Ronald Reagan Cunctator

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 3, 2009

A New York Times report concerning the memoirs of the late Senator Edward Kennedy contained the following snippet about a meeting the Senator and others had with President Reagan:

. . . The senator said it had been difficult to get Reagan to focus on policy matters. He described a meeting with him that he and other senators had sought to press for shoe and textile import limits.

The senators were told that they would have just 30 minutes with the president. Reagan began the meeting, the book said, commenting on Mr. Kennedy’s shoes — asking if they were Bostonians — and then talking for 20 minutes about shoes and his experience selling shoes for his father. “Several of us began conspicuously to glance at our watches.” But to no avail. “And it was over!” Mr. Kennedy said. “No one got a word in about shoe or textile quota legislation.”

You know, if shoe and textile quotas didn’t get enacted because President Reagan didn’t “focus on policy matters,” then the President’s alleged lack of focus actually did more to benefit U.S. trade policy than it would have if he had allowed Ted Kennedy and others the time they wanted to press for the passage of such legislation.

And given the relative free trade instincts President Reagan possessed, wouldn’t it have been funny if his supposed sense of distraction were something of a ruse to prevent the legislation from even getting off the ground? Whatever the case, I find little to complain about in this particular story. All hail Reagan the Delayer, even if the delay was without guile.

UPDATE: See also Matt Welch.

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