and people talk back to their leaders. They are not held in thrall by them. The leaders are not infallible or a breed apart. That way is the Third
World way, the way it plays out in Arab and Latin American politics.
Those protesters in those town-hall meetings have served notice that Mr. Obama's charismatic moment has passed. Once again, the belief in that American exception that set this nation apart from other lands is re-emerging. Health care is the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it is an unease with the way the verdict of the 2008 election was read by those who prevailed. It shall be seen whether the man swept into office in the moment of national panic will adjust to the nation's recovery of its self-confidence.
I sometimes wonder why today's current Republican leaders seem to ignore this aspect of Reagan's legacy while attempting to invoke his legacy on every other matter.
In 1978, for example, Reagan vigorously opposed a California ballot initiative sponsored by religious conservatives that would have barred homosexuals from teaching in the public schools. The timing is significant because he was then preparing to run for president, a race in which he would need the support of conservatives and moderates very uncomfortable with homosexual teachers. As Cannon puts it, Reagan was “well aware that there were those who wanted him to duck the issue” but nevertheless “chose to state his convictions.”
Reagan penned an op-ed against the so-called Briggs Initiative in which he wrote,
“Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this.” This was a remarkably progressive thing for a politician, especially a conservative one about to run for president, to say in 1978. The Briggs Initiative was overwhelmingly defeated. Its sponsors blamed Reagan for the defeat.