Sunday, June 06, 2004
This got me to thinking: I feel bad that I missed the opportunity to commemorate the death of another great American Icon.
Back on April 22, 2004, it was the twentieth anniversary of the death of Ansel Easton Adams. (born 2-20-1902 in San Francisco, California
died 4-22-1984 in Monterey, California, at age 82)
In this post, I explain why Ansel Adams was an American icon, and why I still have some respect for Ronald Reagan.
From David Hume Kennedy's article:
[...] Ansel was a big bear of a man, hearty and good natured. But during the meeting with Ford, despite the bluntness of his words, he spoke in soft tones, and the president responded in kind, often leaning in to hear more clearly. I think that one of the things that attracted Ansel to the president was that, like himself, Ford was a very modest, self-effacing man.
As a result of the meeting, President Ford wrote to Ansel agreeing with him that the policies of the Park Service "needed a fresh look," and reported to him that he had commissioned a task force to redefine the priorities of the service. He also reiterated in the letter his commitment to the national park system, and among other things, supported Ansel's desire to preserve open space close to large urban centers, which would serve local recreation programs.
The 74-year-old photographer's letter and proposals struck a deep chord within the president. On Aug. 29, 1976, against the backdrop of Yellowstone National Park, Republican President Gerald R. Ford stunned the environmental world. He announced that he would be submitting to Congress the "Bicentennial Land Heritage Act," a 10-year, $1.5 billion commitment to double the present acreage for national parks, recreation areas and wildlife sanctuaries.
are interested in Presidential history, I urge you to read
Kennedy's article about Ford and Adams. It is an interesting
study of personalities. As a clinical aside, both personalities
were psychologically healthy, although very different.
Given the rapprochement between Adams and Ford, one would be tempted to assume that a subsequent meeting between Ansel Adams and Ronald Reagan would have a amicable and positive outcome. Not so.
"This visage meek and humble,
and hear this confidential plea
voiced in reverent mumble:
give me Shylock, give me Fagin
but, oh God, spare me Ronald Reagan!"
- Ansel Adams
This quote appears on timmareca.com; I cannot vouch for its validity. Getting back to Kennedy's article:
After Ansel met with President Reagan in July of 1983 he sent me another of his trademark typed notes, this one on the back of a card that featured an Edward Weston nude from 1936 on the front. He said:
Ansel never got another chance to try and make Reagan come around to his passionate point of view about the environment. He died nine months later on April 22, 1984. When I got word of Ansel's passing, I was in the People's Republic of China covering President Reagan.
A different perspective, but with the same conclusion, is found on the Housatonic Museum of Art's website:
12 "Playboy Interview: Ansel Adams - candid conversation,"; Playboy vol. 30, no. 5 (May 1983).
I was able to find places that would sell me an old copy, but I guess I'm not that interested. You can't see it on the little copy of the cover, but one of the articles in the May 1983 issue of Playboy was: "The Targeting of America: A Special Report on Terrorism" by Laurence Gonzales. Some things never change. And won't change, no matter how may hundreds of billions of dollars we spend.
I tried to find other references to the meeting between Ansel Adams and Reagan, but was not able to do so. There were newspaper articles at the time, but that was before newspapers started using the Internet. In fact, 1983 could be considered the year the Internet was born, because that's when ARPANET converted entirely to TCP/IP, and the Domain Name System was introduced. The WWW, though, was not established until 1992.
The newspaper reports about the meeting between Ansel Adams and Reagan were not extensive, and I recall only the overall negative tone, not the specific content. Perhaps the only transcript of the meeting, if there is one, is in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The library, however, does not have much on line.
So far, my patient readers have learned that Ansel Adams was an American icon, that Gerald Ford was not a bad guy, and that Adams said, of Reagan's leadership, that "I felt with a sinking feeling that this country is in very poor hands."
Reagan did some good things. His defense spending, while extravagant almost beyond belief, contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. Never mind that he ran up deficits so enormous that George H. W. Bush had to break his "no new taxes" pledge, which, by the way, is what opened the door to the Clinton Presidency; Bush 41 lost the support of the "Reagan Democrats" when he succumbed to the economic reality that classic tax-and-spend Republican policies simply are not sustainable.
I believe that RR was genuinely patriotic, and that he really thought that his economic and foreign policies made sense. He wanted the United States of America to be a good place. He wanted people to be nice to each other, and he set a good example with his own behavior. He did not start any wars, and he did not have any intention of using bizarre political doublespeak to justify taking taxpayer money and handing it over to huge corporations, thereby transforming rich people into filthy rich people (reference to Halliburton and KBR.)
If RR knew that "reducing the size of government" would lead to private contractors getting paid over one hundred thousand dollars a year to do what used to be done by an E-3 for eighteen thousand, he would have put a stop to it. If he had known about the Iran-Contra scandal, he would have put a stop to it. If he had understood that the Strategic Defense Initiative would be a colossal waste of money, he never would would have proposed it. If he had been in office when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, he would have shut it down immediately, not months later.
The anniversary of the passing of Ansel Adams should be a time for reflection upon the importance of artistry in the advancement of political causes.
The passing of Ronald Reagan, likewise, should give us pause to reflect on the virtues that contribute to a great President. As reported on Netscape, in the words of Bill Clinton:
And from Jacques Chirac:
And finally, from George W. Bush (as reported in WaPo):
Both Adams and Reagan were artists: Adams a great photographer; Reagan a mediocre actor. Both had political agendas: Adams with little influence; Reagan with tremendous influence. Both were nice guys. Both were American Icons. Only Ronald Reagan got a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier named after him. Nobody is going to name a warship after Adams, but perhaps we could rename the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge the Ansel Adams National Wildlife Refuge.
(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
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