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Sat, May 25

You can't go wrong with Reagan's legacy

One of the reasons I fought so hard a few months ago against that sleazy Reagan TV movie was that the former president simply didn't deserve that kind of display.

CBS, I believe, came to the same conclusion when programming boss Les Moonves finally began paying attention to the project and decided to dump it. Although the film ultimately aired on a cable station, few Americans saw it.

The left-wing ideologues screamed censorship, but the real issue was respect. Ronald Reagan deserved the respect of Americans, even if you disagreed with his political point of view. The truth is that Reagan was a decent, honest man who tried to improve his country. In short, he was a patriot who did not deserve to have some Hollywood pinheads with agendas mock him during the final days of his life.

Generally speaking, Americans responded to Ronald Reagan because he seemed accessible to them. He came across as a nice guy who loved his country and respected its traditions. No question his acting ability helped him foster that public image, but everybody I've spoken with who knew the man said the same thing: There was no malice in him. He had strong beliefs but was not ruthless in imposing them.

There are some Americans who believe that President Reagan was one of our finest leaders. Certainly, his strong stand against the Soviet Union changed the world for the better. He also put forth a good moral example, and America's image throughout the world was greatly enhanced during his tenure.

The biggest deficit I saw in Reagan was his failure to capitalize on his enormous popularity to initiate social change. He was brilliant in illuminating issues so that most everyone could understand them. But he lacked the "crusader" gene. He was cautious and did not use his gift of persuasion as well as he might have.

It has been only 16 years since Reagan left the presidency, but things have changed a bit, haven't they? The age of Reagan was notable for its lack of viciousness, at least in public. Because of his Alzheimer's, the former president missed the degeneration of the political debate over the past decade. I believe it would have saddened him.

History will be kind to Ronald Reagan because he, himself, was kind to so many people, and what goes around definitely comes around. We Americans should be proud we elected this man to the presidency and should remember what he stood for: freedom, self-reliance and pride in the land of his birth. You can't go wrong with a legacy like that.

(E-mail Bill O'Reilly through the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com)

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