A Salute to Ronald Reagan [Reprised for his 100th Birthday, Feb 6, 2011]

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2007-06-05 09:41

"Those who say that we live in a time when there are no heroes ... they just don't know where to look."

—Ronald Reagan

Three years ago, Larry King interviewed Nancy Reagan, on her husband's 90th birthday. She was not an easy interview, seldom venturing beyond a single sentence and often confining herself to "Oh, yes" or "Oh, no" in her answers. I can tell you from experience that interviewers dread situations like that, where they end up having to do more talking than their subject. Yet—at least for someone like me who has always had a soft spot for "Ronnie"—it was riveting. Larry coaxed Nancy into talking a little about the time her husband wrote that letter, the one in which he announced his Alzheimer's disease. There had been little forewarning, notwithstanding the jibes of those who now gleefully insinuated that Reagan had been senile for the entirety of his presidency. The disease in fact was still in its early stages, and Ronnie was certainly still compos mentis enough to tell his countrymen with eloquent clarity what was going on, as the handwritten note in which he did so, showed.

Why would I, as a libertarian, have a soft spot for a conservative like Reagan? For one thing, I relished the fact that crimped so-called liberals among my contemporaries—sneering, snide state-worshippers of one kind or another—hated the thought that he was in the White House. He had buried their own man, Jimmy Carter, in a landslide, and they loathed him for it. That made me feel terrific. The words "President Reagan" were music to my ears.

I loved much of Reagan's rhetoric. Run a mile, he advised, from anyone who says, "Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." Though his concept of freedom was flawed, he spoke often and soaringly of his "shining city on the hill." His description of freedom's #1 enemy at the time, the Soviet Union, as an "evil empire" provoked a firestorm of indignation among the empire's fellow-travellers—a storm that Reagan weathered with his characteristic, twinkling equanimity. He stood in a divided Berlin and threw down a historic challenge—"Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Eventually, Mr Gorbachev did—aided by thousands of ordinary Berliners attacking the despised edifice with anything they could find.

What was best about Reagan was his spirit. The man could lift one to the stars. "The future belongs to the brave," he said as he reassured Americans that space exploration would continue even after the Challenger disaster. The dead astronauts, he said, had "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." He saw the big picture, and was content to let others dot the 'i's and cross the 't's. When these others were gathered with him around the cabinet table, he would, so it is claimed, fall asleep—displaying, to my mind, an unimpeachable sense of priorities. In the above-mentioned interview, Larry King read a love letter Reagan had written to Nancy from the Oval Office. It wouldn't melt the hearts of the crimped "liberals" I referred to earlier, since they have no hearts to melt—but to any normal human being it would bespeak a man of singular sincerity and decency.

An irresistible aspect of his spirit, of course, was his ever-present humour. "Honey, I forgot to duck"—to Nancy, after being shot. "I hope you're all Republicans"— to his surgeons. Self-deprecatingly ridiculing Bill Clinton's pretensions to be a new Thomas Jefferson during the 1992 election campaign: "I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Thomas Jefferson." Or—"They say that preparing me for a press conference is like reinventing the wheel. Not true. I was around when the wheel was invented—and that was much easier." "I would love to meet a Russian President," he said as his Soviet counterparts departed this earth with macabre regularity, "but they keep dying on me."

Above all he was the supreme articulator of the original American Dream. This, to an audience of students in the heart of the "evil empire" at Moscow State University, in 1988:

"The explorers of the modern era are the entrepreneurs, men with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown. These entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all of the economic growth in the United States. They are the prime movers of the technological revolution. In fact, one of the largest personal computer firms in the United States was started by two college students, no older than you, in the garage behind their home ...

"We Americans make no secret of our belief in freedom. In fact, it's something of a national pastime. Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognise shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to dream - to follow your dream and stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters."

Farewell, Mr. President—hero, legend. And thank you. You ushered in a new morning for America. You destroyed the "evil empire." You showed us the best of times, bewitching us with your fabulous sense of life. You gave us grace and style, courage and dignity, wit and wisdom. You restored the sheen to that city on the hill.

As you remarked yourself on leaving office, "Not bad. Not bad at all."

( categories: )

A great friend...

Marcus's picture

Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher revealed in first still

"Last week, the new Man of Steel was revealed. Today, it's the turn of The Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic that marks the latest collaboration for Meryl Streep and her Mamma Mia! director, Phyllida Lloyd...

The Iron Lady has already run into controversy. Last November it was revealed to be one of the last major beneficiaries of funding from the UK Film Council – a move some interpreted as a last-gasp snook cocked at the incoming Conservative-coalition government, which disbanded the UKFC shortly after winning power.

Thatcher's family were apparently appalled by the prospect of the film, said to involve the former prime minister reassessing her career with some regret after the death of her husband, and while suffering from dementia. "They think it sounds like some left-wing fantasy," a friend of the family was reported to have said."

Ronald Reagan, you are missed!

Marcus's picture

American Way: Republicans tell Barack Obama 'You’re no Ronald Reagan'

"Obama sees Reagan’s aura as a potential political lifeline as he hopes to emulate his forerunner’s feat of receiving a drubbing in mid-term elections after two years (in 1982) followed by a landslide re-election victory two years after that (in 1984).

Obama’s recent State of the Union speech was full of self-conscious optimism (though the slogan “winning the future” is a pygmy compared with Reagan’s “morning in America”) and appeals to bipartisanship – a nod to the celebrated fact that Reagan managed to work with Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a liberal Democrat.

Other Democrats, taking this a step further, are using Reagan as a stick to beat the modern Republican party, painting him as a moderate pragmatist who would be out of step with today’s hard-right ideologues.

Republicans treat all this with weary disdain. To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s famous 1988 put down of Senator Dan Quayle, the older ones are saying: “I knew Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is an idol of mine. President Obama, you’re no Ronald Reagan.”

Rich Galen, a Republican strategist who was working on Capitol Hill in the Reagan era, says that conservatives giggle at Obama’s attempts to be Reaganesque. “Obama is diametrically opposed to everything Reagan stood for.”

Reagan nurtured a coalition that included Reagan Democrats, who stayed with the party for decades, he points out, but the term Obama Republicans has not been heard since the 2008 campaign. Even on style, there’s little comparison. “Obama is cold and distant whereas Reagan was warm and liked to be around people,” says Galen.

Some Republicans fear that Reagan is facing a posthumous political emasculation by Democrats who play down his conservatism and recast him as a squishy conciliator.

There is little doubt that Reagan would have been dryly derisive of Obama’s policies and presidency. “Government is like a baby,” Reagan once quipped. “An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

Obama, by contrast, views government as a kindly nurse and the people as the baby. According to his mindset, the people should submit to those in government who know better and whose role is to make decisions and control the purse strings.

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist who grew up in the post-Reagan era, views his country’s 40th president, primarily as “the embodiment of American exceptionalism”, a stark contrast with Obama.

Although Obama has been paying lip service to American greatness in recent months, he made it clear in his first two years in office that he saw the United States as a flawed nation with much to apologise for and dismissed the notion of American exceptionalism as mere patriotism."

If you love Reagan's speeches...

atlascott's picture

...go to youtube.com and do a search for Reagan.

Scott DeSalvo

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur!

Bless you Ronnie

JulianD's picture

And thanks for posting this Linz. These last few days - as we approached the anniversary of his death, I watched a number of his speeches including this eulogy by Margaret Thatcher and this moving tribute which seems very appropriate today. I find it hard to watch these and remain emotionless.

But the aspect of Ronald Reagan's life which I admire the most was his sense of life and his romantic nature. The book I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan which I read a couple of years ago demonstrates the nature of the person who is an inspiration to me.


Upon further review...

Lanza Morio's picture

I liked Reagan while he was in office. He gave the country something to feel good about. But there's the rub. Emotions are not tools of cognition. I am so starved to hear anybody throw a bone to our Founding principles that I get excited. But what did Reagan actually do? When you look at the facts it's not all that pretty. Not all bad but we can't consider Reagan a model for principled leadership.

After reading C. Bradley Thompson's The Decline and Fall of Conservatism in The Objective Standard I see that the Conservatives of this country are poised to finish off whatever strands of freedom might be left in this country. If we put our freedom in their hands our freedom will go away.

Intelligence of GW Bush

Marcus's picture

"Right, because they're generally true (at least the latter). The man is an embarrassment to the United States and what it used to represent."

I have seen the speech GW Bush gave in London at Whitehall Palace and an interview he gave the BBC with David Frost. In both cases - he was intelligent, articulate and witty.

Reagan could certainly talk

Aaron's picture

Reagan could certainly talk the talk, and was inspiring. Government needs to get out of the way? His greatest influences being Bastiat, von Mises and Hayek? Soviets an evil empire? Too bad his actions didn't follow thoughts with anything resembling consistency. However, I absolutely agree he shines compared to the total screw-ups in office since.

Dubya's Brain

Craig Ceely's picture

That George Bush is an embarrassment to the United States is arguable (and Jennifer, I'd take your side in that argument, by the way), but -- as with Reagan -- I'd say that intelligence is not his problem. He did graduate from Yale, he did earn a Harvard MBA, he is a successful F-111 pilot (hey, he's still alive).

Either he's smarter than an awful lot of people would care to admit, or

a) the Ivy League ain't what they'd have you believe
b) It doesn't take much to fly and land a jet.

And, no, Jennifer: you will not, in twenty years, look back on Dubya with any sort of kindness. There will be no need, and he will not have earned it. You're certainly correct here.

But again, it's not a matter of intelligence.

Bush's intellect

Landon Erp's picture

I'll be honest Bush has (or at least used to have) good speechwriters. A lot of the speeches he was set to deliver post 9-11 until a year or two ago were pure gold.

The fact that you could debate which he mangled further, the verbal delivery or the intent in execution is far less than inspiring and have managed to erradicate any positive appraisals I ever had for any aspect of the man.


Inking is sexy.



Prima Donna's picture

The claims that GW Bush has a low IQ and is generally a moron don't need mentioning...

Right, because they're generally true (at least the latter). The man is an embarrassment to the United States and what it used to represent.

Ronald Reagan may not have been perfect, but reading his words still inspires me. I cannot say that twenty years from now I will look back upon Dubya with any sort of kindness. Provided, of course, that we haven't been blown to smithereens by then.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Geniuses in office

Craig Ceely's picture

Don't forget those powerful intellects possessed by John F. Kennedy (who had his book Profiles in Courage ghost-written for him) and Adlai Stevenson, who despite his reputation rarely read books -- the one nearest him when he died was the Social Register.

Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan, by contrast, were fine writers in their own right.

Wonder why egalitarians are such snobs?

A left-wing intelligence conspiracy!!!

Marcus's picture

Don't you find it amazing that a Liberal based media always makes the claim the Republican Presidents are thick - while Democrat Presidents have enormous IQ scores?

When I was growing up in NZ and Ronald Reagan was US president, I didn't take much notice of politics.

But one message I constantly got from TV - especially in comedies -was that Reagan was incredibly thick. The message I constantly got was that Reagan was stupid. He was forgetful. He kept on getting mixed up. All his staff were constantly in fear that he was going to push the "red button" by accident one day.

That is the response that someone like Reagan would get world-wide from the media when he made the sort of statements Linz quoted.

Liberals fail to understand them (or don't want to) and so conclude that he must be thick, because he is not talking their woolly Liberal language. He is not saying what they want to hear. He is not playing their political game. He must be incredibly stupid.

Another strategy is to assume that the politician has simply lost their mind and had Alzheimer’s all along. Such as the Labour Government under Blair has successfully done to Thatcher in this country. According to Blair's Government, Thatcher was not just greedy and evil when in office, but also senile. Blair argues - why else did she always try to reduce Government spending as much as possible and scale down the size of Government - when according to Blair high Government spending on public services and more legislation restricting social behaviour is the solution to all our problems? Therefore, Thatcher was greedy, evil and senile to boot!

It never stuck to claim that George Bush senior was thick. But I do remember that the media managed to claim that he had a speech disorder, because he stuttered. I even heard the claim that he had dyslexia all along and that the present GW Bush inherited it from him.

The claims that GW Bush has a low IQ and is generally a moron don't need mentioning - I am sure everyone here is familiar with them. I wonder how long it will be before the Alzheimer's claims start?

Then just last week I heard the claim by a colleague that Bill Clinton (allegedly) had one of the highest IQ scores in US history. Supposedly he scored 182 - even higher then Einstein. In addition, I once saw a documentary that stated that Clinton had a photographic memory and could recall the names of people he had only met briefly for years afterwards.

Then, I was also reminded that it was claimed by the media that John Kerry was a high IQ intellectual too.

Methinks the liberal left-wing have a nasty inferiority complex regarding IQ and mental illness!!! Yet they are the ones that always claim to be compassionate and caring with respect to people of all types of abilities. Then like the school bully they sneak up on successful politicians in power that say things that they dislike or cannot understand - and cry - "ha, ha, thicko, stupid! Mentally impaired, ha, ha!!!"

God I miss Reagan

Laure Chipman's picture

God I miss Reagan.  At this point, I'd love a President who just gave great speeches.  I can't stand to watch Bush speak.  Even when he says something I agree with, I get the feeling he's being dishonest.

Talk is talk

Craig Ceely's picture

Lance (and Lindsay):

As a corporate spokesman for what was right about America, Reagan was outstanding. Indeed, he was almost unparalleled. All of the accusations hurled his way about his lack of intelligence were unfounded and unfair: here's a guy who'd been an actor, a union president, a corporate spokesman (General Electric), and twice governor of California. Lack of intelligence was not his problem.

Like Goldwater, he was tarred with the "warmonger" brush, which was also unfair. Most of his accusers on the Left don't admit, to this day, how unfair they were to him.

But what does Reagan's record in office say about him? He gave great speeches, yes. So did Bill Clinton.

And I'm sorry, Lance, but I am not forgetting how bad it was in the 70s. I was there, and I well remember that some of those calling Reagan simplistic and a war-monger in 1976 were his fellow Republicans. I voted for him myself in 1980 and 1984.

We forget

Lanza Morio's picture

We forget just how bad it was in the late 70s. The spirit of America was beaten down. Vietnam was a mighty blow. And then the jacko's in Iran stormed the embassy and Jimmy Carter wussed out in an embarrassing display of second-guessing. The economy was bad. Three Mile Island was radioactive. I think Russia had invaded Afghanistan by then. The start of every newscast was a report on how many nuclear bombs the U.S. had and how many Russia had.

Do you guys remember the 1980 Olympic Hockey team beating the Russians at Lake Placid? That was a real good thing for us. American college kids beat the Russian men. Back then, the Russians were not allowed to leave Russia to play in the NHL (it sounds crazy kids but that's how it was). Anyhow, winning the gold medal was a big morale boost for a lot of people.

And then Reagan came in and the hostages came home that day or the announcement was made right around inauguration day (kind of fishy). Reagan never second-guessed himself. He was self-confident and that swagger was what a lot of people were looking for. I always liked him.

Craig Ceely makes excellent negative points about Reagan in another thread. I can certainly see major flaws with Reagan with what I know now. Compared to JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Bush Sr, Clinton, and Bush Jr, I consider Reagan a hero. Compared to Thomas Jefferson, I consider Reagan a mistake.

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