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Upstaged by a Chimp: The Bogus Myth of Ronald Reagan

By       Message John Blumenthal     Permalink
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Why are Republicans still blathering on about Ronald Reagan with the kind of holy reverence that any non-delusional person would reserve for Moses?

It especially galls me when pundits keep uttering this one particularly unnerving mantra: "So-and-so is taking a page from Reagan's playbook.

The whole notion of the "playbook" arose because Reagan once played the role of George Gipp (known as The Gipper) in a movie. Gipp had a real playbook, so Reagan, who was never actually a halfback in the early 1900's, swiped the term.

First, he cut taxes. This requires a playbook? All Republicans hate taxes - unless they're levied on poor people -- but they do like some of the benefits, such as Congressional healthcare, obsolete weapons and expensive hookers.

The Founders didn't like taxes either, especially on tea. Which begs the question: why didn't they just drink coffee instead? If they had, the 1777 Spring Break wouldn't have been at Valley Forge. In one sense, the Founders were rich guys who could afford to pay taxes but didn't want to. We have a name for this group now. We call it the GOP.

One of the biggest "playbook" entries is Reaganomics, a truly brilliant policy which reduced government regulation of the economy, and we all know what a god-awful mess that farsighted idea was.

Reagan's "playbook" also included a boneheaded attempt to shut down Medicare. Why? Because he thought it was socialism. Sound familiar?

Another part of the "playbook" was how tough Reagan was on Communism. Republicans still believe that Reagan single-handedly won the Cold War because he was a cowboy and cowboys are tough. He also starred in a movie in which he was upstaged by a chimpanzee.

The truth is, if it hadn't been for Mikhail Gorbachev-who, incidentally, won the Nobel Peace Prize --- Reagan's macho speechifying would have been pointless. Had he said: "Tear down this wall, Mr. Brezhnev," do you really think the Kremlin would have hauled out the bulldozers? No. They would have said "eat me," in Russian.

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Here's one of Reagan's more inspired "playbook" achievements: The Star Wars Defense System. Thanks to him, we sunk billions into a moronic fantasy weapon that couldn't successfully prevent a gaggle of low-flying geese from relieving themselves on St. Louis, let alone intercept a Soviet ICBM.

Twenty-five years later, this expensive piece of garbage still misses everything in its path, except maybe for the occasional cloud, but that's probably just luck.

Apparently, the "playbook" required Reagan's presidential handlers to invent untrue but endearing nicknames for their boss, such as "The Great Communicator." He wasn't. He had a bumbling speaking style, which would have been really embarrassing if he hadn't been reading policy cue cards and old Vaudeville one-liners from a script for 8 years. Frankly, Reagan should have taken a page from Calvin Coolidge's playbook and just stopped talking.

Oh, and then there's the Iran-Contra scandal. Did he know about it or didn't he? If he did, he probably thought Iran-Contra was a new brand of disposable razor.

Then there's this one: The legacy part of the "playbook." Even though Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controller's Union, some bozo had the gall to name an airport after him. Nobody consulted me about it. I'm a citizen. I travel on airplanes. Did I miss the vote? If they name one after Dubya, I may have to start taking trains.

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John Blumenthal has been a professional comedy writer for 25 years. A former associate editor and columnist at Playboy Magazine (following a short stint at Esquire), he's written 8 books and 2 produced movies. His films include "Short Time," (major (more...)

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