There's something more than a little ironic to see Chris Matthews, given his neck-bulging, vein-popping anger displayed every night on MSNBC, in today's Washington Post looking back with nostalgia on the wonderful comity between Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s. There's something to this, of course; Reagan could get along with anyone if they gave him a chance. Just ask Gorbachev; first he smiled at Reagan, and before you knew it, his country went poof.
Matthews seems to forget or gloss over the fact that the "tone" of public discourse in the 1980s was just as bad as today. For example, here's a public comment from O'Neill about Reagan that seems not to be in Matthews's archive:
"The evil is in the White House at the present time. And that evil is a man who has no care and no concern for the working class of America and the future generations of America, and who likes to ride a horse. He's cold. He's mean. He's got ice water for blood."
That's just a warm up. Democratic Congressman William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was "trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf." Who can forget the desperate Jimmy Carter charging that Reagan was engaging in "stirrings of hate" in the 1980s campaign. Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (nowadays a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the "good Germans" in "Hitler's Germany." In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote:
"[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era."
As Reagan's 100th birthday approaches next month, don't be taken in by all the liberals who now say what a wonderful guy he was or how much more civil things were then compared to that dreadful woman from the northern territories today. Funny how liberals always seem to discern the virtues of conservatives only after they're dead and gone.