Ronald Reagan: His Life And Legacy

Sometimes I'm glad I don't have cable. When the Gipper kicked it this summer, I only experienced the American media's masturbatory Reagan marathon second-hand, but now I've got this nifty commemorative DVD to get my G.O.P.-approved epitaph. In this fawning 40-minute doc (followed by 45 minutes of excerpts from some of his major speeches), we see Reagan the minor Hollywood actor, Reagan the kindly old gent on the ranch, Reagan the perfect husband, Reagan the brave attempted-assassination victim and Reagan "the great communicator" using the world stage to single-handedly bring down the Berlin wall, create "peace through strength" and gun for the "conquest of space," cracking colloquial jokes all along the way. The documentary glosses over the Iran-Contra affair, A.I.D.S., poverty and el presidente's series of sketchy wars, but it does reveal (but doesn't discuss) Teflon Ron's brainwashing techniques at work. Though not nearly as megalomaniacal or deadly as Hitler (who could have used an actor's charisma), Reagan recycled pre-WWII Adolf's technique of massaging the national ego to boost morale (and his own popularity) and pull all kinds of creepy tricks while everyone was busy doing coke and raising the stars and stripes outside their homes. The propagandistic kicker comes with the chapter titled "The Legacy," which opens with some kind words from one George W. Bush, a man who can only dream of being as wily and well-spoken as someone stoned from Alzheimer's. However, I do agree with Dubya's comment that the Reagan administration changed the United States and the world but, contrary to what this documentary implies, the world changed for the worse. (CBS News/Paramount)