Reagan outlawing Russia

Matt Jensen
Sun, 8 Jul 2001 20:54:01 -0400 (EDT)

On Sun, 8 Jul 2001, Adam Rifkin wrote:

> [I have a general policy of FoRK anything that takes more than three rounds
> with Google to pin down the accuracy of. Here is the PBS documentary
> transcript for the famous Reagan quote outlawing Russia forever... Adam]

Aw, you young whippersnapper, I remember hearing the soundbite when it
broke.  And then it appeared as a sample in an 80's tune.

> Commercial Narr: There is a bear in the woods. For some people the bear is
> easy to see. Others don't see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame.
> Others say it's vicious. And dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who
> is right, isn't it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear. 

BTW, the narrator was Hal Riney.  He was both narrator and owner of the ad
agency that produced the ad.  His rich, avuncular voice was very popular
in the 80's, and represented wholesomeness and authenticity.  He
voiced-over the original Saturn campaign, and others.  (He was also a
Reagan supporter.)

Now then, the bear-in-the-woods ad always struck me as interesting,
because Pascals' Wager can be set up from many angles.  For example, and
with all due respect:

"There is probably a slow-growing disease in President Reagan's brain. For
some people the disease is easy to see, though still at an early stage.  
Others don't see it at all.  Some people say the disease is mild.  Others
say it will likely grow far worse in the next four years.  Since no one
can really be sure who is right, isn't it smart to elect someone who shows
no symptoms of the disease?  If there is a disease."

Of course, one would have to clean that up, and have a PAC run it with
soft money, rather than run it directly from the Mondale campaign, and
even then it would probably have been considered way over the top, even
though in hindsight from 2001 it might speak some truth.

Many people in '84 who opposed Reagan were undecided: was he just an
amiable dunce, or was he a clever genius, playing the dummy as Eisenhower
is now said to have done?  Of course, those who supported Reagan didn't
entertain either of these, but that's not the point.  The point is that
Reagan's opponents tried to pigeonhole him into a single, simple box, when
Reagan's mind and personality were more complex than that would allow.

I think the "truth" is that he could do some very clever thinking and
speaking, yet he also exhibited early signs of dementia in his first term.
But because he was cogent and clever most of the time, even his opponents
did not pick up on what was going on.  The false choice, a) dunce or b)  
genius playing possum, ignored what was more likely: an intelligent man,
then 73 years old, slowly losing his faculties.

-Matt Jensen