It’s been 10 years since “Rawhide” died. Ten years today, June 5, 2014.
Ronald Reagan–code named “Rawhide” by his Secret Service detail–was 93 and had sunken deep into the dementia of Alzheimer’s. To honor President Reagan–and out of respect to a grateful nation–Reagan’s family sheltered him from public view once he was no longer the sharp, witty cowboy America had long ago fallen in love with.
“Rawhide” was a good name for him. It harkened back to a time when right and wrong were generally understood by most Americans. Principles mattered. A time and place where work had to get done and for that to happen, people did not sit around waiting for the government to come do it for them. It also suggested a certain toughness, an ability to sacrifice without falling to pieces, a determination to fulfill one’s duties without complaint.
Rawhide’s predecessor, fittingly, had two names. Secret Service Christened Jimmy Carter “Deacon,” which suggests his security detail found Carter the same pompous, tedious, and insufferable gasbag that the rest of us did. They also had a second name for Carter, indicating that, like most Americans, they really were not sure exactly what to make of the sweater-wearing Georgia peanut farmer.
Carter’s other code name was “Lock Master,” suggesting Jimmy Carter knew his way around a lock and Secret Service knew full well what he was up to. Just goes to show that with men of the cloth, you really never can be sure what you are getting.
Today, we have “Renegade.”
That, too, seems like a fitting name for our current president. Young, brash, full of gusto. Eager to crap all over traditions and run roughshod over the normally accepted manners of doing things. Renegades come racing in on a whirling dust cloud.
America loves Renegades. It was Renegades who overthrew the crown. Renegades who mustered up an unlikely Continental Army and never, never, never gave up until they won the unlikeliest of victories.
But the founders were also very wary of Renegades in America. They built an entire Constitution around keeping Renegades well in check, especially any smooth-talking, power-hungry Renegades who might wheedle their way into the Executive Branch.
The problem with Renegades is that while they can quickly steal hearts and appeal to our passions, they are often not durable. They usually don’t stick around for the hard work. All that smooth talk, we find out, is just a bunch of bull and they really have no idea what they’re talking about.
And if they are so dumb and unimaginative that they cannot even grasp how far out of their depth they are, then they become delusional and dangerous. Then they start releasing murderous terrorists back onto the battlefield in exchange for traitors to the U.S. Army.
They do this in clear violation of the law. Even more alarmingly, they do it under the delusional thinking that they will be applauded for it.
Unlike Rawhide, Renegade has a hard time telling the difference between right and wrong. There is so much gray, he says. He thinks it makes him sound smart.
Principles are a rubbery thing, too. Heck, facts themselves are no longer even viable in today’s political debate.
One of the dust clouds Renegade rode in on, his memoir called “The Audacity of Hope,” he wrote sneeringly of Rawhide.
“As disturbed as I might have been by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, as unconvinced as I might have been of his John Wayne, Father Knows Best pose, his policy by anecdote, and his gratuitous assaults on the poor, I understood his appeal,” Renegade wrote.
“It was the same appeal that the military bases back in Hawaii always held for me as a boy, with their tidy streets and well-oiled machinery, the crisp uniforms and crisper salutes.”
To Renegade, Rawhide was nothing more than a John Wayne pose. The United States military a quaint little sanctuary for cowardly weenies afraid of disorder and untidiness. Our American might and uniform to him are nothing more than a well-played basketball game from which he returns home momentarily happy or sad that his team won or lost.
Sneer all you want at Rawhide and his generation of tough cowboys. But never forget this, Renegade, you and your silly “choom gang” have not the faintest clue the principle and sacrifice most in the military and their families lay out every day.
Rawhide did. Too bad he is not still around. Hell, at this point, we would be better off with Deacon. Or, even Lock Master.