With all this Reagan stuff going on, I have to chime in on some other issues.
I’m a firm believer that the President (the office, not any particular one) doesn’t matter nearly as much as people think. People tend to attribute things to presidents that for the most part, they have no control over one way or another. Unemployment, inflation, crime, education, etc. Really. There is next to nothing the president can do to influence these things so long as they keep to certain parameters, which most presidents have to.
The recent recession wasn’t Bush’s fault, and it wasn’t Clinton’s fault. You can score some political points I guess in trying to assign blame, but it really is missing the root cause. A few punctuation changes, and the 1992 Clinton campaign slogan is much more accurate; “Its the economy? Stupid!”.
What are the root causes to most of the domestic things that people blame/applaud presidents for? Demographics, technology, and social trends. They usual effect each other as well. I’m sure you can think of examples using the Internet. These trends dwarf most any fiscal policy.
All that being said, while presidents are often give far more credit/blame than they deserve, they are not impotent, especially in the area of foreign policy. Foreign policy is one area where the personality of a president can make a lasting mark. There are certainly global trends that effect alliances and such, but things like wars and treaties are uniquely creations of the people that wage them.
It should come as no surprise that the presidents we view as being the “greatest” presidents usually were presidents during a time of war. Even Clinton at the end of his administration wished that there was some war or great event that had happened during his administration. Presidents have “greatness” thrust upon them. (I put greatness in quotes because I’m not the one claiming they’re great). Its one reason why there is so much outpouring of feelings for Reagan now.
So, temper your love/hatred for Ronald Reagan. Most of the things in the 80’s would have happened with or without him. If you want to place your love/hate on one person for the economy of the 80’s (and since) your man is Paul Volker.
Lets take presidents off our money while we’re at it.