One For The Gipper.
If the nation's voters elect me to office, I will make and keep two promises.
First -- I will turn my attention to our nation's flag. This noble and revered symbol of our highest aspirations has a long and hallowed history. But 9/11 changed everything. Now our flag no longer represents who we, as a people, are.
I will therefore give our flag the honorable retirement it deserves, and replace it with a flag composed of the world's total supply of fossil fuels.
Second -- I, and all self-respecting lawmakers who stand with me, will immediately amend the constitution to outlaw flag-burning.
See? Alternative energy sources are viable.
And now, some random memories of Ronald Reagan. Not only are they random, they are my memories. This saves me the trouble of looking up the details to make sure they have any basis in fact.
Free for a Day
In 1981, after a long, nightmarish period of attempting to bargain with a fanatical new Ayatollah, and a rescue attempt that ended in total failure, the desperate hopes of a nation were finally realized. Iran released its American hostages from their imprisonment at the former US embassy.
As I remember, this happened shortly before Carter left office. But it seemed clear to everyone that Iran had cashed its chips because Mr. Carter was about to make way for Mr. Reagan. And Reagan wasn't interested in playing by the rules. (As indeed he didn't. Unlike President Carter, who only sent Iran a couple of "pre-crashed" rescue choppers, Reagan sent entire racks of missiles -- which Iran was then free to crash into anything it wanted).
Anyway, the day after the hostages were freed, we were let off from school. I don't remember if it was a national holiday or not. But if the presidential election had been held that day, I believe that Reagan would have been swept into office on a tidal wave of adoring seventh-grade testimonials.
Later in 1981, Reagan renewed the hope of the world when he sent the message, loud and clear, that he would stop at nothing, shun no ally, in his crusade against Soviet tyranny. He would even support...labor movements.
As long as they were Polish.
Jack D. Gipper
In 1983, one of the graduating seniors at my high school forsook the normal yearbook photo of himself, and substituted a portrait of Reagan. It was a stark black-and-white portrait, showing Reagan in his office, standing tall and resolute.
It was a good portrait. But something about it struck me, and only later did I realize what it was. The portrait looked exactly like the opening shot of Sterling Hayden in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have just passed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
Tomorrow Is Another Day
Sometime around 1984, everyone simultaneously woke up to the fact that was no hunger in America. And no racism. And no pollution, except from national forests. The dreams of King had come true; the Great Society had been made good. We were clean.
And we hadn't even had to try. We had achieved success without work. We had awakened in the new American Morning -- to find the American Dream was sweet reality.
Cook Election Thoroughly Before Serving
All presidential elections are created equally hideous, but the presidential election of 1984 was created more equally hideous than others. Since everything bad in America had been cured, Democratic nominee and former VP Walter Mondale had to dig deep to find something that would stick to the Teflon President. In the end, he was reduced to scooping muck out of the grave of Clara Peller.
A few years earlier, Clara Peller had appeared in a series of Wendy's commercials. She gave the smackdown to fast-food burger outlets that served mostly bun. Now, Mondale took the bat and stepped up to the plate. He looked at Reagan, looked at us, and asked "Where's the beef?"
Fortunately, Reagan didn't realize the question was rhetorical. "Here's the beef," he replied.
Thus did Reagan become the Great Communicator. And thus did our leaders give us the first presidential race composed entirely of product placements.
Shop at Soft Target -- and Save!
"Soft Target". Is anyone else old enough to remember this phrase? This was after Nicaraguan dictator (and U.S. ally) Somoza lost power to the Sandinistas. All of a sudden, Nicaragua had a Communist regime only two days' driving time from the US. In response, the Reagan Administration funded the Contras, or Freedom Fighters, in their effort to dislodge the Sandinistas from power.
But what were soft targets? This was a phrase used to describe rural Nicaraguan villages, and hospitals and such. These places were unarmed and had the usual complement of women and children. The Contras, naturally, did not want to engage in firefights with hard targets, which shoot back. So they preferred soft targets.
In defense of this policy, it must be stated that the Contras were the good guys. Plus, whereever possible, they chose targets that were so soft the bullets bounced back. The villages and hospitals would emerge unharmed. The bullets functioned primarily as a wake-up call for their inhabitants to stop voting against their best interests.
What's Yours Is Mined
Around 1986, when it came to light that the Administration had been covertly mining Nicaraguan harbors, Senator Barry Goldwater condemned the action. This was the same Barry Goldwater who, as the Republican Party's 1964 presidential nominee, had declared that "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."
Dude. Whoa. When the Extreme Liberty guy says your foreign policy is extreme...well, then you're way past extreme. You are snowboarding with Satan.
Or maybe what you're defending isn't liberty.
Long after Reagan's final term, I learned that our government had funded the Khmer Rouge throughout the 1980s. You remember...Khmer Rouge...Pol Pot...you know, that one agrarian dictatorship that killed millions of Cambodians. In short, real jerks.
Why did we fund them? Well, starting around 1978 they started fighting the Vietnamese. As long as they did that, they weren't jerks.
But by 1989 we didn't want folks fighting Vietnam anymore. Secretary of State James Baker suggested that we close the books on Reagan's policy, and turn the Khmer Rouge back into jerks again. The timing was ideal, because then Pol Pot died, and we all got to talk about what a jerk he had been.
The moral? Moral ascendancy is all in the timing.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Now Reagan is dead, and his funeral has been code-named Operation Infinite Moral Ascendancy. I know, I know. Don't start. He was a nice enough guy. He always had a smile for everyone, even right after he got shot. While being taken to surgery, a nurse held his hand. He looked at her, smiled, and said "Does Nancy know about us?"
But listen. In reading about Alzheimer's, I learned this. If sufferers of Alzheimer's live long enough with the disease, they become unable to speak, or respond to people in almost any way. The last social reflex that goes is the ability to smile. And a smile, by the way, is the first social response that infants learn.
Reagan was a great actor, no question. In the 1964 remake of The Killers, he managed to keep a straight face, even when backed by incidental music that prominently featured bongos. But, with that first smile, every infant learns how to act. And the smile is the last thing a great actor forgets.