SHORTLY AFTER the narrative begins, Rachel Maddow offers a silly little piece of ancient text.
Why in the world would anyone be interested in the 1973 moment when Congress set out to write “A Joint Resolution Concerning the War Powers of Congress and the President”? Directing that “to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States” Congress and nobody else, that means nobody, certainly not the Executive Branch, had the power to declare war.
Any story that starts with the War Powers Resolution in 1973 is automatically headed in one direction: Ronald Reagan’s legacy.
So how did Rachel Maddow get away with targeting Ronald Reagan without it bothering anyone? She titled her book Drift then set out by using John Wayne against him to launch her first salvo.
During the Panama Canal debate, Carter took over where Ford left off, with both parties agreeing on it, joined by William F. Buckley and the tough guy’s tough guy, John Wayne, both endorsing Carter’s treaty too.
Even after John Wayne sent Reagan a private and personal note offering to show him “point by goddam point in the treaty where you are misinforming people,” and offering fair warning that it was time for the Gipper to shut his piehole (“If you continue to make these erroneous remarks, someone will publicize your letter to prove that you are not as thorough in your reviewing this treaty as you say or are damned obtuse when it comes to reading the English language”), Ronald Reagan doubled down. – Drift, by Rachel Maddow [page 33]
Maddow focuses on the “Unmooring of American Military Power,” with an easily digestible portion on the Gipper that strips him of all veneer that he was anything close to what the myth makers have fictionalized. That Ronald Reagan deserved to be impeached for Iran-Contra has always been clear to a good section of people who lived through the era, myself included, with the cumulative case Maddow makes on Reagan’s presidency making the reader believe it was a miracle he wasn’t.
That is, until those who haven’t met the main character are introduced, which also puts a lot of recent history into context, too.
As the main author of the minority’s 145-page written dissent from the congressional investigation of Iran-Contra, Wyoming Representative Dick Cheney insisted, radically, that Iran-Contra was no crime, that Reagan was right to defy Congress, because there was nothing in Congress, nothing anywhere in America’s political structure, that could constrain a president from waging any war he wanted, however he wanted. – Drift, by Rachel Maddow [page 124]
Rachel Maddow’s Drift is a compact unpacking that attacks the deluded notion that Ronald Reagan was anything but a remarkably talented spokesperson with a sunny disposition who came a long at the perfect moment in time. From there Maddow peels back one reason the two-party collusion on how our military industrial complex got to where it is today. It’s not the whole history, but it’s enough to inform the latest generation of new voters on who Reagan was so they don’t fall for the drivel being pumped into the American blood stream, which will be on overload this week if the Republican convention ever lifts off.
The case against Ronald Reagan has been made many times before, I’ve done it around here, but in a bite size book that’s so easily digested, with facts about our military build-up and the abuse of U.S. forces by our politicians, but also the private defense industry, it makes it very hard for anyone to whine about the facts, especially when she begins the book with the founders.
Quoting Thomas Jefferson from the top, invoking his famous pledge to “never keep an unnecessary soldier,” Maddow grabs people interested in military matters, no matter their political bent. Tea Party patriot, constitutionalists, liberals and progressives who want less international misadventurism, everyone pays attention when our fathers speak.
It’s how we got from World War II to the contagion of tours of duty that is prompting historic levels of soldier suicides, fractured families and lives, which is so chilling, which Maddow covers poignantly, with Ronald Reagan the diabolical master at mustering the masses to his “peace through strength” whisper that changed conservatism forever. One of the most important ways the two political parties rally their troops is behind a good war, the next battle, which has turned into a private business we export whenever it’s needed and used whenever a politician has nothing else.
We all built this system.
Ronald Reagan had a lot to do with it and finally he gets the credit he deserves. But not in the way your average American might anticipate.
The real beauty of this book is Maddow’s systematic myth-stripping of the man the Republican Party has wanted to resurrect for years and will celebrate this week through the resurrection of the fiction that is Ronald Reagan in the Republicans Party‘s collective mind that can now be seen through Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan.
TM note: I was sent this book by Crown, Rachel Maddow’s publisher. It just took finding the right moment to feature a review.