Outspoken former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean apparently isn't planning to celebrate Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday February 6, around which there are coast-to-coast events planned. Instead, the former Vermont governor is shrugging his shoulders, asking what all the fuss is about?
At a media roundtable today, Dean suggested that Reagan had little impact other than stopping the social progression begun under FDR and seemed to dismiss the Gipper's efforts to crush communism, giving the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev credit for ending the Cold War, a statement sure to draw sneers from Reagan fans and even historians.
While Reagan is considered in polls and by historians to be one of the five greatest American presidents, Dean took the view that the Republican really wasn't consequential. "I think it's hard to point to particular singular accomplishments that are for the ages, I mean there was no civil rights bill or Medicare or Medicaid established. I attribute the collapse of the Soviet Union much more to Gorbachev than I do to Reagan."
Dean, a social progressive and doctor who is a champion of healthcare reform, even suggested that Reagan might have turned the country backward. "I think Reagan was a great leader, had leadership attributes," Dean allowed. "I do think that he put a roadblock in terms of the Roosevelt revolution. I don't think he reversed it, but I think he put a roadblock in it," he said at the roundtable sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Dean added: "The thing in retrospect that you look to with Reagan was he did represent, I mean the Republicans are right to revere him, in the sense that he did kind of represent the end of the progress in terms of where Roosevelt was taking the country and a reassessment that we have been fighting ever sense. I think we've sort of fought to a stand still but he put a stake in the ground and stopped the progression to a more humanitarian country."
The often quotable former party chief also let loose on other topics:
-- The likelihood that small business would stop offering health insurance benefits and dump workers into the health reform exchanges is a good thing because it would make businesses more competitive because they've be spending less on healthcare.
-- He won't challenge President Obama in 2012, will encourage others not to take the president on, and believes Obama will win handily.
-- Called the Tea Party the "last gasp" of older whites who are afraid of diversity, adding that Obama's black face reminds them that the nation has changed for good.
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- See a slide show of the 10 worst presidents.