As man-made disasters go, La Jolla author and publisher Larry McGilvery said, the past seven years will not rank with the sinking of the Titanic or Mickey Owens' dropped third strike.
"Because those things have ended," McGilvery explained. Whereas, in McGilvery's admittedly biased opinion, "the Ronald Reagan debts will go on forever."
And now that President Reagan is in his lame duck year, McGilvery is marking each day on a special timetable he has published and is selling as "The Ronald Reagan Countdown Calendar."
Of 25,000 printed, 16,000 have sold for $9.95 in five weeks. Democrats in Rapid City, S.D., with support from former Sen. George McGovern, have already held the nation's first official Countdown Party, said McGilvery, who grew up in Los Angeles, received his B.A. from Cal Poly Pomona and worked six years as an engineer before he and his wife opened a bookstore in La Jolla.
The calendar contains 746 quotes from the Reagan years that McGilvery, 55, considers "edifying, astonishing, hilarious and appalling."
It opens the countdown, and this year, with a 1754 quote from Benjamin Franklin: "In rivers and bad governments, the lightest things swim at the top."
It closes on Countdown Day, also Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1989, with a quote from McGilvery: "Noon: And not a moment too soon."
In between, and for every day, the calendar offers quotes, statements and snippets of news reports from the Reagan years--fragments from FBI and Pentagon reports, boiled-down news accounts, Supreme Court rulings and quotes from members of the Reagan administration and the President himself.
For example, President Reagan, on Aug. 19, 1981, after U.S. Navy planes shot down two Libyan jets: "If our planes were shot down, yes, they'd wake me right away. If the other fellows were shot down, why wake me up?"
And on Sept. 23, 1984, after the bombing of a U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut: "Anyone that's ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would."
McGilvery ("I voted for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984"), denies that the calendar reflects "a personal vendetta or invective against the President himself. He gives the President credit for the recent disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union and for his stands on free trade and drunk driving. "But I don't know if, in the opinion of history, he will be seen as he sees himself as somebody who has brought a certain spirit to the United States," he continued, "or as somebody who has unleashed fringe forces. . . ."
From his personal despair over the state of the union, he said, came the calendar presented as "mild satire" drawn from "a posting of everything you need to know about the man" that could be seen as the gathering and collection of political rope allowing Reagan administrators "to hang themselves all over again."
McGilvery's calendar contains no predictions of who will be raising his hand for the oath of office come January. "I would be happy with anybody who could beat (Vice President) George Bush," he said. How about Dan Rather? "If he would be the Democratic standard bearer, I'd vote for him in an instant."