The latest presidential rankings suggest #metoo and a reckoning with the men’s prejudices affected several reputations, notably Andrew Jackson (out of the top ten and tumbling, thank the lord or Jon Meacham) and Woodrow Wilson’s (same). The late Poppy Bush, stretching his legs and aglow with the knowledge that obituary writers praised him as the Last Sane Republican, gets comfortable in the top twenty. Andrew Johnson remains as reviled as ever, perhaps more so as we re-examine the catastrophe of the abandonment of Reconstruction. Ron Chernow’s superb bio has rehabilitated Ulysses Grant’s reputation much as David McCullough’s did John Adams seventeen years ago. But why Warren Harding gets more shit than Calvin Coolidge (who actually did sleep while the fires were set for the burning of Rome) I’ll never know; he needs the Meacham Treatment, I suspect. But what the bloody hell is George W. Bush doing above Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison?
I’m not the only person who insists the GOP’s transformation into a racist death cult advocating tax cuts for the wealthy began on January 1981 when Ronald Wilson Reagan put his hand on the Bible. Too often Reagan’s bonhomie masked what Christopher Hitchens called a cruel and stupid lizard. I can’t wait for the Ronnie devotees to explain these remarks:
The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then–California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon gave a huge laugh.
To be clear, no one had heard these remarks:
The exchange was taped by Nixon, and then later became the responsibility of the Nixon Presidential Library, which I directed from 2007 to 2011. When the National Archives originally released the tape of this conversation, in 2000, the racist portion was apparently withheld to protect Reagan’s privacy. A court order stipulated that the tapes be reviewed chronologically; the chronological review was completed in 2013. Not until 2017 or 2018 did the National Archives begin a general rereview of the earliest Nixon tapes. Reagan’s death, in 2004, eliminated the privacy concerns. Last year, as a researcher, I requested that the conversations involving Ronald Reagan be rereviewed, and two weeks ago, the National Archives released complete versions of the October 1971 conversations involving Reagan online.
At his office in Century City, Ronald Reagan would not comment despite several phone calls.
After reading W.E.B. Du Bois, Eric Foner, and Lawrence Goldstone, I’ve distilled decades of scholarship about the ways in which the Democratic Party looked the other way when the South defied the federal government and encouraged racist violence while maintaining a kind of apartheid. Starting in 1968, the two political parties switched its worst members. In January 1981 the acceleration took place and onward through Newt Gingrich, the equal protection claims of the Rehnquist majority on the Supreme Court, George W. Bush and his cabal, and Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan.
A neo-Confederate believes in:
1. Minority rule.
2. “States rights”
3. A return to constitutional norms before 1860, i.e. before the passage of the Civil War and Reconstruction amendments.
4. The inferiority of certain classes of people.
5. The imposition of federal taxes as an infringement on liberty.
I should point out that “states rights” is the portmanteau for every canon I’ve mentioned.
“Neoconf” looks ungainly, but so did “neocon” in 2003.
Besides chastisement in front of the class, Alex wasn’t allowed to Go Out and Play, my fourth grade class’ term for recess. Drawing a mustache on the vice president was an act of disrespect; that the Groucho face drag appeared on a Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign poster turned the defilement into an act of treason as perfidious as Alger Hiss’. Continue reading →