Friday, June 11, 2004

After the Sunset. The whole family went down for the visitation on Wednesday night and met up with three in from Louisiana who were downtown for the procession. I regret missing the procession -- my wife's cousin and his friends were very impressed. They said they could see the details on the jets as they flew by.

We got in line a little before 9 pm -- it was hot, but the sun was setting. We wound our way through a snaking line and after about three hours we were told we were about two hours away. In the old Soviet Union, this is what people did to get toilet paper. How the world has changed -- because of this man.

Joe fell asleep in the stroller, but Em seemed to rev up -- did someone give her some coffee? Sarah was wonderful -- always cheerful and upbeat (except for one moment when she discovered she'd lost one of her magic beans -- we had the whole line [okay, not the whole line, but several hundred people looking for it -- no luck). After awhile -- around midnight -- staffers appeared and started handing out copies of a congressional resolution on President Reagan -- very nice, but I was more impressed that they were there so late at night.

About a half hour later, Joy discovered they were handing out coffee -- she was in heaven.

We talked about his final address to us -- the letter announcing he had Alzheimer's and how, even then, he was both gracious and full of hope:
In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

A little later, we saw Mark, a friend from church and a staffer for Sen. Rick Santorum -- it was nice to see a friendly face, but (repeating myself), I was very impressed that he was there so late at night to help people out.

Many were there handing out water. Those in line were chatting, reading, talking on cell phones; my wife called a good friend in Seattle at midnight. The heat never broke -- before we had to shut off the phones we called weather -- the temperature was 81 (after midnight), high humidity, no breeze.

Finally, we made it through security -- two different checkpoints. Everyone was very friendly (except for the people in the main screening tent -- not sure what was wrong there).

We still had a longer wait on the West porch of the Capitol Building -- beautiful views. I remember a pre-9/11 world when I actually used to run a lap around here in the mornings before work -- very early, I used to observe Newt's Mustang convertible parked on the East side. It was the first time my three youngest had been up there.

The line would move swiftly, but come to a complete standstill every now and then. One of the officers explained that at the changing of the guard every half-hour the viewing was halted. He said it took about 7 minutes.

Soon we were nearing the entrance and I pointed out that this was where the President stood when he was first sworn in -- the first president to face America, instead of facing Europe.

Time to wake Joe up -- he did not want to wake up. Joy pushed the stroller while I tried to get Joe to stand up (and wake up). Emmie went with her Mom; Sarah went with Sarah (from La.). Jared and Tyler (from La.) carried the stroller up the stairs to the Rotunda and we all climbed the stairs...

Then we were there, in the chambers. There was the flag draped over the box that held the shell of the Man. I would like to tell you of how I wept and prayed and cherished my memories of Reagan and observed the majesty of the event and all that happened, but I was a parent wanting to ensure my son understood these things. How well I succeeded? Time will tell.

We lingered as long as possible -- in the back -- and left too soon.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

* * *

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Photo source: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.
Text from Walt Whitman's O Captain! My Captain!
Some Dunce! The following passage is from William Greider's Secrets of the Temple (a book about the Federal Reserve). You may recall (Reagan critic) Greider ran an embarassing "expose" of David Stockman, President Ronald W. Reagan's director of OMB, in the Atlantic magazine. Please pay attention to the final paragraph in particular.
Ronald Reagan, ironically, had a surer grasp of the subject [monetary policy] than any of his senior political advisers -- ironic because, in most realms of government policy, Reagan was a passive executive, with a weak grasp of details. He often left both the particulars and the strategic choices to his circle of advisers. They worked out a consensus among themselves, then brought the decision to him for ratification. When it came to money, however, Reagan knew what he wanted and expressed it forcefully.
"Most of the major players in the White House -- Baker, Meese, Mike Deaver -- don't know much about monetary policy," one of their colleagues explained. "The President probably has the most developed understanding of any of them."
David Stockman elaborated the point:
The President has two metaphors he uses when he talks about monetary policy. One is "zooming the money supply," which meant money was too easy. "Pulling the string" meant it was too tight. The President doesn't have a lot of things right in his head. He is kind of selective about what facts he takes in, but one thing he really believes in deeply is anti-inflation. He used the same cliche over and over: "Inflation is like radioactivity. Once it starts, it spread and grows."
Ronald Reagan was a monetarist himself. That label had never been publically applied to him in all his years as a candidate (perhaps because most political reporters were oblivious to the distinction), but Reagan's campaign bromides clearly reflected his monetarist perspective. Inflation originated with the "printing press" money at the Federal Reserve, he said, and in order to brake inflation, the government must halt its excessive production of money.
This was the one thing that the President knows in detail [Stockman said]. He could take a piece of paper and draw a line tracing the money-supply growth all the way back to the sixties. He had one thing that he knew and he always made the same point about the Federal Reserve. The money supply "zoomed" in every election year -- flooding the economy with money," he said -- and then, after the election, the Fed "pulled the string" and the economy went into recession.

--Greider Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country (1987) at 329.

[BTW, the title of this post refers to Clark Clifford calling President Reagan an "amiable dunce." I am recalling Winston Churchill's address to the Canadian Parliament (December 30, 1941) where he noted some in France who said if England fought on, she would have "her neck wrung like a chicken" in three weeks. Churchill observed "Some chicken! Some neck!" Hear Churchill here in real audio.]

More Here is more on the Clifford quote from this site:
Only once in his long career did he step out of character, and that was when he referred to President Ronald Reagan as an "amiable dunce." The remark was made at a private dinner party but, unknown to Clifford, a tape recording had been made so that the hostess, who was ill with the flu and unable to come to her own party, could hear what was expected to be some sparkling conversation. Excerpts from that tape were published out of context.

Clifford explained his remark this way: "In the fall of 1982, President Reagan said he would cut taxes by $750 billion, substantially increase defense expenditures and balance the budget in the 1984 fiscal year. Those were public promises. I made a comment that if he would accomplish that feat, he'd be a national hero. If, on the other hand, it did not work out after such a specific and encouraging promise and commitment, I thought the American people would regard him as an amiable dunce."

Given the opportunity some time later to retract his remark, however, Clifford declined to do so.
We will be there. Right now, I'm figuring we will be in line for about 12 hours, so we're planning on taking a night shift so as to be out of the sun. This wasn't any president, however, this was Ronald Reagan.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Venus Rising. If you haven't heard already, tomorrow will be the "the transit of Venus." Venus will cross the face of the sun, the first since 1882, alas, not visible in the most western portion of the US.

Information here.