Democracies can too stage ceremonies.

I stood on Constitution Avenue, by the side of the Commerce building, and the most splendid sight was the serried row upon row upon row of military units, coming from somewhere beyond the Washington Monument, to get in formation to escort Ronald Reagan to the Capitol Rotunda.

Did you know that on these ceremonial occasions the branches of the service line up “in order of sacrifice”? That means that the U.S. Army, which has shed the most blood for this country, marches first. I didn’t know either, but a young soldier from Fort Bragg, standing beside me in the crowd, noted that pleasing point of protocol.

Please forgive me for noticing that the two sailors who passed out from the heat, while waiting for the funeral procession to begin, were sailoresses.

For an awful moment, I feared that the crowd, which applauded when the military units finally moved off, would clap as the coffin passed. But they didn’t and it was a silence that spoke volumes.

Max Boot has a wonderful piece today in the L.A. Times on the Reagan hatred that reigned among the chattering classes when he was president. What was the source of all this ill-will towards somebody who was so obviously a nice guy?

“What was the source of all this animus?” Boot asks. “Part of it was personal: Reagan, a C student at Eureka College and a B-movie actor, couldn’t win the respect of A-list intellectuals. They thought he wasn’t up to running the country. But mostly it was ideological. Reagan’s ideas flouted the intellectual fashions of his day.

“When he came to office in 1981, the consensus was that the nation was suffering from ‘malaise.’ The best that could be hoped for, the smart set believed, was to strike an accommodation with the Soviet Union and to lower our economic expectations. Reagan scoffed at such pessimism. He set about reviving the economy with tax cuts and consigning the ‘Evil Empire’ to the ash heap of history by raising defense spending and supporting anti-communist rebels abroad. He was not content to manage problems. He wanted to transcend them. And he did.”