Memorializing a President Who Could Really Lie


The gushy praise of the late Ronald Reagan as a “great communicator”–which is polluting the airwaves from Fox TV to NPR–is enough to make anyone not suffering from political Alzheimer’s retch. Still, all the public fanfare makes it clear we have to do something to acknowledge the guy.

My suggestion: put his face on a special limited-edition three dollar bill. Consider his vicious anecdote about an alleged “welfare queen” driving a Cadillac, a blatant fabrication.

In fact, much of the Reagan patter that so endeared him to the racist and reactionary public that was his target audience was fraud and mirrors. What he really ought to get credit for is being a very congenial and convincing liar, which was just what his pro-corporate handlers wanted and needed. The winning smile and the charming bob of the head were great devices for deceiving his viewers and listeners.

But the two terms of the Reagan administration, far from being an era of good communication between the government and the governed, were an era of government based upon secrecy, fraud and deceit.

It was the Reagan administration that pardoned FBI agents who had been convicted of Cointelpro abuses committed under President Nixon.

It was also the Reagan administration that effectively gutted the Freedom of Information Act, one of the more profound open government reforms to result from the Nixon scandals. That undermining of FOIA-an essential first step that allowed Reagan’s government of lies to operate–was never fully repaired during the Clinton years, and has been carried further under the current Bush administration.

The Reagan administration also began shutting down crucial information about government–for example eliminating much important information gathering about medical costs and outcomes that used to be collected and disseminated by the Department of Health (then the Department of Health and Welfare). The idea behind these measures was to make it harder to monitor the impact of Reagan-era budget cutting of human services.

Reagan lied too about U.S. foreign policy, which began to rely, perhaps more heavily than ever, and certainly more heavily than in the Carter years, on secret wars and secret destabilization actions–the Contra war against the government of Nicaragua being the most blatant of these, but hardly the only example. Military backing of the death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala were two other particularly ugly cases.

The entire government budget policy was a humongous lie, as budget director David Stockman belatedly admitted–a lie which was secretly designed to simply bankrupt the country to force an end to the welfare state.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger fraud being perpetrated upon the public than this deliberate wrecking of a nation’s finances to achieve a public policy result that was not supported by the majority of the public.

And now the man who oversaw this program of government-by-deceit–a man whose presidency, it should be added, spawned the current equally mendacious presidency–is being praised not only as a great president (sic) but as a great “communicator.”

I suppose in a perverse way, one would have to agree though. Reagan did do a good job of putting things over on the public. He and his handlers and physicians even managed to hide the rot that was destroying his brain during the last years of his presidency, during which he was reportedly little more than a speaking puppet for the men behind the curtain who were making policy.

The only problem with commemorating President Reagan with issuance of a $3 bill is that the money would actually be worth something.

Maybe a more appropriate place to place that wrinkled visage would be on a $50 U.S. Savings Bond. Those bonds have always been a classic consumer fraud, paying interest rates that are pegged at below the rate of inflation and leaving the “investors” poorer at maturity than they started out. The irony is even better because the bonds deteriorate in value faster the bigger the deficit, as the underlying currency declines in value and as the interest rate on other investments is driven higher.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of Counterpunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press.

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Ted Rall
If This is a Democracy, Why Don’t We Vote for the Vice President Too?
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Robert Koehler
FBI, King and the Tremors of History
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty