The Enduring Lies of Ronald Reagan

From In These Times:

While much of the neocon agenda is in tatters right now, certainly one of its most successful achievements has been the canonization of Ronald Reagan, which rests crucially on one thing Reagan himself did so well: forgetting the facts. So it’s time to exhume a few.

First to go is the myth that Reagan was the most popular president since FDR. Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting reminds us, “During the first two years of Reagan’s presidency, the public was giving President Reagan the lowest level of approval of all modern elected presidents. Reagan’s average first-year approval rating was 58 percent—lower than Dwight Eisenhower’s 69 percent, Jack Kennedy’s 75 percent, Richard Nixon’s 61 percent and Jimmy Carter’s 62 percent.” At the end of his second year, (remember the Reagan recession?) Reagan’s approval rating was 41 percent; after the Iran-Contra scandal was revealed, Reagan’s approval rating stood at 46 percent. His approval rating for his entire presidency was lower than Kennedy’s, Eisenhower’s and even Johnson’s, and at times he was one of the most unpopular presidents in recent history.

Also forgotten is Reagan’s own embarrassing propensity to just make things up. Reagan was a dunce and a fabricator. One of his most famous assertions was, “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,” and he maintained, wrongly, that sulfur dioxide emitted from Mount St. Helens was greater than that emitted by cars over a 10-year period. (In one day, cars emit 40 times what Mount St. Helens released in a day even at its peak activity.) In 1985, Reagan praised the P.W. Botha’s apartheid regime of South Africa for eliminating segregation, a blunder then-Press Secretary Larry Speakes had to correct a few days later.