The president who stood by our side

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The president who stood by our side

At the time Ronald Rea­gan was elected I was a demo­c­rat who was a hawk on defense.

My great­est influ­ence was a pro­fes­sor Ed Thomas. He had a great love of his­tory and of orig­i­nal doc­u­ments. He used to say about Ronald Rea­gan. “I’m afraid of Ronald Rea­gan”. He seemed to think that Rea­gan would turn the cold war into a hot one. I was more wor­ried about his eco­nomic poli­cies myself

Hind­sight is 2020 and look­ing back now it seems clear that such a worry was unfounded but at the time a lot of peo­ple didn’t know what would come. The best experts thought the Sovi­ets were a lot stronger than they were. Rea­gan had a bet­ter grasp of both the inter­na­tional and the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion than oth­ers did.

It took me a long time to fig­ure this out. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that I under­stood just how great Rea­gan was.

Yes­ter­day on the phones of talk radio , sem­i­nar callers armed with Media Mat­ters Talk­ing points were spin­ning Rea­gan on both National shows (such as Rush) and on local shows (Howie Carr) with a “why do con­ser­v­a­tives love Rea­gan when he did xyz” try­ing to paint him as “not conservative”.

Their attempts to co-​op the mem­ory of Rea­gan are under­stand­able, they have been unable to change our mem­ory of the Rea­gan years and have also not man­aged to make us for­get what they thought of him, to wit:

It should never be for­got­ten that the Left hated Rea­gan just as lustily as they hated George W. Bush, and with some of the same ven­omous affec­ta­tions, such as the reduc­tio ad Hitlerum. The key dif­fer­ence is that in Reagan’s years there was no Inter­net with which to mag­nify these derange­ments, and the 24-​hour cable-​news cycle was in its infancy. But the signs were cer­tainly abun­dant. In 1982, the Madame Tus­sauds Wax Museum in Lon­don held a vote for the most hated peo­ple of all time, with the result being: Hitler, Mar­garet Thatcher, Ronald Rea­gan, and Drac­ula. Demo­c­ra­tic con­gress­man William Clay of Mis­souri charged that Rea­gan was try­ing to replace “the Bill of Rights with fas­cist pre­cepts lifted ver­ba­tim from Mein Kampf.” A des­per­ate Jimmy Carter charged that Rea­gan was engag­ing in “stir­rings of hate” in the 1980 cam­paign. Los Ange­les Times car­toon­ist Paul Con­rad drew a panel depict­ing Rea­gan plot­ting a fas­cist putsch in a dark­ened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (now a con­ser­v­a­tive con­vert) wrote in Esquire that the vot­ers who sup­ported Rea­gan were like the “good Ger­mans” in “Hitler’s Ger­many.” In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote: “The United States has embarked on a course so deeply reac­tionary, so neg­a­tive and mean-​spirited, so chau­vin­is­tic and self-​deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

And in dis­cussing Reagan’s great­est acknowl­edged achieve­ment — end­ing the Cold War — lib­er­als con­ve­niently omit that they opposed him at every turn. Who can for­get the relent­less scorn heaped on Rea­gan for the “evil empire” speech and the Strate­gic Defense Ini­tia­tive? His­to­rian Henry Steele Com­mager said the “evil empire” speech “was the worst pres­i­den­tial speech in Amer­i­can his­tory, and I’ve read them all.” “What is the world to think,” New York Times colum­nist Anthony Lewis wrote, “when the great­est of pow­ers is led by a man who applies to the most dif­fi­cult human prob­lem a sim­plis­tic theology?”

Or as Jonah Gold­berg puts it the only good con­ser­v­a­tive is a dead one.

While the encomi­ums to Rea­gan & Co. are wel­come, the real­ity is that very lit­tle has changed. As we saw in the wake of the Tuc­son shoot­ings, so much of the effort to build up con­ser­v­a­tives of the past is lit­tle more than a feint to tear down the con­ser­v­a­tives of the present. It’s an old game. For instance, in 1980, quirky New Repub­lic writer Henry Fair­lie wrote an essay for the Wash­ing­ton Post in which he lamented the rise of Rea­gan, “the most rad­i­cal activist of them all.” The title of his essay: “If Rea­gan Only Were Another Coolidge … ”

Even then, the only good con­ser­v­a­tive was a dead conservative.

Gold­berg is spot on. It is a sim­ple attempt to use Rea­gan to hit the con­ser­v­a­tives of today.

I would sug­gest skip­ping the trib­utes from lib­er­als for they come from the same sen­ti­ment as this scene from Brave­heart (script via corkey​.net):

Robert: Does any­one know his politics?

Craig: No, but his weight with the com­mon­ers can unbal­ance every­thing. The Bal­li­ols will kiss his arse so we must.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple honor Reagan’s mem­ory so the left which hates him and always has hated him must too or at least seem to honor him. Ignore them and instead con­cen­trate on one like this from No Sheeples here.

Ronald Rea­gan was a great pres­i­dent, per­haps the great­est in my life­time, I wish I appre­ci­ated him more when he was in power.

Update: Inter­est­ing Palin/​Reagan note from Byron York

Lee Edwards, a Rea­gan biog­ra­pher and fel­low at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, was in the audi­ence and took note of the fact that Palin was speak­ing to a strongly con­ser­v­a­tive group at the Ranch Cen­ter. She likely wouldn’t be invited to speak to a more gen­eral audi­ence at the Rea­gan Library, Edwards said, “because she’s not a mem­ber of the estab­lish­ment, and they’re not com­fort­able with her.”

The irony,” Edwards con­tin­ued, “is that nei­ther was Reagan.”

At the time Ronald Reagan was elected I was a democrat who was a hawk on defense.

My greatest influence was a professor Ed Thomas. He had a great love of history and of original documents. He used to say about Ronald Reagan. “I’m afraid of Ronald Reagan”. He seemed to think that Reagan would turn the cold war into a hot one. I was more worried about his economic policies myself

Hindsight is 2020 and looking back now it seems clear that such a worry was unfounded but at the time a lot of people didn’t know what would come. The best experts thought the Soviets were a lot stronger than they were. Reagan had a better grasp of both the international and the economic situation than others did.

It took me a long time to figure this out. It wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 90’s that I understood just how great Reagan was.

Yesterday on the phones of talk radio , seminar callers armed with Media Matters Talking points were spinning Reagan on both National shows (such as Rush) and on local shows (Howie Carr) with a “why do conservatives love Reagan when he did xyz” trying to paint him as “not conservative”.

Their attempts to co-op the memory of Reagan are understandable, they have been unable to change our memory of the Reagan years and have also not managed to make us forget what they thought of him, to wit:

It should never be forgotten that the Left hated Reagan just as lustily as they hated George W. Bush, and with some of the same venomous affectations, such as the reductio ad Hitlerum. The key difference is that in Reagan’s years there was no Internet with which to magnify these derangements, and the 24-hour cable-news cycle was in its infancy. But the signs were certainly abundant. In 1982, the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London held a vote for the most hated people of all time, with the result being: Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Dracula. Democratic congressman William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was trying to replace “the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” A desperate Jimmy Carter charged that Reagan was engaging in “stirrings of hate” in the 1980 campaign. Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (now a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.” In The Nation, Alan Wolfe wrote: “The United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.”

And in discussing Reagan’s greatest acknowledged achievement — ending the Cold War — liberals conveniently omit that they opposed him at every turn. Who can forget the relentless scorn heaped on Reagan for the “evil empire” speech and the Strategic Defense Initiative? Historian Henry Steele Commager said the “evil empire” speech “was the worst presidential speech in American history, and I’ve read them all.” “What is the world to think,” New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis wrote, “when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology?”

Or as Jonah Goldberg puts it the only good conservative is a dead one.

While the encomiums to Reagan & Co. are welcome, the reality is that very little has changed. As we saw in the wake of the Tucson shootings, so much of the effort to build up conservatives of the past is little more than a feint to tear down the conservatives of the present. It’s an old game. For instance, in 1980, quirky New Republic writer Henry Fairlie wrote an essay for the Washington Post in which he lamented the rise of Reagan, “the most radical activist of them all.” The title of his essay: “If Reagan Only Were Another Coolidge . . . ”

Even then, the only good conservative was a dead conservative.

Goldberg is spot on. It is a simple attempt to use Reagan to hit the conservatives of today.

I would suggest skipping the tributes from liberals for they come from the same sentiment as this scene from Braveheart (script via corkey.net):

Robert: Does anyone know his politics?

Craig: No, but his weight with the commoners can unbalance everything. The Balliols will kiss his arse so we must.

The American people honor Reagan’s memory so the left which hates him and always has hated him must too or at least seem to honor him. Ignore them and instead concentrate on one like this from No Sheeples here.

Ronald Reagan was a great president, perhaps the greatest in my lifetime, I wish I appreciated him more when he was in power.

Update: Interesting Palin/Reagan note from Byron York

Lee Edwards, a Reagan biographer and fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was in the audience and took note of the fact that Palin was speaking to a strongly conservative group at the Ranch Center. She likely wouldn’t be invited to speak to a more general audience at the Reagan Library, Edwards said, “because she’s not a member of the establishment, and they’re not comfortable with her.”

“The irony,” Edwards continued, “is that neither was Reagan.”