I just received a gang email that contained a group of quotes from the late, great saint of the right, Ronald Reagan.
It even included a conciliatory note: "I know that there are many 'liberal friends' among the addressees, but if you shut your eyes to the author, there's a good chance you will enjoy the quotations."
I gave it a try. And the person who added the note is correct, you can enjoy them if you keep your eyes firmly closed. In the Republican tradition.
Let me share them with you so you have a sense of Saint Ron's wit and wisdom. Along the responses I had when I thought about it for thirty seconds.
"Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."
- Ronald Reagan
Great rhetoric. Not a strategy. What's unfortunate is that nobody, right or left, seems to have noticed what Reagan did, in practice, which was spend money to look good, stay out of wars that he couldn't win in fifteen minutes, and support other people who would do the fighting. From those policies, the Soviet Union fell, the Ayatollahs grew stronger, the Taliban came to power and Al Qaeda was born.
"The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
That's the philosophy that brought us 'Good job' Brownie, the Bush Administration's FEMA, the privatization of the reconstruction of Iraq and Halliburton.
"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant: It's just that they know so much that isn't so."
The trouble with our conservative friends is that they are ignorant and believe they know it all.
"Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong."
All the wars since Reagan have come about because we are too strong. Panama. Grenada. Iraq, Iraq, Afghanistan.
Reagan understood that a show is just a show and the only time the enemy shot back, in Lebanon, he cut and ran. He picked countries to invade like picking out one-night stands. A quick in and out and a certainty that he wouldn't be lumbered with a relationship the next morning.
The real problem with Reagan is that his heirs don't understand he was an actor. They think the things he said were the things he did. Now that they have power they have done those things. And they are, one and all, disasters.
"The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination."
The Corporation: an entity that understands that every thousand dollars given to a politician comes back as one hundred thousand, to be taken from the tax payer.
"Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."
Whoops, somebody cut that quote short, doesn't it end, "when it's run by Republicans. Especially Republicans who thought Reagan was a saint."
"The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program."
Liberals do nurture government programs in the belief that they help people. Republicans nurture rapacity, greed, corruption and their love child, the military-industrial complex, in the certainty that it will help themselves.
"I've laid down the law, though, to everyone from now on about anything that happens: no matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting."
That was a good idea. Let's all send a penny to chip and buy George W. Bush an alarm clock.
"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
Dare we ask, did he see himself as the hooker or the John?
"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
This administration's view of government is that it is a tool to take money from normal people and give it to very rich people.
"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."
It's better than that, far better than that, if you're a Republican. If you break the law and go to prison you can come back as a hero of the Religious Right, like Charles Colson or a radio star like Gordon Liddy. If you help send arms to terrorist nations and illegally support death squads and get caught, and get convicted, then wait a few years and the next Republican Administration will call you back, like John Poindexter.
"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.
Hopefully true. Which is why the right will always work to suppress both.
Then, by chance, I came across this quote, from another great Republican. In many ways, more than Reagan's pithy one liners, it seems to go to the essence of what it means to be a Republican:
"I understand that there has been and continues to be opposition to the war in Vietnam ... However, under no circumstances will I be affected whatsoever by it."
In recalling that statement, let us also recall that Mr. Nixon helped sabotage Lyndon Johnson's Paris Peace Talks in order to win the election.
Nixon campaigned on the promise that he had a plan to end the war.
He did not have one.
Once in office the Nixon administration hoped to hold on long enough for South Vietnam to be able to survive on their own. Essentially, we'll "stand down as they stand up." The war went on for another five years. Those years included the My Lai Massacre and the bombing of Cambodia. And after those five years and ten of thousands of American dead, and hundreds of thousand of Vietnamese dead, we ended up slightly worse off than where we would have been if the 1968 peace talks had succeeded.