review

Nixon Vs. Reagan (as Librarians)

My wife and I ventured forth and found a unique experience. We visited two presidential libraries over the past three months. First we toured the Richard Nixon library in September, and then the Ronald Reagan library just last week.

We were enamored with the Nixon library. That’s what motivated us to see how Reagan was doing as a librarian. But although we enjoyed it, we didn’t love it. It was just okay. This left us feeling kind of disappointed. Our high expectations were unmet. I guess Tricky Dick is a hard act to follow, even by a former movie star.

This was as warm a welcome as we received at the Reagan library.

I mean, here’s a president who fell from office in disgrace and dishonor. For years, he was the most reviled man in our country. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan left office riding a massive wave of popularity. Since then he has been idolized, oft-quoted, and used for reflective glory by aspiring politicians who never seem to come close to actually matching him.

So naturally we expected Reagan to outshine Nixon in the library department. After all, a presidential library is intended to celebrate a president’s legacy. And Reagan’s legacy far outshines Nixon’s, most would agree.

A segment of the wall that Mr. Gorbachev was told to tear down. Here is one of the few exceptions where Reagan’s library outclasses Nixon’s. You are allowed to touch and feel this exhibit to your heart’s content. Whereas Nixon’s exhibit includes a sign that reads, “Please do not touch Berlin Wall”. Er, kind of chilling, don’tcha think, Mr. Nixon?

Yet we still found ourselves more intrigued with the Nixon library. It detailed his presidency, and historical events surrounding his presidency, in an informative and painfully accurate manner. And it put Watergate and other Nixon scandals, on full display. It whitewashed nothing about this man, but instead seemed to give equal time to both his successes and failures. The open honesty disarmed us, and we liked and respected Nixon better after leaving his library.

But the Reagan library seemed artificial. It emphasized his successes, while making little or no mention of his failures. For instance, it celebrated his success at tax reform. It highlighted his ideology concerning the evils of big government. And it hailed his victories in the Cold War. This left us with the sense that Reagan was proud of his achievements, proud of his ideology, and proud of his country. Quite possibly in that order.

Remember this enthralling game in the 1980’s? No?! Why just think of all the fun-filled wholesome nights your family missed. This byproduct of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign had interesting rules and strategy including the movement of tokens by rolling a . . . a . . . snnxxx . . . zzzzzzzzzz.

Meanwhile, we found no mention of the Iran-Contra scandal in his library. Perhaps it was in an exhibit hidden in some shadowy corner, but we sure couldn’t locate it. I believe a man with more pride in this country would highlight what makes it so great. And that is our freedom to debate anything and everything, and our liberty to challenge the authority of our leaders, including the highest leader of the land.

Nixon’s humility and honesty, compared with Reagan’s ego and elephant-in-the-room elisions, left us respecting Tricky Dick better than the father of our modern-day GOP.

The much ballyhooed Titanic exhibit was visiting the Reagan library, so we eagerly flocked with the crowd to see it. Turns out, most of it contains props from the movie, Titanic, such as this reproduced debris field in underwater illusion lights. We felt disappointed to find that the exhibit features very few genuine artifacts from the ship itself.

We were also unimpressed with the panhandling we encountered at the Reagan library. While standing in line to buy our admission ticket, a nattily attired library employee introduced herself and began a friendly conversation. She was personable and demonstrated an inquisitive interest in us, leaving us feeling flattered. Then she handed us a flyer and made a pitch to get us to donate to the GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program. We politely declined, then proffered our $29 per person admission fee, and quickly slipped away from her in the least awkward manner possible.

While perambulating through the library, we encountered more panhandlers. This was usually in the form of photographers, trying to persuade us into having our photo taken in front of an exhibit. I don’t know what these photos cost, because we always declined their advances.

However at the Marine One exhibit, I found I could not refuse the persistent paparazzo. She would not allow me into the helicopter until I stood before the door, held a flag that she handed to me, and waved, saluted, and performed other poses for her camera. I finally got rid of the fucking bitch and made it inside the stupid aircraft to see where Reagan always planted his ass when flying off to Camp David. Perhaps it was my mood, but I felt much less impressed than I felt while touring Nixon’s helicopter.

By the way, we encountered absolutely zero panhandlers and professional photographers at the Nixon library. This left us feeling much more welcome and free to enjoy his premises, than we felt in Reagan country.

Our favorite part of the Reagan library was the Air Force One exhibit. Here it is hanging out where airplanes hang, in a hangar of course. Or as they call it at the Reagan library: The Air Force One Pavilion.

We found that the most impressive aspect of the Reagan library was Air Force One. The complete, full-sized, original Boeing VC-137C that seven presidents used, from Nixon to Bush 43, was on full display in a hangar. And we were actually allowed to stroll through it, from the cockpit to the rear exit (after circumnavigating the photographer stalking us at the front entrance).

The view outside the Air Force One hangar was pretty spectacular.

We also loved the view. The Reagan library is constructed atop a hill that affords a panoramic vista of orchards, fields, and settlements in Simi Valley, California. The weather was mild and the pellucid air felt delicately cool that day, and we found ourselves more inclined to tarry outside and enjoy the view, than return inside and endure more dry, dull showcases of Reagan’s perpetual successes.

One of the many gorgeous perspectives in the viewshed of the Reagan library includes this path that leads to a white cross. I kind of wonder if hiking this trail would have created better memories than hiking through the Reagan library.

All in all, we left the Reagan library with a lesser opinion of the man than we held when we walked in. But I still like Ronald Reagan. In spite of my semi-liberal attitudes, I believe he was an overall good influence for our country. But I wish his library possessed the same honest humility we witnessed at the Nixon library.

Perhaps Reagan had been steeped too long in Hollywood before entering politics. Perhaps for him it was more important to put on a good show than to bare himself as a fallible human being. And perhaps that’s why he rarely excelled in Hollywood beyond being a “B” movie actor.

As president he was, in my opinion, Grade A. But as a librarian Reagan seems to have retrogressed into the same “B” status as his old movies. In my view his caliber as librarian falls far short of that master Grade A librarian, Mr. Tricky Dick.

Ronald Reagan farted here.

Categories: review

10 replies »

  1. Sorry your trip was just meh. I would have probably hiked that hill rather than stayed in the mind numbing Regan library. lol
    Did you ever turn on the panhandlers and ask them if you could take their picture? lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marketing has gained a foothold in everything, even Presidential libraries ~> displacing “just the facts” with ego-gratifying spin.

    And creating a foothold for photographers to pawn their wares and paw our wallets. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure seems that way. And I also wonder if maybe the Reagan library has a cash flow problem, which they’re trying to remedy by allowing this kind of marketing. Reagan wasn’t much for balancing a budget, while in office.

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  3. I wasn’t a fan of either president, but I am surprised. I would have thought that Nixon had the bigger ego and Reagan attempted to demonstrate some degree of humility.
    Perhaps it’s a lesson that major failure can humble a man, while popularity can make his head too big.

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    • That could very well be the case. Nixon came from a Quaker background, also. So perhaps some of those Quaker principles he learned in his youth finally took hold in his retirement years.

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