In the digital age, there’s a belief that if you repeat a lie long and loud enough, you can bury the truth under its weight. But no matter how deeply it’s buried, the truth still exists. It can be obfuscated, but it can never be altered. When it comes to Ronald Reagan, that hasn’t stopped a clown-car’s worth of pseudo-intellectuals from trying their best to bury the facts. Both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post have recently run almost identical pieces filled with canards about Reagan.
Recently, the attacks have become far more pointed and the arguments less grounded. The sharper the lie, the better chance of wounding the fact. Case in point is a piece authored by Daniel S. Lucks, the author of yet another flaccid book trying to destroy Reagan’s legacy.
Truth never sells, and that’s the only reason I can think of why the LA Times would publish his piece, “Donald Trump, a true Reagan Republican,” a mindless hit job by a leftist wanting to sell a small book. The article asserted that Donald Trump is racist, but with a twist; today’s racial tensions are Reagan’s fault.
What follows is the greatest hits of liberal lies.
• “Let’s Make America Great Again.”
Hack writers, like Mr. Lucks, have claimed for years that Reagan’s campaign was based on White resentment for the gains made by Blacks following the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Making America “great again” was a dog whistle of racism. Indeed, this is the author’s first broadside. The supposed evidence is Reagan giving a speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a fair that was held miles from where three civil rights workers were murdered years earlier.
It’s an old lie, which claims Reagan launched his campaign here. Hillary Clinton repeated it as did the affable but deeply partisan Steve Kornacki in his error-strewn book, “The Blue and the Red.” Reagan announced his candidacy in New York City on Nov. 13, 1979. Using the logic that Mr. Lucks proffers, that location can be a dog whistle for where loyalties lie, where did President Carter launch his 1980 campaign?
The answer is Tuscumbia, Alabama, a city rife with racial tension and long considered a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity. Joining Mr. Carter was the infamous segregationist himself, George Wallace. Surely Reagan was racist for appearing at Neshoba; Mr. Carter was a monster.
Except Mr. Carter never faced any criticism for his venue. In fact, it was Reagan who said Mr. Carter’s decision to begin his campaign in Tuscumbia was questionable and when he did, he was pilloried by the mainstream media. He was falsely accused of playing the race card and viciously mocked.
Mr. Lucks also lies about Reagan and the Welfare Queen. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times did lengthy stories on Chicago’s “Welfare Queen,” long before Reagan talked about this grotesque waste. Ergo, according to Mr. Lucks, both The Post and The Times are racist.
• The South
The crux of all these arguments comes back to the notion that Reagan played on White, Southern resentment of Black Americans, that a silent majority of Klansmen were waiting for Reagan’s signal to strike.
I can give you a dozen other examples of how stupid this assertion is but the most succinct is this; if the GOP’s entire strategy since the Civil Rights Era was manipulating the racist South, why did the GOP struggle in the South?
What liberals leave out of this conversation is that, in 1976, Mr. Carter carried the South, not the GOP, just as every Democrat had previously. If Reaganism, conservatism and Republicanism are all just racist dog whistles, how did Bill Clinton win ex-Confederate states in 1992 and 1996? Dog whistles, perhaps?
• The Country:
It amazes me how Reagan faces brutal scrutiny from hacks, like Mr. Lucks, who never provide the most basic analysis of what preceded the Reagan administration. In a vacuum, Reagan’s talk of maximum “freedom consistent with law & order,” the 10th Amendment, and making America great again can be taken several ways.
One does not campaign in a vacuum.
The facts are Mr. Carter was well-intentioned but incompetent. By 1980, the country was rocked by stagflation, gas lines, the Iran hostage crisis, unemployment, Soviet advances and too many other crises to count. American morale was battered into the ground.
The greatest affront was that Mr. Carter was a president who truly believed the best days of America were behind it. Americans were expected to resign themselves to a future darker and bleaker than the one their parents faced. Reagan politely disagreed.
Not one of Mr. Lucks’ assertions can stand up to basic scrutiny. I call his strategy the “invisible bridge” approach.
Pick a false narrative, i.e. “Reagan is racist,” then backfill with a loose string of circumstantial and flimsy evidence that, when placed in aggregate, presents the illusion of irrefutable evidence.
Liberal writers like Mr. Lucks try to dismantle Reagan and slot him as a racist who laid the foundation for the current woes the country faces. We are 30 years gone from Reagan and there are good reasons why historians rank him as one of our greatest presidents.
On the other hand, as another once-derided president, Harry Truman said, facts are stubborn things.
• Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer and presidential historian, is the author of five books on Reagan, taught a class at UVA on Reagan, lectures often at the Reagan Library and is the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College. He is the author of “December, 1941” (Thomas Nelson) and is working on “April, 1945.” He is president of Shirley & McVicker Public Affairs.
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