The [Political] Internet Loves Ronald Reagan

The Gipper turns 100, and conservatives everywhere hoist a glass

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Hey, something big is happening on February 6. That's this Sunday! What is it? What's happening? What is it?!

If you said "Super Bowl XLV," it probably means you're a normal kind of American, defined here as "an American who does not read political Web sites all day." If you said "Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday," well, you already know where this is going.

We do this thing in America sometimes where we turn our presidents into saints--cf. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy. A similar sort of thing is happening with the Gipper right now. It's been happening for a while, actually, but this week things hit a fever pitch. Below are some of the more noteworthy examples of Reagan-centric encomium to grace the Web in recent days.

  • He Wasn't 'The Great Communicator'  "It was so famous a moniker that he could do nothing but graciously accept the compliment," writes Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter and special assistant to Reagan, at The Wall Street Journal. "But he well understood it was bestowed in part by foes and in part to undercut the seriousness of his philosophy: 'It's not what he says, it's how he says it.' He answered in his farewell address: 'I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: it was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things.' It wasn't his eloquence people supported, it was his stands--opposition to the too-big state, to its intrusions and demands, to Soviet communism. Voters weren't charmed, they were convinced."

  • And He Wasn't a Dum-Dum  Deroy Murdock at National Review torpedoes the popular conception that Reagan was intellectually vacant, "a mere actor who read whatever lines he was handed." Murdock cites a collection of radio addresses penned and delivered by Reagan in the 1970s, in which he "offered his specific prescriptions on taxes, regulation, peace through strength, and even oceanic mineral content ... Rather than a mere mouthpiece for his staff, Reagan himself researched and addressed topical issues with philosophical consistency and concrete evidence to bolster his opinions."

  • Hands Off Our Reagan  Steven Hayward, also at National Review, gets defensive, railing against "the Liberal Revised Standard Version of Reagan" that makes the 40th President out to be "a crypto-liberal pragmatist." Hayward parries several left-leaning writers' attempts to claim Reagan as a friend of Democratic causes, scoffing at "the way in which liberals now claim to understand Reagan better than today's conservatives do, yet somehow were unable to make him out when he was right in front of them."

  • He Stamped Out Communism Real Good  W. James Antle at The American Spectator points out that since Reagan's presidency, "the Soviet Union ceased to exist... and communism has been confined to such creaky museum-states as Cuba and North Korea. No modern conservative politician before or after can boast of a comparable record."

  • Aw, He Was Even Adorable When He Lied to the Public  David Abshire at The Christian Science Monitor remembers that when the story broke about the U.S. selling illegal arms to Iran in exchange for hostages, "Reagan made a disastrous mistake. Heeding poor counsel from one of his advisers, Reagan lied about these attempts at a press conference, and then did so again in a speech to the nation. He did it in order to protect the hostages' lives, but he was not a good liar. He couldn't even act the part, and looked like a kid caught lying to his teacher with fingers crossed."

  • Maaaaaaaaaybe Reagan Wasn't Awesome 100% of the Time  A bit of an opposition narrative has kicked up, as exemplified at places like Salon's "The Real Reagan" series and Jeff Riggenbach's libertarian broadside at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Ken Layne at Wonkette also makes reference to "the hundred-foot-long shit sandwich of Reagan Worship pummeling America this weekend." OK, so not everybody is on board the train to Reaganville.

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