The Year of Reagan
The Scrapbook enjoys historic anniversaries, among other things, and the new year always affords us an opportunity to look ahead—or, more properly, to look back. Sometimes it’s a shock to realize that something happened a full half-century ago, or that so-and-so turns 75 this year. No harm done, in The Scrapbook’s opinion, to consider where we’ve been or ponder where we’re going.
But for readers of The Weekly Standard, the big anniversary this year has got to be the Ronald Reagan Centennial. Our 40th president was born in Tampico, Illinois, on February 6, 1911. Mark your calendars.
To put that into some chronological perspective, his birth is as remote from us today as the Madison administration (1809-17) was from the growing Reagan family at the time of Ronald’s birth. The Civil War had ended 46 years earlier—the equivalent of 1965 to us—and no one had yet heard of the Titanic or read Babbitt or listened to anything on the radio. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York—in which 146 young women, mostly immigrants, perished—would not occur for another six weeks. It was the year Gustav Mahler and Carrie Nation died; and Ginger Rogers, Hubert Humphrey, Jean Harlow, and William Golding all were born, along with Ronald Reagan.
To be sure, anniversaries of this sort are fundamentally meaningless. The importance of Ronald Reagan is not his birth, or his age, but his public career, especially his presidency—which, while recent in The Scrapbook’s recollection, nevertheless began 30 years ago! An entire political generation has come of age in the three decades since he defeated Jimmy Carter for reelection. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, was nine years old when Reagan entered the White House. In that year, Republicans gained control of the Senate for the first time since 1954—a 26-year interval—but it would not be until five years after Reagan’s two terms (1994) that Democratic control of the House would finally end.
The Scrapbook was amused, during this past political year, by the active part the late Ronald Reagan played in the elections. As always, there was general agreement among the chattering classes that the Republican party had fallen under the spell of dangerous right-wing extremists, and The Scrapbook had to rub its eyes in wonderment at media invocations of good old, moderate, nonpartisan, pragmatic Ronald Reagan—you know, the “principled” conservative who nullified extremists within his own party and swapped Irish jokes with Speaker Tip O’Neill.
Such a Ronald Reagan existed, of course, but you would not have known that by listening to those same people when Reagan actually was president. In those days, he was the personification of the Republican party’s dangerous right-wing extremism, the “amiable dunce” and bewildered ex-star of Bedtime for Bonzo whose domestic agenda was actively repressive and whose foreign policy was inspired by the then-popular Rambo movies.
While The Scrapbook isn’t sure if the acronym RINO had yet been invented, there were also people who, in the early 1980s, thought Reagan had been captured and held hostage (“Let Reagan be Reagan”) by such left-wing colleagues as Vice President George H.W. Bush and Chief of Staff James Baker.
We could go on, of course, but only to prove the point that times do change, but some things never do, and that a hundred years can seem like a very long time ago—or just like yesterday. In any event, The Scrapbook is setting aside some jelly beans for February 6, and something a little stronger to wash them down. ♦
O Come O Come Vladimir
Despite their importance, the Christmas culture wars can be tiresome. Some municipality takes down a creche on the city hall lawn, and while we should be outraged, it can be hard to work up the indignation after the 900th time. Well, Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood is here to help.
Every year Fremont holds a ceremony to mark the beginning of the holiday season. This year’s event, held on December 3, was sponsored by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, a local music group (the Rabbit Stew String Band), and one of the neighborhood websites, Fremocentrist.com. A fairly large group—judging by the video, perhaps a couple hundred people—gathered for the celebration. How do the good people of Fremont (they call themselves Fremonsters) mark the beginning of the Christmas season? They light a star over a 16-foot, 7-ton bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin.
The story of the Fremont Lenin begins in 1988, when it was installed outside a hospital in Poprad, Czechoslovakia. After the Velvet Revolution, Czechs took the statue down and sent it to the scrap heap, where it belonged. But a traveling Fremonster, Lewis Carpenter, saw it and decided to take it home. He had it imported to Seattle in 1993, but died before he could figure out what to do with it, leaving the disassembled statue lying in his backyard. His estate thought they might melt it down and sell the bronze, but a local sculptor convinced them to let him put Lenin back together again. The sculptor in turn got a local business owner to donate a place near the neighborhood’s Sunday market for Lenin to be displayed. He has stood there since 1995. (The statue is still, technically, for sale.)
Back then, Fremont had a boring old Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. But in 2004 the Fremonsters decided it would be way cooler to mark the birth of Christ the Savior by lighting a red neon star over Lenin’s head. It is difficult to tell if they were motivated primarily by hipsterism, irony, faddishness, foolishness, or anti-Americanism. Last year, the red star broke; at this year’s ceremony it was replaced by a blue star of David.
Kwanzaa never looked so good. ♦
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Bureaucrats around Washington speak their own language—part English and part what The Scrapbook likes to call TLA (three-letter acronyms). Acronyms are usually an obfuscatory idiom—a lingo that is meant to be a little difficult for outsiders to follow. But with the news that the CIA has created a WikiLeaks Task Force, we wonder if waggish Central Intelligence Agency staffers are trying to send a message that, for a change, outsiders will find relatively easy to decode. The acronym in this case, of course, is the familiar online expletive WTF—probably as concise a description as any of the U.S. government’s reaction to Julian Assange’s project.
According to the Washington Post, the new task force aims “to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks.” The Scrapbook wishes them well in this effort: It would be good to mitigate any harm that may come to those abroad who, having been of assistance to American diplomats and soldiers in what they thought was anonymity, now find their names recklessly exposed in leaked military and diplomatic files.
And if it is the case that the CIA chose the name of its new task force with the acronym in mind, The Scrapbook can only respond, LOL. ♦
Military Recruiting (cont.)
A couple of weeks ago, The Scrapbook noted “research” published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health asking the question, “Should We End Military Recruiting in High Schools as a Matter of Child Protection and Public Health?” Whatever the dreams of left-wing public health agitators, this is a movement going nowhere in a hurry.
The left-most federal appeals court, the Ninth Circuit, last week struck down as unconstitutional ordinances in two California towns, Arcata and Eureka, that purported “to bar the federal government from ‘recruit[ing], initiat[ing] contact with for the purpose of recruiting, or promot[ing] the future enlistment of any person under the age of eighteen into any branch of the United States Armed Forces.’ ”
The court held that “the Constitution expressly provides Congress with the power to ‘raise and support Armies’ and to ‘make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.’ . . . And the Supreme Court has made clear that the federal government ‘can determine, without question from any State authority, how the armies shall be raised.’ ” UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh commented at his eponymous volokh.com blog: “This strikes me as exactly correct. The federal government is acting well within its enumerated powers, and state governments and their local subdivisions may not interfere with it.” ♦
Annals of Academe
The journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science has some blockbuster research in its latest issue: a paper headlined “Subtly Different Positive Emotions Can Be Distinguished by Their Facial Expressions.”
Yes, The Scrapbook grinned, subtly, when it saw that. And on that note, dear readers, let us wish you much happiness—and many different positive emotions—in the new year. ♦
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