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The death of Ronald Wilson Reagan fills me not with sadness, but with regret. One can’t feel too unhappy about a 93-year-old victim of Alzheimer’s passing away. Regret, though, is something else. You see, I had ample opportunity to meet the man way back when he was governor of California because we had friends in common. But because I was still a Democrat in those days, I never took advantage of the opportunity. And now, damn it, it’s too late!

In watching the TV tributes to Reagan, I’m reminded how much I missed out on. I’m not just referring to the chance to have met a man who would go on to become a great and beloved president, but a terrific guy with a sensational sense of humor. Yes, I’m aware he had writers and that a great many of his best lines were not quite as spontaneous as he made them sound. But the same could be said about Jack Benny and Bob Hope. Give those same lines to John Kerry and watch them die a slow, painful death.

The worst part of the media send-off has been the blatant hypocrisy. It’s customary, I know, to speak well of the dead. But America’s liberals never had a decent thing to say about Reagan while he was alive, but suddenly the L.A. Times is devoting an entire front section to praising his life and career, and Dan Rather, of all people, is narrating a “60 Minutes” segment devoted to the man’s wit, warmth and wisdom.

Oh, there have been a few lefties who stuck to their guns, condemning Reagan for Iran-Contra, and pooh-poohing the role he played in bringing down the Soviet Union. But in the main, the praise has been fulsome and unstinting, even if I feel not enough attention has been paid to the fact that in 1981, he came into office saddled with an economy suffering from a near terminal 21 percent interest rate and 10 percent unemployment – the legacy of that icon of the left, Saint Jimmy Carter.

When Ronald Reagan left office eight years later, the Iranian hostages were free, the economy was flourishing and Soviet Communism had been relegated to the trash bin of history, but people like Ted Kennedy were still ridiculing Reagan for sleeping through Cabinet meetings. If it is true that he napped a lot, it merely proved that he was a better president asleep than Jimmy Carter was wide awake.

Reagan’s critics called him a ventriloquist’s dummy, a stooge for a bunch of wealthy Republicans, a cowboy. They castigated him for calling an evil empire “evil.” Sound familiar?

Well, if it’s any consolation to George W. Bush, he should know that if he wants the liberal media and Ted Kennedy to praise him to the heavens, he only has to die.

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