Reagan heads off into final sunset, but assessment of his legacy is yet to come

He was known as the cowboy president, so it was only fitting that, like all the great mythological figures of the West, Ronald Reagan finished his story by heading off into one final sunset.

He was known as the cowboy president, so it was only fitting that, like all the great mythological figures of the West, Ronald Reagan finished his story by heading off into one final sunset.

Here, in the grounds of his own hilltop presidential library in Simi Valley, California, with its hazy views of the chaparral of the Santa Susana mountains rolling gently towards the Pacific, the long final journey of Ronald Wilson Reagan came to an end in the dying glow of late Friday evening. The military band played the national anthem, "God Bless America" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

His widow, Nancy Reagan, stroked the top of his coffin, broke down in tears and whispered "I love you" one last time.

It was, in its way, the perfect ending to a quintessentially American story, a montage of intimately private moments captured by the television cameras and beamed into every household in the country. Reagan, the former film actor who carefully applied the stagecraft and wishful illusion of Hollywood to his career in politics, knew exactly what he was doing when he planned his own funeral ceremonies. In death, it was as spectacular a production as any he had been involved with during his 93 years of life.

The past week of mourning for the country's 40th President has been little short of extraordinary. A contentious, if influential, leader was canonised as a figure of near-infallible wisdom and strength thanks to reverential blanket coverage in the media and noisy adulation of the most ardent Reaganites who, under George W Bush's presidency, continue to occupy the corridors of power in Washington.

For six days, the country was held in a state of political suspension as Reagan's importance was weighed against that of Roosevelt, Truman and even Lincoln. There was talk of carving his likeness on Mount Rushmore, or finding another mountain for him to claim as his own.

In the meantime, his earthly remains underwent a long journey from California, where he died last Saturday, to Washington and back to California again. His state funeral in the capital's National Cathedral - the first in the United States since Lyndon Johnson's death in 1973 - was attended by foreign dignitaries and presidents past and present.

Throughout it all, there was barely a hint of genuine assessment of his legacy. Nobody wanted to examine the social and economic cost of the decisive shift to the right that American politics underwent on his watch: trickle-down economics that didn't trickle down at all, the gutting of social programmes, greater disparities between rich and poor, and so on. There was little talk of corruption, or the criminal indictments against his aides, or the corrosive proxy wars in Central America, or the Iran-Contra scandal.

Instead, we were given the optimistic, genial Ronald Reagan, tough yet generous; a big-picture guy with big ideas whose deep-seated anti-Communism sowed the seeds of the collapse of the Soviet Union. That was the script and no other storyline was allowed to intrude.

True, a group of Central American human rights activists staged a counter-funeral in San Francisco to coincide with Friday's official ceremonies, calling out the names of massacre victims in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and pinning blame squarely on his administration for training and supporting right-wing paramilitaries and death squads. But even in San Francisco, the one Californian city that never voted for Reagan - either for governor or for president - there was little appetite for such a protest. Barely 200 people showed up.

The country's emotional energy focused, instead, on the images of Nancy Reagan, so overcome by grief and fatigue that she could not walk away from the coffin one final time without being propped up on either arm. It focused, also, on the words of Mr Reagan's three surviving children, Michael, Patti and Ron, who spoke of their father going "home" at last and told eccentric stories about their childhood memories of him.

It was all strange and touching and, superficially at least, apolitical. Both the funeral and burial attracted an eclectic crowd. In Simi Valley, Baroness Thatcher sat next to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hollywood actors from Tom Selleck to Bo Derek showed up, as did the ice hockey star Wayne Gretzky and lounge singers from Johnny Mathis to Wayne Newton.

The one veiled political comment came from Ron Reagan, and it appeared to be an attack on the current President for his reported belief that he has been chosen by God to lead America through testing times.

"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man," the son said. "But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians -wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage.

"True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone