The Gipper

It would be disingenuous for us to pretend that we are uncritical admirers of the performance in office of the late President Ronald Reagan. As one example, the attempt during his administration to classify ketchup as a vegetable in federal school lunch programs bespoke what seemed at times an unfeeling attitude toward necessary social programs and their funding.

And there is no way to dress up the Iran/Contra scandal -- which saw arms bargains struck with the mad Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in order to fund an unnecessary war against a mildly Marxist government in Nicaragua.

There are other matters to which we could take exception. But it would be improper and even more disingenuous if we did not sing some of the praises of the man who played the gallant and tragic Notre Dame halfback George Gipp in the movies and lived on to play a gallant and partly tragic role himself, on the largest stage possible.

When Mikhail Gorbachev, his Soviet counterpart of the time, described Reagan after his death this week as a "great" president, we knew what he meant. Besides conducting himself with the admirable style and aura which also marked his movie career (no doubt, the man was likable!), Reagan proved capable ultimately of a kind of grandeur, and, in relations with our principal antagonist, the Soviet Union, his mixture of toughness and negotiation may well have yielded, first, a liberalization of that regime, then arms agreements with it, and, finally, its breakdown and complete transformation -- one which still proceeds.

It was a shame that a man who moved so easily and inspiringly among his fellow citizens could not, during the 10-year "long goodbye" which characterized his final decline from Alzheimer's, even enjoy the company of his beloved wife, Nancy.

Many will miss him. For our own good reasons, so do we.


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