The predictable hysteria over Ronald Reagan's death is now fully under way. Expect the backlash in about 20 minutes, if it hasn't begun already. The reactions run across the spectrum, from James Kochalka's online cartoon yesterday (Two panels: first panel, James watching TV with news of Reagan's death. Second panel, James spits out: "F**k Reagan!") to folks ready to raise Reagan from the dead just so they can vote for him again: “He should be on Mount Rushmore," Humbert Cabrera, 38, of San Diego, told the Associated Press while waiting in line to view Reagan's coffin.
I already mentioned my own conflicted equivocating thoughts on Reagan the other day, which boil down to "Hate the politics, but gosh darn it, he seemed like a nice fella..." Tossing politics aside, which is tough for anyone these days, I'm always kind of fascinated by the ritual and pageantry we bring to a president dying. We Americans refused kings and queens long ago, but kill a president, and you will see them treated like kings. Nixon's death in '94 was lower-key than this, because, well, Nixon was eviler and didn't like jelly beans. The first state funeral for a president since LBJ's 31 years ago is going to be a fascinating thing to watch Friday, unless you're one of those who's already sick of the whole business. There's something oh-so-Hollywood and gloriously Americanly overblown about it all, I can't help but be intrigued by it.
For some reason, the death is provoking a kind of brow-mopping panic among some, even thought we knew it was coming for so long now. Even as I condemn media follow-the-bandwagon hysteria while engaging in it at the same time, this is probably the most covered death since Princess Di's. You've got Republican congressmen trying to get Reagan put on the $10 bill. (Really, there should be a 10-year 'cooling off' period before anything like this is done after someone's death, IMHO.) You've got 17% of Americans voting Reagan as the best president ever in a CNN online poll, beating out Washington -- y'know, the father of the country and all -- and Kennedy. However, Lincoln and FDR still smoke Reagan in the overall vote.
Give us a week and we'll all move on to other things. But for a few more days at least, it's all Reagan, all the time. Unless Ford kicks off this week, too.