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History Takes the Measure of a President

June 08, 2004

I believe history will regard President Reagan as one of the great presidents of the 20th century. Though a stalwart Democrat who disagreed with, deplored and staunchly opposed the majority of his policies and actions at the time, in retrospect I side with history's appraisal of the man and his presidency.

Every great president, Republican and Democrat, made big mistakes, domestically and internationally, and often doggedly pursued wrongheaded notions and beliefs to regrettable, even disastrous, results. Yet each also fought, with unshakeable zeal, for what he believed was right for the country, and each accomplished something great and lasting, such as hastening the defeat of communism, that all Americans can be righteously proud of and deeply thankful for. Reagan was such a man and president; I owe and give him my whole respect and thanks that he was who he was.

Tom Gossard

Los Angeles

With the death of Reagan we are sure to hear of his great exploits in conquering the "Evil Empire," especially from young Republicans who were not around from World War II on. It is true that Reagan was a decent man, a likable man -- but not a great president. With respect to the Cold War, he did what a president was expected to do, as did every other president from Harry Truman forward. But the Soviets were losing that war from day one, which was when we launched the Berlin airlift. Unfortunately, the Soviets did not produce a leader willing to recognize that fact until Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev came upon the scene.

All the presidents deserve credit for winning the Cold War, which was a great feat in that it was done without bloodshed.

Paul Giampaolo


As anticipated, there are Times readers who believe that "Americans give Reagan way too much credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union" and that "history will prove that the Soviet Union would have inevitably collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency and corruption" (letters, June 7). In 1983, Times readers objected to Reagan deploying Pershing missiles in West Germany, and many would deny now that this action ultimately had anything to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Press reports from Moscow quote Russians as recalling Reagan as "the man who launched a withering weapons race with his 'Star Wars' program that precipitated the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union." Also that "Reagan bolstered the U.S. military might to ruin the Soviet economy, and he achieved his goal," a quote by Gennady Gerasimov, top Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman during the 1980s.

William H. Smith

Palm Desert

Even as we are flooded by grandiose public eulogies on the mythic life of Ronald Reagan, no adequate mourning for the realities of that life can take place without deep parallel reflection on the fate of the tens of thousands of poor, indigenous, social-activist, working-class or otherwise inconvenient human beings who were displaced, terrorized or murdered by Reagan's CIA and the U.S.-trained and -funded death squads of El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Bradley A. TePaske

Pacific Palisades

Usually I just accept the left-leaning slant of your newspaper, but this time I have to say that I am really offended. "Reagan Dies at 93" (June 6) favorably compares Bill Clinton to the late former president. Not then, not now, not ever in the future can Slick Willie hold a candle to the greatest president since Teddy Roosevelt.

Rob Musso


As you watch the huge, overblown "state" funeral for Reagan, with all of its pomp and circumstance -- and President Bush getting as much political mileage out of it as possible -- keep in mind that when the soldiers' bodies return from Iraq, they are deliberately kept out of sight, and that Bush has yet to attend a single funeral for one of these brave souls he sent to die for oil, Halliburton profits and American imperialism.

Helena Mecartea

Oak Park

At a time of world and national crisis, the leadership of Ronald Reagan steered us to prominence. It's a shame that we have no such leadership in place now.

Adi Rhone

Santa Monica

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