He called the Vietnam War a "noble cause," spoke often and loudly about his regard for the military, told service members to wear their uniforms proudly, that he counted on them. In the process he restored their pride, made them again feel like valued members of society.
He had a deserved reputation for decisiveness. But when a suicide bomber drove a truck into the lobby of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 servicemen, the highest one-day casualty count since Marines hit the beach on Iwo Jima, his response was tepid: an airstrike against small and largely inconsequential targets that did little damage.
The moniker "Teflon president" was well-deserved. Few, if any, negatives stuck to him, even Iran-contra, though it ground up others who had served him loyally.
Much of this Teflon quality resulted from the high regard many Americans had for him. Some came from skillful orchestration.
After the barracks bombing, for example, a Pentagon investigation found enough blame to go around, including serious problems with the command structure presided over by Reagan. The Reagan White House released the scorching report days before Christmas, as a way to minimize publicity. It worked, as few seemed to notice, except the Marines, who have never forgotten.
Historians will debate Reagan's presidency for decades to come. He was many things to many people. For eight years he trooped the national and international stages as few before him. At the time, he was derided in certain circles as an actor who became president. But with his passing, he seems larger than life, a president who, by the way, had once been an actor.