A scant six years after his death and the image of the Gipper grows ever burnished. In death as in life, Reagan seems inoculated from the books upon books which have catalogued and documented his pathological lies.
Some lies were large, and some were small and seemingly unimportant. What is certain is that Reagan had no qualms about lying, even when the truth would’ve served his purpose. These books have, more or less, fallen upon deaf ears, tuned-out and out-of-synch with our national mood. Meanwhile there is an ever louder drumbeat to canonize Reagan as our nation’s “greatest” leader.
Even in this age of comprehensive digital cataloguing, there’s a losing public image war being waged to preserve and maintain an honest characterization of our first Sociopath-in-Chief, Ronald Wilson Reagan.
This post is my personal contribution to that fight.
This post doesn’t speak to Reagan’s failed trickle-down economic policies that have left us a broken country. Nor does it speak to Reagan’s reckless military spending at the expense of the health and education of our citizenry. Nor does it speak to Reagan’s immoral taxation policies which created a permanent American Aristocracy and corresponding Underclass, something our founding fathers never envisioned or intended. Nor does it speak to his failed off-shoring or union-busting policies that have placed us in direct competition with the 3rd World.
No, this piece is simply about one measure of Ronald Reagan’s character as a human being: His ability to tell the truth; or more precisely, his lack thereof.
You might (but probably don’t) recall the waves made when Reagan promoted fantasies of his World War II record while hosting then-Israeli leader Yitzhak Shamir in Washington D.C. At the time, Reagan claimed to have personally witnessed the Holocaust as part of a government film crew at the end of World War II. A thorough search of the Times' archives via Nexus turns up a solitary mention, in Reagan's obituary (6/6/04), and a remarkably rosy framing at that:
“His flights of imagination remained equally vivid when he went to the White House. In 1983 he told Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel that as part of his war duties he had been assigned to film the Nazi death camps”.
Shamir said Reagan also informed him that he had saved a copy of the film because he believed that, in time, people would question what had happened. Shamir's account of Reagan's fabrication appeared December 6, 1983 in the Israeli newspaper Maariv. It was confirmed in 2005 to Edward Walsh, the Washington Post correspondent in Jerusalem, by Israeli Cabinet secretary Dan Meridor.
Reagan, in fact, never left the United States during World War II. He worked for the military in Hollywood making propaganda films. His footage of the death camps was pure fantasy.
Here are some more of Reagan’s “fancy flights”...(“lie” is such an ugly word). I’ve tried to avoid slips of the tongue of the variety for which Palin jumped on Obama’s case, sticking only to substantial quotes that are either blatant lies, or otherwise give us a peek into Reagan’s character. Most of the following quotes came from here:
"...an example to the world of the ideals we hold most dear, the ideals of freedom and independence." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1985, praising the Afghani Mujahidin. These "freedom fighters" included Osama Bin Laden and many of the leaders for the Taliban.
"They have eliminated the segregation that we once had in our own country..." Ronald Reagan said in 1985, praising the government of P.W. Botha in South Africa, during the height of Apartheid.
"They are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1985, referring to the brutal Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who indiscriminately attacked civilians.
"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." - Ronald Reagan, 1981
"A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?" -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1966, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park
"Many beach-goers prefer to be crowded together. Buying more beaches that people won't go to because they prefer to be crowded together on one beach is a ridiculous waste of our natural resources and our taxes." -- Reagan, on California's coastline.
"I have flown twice over Mt St Helens out on our west coast. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1980. At its peak, Mt. St. Helens released 1/40th as much sulfur dioxide as cars do every day.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again. The U.S. Geological Survey has told me that the proven potential for oil in Alaska alone is greater than the proven reserves in Saudi Arabia." -- Reagan, '80. Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are approximately 17 times those of Alaska.
"All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1980. (In fact, a single nuclear power plant can produce up to 22,000 cubic feet of radioactive waste per year.)
"There is today in the United States as much forest as there was when Washington was at Valley Forge." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1983. According to the US Forest Service, only 30% of the U.S. forest lands that existed in 1775 still existed in 1983.
"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1980
"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself." -- Reagan, 1987.
“He wrote in Braille to tell me that if cutting his pension would help get this country back on its feet, he'd like to have me cut his pension." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1981, in reference to a supposed blind person who wrote him a letter. After reporter inquiries, no such letter was ever shown to have existed.
"...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1965, describing Medicaid recipients.
"Because Vietnam was not a declared war, the veterans are not even eligible for the G. I. Bill of Rights with respect to education or anything." -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1980
"I have a smiling fellow at the end of the table who tells me what we do." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1981, on how budget decisions are made.
"They haven't been there. I have." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1985, justifying his policies on Nicaragua. Ronald Reagan had never visited Nicaragua.
"I never wear (makeup). I didn't wear it when I was in pictures." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1984. This statement was promptly disputed the next day by G.E. Theater makeup man Howard Smith, and "Death Valley Days" makeup man Del Acevedo.
"80 percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees." -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1979
"I cannot recall anything whatsoever.... My answer therefore and the simple truth is, 'I don't remember, period'" -- Ronald Reagan, said in Feb. of 1987, denying knowledge of the Iran-Contra "arms for hostages" deal.
"A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not." -- Ronald Reagan, said in Mar. of 1987
"If the question comes up at the Tower Board meeting, you might want to say that you were surprised." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1987, accidentally reading the notes for his stage directions aloud which told him to act surprised should the issue of arms-for-hostages come up.
"You SON of a BITCH, you BROKE my RIB." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1981 to the Secret Service agent who pushed him into his car. Reagan later realized that he was shot and that the agent had possibly saved his life.
"Hollywood has no blacklist." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1960. FBI records have since shown that this was a lie, and that Reagan personally informed on several actors, later shown to be innocent, destroying their careers in the process.
"I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1966, on how he would have opposed the legislation that came out of the civil rights movement.
"Jefferson Davis is a hero of mine." -- Reagan, in a speech he gave to a crowd in Atlanta, GA.
"...humiliating to the South..." -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1980, describing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, arguably the primary legislative victory for blacks during the Civil Rights movement.
"If there has to be a bloodbath, then let's get it over with." -- Ronald Reagan said in 1969, prior to having National Guard soldiers break up a peaceful protest on the UC Berkeley campus. The protesters were tear-gassed and fired upon with buckshot, killing one protester and wounding at least 128 others.
"Maybe the Lord brought down this plague [because] illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments." - Ronald Reagan said in 1989. Reagan didn't even mention AIDS until 1987, by which time it had spread into the heterosexual population and over 25,000 Americans had died.
“What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice" - Ronald Reagan, said in 1984.
"For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. It can't be too long now. Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained upon the enemies of God's people. That must mean that they will be destroyed by nuclear weapons." -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1971
"We may be the generation that sees Armageddon." -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1985
"It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and be home by Christmas" -- Ronald Reagan, said in 1965
"How would you like to trade? I've got some amendments I'm very interested in, too. What about trading for making abortion illegal?" -- Ronald Reagan said in 1983, to a group of GOP congresswomen lobbying for the Equal Rights Amendment. Remember the E.R.A.?
“Why not invite Q'addafi to San Francisco, he likes to dress up so much? Why don't we give him AIDS?" -- Ronald Reagan remarked to cabinet officials in 1986.
"I don't know." Well..” Said a total of 83 times by President Reagan during the "Iran-Contra Affair" hearings.