Richard Nixon's assessment of Ronald Reagan - recently released tapes reveal that Nixon considered him "strange" - was certainly accurate. Reagan's political career was, by any measure, a long strange journey. As governor of California and then as president, the actor-turned-politician seemed never to recognize that he was no longer on a movie set. He just kept looking for fairy tale endings. Unfortunately, governing a state or nation requires that even ideologues must be realistic. But Reagan never was.
Lost in his celluloid fantasies, Reagan consistently neglected economic and political realities. As a result he met complex domestic and international policy demands with simplistic calculations that invariably turned manageable challenges into crises.
Reagan's refusal to consider policy responses that failed to fit within his exceptionally narrow worldview did make him a strange, and troubling, player in American politics. Facts did not phase the man. Reasoned analysis was lost on him. And while there are plenty of bullheaded, shortsighted and unreasonable people in every sector of society, people who achieve positions of supreme responsibility usually come to recognize that they must set a higher standard for themselves. That Reagan failed to do so was, indeed, strange.
So Nixon was right. The only problem is that, if ever America had a president who fit the dictionary definition of the word "strange," it was the paranoid, frequently delusional Richard Nixon.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times