I would say that the term Neocon was more academic than real until somewhere near the end of Reagan's term. The distinctions between types of conservatives weren't clear back then. There were the very far right of the time - like the John Birch society members, and there were organized racists who associated with conservative politics - mostly in Southern politics - as Democrats, and there were conspiracy theory nuts as well. But these weren't seen as factions in the same way as the Paleo/Neo factions are.
Understanding Reagan is more easily done by what he attempted than what resulted. The only exception being spending. Under his administration spending was heavy on building the military up after years of neglect. As to the social spending, he has called that his only real regret - the one thing he feels badly about.
Going into Panama to snatch the dictator who was threatening the stability of the canal and doing it because he was running drugs is NOT something I agree with, but it does not measure up to Iraq or Afghanistan. It isn't imposition of a democratic government through warfare. In Grenada he used a valid excuse of the American med students to stop Castro from taking over Grenada. I applaud that and don't see it as war-mongering. Castro was initiating violence and would have turned Grenada into the hell he made of Cuba.
The president has a critical job that is beyond what is done with budget or military or laws... He is the leader for individual rights, for free enterprise. He is the chief cheerleader for freedom and we have not had anyone that did so well in that area since.... I don't even know when. Look at what he did in the areas of deregulation - that is certainly not Neocon.
Mark, you said that Reagan re-instituted the draft. That's wrong. Carter did that. From Wikipedia, "On July 2, 1980, President Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act, retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service registration requirement for all 18–26 year old male citizens born on or after January 1, 1960." Reagan's sin was not killing the draft once again. He didn't believe in the draft, "Reagan argued that the draft sign-up not only would 'do little to enhance our military preparedness' but could 'actually decrease our military preparedness, by making people think we have solved our defense problems.' An even more 'fundamental objection,' said Reagan, was moral: 'draft registration destroys the very values that our society is committed to defending.'" (from CATO) He didn't follow through and kill registration for the draft, but he wasn't the one to start it up or to draft anyone.
The accusations regarding Iran-Contra, even after a study conducted by a committee of liberal senators, never contradicted Reagan who said he wasn't aware of what was being done.
Reagan was far from perfect - he based his belief in freedom on religious views, he opposed women's choices in abortion, and he bought into the Laffer curve too deeply (part of the reason for the deficit spending).
Yes, the article states at the outset that it is going to attack ARI by association. I read that. So, what? If I announce ahead of time I'm going to piss on your leg, does that make it any less odious an act?
The bad taste in my mouth is directly related to my taste in logic. I've never liked syllogisms with undistributed middles. ARI is very vocal and very clear about their beliefs. Attack the beliefs, show up the faulty logic, and forget the guilt by association.