“A Liturgy of Absolution”

From Album 5

That's Rick Perlstein's description of Ronaldus Magnus, and looks like I'll be adding his latest book to a reading list that's expanding almost as fast as my midsection. I'm just old enough to remember the man Steve Martin described as someone "who can make this country what it once was: a frozen wasteland covered in ice."

More seriously, I also recall the Gipper getting remarkably little flack at the time for his appalling visit and endorsement of States Rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi…a number of stories instead focused on Jimmy Carter mistakenly calling the town "the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan." Hmmm.

Anyway, Perlstein points out we're living with the consequences of Reagan's liturgy of absolution, from Central American refugees fleeing a region destabilized in the name of "fighting communism" to the head-in-the-sand-denial of climate change ("trees cause pollution") to blaming the poor for economic problems (as if the poor had that kind of money and power to begin with)…But I guess that's what happens when you've got a substantial number of people who flee reality for the comfort of cozy myths…

4 thoughts on ““A Liturgy of Absolution”

  1. I love Rick Perlstein’s work. Nixonland is brilliant, I’ve read it twice. Also highly recommended is Reagan’s America by Garry Wills, a great contemporaneous take on the working’s of Reagan’s mind.

  2. Reagan’s America is now on my list — thanks. Nixonland is out on loan to someone (possibly a friend in your fine city)…originally borrowed it from the library, but it was too good to read on a deadline.
    Also have Before the Storm (Goldwater) on the Kindle, but…it might have to wait a bit.

  3. Reagan was the perfect Republican President: a simpleton who was carefully nurtured to believe that he was a fount of brilliant ideas. The mythmaking began almost from the moment that he entertained a career in politics. People remember him at casual Republican fundraisers being moderately obsessed with Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, which he took very seriously, because, well, he was not at all bright and was very susceptible to bullshit.
    Most people don’t know that Edward Teller had originally pitched Star Wars to Jimmy Carter, but Carter, with degrees in nuclear physics and time on nuclear submarines, knew that it was all very expensive nonsense and that Teller was pretty much trying to get the government to fund some of his fetishes and fantasies (and to pump big money into his personal vendetta against Los Alamos, Lawrence-Livermore Labs). So, Carter listened politely and then sent him on his way. When Reagan finally hit the White House, Teller knew his mark had arrived and laid out the con wide and thick, and Reagan took the hook like a rube at his first three-card monte game on 42nd Street.
    There’s been much made of Reagan’s mental decline (which his hagiographers have tried to narrowly limit to occasional episodes in his last couple years in office), but the simple truth is that he didn’t have much on the ball to begin with. That old adage that not all conservatives are stupid, but all stupid people are conservative fit Reagan perfectly. The story that Garry Wills offers in Reagan’s America for Reagan’s conversion to radical conservatism is telling in that regard.
    But, he could read his lines with conviction, and at a time when television had finally become inextricably intertwined with politics, there was no question that style over substance–and, therefore, Reagan–would prevail. The Villagers loved the idea of Hollywood glitz coming to the White House, and we haven’t been able to get the goddamned stuff vacuumed out of the carpets to this day.

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