During Ronald Reagan’s first term,

some ninny referred to him as the “teflon president.” Today, that ninny is at it again, using the sad occasion of Reagan’s death to remind USA Today’s readers of her little piece of homespun cleverness, while paying fitting tribute to Reagan’s “brilliant staff” for making Reagan look good.
Although I had mixed views about Reagan at the time, I never felt that the teflon label was fair. To me, it was just another way of blaming the American people for not seeing the wisdom of the liberal elite’s criticism of Reagan, most of which was either trivial or unfair. It was true, for example, that Americans didn’t hold the 1982 recession against Reagan, but it wasn’t because his wit and charm gave him a protective coating. It was because Americans understood the extent of the mess Reagan inheritied from Carter and were fair-minded enough to give him more than two years to fix it. Once the economy started booming, Americans understandably were inclined to give Reagan the benefit of the doubt, just as they later were inclined to do for Bill Clinton. This has nothing to do with teflon — it’s about a sense of proportion and a decent respect for the office of the presidency.
Iran-Contra did hurt Reagan (and, unlike Rocket Man, I think it should have to some degree). Liberals, of course, think it should have hurt Reagan more than it did. But Reagan didn’t survive this affair because of teflon. On the Iran side of the scandal, Americans ultimately forgave Reagan for going a bit soft because he had done so out of a very human concern for our hostages. On the Contra side, again most Americans understood that his intentions were good and, in any case, the crucial testimony of Admiral Poindexter before Congress failed to implicate Reagan in the wrongdoing of his staff. Finally, it was starting to become clear that we were on the verge of winning the Cold War, which also made it difficult to view this matter as a presidency-breaker.
But not for the Pat Schroeder’s of the world who, even on the occasion of the great man’s death, can serve up nothing more than stale ridicule.


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