The Reagan Revolution
from the book
The Praetorian Guard
by John Stockwell
[The] revolution may have been misunderstood and underestimated
by many Americans. President Reagan and his revolutionaries were
not mincing words. They intended to effect a permanent revolutionary
change to the U.S. system of government. They planned to catch
the pendulum as it swung to the right and weld it in place, where
it could never swing back to the left. Like committed revolutionaries,
they were profoundly irreverent of sacred institutions.
Reagan's first term in office was deliberately provocative.
He preached that nuclear war was survivable; that we might drop
"demonstration" weapons on Europe to intimidate the
Soviets. He joked (once accidentally, on a live radio show) that
he had already launched U.S. missiles against the Soviet Union.
Jerry Falwell, who preached that nuclear Armageddon might be God's
instrument for taking his chosen up on high, was a regular visitor
to the White House. Reagan was openly contemptuous of environmental
concerns: "If you've seen one redwood you've seen them all."
He appointed James Watt, who systematically opened millions of
acres of government land to commercial exploitation, to the Interior
Department and Ann Burford, who used the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to protect corporations that were dumping and poisoning.
Reagan willfully assaulted the human services infrastructure
in the United States, boasting that he had eliminated over 1000
programs that served lower income groups. He proposed that ketchup
and pickle relish would suffice for vegetables in school lunches.
He raised taxes for the poor and middle class while slashing them
by 60 percent for the ultra-rich.
He put Elliott Abrams into the Human Rights Division of the
State Department with orders to dismantle it. The Reagan administration
sent the files of confidential testimonials that Pat Derian, under
President Jimmy Carter, had accumulated from refugees from repressive
countries to the police in those countries. Then the Immigration
and Naturalization Services deported the refugees to countries
where brutal police were waiting for them at the airports.
President Reagan and his attorney general, Edwin Meese III,
whose personal corruption came under investigation, ridiculed
the plight of the poor and challenged the Constitution itself,
saying that it was only a piece of paper. Meese repeatedly asserted
the principle that arrested people were to be considered guilty
until proven otherwise. Reagan put his and Meese's California
friend Luis Guiffrida in charge of the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), which laid plans to suspend the Constitution, declare
martial law, and intern several hundred thousand people without
due process. Secretary of State George Shultz lobbied vigorously
(with indirect success) for a pre-emptive strikes bill that would
give him authority to list "known and suspected terrorists"
within the United States who could be attacked and killed by government
agents with impunity. Shultz admitted (in a public address in
October 25, 1984) that the strikes would take place on the basis
of information that would never stand up in a court of law and
that innocent people would be killed in the process. He insisted,
however, that people listed would not be permitted to sue in court
to have their names taken off that list.
Many other laws were passed in favor of the national security
complex at the expense of civil liberties. By the end of his eight
years in office, President Reagan was also boasting that he had
appointed 45 percent of the sitting federal judges. He tacitly
encouraged the corruption and irresponsibility that eventually
led to the Savings and Loan scandal and to 200 of Reagan's officials
being indicted, investigated, or fired for corruption.
Only Ronald Reagan, the "Great Communicator" (also
called, by the Washington Post, the "Great Prevaricator")
could have been such an effective point man for an irresponsible
"revolution" that assaulted and violated the most profound
U.S. traditions and institutions.