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Letters: Jul. 5, 2004

8 minute read

The All-American President “Ronald Reagan had warmth, wit and an uncanny ability to put people at ease, no matter their ideology.” PETER LAUTZ San Diego

Nancy Gibbs’ story on the life of Ronald Reagan, “The All-American President” [June 14], so eloquently captured and conveyed the man’s essence that I can imagine the Great Communicator smiling and giving her a wink! JIM SHARP Plainfield, N.J.

Reagan was a remarkable person whose life epitomized the American Dream. Rising from humble beginnings, he succeeded in Hollywood, broke into politics and became President as a grandfather figure to the American people. His soothing voice gave an unsure nation hope and a positive outlook on the future. He knew firsthand the toils of the common man and strove to make the country a better and safer place to live. PAUL A. JERECZEK Dodge, Wis.

Gibbs wrote that Reagan was “a man of easy grace and endless hope.” But it’s not hard to be that way when you’re not bothered by the details of reality. Reagan was such a man. How many spiraling budget deficits and Nicaraguans killed by U.S.-supported contras does it take for Americans to stop patting themselves on the back and pause for a moment to look at the true legacy of this President? STEPHEN CONN Las Cruces, N.M.

Some might not have liked Reagan’s policies or programs, but it cannot be denied that he was a great and true American. His Christian belief and conduct exemplified the vision of our country’s Founding Fathers. He is accused of having been too far to the right, but when I examine the man, I see someone who was simply well centered. SAMUEL D. HOPPER Palmdale, Calif.

Reagan was not a saint. He traded illegal arms to the contra militia in Nicaragua. He increased the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. He supported a racist regime in South Africa and shamefully allowed tens of thousands of Americans to suffer from AIDS while his Administration turned its back on the epidemic. That’s the Reagan I remember and will tell my children about. BRIAN BLANK Chicago

Reagan’s White House years were America’s best. We were proud of ourselves, our country and our President. We felt secure in the knowledge that Reagan was at the helm of the nation. I don’t think we will ever see the likes of him again. He was a man for the ages. PENNY BARWICK Orange Park, Fla.

Americans seem to take pride in giving themselves one of two labels, Republican or Democrat. On the occasion of Reagan’s death, it was refreshing to witness the divisive labels dropped for a common descriptor: American. As a Canadian, I was moved by the displays of Americans’ patriotism–men and women placing hands over hearts as the coffin passed by and the frequent singing of national songs. Days later, I found myself still humming God Bless America. KATHLEEN GRAVES Calgary, Alta.

Reagan had warmth, wit and an uncanny ability to put people at ease, no matter their ideology. But aside from his charisma, I remember his meanspirited remarks about “welfare queens” and long-haired war protesters. Reagan’s ardent anticommunism led the U.S. to support right-wing dictators in Latin America and elsewhere around the globe who routinely killed their own citizens. On Reagan’s watch, our federal budget deficit ballooned out of control like never before in an orgy of fiscal irresponsibility. Even as we grieve for Reagan, we must remember that his presidency was an era of harm as well as charm. PETER LAUTZ San Diego

Reagan’s Faith in Action

In “The Secrets Of Reagan’s Success” [June 14], columnist Joe Klein was mistaken when he wrote that Reagan “never paid much more than lip service to the right-to-life movement.” Reagan instituted the Mexico City policy, which prohibited foreign nongovernmental organizations that received U.S. funds from providing abortion, abortion-counseling referrals or related services and reversed the U.S. commitment to international family planning. Moreover, he cut off funding for fetal-tissue research because his supporters didn’t approve of medical science using aborted fetuses. The irony is that such research might well have led to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease had he let it go forward. JANET BRAZILL Colorado Springs, Colo.

Klein stated that “Reagan was a champion of the religious right, but rarely attended church.” It was apparent to me that Reagan had a firm grounding in religious or spiritual faith. He had a relationship with God in his own way, and whether he attended church doesn’t matter. America and the world were blessed to be granted the gift of Reagan’s leadership at a time when we sorely needed it. DON STAFFIN Bridgewater, N.J.

Tenet Steps Down

“Out Of The Line Of Fire” [JUNE 14], about George Tenet’s resignation as CIA director, reported on U.S. intelligence shortcomings before 9/11 and leading up to the Iraq war. A more recent issue is the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Horrid acts performed by our lower-level troops and independent contractors have been exposed and appear to have been condoned if not ordered by the CIA. Could this embarrassing revelation have been the last straw for Tenet? JOHN N. SCHNEIDER Vernon, N.Y.

Tenet caved to the Bush Administration’s push for war. His chummy relationship with President Bush is yet another example showing that the good-ole-boy network is alive and well in Washington. Odds are that the reports of the 9/11 investigations will highlight other problems created by this Administration’s failure to create and sustain professional working relationships with those outside the circle of inbred ideological buddies. SALLY LANDES Loveland, Colo.

Intelligence can be described as hearing voices through the noise. At the best of times, it is a difficult and imprecise task. But when the noise is generated by the White House and the Pentagon and directed into the ears of the CIA, the task becomes impossible. ADI ARIELI Los Angeles

The Soldiers’ Duty

“Stretching The Troops In Iraq” [June 14] stated that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called the Army’s unilateral extension of soldiers’ enlistments a “back-door draft.” But if it weren’t for our troops fighting in numerous wars, we might not have the freedoms we have today and America could have become a country like Iraq. The war on terrorism started the day al-Qaeda decided to crash planes into buildings, killing thousands of Americans. I do not blame Bush for this, and I stand by him 100%. If we didn’t go to Iraq and stand up for our country, that would give other terrorists an opportunity to attack America. It is disrespectful not to fight for those who died on 9/11. ALEXIS A. EMERY Aberdeen, N.J.

No Regrets

Re “Performance Of The Week” [June 14]: I was nauseated by the endless stream of apologies made to Smarty Jones and his camp after Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes, the real test of horse-racing greatness. Birdstone was the best horse that day. His breeding and an exquisite, masterful ride by jockey Edgar Prado took him across the finish line first. TIME gets a gold star for recognizing a true champion. ELAINE DUETT Coral Gables, Fla.

Limited Vision

In “He Could See For Miles” [JUNE 14], essayist Charles Krauthammer repeated a notion we keep hearing from Reagan’s sillier admirers: that he won the cold war by forcing the Soviet Union to go bankrupt in its efforts to keep up with the U.S.’s surge in military spending, culminating in the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Star Wars program. Many critics of Reagan’s foreign policy have pointed out, however, that as the Soviet Union started to fray, there was a real chance it would end with a nuclear bang rather than a whimper. Had the U.S.S.R. not been lucky enough to draw Mikhail Gorbachev instead of, say, Yuri Andropov as its last leader, the odds are high the outcome would have been very bad. All any U.S. President could do with that nightmarish regime was restrain it from further expansion while praying that when it finally did collapse, it would somehow manage to do so peacefully–which, finally, was what happened, through pure luck. Reagan’s policies had nothing whatsoever to do with it. BRUCE MOOMAW Cameron Park, Calif.

Krauthammer may claim that Reagan won the cold war, but in 1990, two years after the Gipper left office, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian reformer who presided so masterfully over the Soviet Union’s demise. MORT PAULSON Silver Spring, Md.

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