Howard Dean says Ronald Reagan had no accomplishments 'for the ages'

Ronald Reagan, said Howard Dean, 'was a great leader, had leadership attributes.' But Dean credited Gorbachev more than the late president, for example, for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate, and DNC Chairman Howard Dean at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC, Jan. 5.

Fans of Ronald Reagan are preparing a variety of festive occasions to mark the 100th anniversary of the 40th president’s birth Feb. 6.

But when former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean was asked to assess Mr. Reagan’s legacy, he was restrained in his praise, saying “I think it is hard to point to particularly singular accomplishments that are for the ages.”

Dean, who was also Vermont’s longest serving governor, began by noting that “I think Reagan was a great leader, had leadership attributes. I do think he put a roadblock in terms of the Roosevelt revolution. I don’t think he reversed it,” he said, referring to the path set by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

In explaining why he thought Reagan did not have accomplishments “for the ages,” Dean noted that “there was no civil rights bill or Medicare or Medicaid established. I attribute the collapse of the Soviet Union much more to Gorbachev than I do to Reagan … the peaceful transition away from the evil empire to a less evil empire.”

A different view comes from the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. Its website proclaims “because of his legacy, captive nations were freed, a Cold War was ended, economic freedom flourishes, and Americans were made proud again.”

While Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate, was restrained in his praise, he seemed to understand why Republicans take a different view. “The Republicans are right to revere him, in the sense that he did represent kind of the end of the progress in terms of where Roosevelt was taking the country and the reassessment we have been fighting ever since. I think we have sort of fought to a standstill. But he put a stake in the ground and stopped the kind of progression to a more communitarian country,” Dean said.

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