Reagan's Enduring Legacy; Historians and Contemporaries Measure His Impact
Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
More than two decades after he left office, the 40th president, whose 525 electoral votes in 1984 are an all-time record, is a hot topic for historians, who debate his place among the top chief executives of all time, and for lawmakers, who still spar over who best lays claim to his legacy.
There is a growing sense that we need to reckon with Reagan, reckon with his legacy to understand the broad political culture over the past three decades, said Matthew Dallek, a historian who has written about Reagan's 1966 campaign for California governor. His presidency and the movement he led and his ideas really matter.
During Reagan's eight years in office, inflation fell from its staggering late-1970s peak, relations with the Soviet Union thawed, the unemployment rate fell and incomes rose. But measured by other standards, income inequality grew and federal spending ballooned. Historians still debate how much credit Reagan should get for his management of foreign relations.
More than anything else, though, Reagan's sunny disposition helped Americans recover from the cultural and economic shocks of the 1970s, and has made Reagan an icon for many.
The last century, I believe, he would go down as the most effective president, said former Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican who in the 1990s sponsored legislation trying to get Reagan's face carved onto Mount Rushmore beside those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. He certainly goes down as [among] a handful of presidents …
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Publication information: Article title: Reagan's Enduring Legacy; Historians and Contemporaries Measure His Impact. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: February 4, 2011. Page number: E01. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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