In what could be the most desperate right-wing attempt to manufacture an Obama-related scandal we’ve witnessed in some time—quickly eclipsing the “uppity” First Lady’s inauguration day eyeroll that was felt around the world—conservatives have worked themselves into a self-righteous lather over a building where Saint Ronnie once lived. For a year. As a three-year-old.
Yes, the latest wingnut conspiracy has it that a University of Chicago-owned apartment building that briefly housed Ronald Reagan as a toddler will soon be torn down—paving paradise to put up a parking lot—and one day turned into Barack Obama’s presidential library. All to spite conservatives.
The Washington Times, that bastion of impartiality, sets the tone by asking, “Is it politically motivated? Is Mayor Rahm Emanuel behind the move?” and then provides us with a comically melodramatic overdramatization of just how important that fleeting year in a Chicago apartment was in transforming wee Ronnie into the fearless defender of conservatism we all knew and loathed:
Young Reagan would watch the horse-drawn fire engines galloping wildly down the streets to save the day and he decided that he, too, would become a firefighter. It was here, too, that he survived a bout with pneumonia – he had the fight in him even then.
You can almost imagine him skipping down these streets, playing with his brother Neil, whose nickname was “Moon.”
What makes a man great? And what makes a great president? Historians pen large tomes about that. Every man is the sum of his experiences – his loves, his losses, his achievements, and failures. How he sees the world and how the world sees him.
And this place – this place was a part of Reagan’s formative years – what he discovered and experienced here in Chicago helped him on the way to greatness.
And lest we not realize at once that OMG, there is totally a conspiracy here, people!! the Times ominously reminds us:
First Lady Michelle Obama and the president’s close advisor Valerie Jarrett are former top executives of the University of Chicago Medical Center. President Obama was a lecturer at the law school for twelve years. And let’s not forget, Obama’s Hyde Park home is here too.
This is still Chicago. Barack Obama’s Chicago. Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago.
It is safe to say that Democrats don’t want any reminders of a Republican president named Reagan and his glory days a stone’s throw from a future Obama Presidential Library.
(Because, um, Ronald Reagan’s “glory days” were between the ages of three and four?! You said it, not us.)
The Chicago Sun-Times is a bit more… sane in its depiction of the building’s actual place in history, explaining that Reagan “spent just a year at the home as a 3-to-4 year-old from 1914 to 1915,” and pointing out that “the university’s controversial new Milton Friedman Institute — named in tribute to the architect of Reagan’s free market policies — is just a few blocks away from the former Reagan home.” You know, because Obama and his “Chicago thugs” have made the Windy City unsafe for conservatives.
And in another nod to reality sure to rile the Reaganites, the Sun-Times adds this little nugget:
Ironically, if Reagan’s father had not enjoyed his booze a little too much, the home’s presidential history might have been lost long ago.
Park Ridge resident Tom Roeser, 82, discovered the link in the early 1980s when he pressed Reagan for details of the home during a visit to the White House. Reagan couldn’t remember the address, but passed on a message: “My father was picked up often as a common drunk — the police records police records should have that fact.”
Reagan’s dad being arrested for public drunkenness is one thing, but Ronnie, it seems, couldn’t even remember the address of the building they’re frothing over, the place that so completely shaped him as a person and leader.
Which makes sense. Because he only lived there for a year. When he was three.
Photo: Reagan Library Archives