Monday, February 23, 2009

Reader Submission: How to Respond to GOP Attacks on FDR

As everyone has noticed, the GOP is mounting an ongoing offensive against FDR. Amity Schlaes in the Wall Street Journal and a host of others hell-bent on revising history are using false data about GDP and employment growth in order to claim that FDR not only failed to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression but in fact either caused it or made it worse.

Their purpose is two-fold. First and foremost, they want to undermine support for President Obama's various initiatives to repair the damage done to our economy under Republican rule in the hope that they can keep the economy weak enough to hasten the GOP's return to power in 2010. And, second, they want to undermine FDR's legacy of having created a strong social safety net in the hope that they can head off any effort by Democrats to strengthen that safety net by new programs like national health insurance.

Because these GOPer's seem to have a lot of time on their hands since their trouncing last fall, because an idle mind is the devil's workshop, and because this very idleness may therefore be one of the causes of these attacks, it seems to me that an additional way to defend FDR and the truth about his record (apart from the excellent defenses already being mounted by DeLong and Krugman) is to create some new work for the GOP. What I am suggesting, of course, is that we open a new front in this rhetorical war they have started by forcing the Republicans to begin expending serious energy on defending a hero of their own.

You guessed it—I am talking about an effort on the part of the progressive blogosphere to remind Americans of the manifold deficiencies of Ronald Reagan. As I envision it, our effort would take the form of an essay contest sponsored by one of the progressive blogs, with the essayists being tasked with writing short, factual, and footnoted essays (with links to primary source material counting for bonus points) debunking the myth of Ronald Reagan as some sort of above-average president. The winning essays could then be used as the basis for special instructional units on the Reagan presidency to be used by our nation's high school teachers.

If one of the national blogs decides to sponsor this contest, I wish to stake my claim to the subject of Reagan's sorry record in combating terrorism. I will start by discussing Osama bin Laden, who cited Reagan's failure to have responded to the terrorist bombing of the 241 American servicemen in Lebanon in 1983 as having led him to believe that America had grown soft. I will then discuss Reagan's having traded TOW missiles for American hostages in the mid-80's, which led, of course, to the taking of additional hostages by the terrorists with whom he was trading. And I will finish with a discussion of Libya’s having bombed Pan Am 103 out of the sky over Scotland during the final month of Reagan's presidency (it happened on December 21, 1988 and was a grisly sort of going-away present to Reagan).

Please let me know when the contest begins.


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