And how did an era of greed, led by an out-of-touch airhead, change two decades later into a golden age, led by a prince among men? The reasons are these: First, the only times conservatives are praised in the press is when they can be used to run down other conservatives; and second, it is a general rule of the press and of the establishment that the best conservatives are those dead or retired; and the more dead or retired, the better they are. As Jonah Goldberg noted this winter when Gerald Ford died, lauded by a media that had little good to say of him while he was president, each Republican president is a fool, a bigot, and a dangerous warmonger while he is in office, responsible for sexism, racism, ageism, and general misery. Once dead, however, he acquires a Strange New Respect. In time, the jibes thrown at him are airbrushed away, and he is seen as a statesman, a true conservative, with all the best values, all the more so when compared with whatever Republican is now in office, who is seen in comparison as someone who really is dangerous, a warmonger, bigot, and fool. In their turn, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush the Elder have become harmless and loveable figures, cherished for their good humor, their prudence, and tolerance--and for their distance from today's modern conservatives, who have run their cause into the ground.
This pattern will not alter: In a few years, when President Rudy or Commander in Chief Thompson begins knocking heads, watch out for the press to express its Strange New Respect for Bush 43, whose government was nothing if not diverse as regards race and gender, and who at least made a pretense of being compassionate. In 2027, if Time is still around, will it run a cover, showing him shedding a tear?
Wherever Reagan is today, he is doubtless not crying. We like to think he is watching the horse race, with other ex-presidents. And laughing his head off at Time.