Prepare yourself for one more poignant and thoughtful analysis of Bonzo's ex-partner, Ronald Reagan, who, according to recent news bulletins, is still dead.
Reporters are standing by, just in case the rumors are true and Reagan will be resurrected some time soon to walk the Earth to battle communism and chuckle amiably. At least that is the dream of California Republicans, who get all weepy at the thought of bad movie actors.
The attention to Reagan is understandable in San Diego, which is, after all, Reagan Country. That may anger some, who still view San Diego as diehard Nixon Country, considering the longstanding influence of Tricky Dick's toadies. And they might have a point.
But it was Reagan who really captured the imagination of the players in San Diego's establishment, who like their politicians slightly addled and easily manipulated.
It doesn't matter that Reagan never really hung out much in San Diego. His money was studio Hollywood, which made him a Bel Air man. His brother lived in Rancho Santa Fe, but Reagan never was much for partying with San Diego's old guard Republicans, who were smalltime political hacks compared to the L.A. crowd yanking his chain.
Digging up Reagan's local ties, the best the San Diego Union-Tribune's Diane Bell could muster was his 96-year-old sister-in-law and an interview with a guy who worked as his driver for a few months in 1965. He revealed that Reagan was "the most sincere, down-to-earth and likable person that I have ever known."
Other than that intimacy, Bell revealed that Reagan dedicated the Coronado Bridge and occasionally stayed at the Hotel del Coronado, which makes the former California governor sound like he was in town only slightly more often than the state's assistant commissioner for agriculture.
But Reagan's connection to San Diego was always more spiritual than physical. He always knew San Diego was friendly turf, less controversial than even John Birch country in Orange County. Throughout his campaigns, he always held his big rallies here, when he needed seas of cheering white people to make him look good for the cameras. Heck, even the San Diego Chicken would show up at his stump events, making San Diego the one city in America where he might actually appear hip.
That's why, as Bell pointed out, part of the mythology of Reagan has him calling San Diego his "lucky town."
But it wasn't always that way. At first, many San Diego Republicans viewed the idea of a Reagan presidency with a wee bit of suspicion, thinking that the firebrand Gerald Ford might be their true intellectual leader.
Deep down, even some local Republicans wondered if Reagan was dangerously unhinged, considering his sweaty anti-Commie tirades and the way he stomped the crap out of protesters during his years as governor. Even worse, San Diego's Nixon crowd, steeped in hardball politics, saw Reagan as a Hollywood lightweight, a former Commie union guy and divorce monger who now preached against the Russkies and gave sermons on moral righteousness. The Nixon toadies didn't trust him, which speaks volumes about Ronnie's rep.
But once Reagan assumed power and starting pouring money into defense spending and displayed a willingness to follow the "game plan," San Diego Republicans became devoted members of the Reagan team, worshipping at his tastefully casual loafers. They bought into the whole package, eagerly supporting his campaigns and embracing the idea that, in many ways, it's darn nice to have a leader who is not too bright.
The main jefe of San Diego politics, Pete Wilson, embraced Reaganism and humped its leg like a grateful dog. Wilson, who got his start as a Nixon advance man, didn't have the "charisma thing," but he managed to put together a classic Reagan machine in California, banding together business interests and holy rollers with a mixture of tax breaks for the rich and thinly veiled us-against-them, white-power rhetoric. For Reagan, it was the dreaded Red menace; for Wilson, it was Mexicans coming over the border.
Wilson rode the Reagan wave to a seat in the Senate and, eventually, the governorship. Throughout his ascent from the mean streets of San Diego, he spouted the anti-big government and God-loving themes that the Gipper repeated with such zeal.
More than anything, Reagan made it OK to play the God card, empowering the religious right movement that is now a major player in San Diego politics. Thanks to Reagan's relentless invoking of God's will, two-bit preachers in East County became a "political movement," able to affect everything from school board races to city policy.
Reagan showed that humming "God Bless America" and praising the Lord could be more important for candidates than any policy issues. These days, every San Diego Republican strives to hit the same mark, using the Reagan crib sheets to spout the rhetoric of tax cutting and moral righteousness.
Reagan demonstrated to California Republicans that just about anybody with good teeth and a genial personality could be elected president, if they stuck to the speech. It was a radical development and led directly to the election of our current governor, another bad actor with good pecs and nice hair.
San Diego's establishment loved Reagan and they love Gov. Arnold, who brings back memories of the good old days, when the president was slightly senile and those naughty kids were told to "Just Say No." ©
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.