Last updated on: 1/14/2011 9:56:30 AM PST
Was Ronald Reagan a Good President?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, wrote in his 2006 book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream:

"Reagan spoke to America's longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we rediscover the traditional virtues of hard work, patriotism, personal responsibility, optimism, and faith...

Reagan may have exaggerated the sins of the welfare state, and certainly liberals were right to complain that his domestic policies tilted heavily toward economic elites... Nevertheless, by promising to side with those who worked hard, obeyed the law, cared for their families, and loved their country, Reagan offered Americans a sense of a common purpose that liberals seemed no longer able to muster."

2006 - Barack Obama, JD 

Jesse Unruh, former California State Treasurer, was quoted in a June 6, 2004 Los Angeles Times article titled "Reagan Dies at 93" by Johanna Neuman:

"Reagan was not as good as the Republicans like to think, or as bad as the Democrats would have you believe."

June 6, 2004 - Jesse Unruh 

Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr., Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives during the Reagan Administration, is quoted in Tales of the State: Narrative in Contemporary U.S. Politics and Public Policy by Sanford Schram and Philip T. Neisser in 1997, as saying in an ABC News Dec. 22, 1988 broadcast titled "Ronald Reagan and David Brinkley: A Farewell Interview":

"He wouldn't have made much of a prime minister, but he would have made a hell of a king."

Dec. 22, 1988 - Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. 

PRO (yes)

Margaret Thatcher, MA, former Prime Minister of Britain, stated in a June 11, 2004 "Eulogy for President Reagan" on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website:

"We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man, and I have lost a dear friend.

In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America’s wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism... His policies had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation, and ultimately, from the very heart of the 'evil empire.'

He won the Cold War, not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends."

June 11, 2004 - Margaret Thatcher, MA 

William F. Buckley Jr., Founder and former Editor-at-Large of the National Review, was quoted in a Mar.-Apr. 1997 Policy Review article titled "'There You Go Again': Liberal Historians and the 'New York Times' Deny Ronald Reagan His Due" by Alvin Felzenberg, as having said:

"Reagan had the best intuitive sense of priorities of any president in the postwar period, when it became a constant struggle to know what to pay attention to. His designation of the Soviet Union as an 'evil empire' froze the blood of international diplomacy, but agitated the moral imagination and did more to advance U.S. national objectives than a year's Pentagon spending. Speaking of which, Reagan was exactly correct in knowing that the resources of the U.S. could not be matched by those of the enemy. His willingness to install theater weapons in Europe, to explore anti-missile technology, and to commit great sums to defense effectively disarmed the potential aggressor. And then who, more resonantly than he, made the case against Big Government? Could he have known that a Democratic president, seven years after Reagan left office, would serve as an echo chamber on the matter of an end to Big Government?

Reagan belongs on Mount Rushmore, and he'll be there, after the carpers die off."

Mar.-Apr. 1997 - William F. Buckley, Jr. 

Peggy Noonan, author and former Special Assistant and Speechwriter for President Reagan, wrote in a June 5, 2004 article titled "As President, Reagan Was a Giant" on

"Ronald Reagan was a great communicator not because he said things in an unusual way but because he said great things - things that were true and needed saying. Those on the left in his day always thought Reagan had some magical way of expressing himself. He didn't. It was what he said that was important, not how he said it...

Reagan brought a constellation of virtues to the office of the presidency - guts, compassion, humor, a lack of pretension, a willingness to face the world and tell the truth, a willingness to make decisions and stand by them - and his leadership changed the world, and for the better. As president, he was a giant."

June 5, 2004 - Peggy Noonan 

George H. Nash, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, was quoted in a Mar.-Apr. 1997 Policy Review article titled "'There You Go Again': Liberal Historians and the 'New York Times' Deny Ronald Reagan His Due" by Alvin Felzenberg, as having said:

"As the 1980s recede into history, three achievements of Ronald Reagan loom larger. In a time of dangerous drift and malaise, he restored Americans' sense of self-confidence and greatness. He transmuted American conservatism from theory to practice, undermined the intellectual pretensions of long-regnant liberalism, and decisively shifted the paradigm of political discourse for the rest of the 20th century. Above all, he mobilized the resources -- rhetorical, military, and diplomatic -- that put Soviet communism on the road to extinction. As time passes, Reagan's stature rises -- a sure sign that he will be remembered as one of our most successful and important presidents."

Mar.-Apr. 1997 - George H. Nash, PhD 

John P. Diggins, PhD, former Distinguished Professor of the Graduate Center of History at the City University of New York (CUNY), wrote in his 2007 book Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History:

"My belated respect for [Reagan] grew from appreciating his boldness in dealing with the three miseries of the modern era - one terrifying, the other crippling, the third inhibiting.

The first abomination was a suicidal nuclear arms race of such potential massive destruction that it threatened the world with extinction; the second, an expanding welfare state that had made the poor helplessly dependent, reduced them to debilitating objects of pity, and destroyed any hope for self-esteem; the third, a joyless religious inheritance that told people their kingdom was not of this world and they needed to be careful about pursuing happiness in case they came to enjoy it. Reagan, it is now clear, delivered America from fear and loathing. He stood for freedom, peace, disarmament, self-reliance, eartlhy happiness, the dreams of the imagination and the desires of the heart."

2007 - John P. Diggins, PhD 

Richard Reeves, ME, Senior Lecturer at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication, is quoted in the 2003 book The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton by Stephen Skowronek:

"Reagan had come into the oval office at a time when the man in it... was declaring political bankruptcy and important voices outside it, in the press and the academy, were decrying the end of leadership. They were wrong. The new President made the system work... The leader was an extraordinary man."

2003 - Richard Reeves, ME 

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, PhD, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, was quoted in a Mar.-Apr. 1997 Policy Review article titled "'There You Go Again': Liberal Historians and the 'New York Times' Deny Ronald Reagan His Due" by Alvin Felzenberg, as having said:

"Nothing but liberal prejudice can prevent some distinguished Democrats (which most historians are) from discerning the extraordinary achievements of Ronald Reagan. I mention just two: his crucial role in rebuilding American and Western military strength after a period of Western decline and Soviet expansion, and his great success in demonstrating the superiority of free markets and free societies over socialism -- especially, but not only, Marxist socialism. His leadership in these achievements strengthened peace and expanded freedom.

This is a president whose deliberate policies produced seven years of economic growth...after Democratic economists said that was impossible."

Mar.-Apr. 1997 - Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, PhD 

Jack Wheeler, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of To the Point, wrote in a June 8, 2004 Washington Times article titled "The 'Great-Souled Man'; Reagan Was a Classic":

"Five years ago, in February 1999, I wrote the following tribute to this extraordinary man.

'This coming Sunday, Feb. 6, will be the 88th birthday of the greatest president of the 20th century: Ronald Reagan. That Reagan's achievements exceed those of any president since Washington and Jefferson will unquestionably be the judgment of future historians...

[H]e was an extraordinarily loveable, likeable, good and decent human being, a man whom Aristotle would have said possessed a 'great soul.' Take the time this Sunday to reflect on the achievements of Ronald Reagan, on how much you and all Americans owe him a debt of thankfulness and gratitude.

America was truly blessed to have a man such as him to come to her rescue and to raise her from despairing depths to the pinnacle of historic success we all stand upon today.'"

June 8, 2004 - Jack Wheeler, PhD 

CON (no)

Robert Parry, Editor for the Consortium News who helped uncover the Iran-Contra scandal, wrote in a June 3, 2009 Consortium News article titled "Ronald Reagan: Worst President Ever?":

"[T]here’s a growing realization that the starting point for many of the catastrophes confronting the United States today can be traced to Reagan’s presidency...

With his superficially sunny disposition - and a ruthless political strategy of exploiting white-male resentments - Reagan convinced millions of Americans that the threats they faced were: African-American welfare queens, Central American leftists, a rapidly expanding Evil Empire based in Moscow, and the do-good federal government...

Despite the grievous harm that Reagan’s presidency inflicted on the American Republic and the American people, it may take many more years before a historian has the guts to put this deformed era into a truthful perspective and rate Reagan where he belongs -- near the bottom of the presidential list."

June 3, 2009 - Robert Parry 

Joe Davidson, Federal Diary Columnist at the Washington Post, wrote in a June 7, 2004 article titled "Reagan: A Contrary View" on

"After taking office in 1981, Reagan began a sustained attack on the government’s civil rights apparatus, opened an assault on affirmative action and social welfare programs, embraced the white racist leaders of then-apartheid South Africa and waged war on a tiny, black Caribbean nation...

In 1984, he successfully campaigned for reelection on a 'Morning in America' theme. But his presidency was a long and dreary night for African Americans. Consider this record. Reagan:...

* Supported racism with remarks like those that characterized poor, black women as 'welfare queens.'

* Fired U.S. Commission on Civil Rights members who were critical of his civil rights policies, including his strong opposition to affirmative action programs...

* Sought to limit and gut the Voting Rights Act.

* Slashed important programs like the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) that provided needed assistance to black people...

The gushy tributes to Reagan might be understandable eulogies, but they also are a testament to the persistence of two Americas, one black and one white. The two don’t see things the same and the reaction to Reagan is just one more example."

June 7, 2004 - Joe Davidson 

Jesse Jackson, MDiv, Reverend and President of National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Inc., is quoted in a Jan. 15, 1989 St. Petersburg Times article titled "Jackson Ranks Reagan as Worst Civil Rights President in Memory" as saying:

"[Reagan] may be the worst civil rights president we've had in recent memory... He did not support the right to vote; he did not support open housing... and he would not meet with civil rights leaders for eight years."

Jan. 15, 1989 - Jesse L. Jackson, MDiv 

Robert Kunst, President of Shalom International and a civil and human rights activist, was quoted as saying in a June 8, 2004 Washington Times article titled "Reagan Critics Decry Glowing Tributes" by Steve Miller:

"Ronnie will spend eternity in hell for his treachery... Reagan was one of the most despicable presidents... [He was] responsible for 500,000 American AIDS deaths and 10 million worldwide, while he catered to the right wing in this country, and then also disgraced America by going to Bitburg, Germany, in August 1985, to honor the SS. Nazis murderers buried there."

June 8, 2004 - Robert Kunst 

Jane M. Mayer, the first female Wall Street Journal White House Correspondent, and Doyle McManus, Washington Columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote the following in their 1988 book Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988:

"The core of Reagan's strength had been the public's perception that he was a man of his beliefs: he might compromise on the margins, but he would not sell out his principles wholesale. The shipments of weapons to Khomeini shook the foundations of this belief, squandering Reagan's moral authority...

His was a rhetorical presidency, capable at its best of uniting the country behind a common vision and moving the political center a long step to the right. But the Iran-contra affair revealed his rhetoric to be disconnected from his actions, and his actions to be disconnected from his policies. Ronald Reagan's talents had hidden his flaws too well; inevitably his unmasking was his unmaking."

1988 - Jane M. Mayer 
Doyle McManus 

Christopher Hitchens, Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair, wrote in a June 7, 2004 article titled "Not Even a Hedgehog: The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan":

"Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and lied about it, saying that all the weapons he hadn't sold them (and hadn't traded for hostages in any case) would, all the same, have fit on a small truck. Reagan then diverted the profits of this criminal trade to an illegal war in Nicaragua and lied unceasingly about that, too. Reagan then modestly let his underlings maintain that he was too dense to understand the connection between the two impeachable crimes. He then switched without any apparent strain to a policy of backing Saddam Hussein against Iran...

He was as dumb as a stump...

Year in and year out in Washington, I could not believe that such a man had even been a poor governor of California in a bad year, let alone that such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon."

June 7, 2004 - Christopher Hitchens 

Kyle Longley, PhD, Snell Family Dean's Distinguished Professor of History at Arizona State University, wrote in "When Character Was King? Ronald Reagan and the Issues of Ethics and Morality" in the 2005 book Deconstructing Reagan: Conservative Mythology and America's Fortieth President:

"[Reagan] clearly lied to the American people on his role [in the arms-for-hostages exchange] and most likely to investigators with the Tower Commission, but failed to rise to criminal behavior for the diversion of funds. The latter scenario clearly demonstrates that he would lie to protect himself when pressed, hiding under the guise of memory lapses. This scenario severely damages any characterization of him as the role model for character.

In the final analysis, while conservatives try to portray Reagan as a paragon of virtue, the lies, the corruption, and the scandals that surrounded him were significant... Reagan failed to reach the standard of the mythology of his followers and in many ways failed to rise to the standards established by his role models including Franklin Roosevelt."

2005 - Kyle Longley, PhD 

Greg Palast, MBA, author and investigative journalist, wrote in a June 6, 2004 article titled "Killer, Con-Man, Coward: Good Riddance Gipper" on

"You're not going to like this. You shouldn't speak ill of the dead. But in this case, someone's got to.

Ronald Reagan was a conman. Reagan was a coward. Reagan was a killer...

In Chaguitillo [Nicaragua], all night long, the farmers stayed awake to guard their kids from attack from Reagan's Contra terrorists. The farmers weren't even Sandinistas, those 'Commies' that our cracked-brained President told us were 'only a 48-hour drive from Texas.' What the hell would they want with Texas, anyway? Nevertheless, the farmers, and their families, were Ronnie's targets...

Killer, coward, conman. Ronald Reagan, good-bye and good riddance."

June 6, 2004 - Greg Palast, MBA