Ronald Reagan is treated as a saint by the conservative movement and the Republican Party, as a man and a President who could do no wrong, but the truth is otherwise.
Of course, no President and no human being is perfect, and all commit mistakes or show lack of sensitivity, but the point is that the 40th President’s image and historical record needs to come down to earth, on this, the 104th anniversary of his birth, and a quarter century after his leaving office.
So what should Americans and others know about Ronald Reagan, that is not general knowledge?
As California Governor and as President, the issue of mental illness was dealt with by cutting spending, and throwing mental patients onto the streets of America, creating a great increase in homeless population.
As head of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Reagan cooperated with the House Unamerican Activities Committee investigation of Communists; worked with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare; and was an FBI informant for J. Edgar Hoover, all to protect his own image and security as he had been a strong liberal Democrat, and supporter of the New Deal.
Reagan sold illegal arms to Iran, what became known as the Iran-Contra Scandal, as he worked to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, despite Congressional admonitions banning such activities.
Reagan backed the apartheid government of South Africa, despite its horrific violation of human rights, and vetoed a sanctions law, which was passed over his veto in 1986.
Reagan’s Presidency saw the greatest amount of scandals of all sizes, only surpassed by the administrations of Richard Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant, and Warren G. Harding in overall malfeasance.
Reagan’s record on the environment is regarded by scholars as the absolute worst of all Presidents since 1900, and a big letdown after Jimmy Carter, who had one of the top three performances on that issue in American history.
Reagan ignored the AIDS crisis until 1987, and ridiculed the “gay plague”, only taking any interest when young hemophiliac Ryan White, and actor Rock Hudson, were revealed to have the disease in 1985.
Reagan supported backing the groups which fought Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, including such future terrorists as Osama Bin Laden; and also gave support to Saddam Hussein of Iraq in war with Iran, while still supplying arms to Iran.
The high ethical and moral standard said to be part of Reagan’s persona has now been revealed to be inappropriate, as he has been shown to have cheated on his first wife, Jane Wyman, and to have had affairs with dozens of actresses, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Doris Day, among many others.
For a man who professed “family values”, Reagan and his wife Nancy ignored their children, Patti and Ron, Jr; and hardly saw their grandchild from Reagan stepson Michael; and hardly ever attended church services, although flirting with the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority of the Reverend Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
So the truth about Ronald Reagan is far from the myth that has been promoted!