P.Z. Myers is one of my favorite bloggers on creationism/evolution stuff and atheism, but his reflexive leftism can be a bit trying. In this post, he asserts that "Reagan was almost as great an incompetent" as Bush. I know that many folks on the left had a visceral hatred for President Reagan, but you know, in 1980 there was this thing called the "Soviet Union" which was aiming thousands of nuclear missiles at us and seemed hell-bent on spreading its evil throughout the world.
It doesn't exist any more. Now, I know that the liberal line is that Reagan had nothing at all to do with that -- the fall of the Soviet Union was inevitable. But it sure didn't look inevitable in 1980. In 1980, they looked like the winning team.
Likewise, in 1980, it seemed that the United States had gone into a permanent economic decline. We were fading -- there was a "malaise" as Jimmy Carter famously said. Now, you can parse Reagan's economic policies if you want, and I certainly think that Presidents get too much credit -- or blame -- for things like the business cycle. But gosh, since the U.S. pulled out of the recession of '82, the economy has done pretty darn well. Yeah, we've had a few recessions (including the one that cost the first President Bush his job), but they've been short and mild. For the most part, it's been an upward trajectory, and that wasn't something people expected back in the late seventies.
Maybe Reagan was just lucky. Yes, he did some things that I didn't agree with -- the Meese Commission report on porn was a load of crap, for example. Yes, there were screwups and scandals. No, he didn't go as far as I would have liked in terms of rolling back big government.
And there's one other thing, P.Z. I know popularity isn't the only measure of a President's competence, but Reagen left office very popular, and George H.W. Bush won the presidency in large part because people thought Reagan had done a good job. That's a far cry from the current President, who has managed to lose his party its majorities in the House and Senate, and who will probably lose it the presidency as well.