- The Washington Times - Friday, June 11, 2004

Nobles: The people who paid tribute to Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Grief is often ennobling. That was the case for the hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles and Washington who waited for hours — sometimes in stifling heat and darkness — for a moment to pay honor to the former president.

They came in reverence and respect. They shared a common grief, a common admiration for an uncommon man. They came in all races and sizes. Some were in shorts; others wore full military uniforms. There were gray-haired Cold Warriors and fresh-faced children.

In Los Angeles, so many came to pay tribute that viewing hours were extended four hours. The resulting traffic jam stunned even residents. Some waited seven hours for a few seconds of silence by the casket. In all, more than 105,000 people passed by Mr. Reagan’s casket at the presidential library.

In Washington, almost 100,000 people filed by the president’s coffin. No one complained about the lines of up to eight hours. Suffering hunger pains, one enterprising pair even ordered a pizza (and yes, it did get delivered).

Those who came — often at cost and inconvenience — gave the gift of gratitude. They were given something equally precious in return. They will remember what they saw. Even more, they will remember that there are millions of others who share the values Mr. Reagan embodied. Mr. Reagan has passed the torch of freedom, and it has been grasped by those who him paid tribute. The former president and his honorees ennobled one another.

For their gift of grief, their moment of respect and their years of remembrance to follow, the people who paid honor to Mr. Reagan are the nobles of the week.

Knaves: The people who spewed hate toward Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Reasonable people can disagree about Mr. Reagan’s accomplishments and the meaning of his legacy. That debate will echo on opinion pages and textbooks in aeternum.

But there are others who have no part of, and perhaps do not want any part of, the debate. There are those who love to hate Mr. Reagan and all that is associated with him. For instance, cartoonist Ted Rall wrote on his Web site that Mr. Reagan was “turning crispy brown right about now.” In a subsequent interview he added, “If there is a hell, this guy is in it.”

Others were equally venomous. One called Mr. Reagan a “killer, coward, con man.” Another said the former president was “a stupid lizard.” There were even those who celebrated the grief of his bereaved widow, Nancy.

Such malice may itself be a measure of the 40th president’s accomplishments. But there is no excusing such purblind hatred. It has no purpose, other than to consume itself. Those who offer it — particularly in public fora — diminish the public debate and impair the democratic process.

For their spite, the haters of Mr. Reagan are the knaves of the week.

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