My Favorite Reagan Moments


Managing Editor Jesse Walker's incisive obit to Ronald Reagan is up at Reason Online.

Let me offer up my two strongest memories of Reagan. The first is the Ramones' song "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg)." Inspired by Reagan's idiotic appearance at cemetery that contained SS officers, it includes the line "Bonzo goes to Bitburg, then goes out for a cup of tea/As I watched it on TV somehow it really bothered me." After Joey Ramone's death, that tune, which appeared first as a single and later on the 1986 LP Animal Boy, was used to illustrate the social conscience that Joey somehow kept mostly under wraps while alive. I've no doubt that Joey Ramone hated Reagan every bit as much as Johnny Ramone loved him (that Dee Dee had a hand in the song, along with Jean Bouvoir, only complicates matters). Whatever the authorial intentions of the tune, it neatly summed up my response to that weird spectacle. At the time I was neither a Reagan lover or hater, but it all just seemed wrong.

The second is the Berlin Wall Speech, which remains one of the great political speeches--both in rhetoric and delivery--of the 20th century. It's important to separate truth from falsity in the Reagan record and in most ways, the guy talked a libertarian game but delivered something very different. But the "tear down this wall!" speech is a great articulation of the best elements of American values and well worth remembering far into the 21st century.