Wednesday, June 16, 2004

More Thoughts About Le Point's Piece on Ronald Reagan, and the Lessons Not Learned

This year alone (before the Gipper died), I was told by French people, on different occasions, that: Reagan wasn't as bad as we thought he was then; and that: Reagan and Bush have nothing in common, we respected Reagan

In his Le Point article on the 40th president, Franz-Olivier Giesbert says that "all through his term, Ronald Reagan was described as an idiot by most French newspapers". Which is how I remember most of the populaton of Europe reacting, too. Giesbert then admits that he himself must say his mea culpa for having written in 1980 that Reagan was an "old joke". Nine years later, one had to admit that "the former B movie actor was one of the greatest presidents of his century." The Frenchman adds: "The idiots turned out to be those who, notably on our old continent, had under-estimated him or described him, among other inanities, as a warmonger."

So, cheer up, Dubya: it always seems that today's US leaders (whether "today" is in 2004, in 1980, in 1950, or whatever) are always idiots and brain-challenged jokes, while yesterday's presidents turn out to have been pretty good, all considering, even respected. What, then, will Giesbert and Le Point write of you in 2024?

In fact, when you think about it, this is what the French ought to be asking themselves: If this is how we feel about Reagan 20 years later, what will think of W in 20 years? And what should this be telling us about how we are treating him now? What should we be changing in our current attitude so we won't run the risk of having mea culpas to say two decades from now? In 2024, won't they be saying: "Oh, Dubya was in fact a good, strong president, completely different from the current cowboy in the White House, Jenna Bush (Chelsea Clinton?)"? The answer is… that the questions will not be asked. And the soul-searching will not take place. Not a shadow of a chance.

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