RONALD REAGAN, 1911-2004. I turned on NPR in my car late yesterday afternoon and heard a long clip of President Reagan giving a speech. I called Mrs. Media Log and said, "Turn on the TV. I think Reagan just died." Sure enough, he had.
Reagan was never my guy. But unlike some liberals, I did not contemplate jumping off the nearest ledge after he was elected in 1980. I was disgusted enough with Jimmy Carter that year that I voted for the independent, John Anderson, which I knew was as good as a vote for Reagan. So I had nothing to complain about.
I thought Reagan was a bad president then, and I still do. But he looks better today than he did during his eight years in office. To the extent that his massive military build-up helped topple communism, it was a good thing. If the tax reform that he and Democratic moderates such as then-senator Bill Bradley shepherded into law had actually held, we'd have a much better system today. Even the enormous budget deficits melted away pretty quickly once Bill Clinton pushed through his desperately needed tax package in 1993. That doesn't mean Reagan's deficits were good; it just means that they turned out not to be as big a deal as they seemed at the time.
His darkest legacy is not Iran-Contra but rather a component of that scandal: his support, both overt and covert, for the right-wing death squads that fought on behalf of the pro-US governments of El Salvador and Guatemala and against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. It was a terrible thing when the people that the United States was supporting were implicated in the massacre of nuns, peasants, and other innocent people. Reagan was never held fully accountable for those atrocities, and he's certainly not going to be now.
On the other hand, despite his well-known disengagement from day-to-day details - and, at times, from reality itself - Reagan exhibited a certain maturity and judgment that is all too obviously lacking in the White House today. It is unimaginable that Reagan would have more than 100,000 troops bogged down in a war we didn't have to fight.
Reagan wouldn't have ignored the horrors of Saddam Hussein's regime, but he would have used such time-honored techniques as sanctions, United Nations involvement (not that he was any fan of the UN), and clandestine efforts to mount a coup against Saddam. George W. Bush claims to be a Reaganite, but he misses entirely how flexible and nuanced Reagan could be.
BETTER THAN REAL BOXING. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but one of the more amusing Boston media stories of recent days is the brawl between Globe boxing (and football) writer Ron Borges and New York Times freelancer Mike Katz. Bruce Allen covers it here, here, and here. At one point Allen seems to side with Borges, posting an anonymous e-mail he received:
Mike Katz may be 5-5 and old but he is also about 250 pounds and just about the biggest prick walking the face of the earth. A truly horrible guy who treats the rest of the media like crap and regularly shoves around ushers, other writers, etc. In talking to a few buddies who witnessed the "fight" it was a few seconds long, Katz started it and Borges had no choice but to defend himself.
However, Allen also links to this David Weber story in yesterday's Herald (check out the "Tale of the Tape" graphic) in which it's reported that the "enraged" Borges, responding to an invitation from Katz, "allegedly lunged across the table and hit Katz across the back of his head with an open-hand slap, knocking his eyeglasses and beret to the floor." Weber also writes:
Acquaintances of both writers described Katz as a "short, fat" man in his 60s who walks with a cane and wears a neck brace because of chronic back problems. Borges, who played football at the University of Massachusetts many years ago, is described as being in his 50s and in much better shape.
Nice! Too bad there's no video.