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How Would Reagan Fare in the Glare of the 21st Century?

Updated on January 11, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

The Great Communicator


Those who have elevated Ronald Reagan, the former actor/president, to heroic stature seem to have forgotten a few factual details.

Our 40th President probably didn’t know the terms “video” or “emails”, but the Reagan administration has been documented as the one with the largest number of investigations, indictments, and convictions for any US President – 138. (Education Forum) And during the eight years he occupied the White House, the number of people living beneath the federal poverty line rose from 26.1 million in 1979 to 32.7 million in 1988. (The Nation) And in one 18-month period, U.S.diplomatic personnel in Beirut suffered three bombings with the loss of life numbering in the hundreds. (The New Yorker)

HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce


Nothing sticks to Teflon

There may not have been a private server involved or any missing emails, but under Reagan the Housing and Urban Development Agency experienced a corruption scandal that resulted in the indictment and conviction of multiple top administration officials for illegally distributing housing subsidies to developers who had made donations to Reagan’s campaigns and GOP lobbyists, such as former Interior Secretary James Watt. Those convicted included cabinet member and HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce. The “Teflon factor” for Reagan went into effect, and the HUD Scandal wasn’t uncovered until Reagan left office. He was never called to testify. He was never the subject of any investigation of the illegal activities that took place within his cabinet.

Iran - Contra


The Best-Known

There is no need to delve into the Iran-Contra scandal, because most of those perpetrators were pardoned by Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush. Bush suffered a failure to be re-elected, but Reagan got off with this explanation: "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages." And that was the end of it - in spite of evidence that large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. (Brown University)

241 Lives


The loss of American lives

Then there is the topic of foreign diplomacy disasters. Militant jihadists killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador, in an attack on a U.S. embassy annex in Libya on September 11, 2012. House Republicans held 13 hearings, produced 25,000 pages of documents, and 50 briefings, which after four years turned up nothing indictable. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted responsibility for the tragedy, and the State Department issued an independent report on diplomatic security, resulting in the dismissal of four employees. How different the response to this tragedy than to one 30 years ago when more than 200 Marines died as a result of failed security.

On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with essentially 21,000 pounds of TNT into a U.S. Marine compound, killing 241 Americans. The “peace-keepers” command had left a vehicle gate wide open and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Tip O’Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House, demanded an investigation – only one. Within two months it published its findings of “very serious errors in judgment” by officers on the ground, as well as responsibility up the military chain of command, and called for better security measures in U.S. installations throughout the world. No talk of impeachment. No personal investigations. No indictments. Neither the Secretary of Defense or State was ever the target of accusations. The Pentagon did conduct its own investigation into the series of security lapses in Beirut. Its findings were accepted by both republicans and democrats.

Beruit - 25 Years Later

How would we react today?

And it wasn’t as if the region was known for stability at the time. Six months earlier, militants bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 17 Americans. Among the dead were seven C.I.A. officers, including the agency’s top analyst in the Middle East, and the Beirut station chief. And after the Marine bombing, Beirut was the site of the kidnapping, torture, and murder of another CIA station chief. The third attack occurred in September 1984, when jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut again.

President Reagan acknowledged the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the bombed U.S. embassy annex (similar to the annex in Benghazi). The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As the Great Communicator put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

How would those who idealize Reagan feel about a comment like that from a sitting President today?

Your opinions are requested:

Does any of this information alter your opinions?

See results


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks Credence2. Although with the damage that has resulted from his deregulation genesis, I have no problem disliking him. Also, being from Georgia, my dislike began with "There you go again."

    • Credence2 profile image


      2 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Reagan would be turning in his grave now. While I had little to like about him, politically, he was 'the great communicator'. He and those of his era worked together across party lines to get on with the people's business. I fondly remember his nemesis in Tip O'Neil. Today's sort of political obstruction and roadblocks we would have never seen during the Eighties.

      He was an amiable follow, this REagan, a hard man to dislike whatever side that you are on.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      The downfall of more than one good man has been the poor advisors around him. But, you know, the ability to choose good advisors is part of good leadership. A big part. Thanks for adding your comments to this hub.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      2 years ago from San Diego California

      It could be that Reagan was unaware of all of these crimes going on under his nose. He could have been a simple, charismatic puppet who had bad people working for him, sort of like Bush. That does not mean we should excuse him for complicity. Great hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I Tweeted!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      peoplepower: Thanks for your thoughtful comments. As you point out, there is much more that could have been included in this hub. "Teflon" was an accurate description of Reagan because nothing ever stuck to him. Dan Rather said in his book "Rather Outspoken" that Reagan should have been prosecuted more than Nixon. But memory is a funny thing and the Great Communicator has been successful even from the grave in manipulating his message.

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 

      2 years ago from Placentia California

      I agree with everything you have said. During the Iran/Contra investigation, he was asked many times about his answer to the investigations. I remember he carried a brief case with him and he would always say, the answers are right here in this case. He never disclosed the answers.

      Reagan also created the savings and loan debacle that removed the 100K cap on mom and pop savings and loans, so that funds could be leveraged to flip house and create other exotic investments instruments. It caused a financial meltdown that took many years for recovery. It was the first time I heard people say, "The American Dream has Been Lost."

      It's interesting that people who were never alive or very young during his reign praise Reagan because they have been brainwashed by right wing propaganda. Sean Hannity calls himself a Reagan Conservative and he was about 15 years old at the time. He wasn't even old enough to vote.

      I think he would fare O.K. in this political climate because the conservative mantra is all about big government and the nanny state, which comes straight from his loins.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      teaches12345 - Nobody has beat his record for corruption so far - but no doubt somebody eventually will. Thanks for commenting.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      2 years ago

      Interesting read on Reagan. I imagine today he would pale to the political activity and actions we see today.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I've been amazed too, and it's good to hear from you again. My only conclusion, because it's being read, is that those who agree have nothing to add, and those who don't agree have nothing to say. I will admit, this hub was not written with the goal of being objective. I'm just tired of waiting for someone to point out these comparisons - so I did.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm amazed there aren't more comments on this. There seems to always be a handful of people waiting in the shadows to pounce on a political article. You raise a great question, my friend, and I doubt Reagan would have been treated quite so adoringly by today's media and public.....sigh....time was not on our side, in that case. LOL

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks. I knew I had trouble with my Os. Thought I'd fixed it.

    • KeithTax profile image

      Keith Schroeder 

      2 years ago from Wisconsin

      20016 is a long way in the future. Reagan may be forgotten by then. You might want to change the title.


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