It is an appalling visitation. You turn on the television and watch the president of the United States. He delivers his right-thinking homilies, fudges his ignorance, composes his chuckles,strains to summon a fact or two from failing memory banks stuffed a few hours earlier in a quick cram course. Announcers, reporters, pundits take all this seriously. With few exceptions, they sonorously take at face value the claims of this man whose sense of the real is so fundamentally damaged. Collaborating with the machinery of imagemaking, as he has done all his adult life, the president “sounds good” and “looks good,” so we say. His sheltered, cramped view of the world is no longer the point. The point, it seems, is that Reagan embodies that dreamland America perpetually on its way onward and upward, radiating assurance and the upbeat, mirroring back to America its glorious founding premise—that the power of the will is going to conquer the unruly tangle of the wilderness. “Americans live in the future,” he said once, expressing an important half-truth about the cocky archetypical American, ever ready to blunder into the swamps of war because (unless the politicians get in the generals’ way) We Can’t Lose.
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