Ron Reagan’s Cognitive Dissonance

Ronald Prescott Reagan has this to say in the current Esquire magazine about the sentiment within the crowds that honored former President Reagan during recent memorial events: “Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world.”

Oh yeah? “Friend and foe” always conceded that, did they?

I remember working very, very hard for years (Reagan ’80 and the two presidential terms) to convince people that Ronald Reagan did not want to start World War III. Millions of grassroots conservatives like me were fighting to get the truth told against an onslaught of “Reagan will start a major war” misinformation relentlessly pounded into our ears and eyes by the then-all-but-monopolistic and smarmily self-important mainstream media.

Why does Little Ron think the line “there you go again” worked so well for Governor Reagan in the 1980 Reagan-Carter debates? It was so effective — such a turning point — precisely because, up to that very moment, many Americans genuinely were not sure if Ronald Wilson Reagan wanted to start a war. They’d been told that, you see, constantly. They didn’t like Carter much, but they weren’t going to vote for Reagan if it meant nuclear war.

Stagflation was pretty bad, but incineration didn’t sound inviting, either.

Then, with one comment, one quip, four little “there you go again” words, Governor Reagan showed himself to be normal. That’s it. Just normal. Why, said a few million swing voters, mostly talking to themselves until they checked to see if their loved ones were reaching the same conclusion (swing voters rarely like to go out on ideological limbs), Reagan’s a perfectly sane person. He doesn’t drool at the prospect of nuclear war, not at all. A vote for him isn’t a vote for international suicide.

So, you see, if “friend and foe” alike “always conceded” that Ronald Reagan “was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world,” then “there you go again” wouldn’t have resonated. Governor Reagan wouldn’t even have said it, because Carter wouldn’t have been trying to paint him as an irresponsible war-lover in the debate. And, had Reagan said it, we scarcely would have noticed it then, let alone remember it now.

Most likely, Little Ron simply wasn’t paying attention during those years (the Cold War was a pretty brief episode, after all, and what with dance class and pet videos and whatever, Little Ron probably didn’t have a chance to familiarize himself with the basics, such as which side the good guys were on). As a result, he now knows little about the issues. No wonder he failed to become a left-wing Rush Limbaugh (or, should I say, a left-wing Michael Reagan?) with his political talk show while his sister Patti was arranging a meeting for the uber-peacenik nuclear freeze-loving Helen Caldicott with Daddy at the White House.

(Gotta wonder this: Has a man ever loved his daughter more, than he would meet with Helen Caldicott because his little girl asked him to?)

Make no mistake: If Little Ron and Patti had had their way, the only reason we wouldn’t be speaking Russian now is because our post-Soviet school system would be so bad we’d never have figured out how to learn it.

I think another factor besides the obvious culprit, ignorance, may also be at play. Little Ron loved his Dad, or so I assume. He loathes conservatives. Yet, Dad was a conservative. Cognitive dissonance. Little Ron resolves it by deciding that there are two kinds of conservatives: Good ones (Daddy) and bad ones (all the others). However, since even an ultra-liberal can have a hard time believing that nearly all conservatives are evil, Little Ron is probably a little insecure about his worldview. That’s why he has to be so loud about proclaiming it.

(Come to think if it, he reminds me a little of Andrew Sullivan.)

Sorry, Little Ron. Your Dad was a mainstream conservative. Philosophically, he had more in common with Rush Limbaugh than he did with you. DNA isn’t everything.

Make your peace with reality. Your Dad was a great guy AND a conservative.

It is possible for a person to be both.

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