Ronald Reagan was the President who defined my childhood. I remember a bit of Jimmy Carter's presidency, but I remember Reagan most.
What I remember best about Reagan was his cheerful humor, his self-deprecating modesty, his ability to make complex subjects accessible. In sixth grade, the teacher asked us to watch the State of the Union address and take notes as homework. I remember laying on my belly in front of the TV, pen and paper forgotten, listening to Reagan's speech. I had to write down my notes from memory afterward.
In retrospect, Reagan's presidency was marked by significant weaknesses, especially in domestic and economic policy. And although I don't remember him ever speaking intemperately about persons, he did occasionally make some less than temperate remarks about America's enemies (e.g., calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire").
But if love covers a multitude of sins, so does optimism, joy, and personal humility. To the extent I still think of Reagan as a great president, it is because of his personal character.
These days though, those who would walk in his footsteps don't get why he was great. They think it was because America had a revival during his terms in office and so they slavishly copy his domestic and foreign policies, belligerently denying that those policies may have worked in the short term but have had catastrophic failures in the long term. And, on top of that, they have ditched the strengths of Reagan's personal character.
What are we left with? We're left with the very real possibility that Reagan II will be a man who came of age as a robber baron during the 1980s, who has all of Reagan's weaknesses and none of Reagan's charm.
My fellow Americans, I present to you Donald J. Trump, Ronald Reagan's evil twin.
(Image: Statue of Ronald Reagan in Budapest, Pixabay.)