John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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The death this weekend of Ronald Reagan reminds me of my vacation to California last summer, during which trip I visited the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Now, I was no great fan of Ronald Reagan, but I do like visiting Presidential libraries. Also, I had visited the Nixon Presidential Library in 2002, and had been very amused by the Watergate exhibit, which was hilariously pro-Nixon. I was hoping that the Reagan Library would have a similarly amusing exhibit on Iran-Contra, but alas, most of the facility was closed for renovation. The only exhibits open to the public were the replica of the Oval Office, an overview of the attempt on his life by John Hinckley, and a random assortment of other facets of his presidency, including the purchase of the infamous White House china, his many trips to his ranch, and the gifts he received from various heads of state and other admirers. (The pictures I took there show a representative sample.) Anyone who entered the museum knowing nothing about Ronald Reagan would emerge with a very strange impression of what his administration was like.

My visit to the Reagan Library was pretty much the very last thing I did during that vacation; the only thing that remained on my itinerary was to return to John Wayne Airport in Orange County for my flight home. So I stopped at the information desk in the lobby and asked the docent for an estimate of how long it might take to get from Simi Valley to Irvine. She had no idea where Irvine was, and when I told her it was in Orange County, she explained apologetically that she almost never went to the Los Angeles area, a claim that baffled me, insofar as I was under the impression that Simi Valley was part of the Los Angeles area.

Anyway, it seems to me that my experience at the Reagan Library dovetails neatly with my impression of Ronald Reagan himself: a decent but fairly clueless man who possessed an incomplete and highly selective understanding of what was going on in his own administration. And for all his shortcomings, it could have been a lot worse. I haven't decided yet whether I'll go see him lying in state; on the one hand, I really have no interest in memorializing him, but on the other, who knows when I'll have another chance to see something like this? And I'm getting a day off work out of the deal, so maybe I owe it to him.

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