Palin believes all was sweetness and light during the Reagan administration. With the overwhelming exuberance with which centenarians are often celebrated, today's most conservative sectors of the Republican Party looked to the past to reinvent themselves, and they dug up Ronald Reagan to beatify him.
Last week, Sarah Palin, ultra-conservative politician-turned-celebrity, urged the country to "reclaim the values" of the president who governed during the decade of the ‘80s, and criticized the current government for increasing the public debt, for taxes and for spending. Palin believes, as do many other conservatives, that during the Reagan administration, all was sweetness and light. That during those eight golden years, the country regained the road to prosperity and self-confidence. That taxes were cut, the size of government was reduced, the country's military greatness was reconstructed and the Cold War was won.
To deny that the country experienced remarkable economic growth during the Reagan administration would be foolish. It is debatable, however, whether the credit for this goes to the policies of Reagan or to the Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, appointed by Jimmy Carter.
Although Reagan repudiated the government's social programs, he had the wisdom to leave intact the core elements of New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During his tenure, an increase came after every tax cut, ultimately leaving taxes unchanged. At the end of his term, federal spending was higher than at the beginning, and the debt had tripled. A redeeming element of his domestic policy was the comprehensive immigration reform that allowed the legalization of nearly three million undocumented immigrants.
Regarding Reagan's foreign policy, it should be understood that even more than making a conscious effort to rebuild the country's military greatness, Reagan ordered the arms race, because he was convinced (mistakenly) that the Soviet arsenal was formidable and had to be matched — not to put an end to communism, but to survive. When the Soviet empire collapsed, Reagan had the decency to attribute the fall to inherent economic and political failures.
The least that can be said about his policy toward Latin America is that it was a disaster. Not only did he oppose the return of the Panama Canal, but he unleashed a bloody war in Central America, which led to another unforgivable abuse. The so-called “Iran-Contra affair,” authorized by Reagan, was a covert, illegal and unconstitutional operation, conceived by the White House, to sell arms to Iran in exchange for hostages and money that, in part, was surreptitiously diverted to fund the “contras” of Nicaragua.
No one can deny that Reagan was the inspiration for the core of the conservative movement in which churches, mainly from southern states, have had decisive influence on the formulation of the social agenda of the Republican Party. But the suggestion that disinterring him will provide the country with new direction is an enormous blunder.
On the other hand, it is natural that criticism of Obama and the glorification of Reagan by Palin at the celebration in Santa Barbara, California, were greeted with jubilation by the arch-conservative audience that attended the gathering. Fortunately, there were those who harshly criticized the message and the messenger. “Sarah Palin is a soap opera, basically. She’s doing mostly what she does to make money and keep her name in the news.” said Ron Reagan, a son of the former president. “She is not a serious candidate for president and never has been.” And, I say, she is even less of a candidate when she dares to disturb the peace of the grave to seize an anachronistic flag of questionable merit.