Will Bunch is an award-winning senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and a senior fellow with Media Matters for America. His latest book,Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy,just out in paperback, examines the process by which Ronald Reagan was subjected to a makeover after his death. I put six questions to Will Bunch about the book.
1. Your book describes itself as a deconstruction of the myth of Ronald Reagan. But how successful has the effort at myth-making been? How does Reagan now stack up among the presidents among historians and the public in general?
It’s interesting–Reagan’s reputation has risen with both the public and historians the further we get in memory from his actual presidency–which I think is a huge tribute to both the myth-making machinery created by the likes of Grover Norquist and the mainstream media’s willingness to embrace the myth. For example, in March 1990, some 13 months after Reagan left the Oval Office, Reagan’s popularity (59 percent) had dipped below that of Jimmy Carter (62 percent). Two major surveys of historians in the mid-1990s rated Reagan’s presidency as below average, not one of the all-time greats.