I feel a little sorry for the liberals.

No doubt about it, the week of June 6 was rough for them. The obsequies for Ronald Reagan lasted six days: First, the initial service at the Reagan Library, then hundreds of thousands paid their personal respects in the Capitol Rotunda and in the National Cathedral. Finally, the interment ceremony back at the library was attended by 700 of his closest friends and associates.

If it had been Bill Clinton, I’m not sure I could have stood it. I might have fled to Mexico till it was over. Actually, I think it is unlikely that Clinton and his friends will opt, when the time comes, for so elaborate a farewell. Nixon sensibly chose not to put the American people to such a test, and Clinton will do well to follow his example.

Most liberals made it through the week in commendable silence. They were under no obligation to like Ronald Reagan, or even admire his record as president. But a few usually respectable organs of liberal opinion did feel it necessary to blow a sour note or two on their trumpets.

Thus, the New York Times, faced with the duty to sum up his administration, allowed that Reagan was “fortunate” that his term in office coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The implication that he had little or nothing to do with the latter is almost staggering in its presumption, but the comfort it gave to the Times’ followers apparently outweighed the violence it did to the historical record.

Then there was the gambit used by the San Francisco Chronicle. In an article dutifully noting that Reagan was by no means the favorite president of many residents of San Francisco, the writer pointed out that it was on his watch that America first noticed the phenomenon that has come to be known as “the homeless.”

A San Jose Mercury News editorial also asserted that, “America’s homeless population, a virtually unknown problem in the 1970s, grew to roughly 2 million by the time Reagan left office.”

The implication was that Reagan’s alleged hardheartedness toward the poor resulted in driving large numbers of them out onto the streets. There are so many things wrong with this analysis that it’s hard to know where to begin in exploding it. In 1987, Reagan signed into law the Stewart B. McKinney act, a collection of programs that provided health care, shelter and transitional housing for homeless people, and saved many lives. Bill Clinton, whose heart (the liberals always assured us) was as big as all outdoors, assumed the presidency just four years after Reagan left it, and held onto it for eight years without perceptibly diminishing the number of “homeless.”

In fact, they litter the streets of most of America’s major cities to this day. Some squander their monthly welfare checks on essentials such as alcohol and drugs, using the food and (in poor weather) the housing services available at any number of churches and other charitable agencies. After all, why on earth waste good money on rent when the weather is equable enough – as it is in many American cities – to enable a person to sleep on the sidewalk?

This is so obviously the problem that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (yes, he of the gay marriage licenses) is spearheading a drive called “Care Not Cash,” that sharply reduces the amount of money given to the “homeless” and substitutes food and shelter.

Newsom’s actions follow a trend by municipal leaders nationwide to contend with the problem, from Orlando where the homeless face fines and jail time, to Texas communities clearing out tent cities, to humane programs such as Newsom’s.

As you can imagine, even the latter way has gone over among the “homeless” and their advocates like a concrete cloud. But I’m pretty sure the ghost of Ronald Reagan would approve of giving food and shelter rather than money to homeless people.


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