I recently came across a post by something called Blue Nation Review titled 5 Terrible Things Ronald Reagan Did As President, by Jesse Berney. As a casual Reagan fan, I was curious to hear about these terrible things.
Conservatives like to pretend that Presidents Day is a holiday for the exclusive celebration of Ronald Reagan, their favorite president and a man they lionize as an earthbound saint crossed with the world’s manliest cowboy.
So it’s a good idea to remember Reagan’s real legacy: a bad president surrounded by bad people who did bad things. Here are five of the worst things Reagan did as president to remind you exactly the kind of leader he was.
Straw man introduced? Check.
Now let’s entertain the compelling reasons why President Reagan was a Really Bad Man.
5. Reagan Stole Money from the Social Security Trust Fund
Remember those Saturday Night Live sketches in 2000 where Al Gore promised to put Social Security in a lockbox? (If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, Al Gore is the man who invented the Internet and came up with the global warming hoax.)
The reason Gore was so committed to protecting Social Security is that Ronald Reagan used the funds as his personal piggy bank. After his tax cuts devastated the federal treasury, ushering in the era of giant deficits we’re still mired in today, Reagan raised Social Security taxes, ostensibly to protect Social Security for future generations. Instead, he dumped that money into the general treasury fund to reduce the deficits he had created. Speaking of corruption…
Do a Google search for Social Security general fund.
The first result is a page on the Social Security Administration’s website, headline: Debunking Some Internet Myths- Part 2.
Here’s the first item:
Q1. Which political party took Social Security from the independent trust fund and put it into the general fund so that Congress could spend it?
A1: There has never been any change in the way the Social Security program is financed or the way that Social Security payroll taxes are used by the federal government. The Social Security Trust Fund was created in 1939 as part of the Amendments enacted in that year. From its inception, the Trust Fund has always worked the same way. The Social Security Trust Fund has never been “put into the general fund of the government.
The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll leave it at that. Claim disproved with one Google search and one click.
4. Reagan Filled His Administration With Corrupt People
No administration was as corrupt as Ronald Reagan’s, not even Nixon’s. His attorney general resigned after he was involved with a company that received illegal no-bid contracts. His secretary of the interior, who thought his job was to sell off federal lands to defense contractors, was indicted on multiple counts of perjury.
Reagan’s vice president and successor, George Bush, pardoned six separate people for their roles in the Iran-Contra affair, including Reagan’s National Security adviser and his secretary of defense. Speaking of Iran-Contra…
Example 1: “His attorney general resigned after he was involved with a company that received illegal no-bid contracts.”
Response: Reagan’s second attorney general was Ed Meese. A special prosecutor appointed to investigate Meese’s involvement in the Wedtech Scandal ultimately found no grounds for legal action against him. Meese later resigned with a clear name, saying he had been “completely vindicated.”
Meanwhile, two members of Congress, both Democrats, resigned due to the scandal. Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-NY) was “convicted of 15 counts of obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities” and was sentenced to eight years. The other was Robert Garcia (D-NY). Two Maryland state senators connected to the scandal also resigned and did jail time, both Democrats.
Example 2: “His secretary of the interior, who thought his job was to sell off federal lands to defense contractors, was indicted on multiple counts of perjury.”
Response: James Watt served as Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983. Thirteen years later, Watt was “charged with felony counts of perjury and making false statements to cover up his work as a consultant seeking Federal aid from HUD after he left the Government in 1983.” Watt pled guilty to a single misdemeanor that did not occur while he was a member of Reagan’s cabinet, that concerned a department other than the one he had led, and that resulted in a fine and probation.
Example 3 is repeated below, and you don’t get to count it twice.
3. Reagan Presided Over the Iran-Contra Affair
In 1985 and 1986, Ronald Reagan sold arms to Iran, locked in a horrific war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for cash and the release of U.S. hostages. The sales to Iran violated sanctions against Iran.
But much of the money that came from the sales was diverted to fund the Contras, right-wing rebels fighting the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua. That was in violation of laws against helping the Contras.
As noted above, George Bush had to pardon several Reagan aides in the wake of the scandal. Speaking of aides…
It’s interesting. President Reagan’s worst moment in office was his (somewhat successful) attempt to free American hostages being held by radical Islamic terrorists, by allowing a deal between Israel and (supposed) moderates in Iran, while rogue members of his administration directed funds to democratic allies fighting for freedom in Central America, and were fired or resigned.
These days, things are a little different. President Obama releases radical Islamic terrorists who return to the battlefield in exchange for a deserter, and the CIA sets up camp in Libya to monitor an arms deal when an American ambassador and three others are killed by radical Islamic terrorists, and members of his administration blame it on a protest over a Youtube video, and are promoted.
Verdict: true enough, but give me Iran-Contra over Gitmo-Bergdahl every day of the week.
Gosh, if #3 is Iran-Contra, there must be some really terrible things ahead. Right?
2. Reagan Refused to Mention AIDS, Then Cut Funding for Research
In the early 80s, a horrific new epidemic ravaged America’s gay population. Because so many of the victims of AIDS were gay, the right-wing viewed the disease as a kind of divine retribution for their sins.
Reagan didn’t mention AIDS in public until September 1985, after more than 10,000 people had died from the disease. In 1986, Reagan called for a report on AIDS but also proposed cutting federal funds for research and patient care as treatments were just starting to make it to market. Speaking of inhumanity towards his fellow man…
If Reagan “refused to mention AIDS,” why did he instruct the surgeon general to prepare a “major report” on the disease in 1986, and why did he form the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic in 1987?
As for “cutting federal funds,” Reagan initially budgeted $85 million for AIDS research in 1986, later increased that to $126 million, and then again to $196 million. For his 1987 budget, he increased the request to $213 million.
1. Reagan Opposed Sanctions on Apartheid Era-South Africa
When Congress looked likely to pass sanctions on South Africa to battle apartheid in 1985, Reagan vigorously opposed any action. In order to stop moderate Republicans from defecting, he issued a half-assed executive order imposing some sanctions.
The next year, when Congress realized Reagan’s sanctions didn’t have teeth, it overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing real sanctions on the racist regime. Reagan vetoed the bill. Happily there were enough votes to override his veto, and the sanctions became a key part of the eventual end of apartheid.
Ronald Reagan and Congress both put sanctions on South Africa over apartheid. Reagan through executive order in 1985, Congress through legislation in 1986. Reagan vetoed the set of sanctions drafted by Congress, arguing that they would hurt the very people they were intended to help. The disagreement was over the tactics, not the goal.
Is there a similar debate happening today? Actually, yes.
President Obama recently announced a change in relations with Cuba, and called for an end to sanctions, despite saying he was “under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.” Obama argues the sanctions have hurt the Cuban people but haven’t done much to change its leadership in the five decades they’ve been in force.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and many others in Congress believe the sanctions should remain until Cuba’s leadership makes more concessions. Obama disagrees. Does that mean the President opposes freedom for Cubans, or simply that he disagrees on the effectiveness of the sanctions in bringing about the desired result?
Final tally: 4 false, 1 true, but true in the “let’s free U.S. prisoners instead of terrorists” kind of way.