Lengthy Comments Page

Some guests have a lot to say, and it wouldn't be fair to edit their remarks. This page is for those who have such points to make. While I personally disagree with some of them, it would benefit you to read what they have to say and decide for yourself.

We obviously hold different political viewpoints, but for people, like you, to attempt to demean and misconstrue the record and reputation of one of America’s greatest Presidents, I feel, is an attempt to rewrite history by ignoring the facts.

According to Richard A. Watson, former professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia and author of Promise and Performance of American Democracy (1972), the term “strong” or “great”, when describing Presidents, implies certain types of behavior:
1) “A strong President does not wait for the Congress to take the leadership in political matters but initiates his own actions on major problems.”
2) “He does not shrink from political conflict with the Congress, and he protects the executive branch from undue interference by the legislature.”
3) “ A strong President leads not only the Congress but also the American people, charting new directions in public policy.”
4) “ He uses the full powers of the office and, if the need arises, stretches those powers to accomplish his purposes.”
5) “ A strong President leaves an office that is a more powerful institution than the one he inherited; he establishes procedures and customs that successors tend to follow.”

Watson continues to list seven Presidents he says are a “general consensus” among historians in having the label of “great” or “strong”. Those seven are: 1) G. Washington 2) T. Jefferson 3) A. Jackson 4) A. Lincoln 5) T. Roosevelt 6) W. Wilson 7) F. D. Roosevelt

The following are some of the reasons I believe Ronald Wilson Reagan should/will be the eighth on Watson’s list. Whether you agree with his policies or not, Reagan took the initiative with respect to Congress. Before he took office, he was influencing policy through speeches and press releases. From the very first budget, that passed in May of 1981, to the tax cuts that followed, to the arms build-up, including S.D.I., to the Grenada Invasion, to the INF Treaty, to the nomination of conservative/controversial Supreme Court Justices, Reagan showed leadership and political courage. Granted, some of his policies were more successful than others, but is there any question that Reagan meets Watson’s first criteria?

Ronald Reagan was not a President who would back down from a conflict with the legislative branch. Repeatedly, when he needed more votes to win approval for his proposals, he would ask the American people for their support or threaten to use his veto powers.

He used the military, as a President should, to protect U.S. interests. He initiated the dispersal of power from Washington to the states. Reagan realized that we are a republic and helped to slow down the growth of big government. He cut the growth rate of government through executive order, by-passing Congress when necessary.

“The Gipper” meets Watson’s second criteria. As stated previously, Reagan often called on the American people to support him in fights with the Congress, which was controlled by Democrats. Many people who know him say that he draws great strength from the American people. The nickname, “The Great Communicator”, comes from his ability to make the average citizen feel that he would do the “right” thing, whatever that might have been. He communicated to Americans a sense of “grandfatherliness” and the wisdom of an old sage. His leadership of the American people should be unquestioned. Even the late Honorable Tip O’Neil, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was amazed at Reagan’s leadership ability. In speaking to the President he said, “In fifty years in public life, I’ve never seen a man more popular than you with the American people.”

Reagan, I am sure, used his acting ability and experience to influence people, but he knew the direction that he wanted the country to take and, I believe, it was the correct path. Certainly, with Reagan’s policies of delegation of power back to the states, public policy has been irrevocably changed. From his terms as the Governor of California, when he restricted the size and cost of state government, to the attempts to restrict government growth as President, Ronald Wilson Reagan’s ideas, beliefs, and policies changed public policy debate, possibly forever. He did not always take the politically expedient route.

In referring to the replacement of the air-traffic controllers, Richard N. Smith said, “All of the sudden, a kind of shock therapy had been administered to the American electorate, that-wait a second- this guy isn’t necessarily what we thought he was. Here’s someone who is willing to take a stand.” The American people respect a strong leader, even one with whose policies they might disagree. His policy changes, and enforcement of the law, not only helped to change domestic policy and debate, but also changed the direction of international relations. Reagan’s strong will showed the world that he would not let America relinquish her role as a world power.

Christopher Matthews, press aide to former Speaker Tip O’Neil, in reference to the air-traffic controller situation, said, “That was the moment when Tip O’Neil and the world learned that this guy was different-that he wasn’t just a nice guy. He could be very, very, tough. He didn’t have a meeting. He didn’t have a cooling-off period. He didn’t negotiate like Jimmy Carter or like Gerald Ford [would have]. He broke them. Tip had contacts in the Soviet Union… who heard that the Russians were very impressed, that [this] American President was like a Czar.”

This is not a Republican speaking, this is the chief aide of the Speaker of the House quoting the Democratic Party Leader. Again, Reagan fulfills Watson’s criteria. In using the power of the President, in the manner in which he did, Reagan also met Watson’s fourth criteria of a great President. The previous example of the air-traffic controller strike is one example, but there are many others. For instance, the invasion of Grenada, which took place and was completed, within the period granted in the War Powers Act, effectively kept congressional interference to a minimum. Bombing M. Qaddaffi after terrorist attacks and enforcing international law concerning the Gulf of Sidra are examples of the use of full Presidential power. Even Iran-Contra can be considered in Reagan’s meeting the fourth requirement. Almost everyone would agree that this was a stretch of a President’s authority. Watson’s stipulation number four was met.

Watson’s final quality found in a strong or great President has two separate parts:
Is the Presidency stronger when he leaves office than when he arrived?
2) Does he set precedents which the succeeding leaders follow?

Can the argument be made that the Presidency was weaker when Reagan left office than when he arrived? Only a very weak argument. Let’s refresh our memories. The preceding 20 years, prior to Reagan, had brought Kennedy’s assassination, Vietnam, Watergate, Ford’s “caretaker” Presidency, and Carter’s “malaise”. In January of 1981 Americans were being held hostage in Iran, unemployment was high and inflation higher. World leaders viewed America as a weakening nation, “a has been.” President Reagan took office and had a vision of where he wanted to take the country. If you supported his policies, you knew he would not “blink” when faced with adversity. He had the respect of his adversaries, as well as his allies. When Ronald Reagan left office, not only did world leaders once again respect the American Presidency, the world had been altered and it’s balance of power had shifted heavily in favor of the U.S. Her sworn enemy, the U.S.S.R., was on its way to the “ash heap of history,” and the world would never again be the same. The instances of Reagan’s strengthening of the Presidency are many, from his ability to get his policies through a Congress controlled by the opposition party, to foreign relations, to focusing the government away from Washington.

In his 1984 reelection, he received more electoral votes than any President before or since. The economy had grown every year of his Presidency and “Reaganomics” increased both the wealth and income levels of most Americans. Reagan definitely strengthened the Presidency. As for the second part of requirement number five, Reagan, I believe, does/will meet this stipulation. First, Reagan’s Vice President, G. H .W. Bush, was elected by the American people. He had a different philosophy than Reagan, but ran as the heir of the Reagan Era. He also lost reelection largely due to breaking his “no new taxes” pledge, a cornerstone of the Reagan economic plan. Bill Clinton, who succeeded Bush, used Reagan’s 1980 campaign as a model for his 1992 upset. The Republicans regained control of both houses of Congress in 1994, for the first time in 48 years, largely running on the Contract with America, all of which was taken directly from Reagan’s philosophy of lower taxes, less government, and conservative social agenda.

Don’t forget that due to the Reagan INF Treaty, no longer do arms negotiators discuss limiting weapons, but, thanks to the Gipper, they discuss destroying existing ones. More time must pass before we truly get a complete answer to this requirement, but I would say that Reagan is definitely on his way to answering this question in the affirmative. As you can see, when viewed as a whole, the 1980’s were a period of unprecedented prosperity in American history. The economic recovery that started in 1981, except for a brief recession after the Gulf War, continued into the twenty-first century. America is the only world power and has dominated world affairs since Reagan’s first term. Some mistakes were made, and large deficits were necessary for his vision to come to fruition, but history has proven that these were neither detrimental to our nation nor insurmountable.

Was our unprecedented period of growth and prosperity part of the plan? Did he know that these things would happen? Certainly not, but Ronald Reagan believed in the greatness of America and knew that with his help she could become stronger. He believed her potential to be unfulfilled. That, my friend, is leadership. A quality lacking in many of today’s politicians. I believe that the argument for Reagan being a great President is strong and I believe that Richard A. Watson would agree with me. Individual events and their relevance, or lack thereof, can be bickered over, but there is no mistake that Ronald Wilson Reagan changed the American political landscape forever.

I close with a quote from the Great Communicator: “However, our task is far from over. Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you’d think that the 1980’s were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the [Democrats] these days. They’re claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.” Ronald Reagan, 02/03/94

Sincerely, Matthew Register
Matthew Register <machgrreg@cs.com>
USA - Saturday, January 26, 2002 at 05:34:59 (EST)