NY Times Book Review: Reagan's Gift for "Wild-Eyed Lunacy"
It's just your average Sunday in the New York Times, still lost in trying to evaluate the Reagan legacy, in this case, the new Richard Reeves book. An old MRC colleague e-mailed to note that in the Times Book Review, Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist, a man who's written a book about the conservative movement in America, still manages to accuse Ronald Reagan of being a wild-eyed lunatic:
Reagan's imagination was fired by ideology but tempered by pragmatism. He was a product of the conservative revival of the 1950's and 60's, a revival that was driven by a combination of free-market enthusiasm and antitax fervor, superpatriotism and anti-Communism, religious revivalism and, to be frank, wild-eyed lunacy, and he possessed a rare gift for rendering conservative ideas into emotion-laden rhetoric. Even as a senior citizen in the White House, Reagan was a sucker for far-out conservative ideas: from the "space lasers" that were being championed in Human Events (which his aides tried to prevent him from reading) to Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics.
This is not careful, academic evaluation (even as Wooldridge's review in general seems more tempered). It's still the kind of 1980s condescension that does not acknowledge that Reagan instinctively knew (and stuck to) that "superpatriotic" vision of American renewal and greatness and ultimate victory in the Cold War. On the other side (with the New York Times) were all the people who thought they were so much more intellectually gifted, sophisticated, waltzing with nuance. And yet, looking back, they all look like self-impressed fools in comparison to the old B-movie actor.