Dynamist Blog


After an Instapundit link to the item below, the MediaBistro survey suddenly switched sides--and more than doubled the number of survey participants. I guess they aren't using cookies to make sure only MediaBistro members vote.


In this week's online survey, the MediaBistro site asks whether the coverage of Reagan's death is overkill. Possible answers:

No. He is perhaps the most influential recent political figure, and his life is being justly celebrated.

No. A president's death is big news, but the coverage should be less hagiographic. Um, Iran-Contra?

Maybe. His important life should be celebrated, though at some point enough is enough.

Yes. Give the man his due, but a 93-year-old's natural death is not big news.

Yes. He was a vacuous ideologue and his death was not unexpected. Enough already.

Guess which answer has managed to stay over 50 percent all day? The survey is unscientific, but the dominance of answer five certainly doesn't exactly make the participating journalists look, uh, fair and balanced.

Here are the results. (If you can't access the site, please let me know. I'm a MediaBistro member and can't tell whether it's using cookies to let me on.)


I'm off to Chicago and Minneapolis for a combination of speaking and research. On my first (and probably only) Twin Cities book tour appearance, I'll be speaking Tuesday evening at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The talk is free and open to the public. Details are here (My schedule of upcoming appearances is here.)


Reagan's death may have muted the initial reaction, but the controversy over the administration's torture memos will continue to build. The problem is that nobody seems to be interested in the question of whether torture is right, only in whether the law can be interpreted to make it legal. The obvious conclusion is that the Bush administration wants a free hand to torture suspected Al Qaeda members without legal consequences. (As I've written before, I can't say that I would never find torture justified--though I'd err on that side--but I can say that it should always be illegitimate.) Phil Carter's analysis is essential reading, and he also has a link to April 2003 memo itself, which the WSJ has posted as a .pdf file--an impressive example of journalistic openness.

The current controversy adds a creepy context to this story about a non-lethal but extremely painful weapon. What could be a less destructive alternative to rubber bullets and tear gas for riot control would also make a scarily tempting torture device.


Robert Tagorda posts on what Reagan--and America--meant to him as an immigrant child. Here's a perspective, and a challenge to the country, that I'd never fully appreciated before:

These experiences shaped my view of America. Like many other immigrants, I came to see it as a place of abundant opportunities: if my parents, who led fairly comfortable lives in their native land, were willing to assume such difficult challenges in this new country, then it must indeed hold promises for a bright future. After all, my parents' professional downgrade (from rising bankers to waiter and secretary) and the childrens' personal loss (from age 1 to 4, my sister knew nothing about her father and mother) seemed sensible only if the United States were truly special.


George Will, in his excellent obituary column, tries to claim Reagan for the Midwest, but Dan Walters knows better: "Millions of words are being spoken and written about Ronald Reagan in the aftermath of his death Saturday, but just four capture his essence: He was a Californian."


A funny thing happened during the Reagan era. Young people became Republicans. Not all of them, of course, but a plurality. It was strange. After all, everyone knows you're supposed to be liberal and idealistic when you're young. You're supposed to vote for people like Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

Yeah, right.

Those young people aren't young anymore. We're middle aged, and the world bears little resemblance to the one we grew up in. It is, despite its obvious ills, a lot better.

Whatever impressions nostalgic TV shows may leave with those too young to remember the real decade, the late 1960s and 1970s were a scary time to grow up. The world just kept getting worse and worse, and nobody seemed to know why.

The Soviets were expanding, and the Cold War seemed destined to end in defeat or destruction. When the joke issue of my college paper announced the Soviet invasion of Iran, lots of students believed it.

The Saudis could--and did--cut off the oil whenever they got mad. People in the northeast froze from lack of natural gas; my father turned our thermostats down to 65, as though it would help. (Deregulation, Reagan's first act on becoming president, helped more.)

Prices went up and up, not just on a few things but on everything. After taxes, cost-of-living raises couldn't keep up. Interest rates hit two digits. Nobody my age would ever be able to own a house.

As a teenager, I didn't worry much about crime--burglaries and petty thefts seemed as normal as political assassinations. But a lot of people did worry. They made folk heroes of movie vigilantes like Dirty Harry.

The policies Nixon and Ford tried didn't work, and Carter told us that was just the way the world was. We should get over our selfishness, our materialism, and make do with less. The problems of the world were our fault, a sign of our fallen nature, as individuals and a nation. Oh yes, and while we were addressing our crisis of meaning, we needed oil import quotas and a SynFuels Corporation.

No wonder Reagan attracted the young.

Amazingly, his prescriptions worked. The economy got worse at first--much, much worse, so bad Reagan himself called it a depression. But he stayed the course, and helped Paul Volcker stay it. The economy got better, and stayed better--mostly good and sometimes even great, except for a few short bumps--for decades.

Most miraculously, the Cold War ended without a nuclear war. And the president took a bullet and lived and told jokes on the way to the hospital.

In some ways, surviving that assassination attempt in good health was the most important thing Reagan did. It robbed history of its inevitable tragic ending. (Remember, too, that the pope similarly survived a bullet, and Margaret Thatcher made it through an IRA bombing.) Reagan became living proof that things do not have to end badly.

Many of his conservative allies, taught by the terrors of the 20th century, firmly believed that history is a tragedy, that the best we can do is to fight a long, twilight struggle. They believed that evil is as strong as, perhaps stronger, than good, and that tyranny is more powerful than freedom. At the time, I believed them too.

Reagan believed in the triumph of good and the strength of freedom. He acted on those convictions, and he was right.

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