Readers respond to "Reagan Blasts Bush," by David Talbot, and "Swinging Left" by Andrew Sullivan.

Published April 16, 2003 9:23PM (EDT)

[Read "Reagan Blasts Bush," by David Talbot.]

So Ron Reagan Jr.'s politics are "progressive." As I recall, most of his father's most vociferous critics were "progressive." Note to Ron: Check out the Nation 1979-88. Search for Ronald Reagan.

In and of itself, this is not extraordinary; many families disagree on politics. In fact, I compliment Ron for the respect he showed his dad by not making a spectacle of dissent, as his sister did, while his dad was in office.

I must take exception however to the "progressive" son of our former die-hard conservative president claiming ownership of his political legacy. Much as I'm sure he loves his son, it would seem that Ronald Reagan has little in common philosophically with him.

It was Ronald Reagan after all who as a union leader, governor and president fought the communists in the Screen Actors Guild, took control of the streets in Berkeley, embraced the Moral Majority, proclaimed the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire, spoke passionately for the rights of the unborn, nominated Justice Scalia to the U.S. Supreme Court, funded the contras, began the missile defense program and appointed James Watt as secretary of the interior. These are hardly the positions of a "progressive."

Ronald Reagan was a seminal figure in American political history with many heirs to his philosophy and agenda. These heirs have gone on to shape a Republican Party that controls the Congress and the presidency.

If anyone is taking advantage of Ronald Reagan's current condition, it is Ron Jr. -- whose political positions are the polar opposite of his father's.

To paraphrase a famous debate line of the '80's, "I knew Ronald Reagan and he's no Ronald Reagan."

-- Steve Malone

Poor little Ronnie. George H. Bush, former president, had George W. Bush, also president. George W. has a 70 percent approval ratings and is a successful commander in chief in the Iraq war.

But Ronald Reagan Sr., also successful president and commander in chief, had little Ronnie Reagan, failed ballet dancer.

My, my, jealousy is an ugly thing!

-- Robert Vita

Oh my heavens! Who knew that the former president's son is my psychic twin?

I agree with every word about Bush and his group. Corrupt? Absolutely. Untrustworthy? Oh yes.

Thank you, Ron Reagan, for speaking out. Way too many good Americans don't understand and don't see these people for who they are.

-- M. Woolard

What a trollop. Reagan created an evil Saddam for us to deal with later -- which is now. Now his fancy baby is comparing a good man with his father's crap? How very noble.

I've met a few Reagan relatives while living in California and all of them are screwed up.

-- Leasa Brock

No, Ron Reagan is not a candidate for the presidency. Very few possess the guile and verve required to conduct the world's largest organized crime syndicate.

But thank you, thank you, thank you for giving a powerful symbolic voice to the progressive, rather than "liberal," cause.

And thank you, Ron Reagan, for taking a stand against the shadow government.

It is high time that we simply imprisoned those who violate the public trust and the U.S. Constitution.

-- Greg Mucha

Great article! It's a good thing Ron Reagan Jr. isn't considering a career in politics. We would lose an obviously brave and free thinker, and they're in rare supply these days.

Thank you for introducing Ron Reagan Jr.'s views to me. This is someone who has done his homework and isn't about to pander to anyone.

I love Mr. Reagan's wit and sharp intellect. I enjoyed finding out there's one more like-minded person in this vast "minority" we're supposedly a part of.

Keep up the good work!

-- Jan Silverstrom

[Read "Swinging Left," by Andrew Sullivan.]

My wholehearted thanks to Andrew Sullivan for calling the antiwar leftists' bluff.

H.L. Mencken wrote that for every complicated problem there is always a simple answer, and it's always wrong. In our turbulent times, "peace" is a fool's paradise. Part of Islam is the enemy, and war is part of the answer. Let's stop kidding ourselves.

Over the past few months I have wanted to rail at so many old buddies: "Why are you desperately taking to the streets and snagging traffic to make sure that Saddam sticks around? Your 'peace' includes murder, torture, rape and genocide; your rallies are a dangerous hobby."

But I've remained silent, intimidated by their stridence, conviction and high moral claims. Now and then I ask them what precise civil liberties they have lost since Sept. 11, and no one has an answer.

Meanwhile, in Saddam's Iraq, dissidents were being routinely imprisoned and beheaded. As Sullivan soberly points out, we Westerners can't even begin to fathom their misery. But some of us have the gall to march in favor of it!

Salon deserves credit for publishing lucid commentary at a time when it is sorely needed. Our current civil crisis consists less in "eroding liberties" than in tasteless use of liberties or, as Erich Fromm phrased it, escape from freedom.

-- Naomi Rosenblatt

What a load of codswallop. Yes, we all know how bad Saddam's regime was. Those of us who have been involved in human rights activism have particular knowledge of how bad the regime was.

But the antiwar protests -- which really only got going a couple of months ago -- in no way extended Saddam's regime. That honor goes to Rumsfeld, Chirac and all the rest of the dignitaries who applauded, traded with and supported Saddam Hussein during his most infamous years.

-- Felicity Carter

While Andrew Sullivan is feeling dewy-eyed over the so-called humanitarian rationale for the occupation of Iraq, he ought to consider the fact that at least 3.3 million people have died since 1998 as a result of the war in the Congo -- a conflict that the U.S. has no pressing strategic interest in curbing.

He also should consider Colombia, where some 2 million people have been driven from their homes, in large part due to U.S. military assistance to the Colombian government (a government linked to right-wing paramilitary forces that make the fedayeen look like the Mickey Mouse club).

Then there is Chechnya, where males between the ages of 13 to 65 tend to vanish in the middle of the night, thanks to the mop-up operations that our government refuses to say anything about.

I understand -- and disapprove -- of the realpolitik reasons why the U.S. has refused to act in each of these examples (and countless others). But until we apply moral justifications with some degree of consistency, the positive results of the fall of Saddam remain a fig leaf for a morally bankrupt administration made up of folks who not so long ago found Iraq a useful partner, "human rights and chemical weapons aside." For the interested, Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning book "A Problem From Hell" provides a lot of information on these topics.

-- David Sullivan

I find Andrew Sullivan's column "Swinging Left" more reasonable and less shrill than his usual stuff -- which I suppose is heartening -- but I note that he just can't refrain from taking one more "objectivist" swing at lefties.

He writes, "So deal with this: The antiwar movement wittingly and unwittingly played a central part in extending Saddam's regime."

There are at least two problems with this statement. First, there's nothing to suggest that the administration altered or delayed war plans one whit to accommodate pacifist sentiment. Second, if we want to base our mudslinging on this dubious philosophical premise, can we not say that antiwar protesters worldwide exercised some "objective" influence in keeping casualties low, insofar as the "coalition" knew that public opinion was balanced on a knife-edge -- and that any intimations of heavy casualties would be disastrous from a P.R. standpoint?

Many of us who were against the war cannot but greet the liberation of Iraq with unalloyed joy. But there remains the delicate issue of actually turning Iraq into something better than it was, and many people doubt the commitment of the current administration to such a task.

As the saying goes, it's not over 'til the fat lady sings.

-- John Frogge

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------