Mike Stark, the guy who is calling out Rush on the realities of the Reagan Presidency, encapsulates much of what Will Bunch has to say in Tear Down This Myth. The real Ronald Reagan raised taxes, grew the federal government, massively increased the deficit, cut and ran in the face of opposition in Lebanon and had little to do with the end of the Cold War. Will joins us tomorrow at Virtually Speaking to talk about the book, in the context of Reagan’s centenary year.
Will systematically documents the real Reagan in Tear Down This Myth, but, just as important, he documents the process by which the myth was created:
A group of Republican insiders led by lobbyist Grover Norquist launched something called the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project. Ostensibly, the group’s audacious goal was to name something for Reagan or place a monument in every county in America. While they’re not there yet, the results are impressive, from a web of Ronald Reagan Boulevards and Freeways to Mount Reagan in New Hampshire to that massive statue in Louisiana.
But the project’s real purpose in creating an aura around a Republican icon was to then use that glow to sell an ultraconservative agenda not really rooted in Reagan reality. The 1981 tax cut is grossly oversold as the cause of that decade’s economic comeback, but a series of tax increases that Reagan signed, starting in 1982, are almost never mentioned. Also receiving short shrift are the facts that Reagan increased the size of government and created more debt than all the presidents who came before him — or that under his watch the American consumer began to get hooked on credit cards.
The myth didn’t grow. It didn’t reflect the great character of the President Reagan or America’s abiding love for a great president.
It was a PR campaign–an enormously successful PR campaign, creating an iconic image that had little to do with man himself.
Rush is tongue-tied here because he was part of that PR campaign, part of the team that fashioned this mythological being. When Rush says this:
RUSH: Well, because you understand Reagan in a way that is flawed. You –
Your call is actually kinda interesting because you represent the impossibility of “bridging the gap.” Somebody like you just has to be defeated. There’s no crossing the aisle and finding common ground with you. You’re free to be who you are, don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to insulting. I’m just saying, you are unreachable. You don’t want to be reached. This picture of Reagan, you’ve just described somebody you should love, and you hate him! You just described somebody you should absolutely love, all these things. He’s an anti-conservative, as you say, but you don’t love him. You’re having trouble understanding why he’s viewed as heroic to a lot of people.
The reason why the gap can’t be bridged is that on Rush’s side of the bridge is a shining, gleaming falsehood. It’s true that Rush will never be able to get Mike to understand why Reagan is revered as the apotheosis of today’s conservative thought because Mike knows he wasn’t. The reason he is viewed as heroic by a lot of people is because the hero they see is manufactured.
Rush, as part of the manufacturing team, knows this very well. He absolutely, positively cannot discuss policy during the Reagan administration, because Reagan’s policies simply do not line up with the image they’ve created. So he stammers and stumbles, and tries to change the subject.