As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Reagan died today at the age of 93. The cynical side of me wants to say "Let the canonization begin!" but it’s really too late for that. Around here the airport and a large (and rather ugly) government building are already named for him and Republican members of Congress regularly propose slapping the name on dozens of other items. That should increase ten fold in the next few weeks.
W has sometimes been compared to Reagan and I think they do have one major connection. For all his folksiness, I always got the feeling that Reagan was acting a role. I never thought that he cared at all for people, other than the ones who made up the audience around him at the time. I also never felt that he was actually running the place. It seemed as if the people around him were actually in charge and Reagan was acting as the front man for the organization. W gives me the same feelings.
The only time I ever saw Reagan in the flesh was in 1985 when I came to Washington to receive an award. The program was one created a few years earlier during his administration to honor math and science teachers (we were popular then :-) and a visit to the White House to meet the President was part of the trip. The plans changed, however, and we were herded out to the back yard where we watched as the great communicator walked out, shook a few hands, waved for the cameras (the news cameras, not ours) and left on his helicopter.
That particular little scenario never really bothered me – especially considering how fantastic the rest of the trip was. Indeed, it seemed very typical of the Reagan we saw on TV and very much the same as the man who had been governor of California when I when I was a kid living there. He was someone who was always on camera and always acting the part into which he had been cast.
So, rest in peace Ronald Reagan. My condolences to the family and friends. Let the Republicans glorify the Reagan name and plaster it all over town, all over the country. But, like many in the DC area, the next time I fly out of town, I will refer to my point of departure as Washington National Airport, not Ronald Reagan Airport.