Sometimes you hear two completely opposite opinions about the same person. For example, just the other day Sarah Palin said this about Ronald Reagan:
“Wasn’t Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn’t he in ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor.”
But then I read Peggy Noonan say the following:
Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I’ll voice their consternation to make a larger point. Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president.
I’d always heard that Reagan was an actor, but now I’m not sure sure. So who’s right?
-Confused in Topeka
Ronald Reagan was, indeed, a second rate actor who starred in a whole slew of forgettable B movies, including a few dumb comedies like “Bedtime for Bonzo.” It would stretch the bounds of both the English language and good taste to call him an artist. As President, he and OMB director David Stockman popularized the idea that cutting taxes was the best way to reduce the deficit, a stupid notion that has directly contributed to a fourfold increase in the national debt (constant dollars) since Reagan took office. So in a sense both Ms. Palin and Ms. Noonan are correct, but they are also in another very real sense, both morons.