The Great Centurion

Whatever one thinks of Ronald Reagan, I submit this without too much fear of contradiction.

He was a much better president than he was an actor.

That's about as far as I'll go, and as far as a lot of other people will go.

There are many others, as you know, who'll go much further than that.

The Gipper's 100th birthday is almost upon us. Reagan was born on February 6, 1911.

He was 69 when he was elected president in 1980, and almost 70 when he took the oath of office.

Reagan was among the eldest of presidents, on the cusp of turning 78 when he gave way to George Bush I.

I feel bad for the Reagan legacy, no matter what you think of it, because those who are enamored of him have unwittingly cheapened it by going overboard with their exultation.

The pro-Reagan zealots want everything to be named after him, and then some. They want him on currency. They want him added to Mt. Rushmore. And that's just the beginning.

All this does is make the fence-sitters and the anti-Reagan folks look at the Reagan Years with disdain, when that's not even fair.

Ronald Reagan, and I've said this before, was probably the right president at the right time for the country. I didn't always agree with him, but I had to admire his relationship with the American people.

Reagan had a "get tough" approach to the ne'er do-wells in the world, and it gave the United States a much-needed shot in the arm, coming on the heels of the emasculation caused by the Iranian hostage crisis.

I'm deadset against Reaganomics, but I can almost understand, at least a little, those who would support it.

Part of that is because of Reagan himself, who could tweak his opponents with a wink and not come off as mean-spirited or nasty.

Reagan, more than any president in recent history not named Richard Nixon, enjoyed the power of mandate when he buried Walter Mondale in the 1984 election. It was a landslide of monumental proportions, and by 1986 Reagan's mystique was at its strongest.

Today's Republicans have latched onto Reagan as the Democrats used to do with the Kennedy years of the early-1960s. Tit for tat---I'll give you that.

But I still think the Reagan fans have carried it too far, and have made their hero into more of a caricature than what he really was, which was one of the most effective, relevant presidents of the 20th century.

While you could make an argument that the Reagan fanaticism is more reflective on the fanatics than Reagan himself, it nonetheless tarnishes the man's legacy.

Ronald Reagan was the right president at the right time. And much of that was for what he accomplished, not merely his name and image. He was more substance than style---more than you might want to believe.

I just wish his admirers would tone it down, because all they're doing is making folks sneer at a legacy that should be embraced more warmly.


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