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Sunday, February 02, 2003
Those words, of course, were the last line of the 648 word address (memo to Bill Clinton: all memorable political speeches were short) Ronald Reagan gave to the nation in 1986 after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after blast-off. I have never forgotten the beautiful line, or his delivery of it, even though I am not the biggest fan of politicians invoking their religious beliefs at every turn (as Reagan did). The fact of the matter remains that Reagan was one of the greatest orators ever to hold the Presidency, and that great skill allowed him to move the country in some very conservative (and I would contend very wrong) directions.

I say this because I want to vomit every time I hear some conservative comparing the current President to Reagan, usually either (1) in an attempt to justify some hard-right policy choice that the conservative says the public will buy if it is just sold well, or (2) in praise of some unmemorable Karen Hughes-drafted speech that the current President manages to deliver without too many malaprops or stumbles. Let's be very clear. W is no Ronald Reagan. And the conservatives who compare the two are either deliberately lying to pump up the current guy or have totally forgotten Reagan's incredible eloquence.

Read the Challenger address text at this website:

The man wasn't called the "Great Communicator" for nothing. W, in contrast, gave a speech yesterday that nobody will remember-- stretching to find something to use in its headline, the Los Angeles Times used his statement that "Columbia is Lost". Yeah, we knew that. Bush tried the religious route too, but while Reagan chose beautiful poetry originally written by a World War II pilot that accurately fit the situation (the Challenger crew literally did waive goodbye and die soon thereafter, as their craft shot towards the heavens, where legend says God resides), Bush chose a canned sermon about how God calls the stars by their names, which could have been brought out for almost any memorial speech. Finally, W couldn't even say "God Bless America" correctly at the end of the speech. God may call the stars by their names, but W doesn't seem very good at calling God by His name.

Of course, it is unfair to compare one of the worst prominent public speakers in recent years to the master communicator, Ronald Reagan. But the conservatives started it. Let's hope they stop it soon.

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