Sunday, February 06, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday, President Reagan!

1968 Reagan for President bumper sticker
I was privileged to be able to vote for Ronald Reagan for president way before most of the rest of the nation. Though Reagan did not campaign in Oregon, his name was on the Oregon primary ballot in 1968. I still have a bumper sticker and some campaign literature from that campaign (pictured at left).

Reagan was a classical liberal pushed into the conservative camp.
"I think the so-called conservative is today, what was in the classic sense, the liberal. The classical liberal, during the Revolutionary time, was a man who wanted less power for the King and more power for the people. He wanted people to have more say in the running of their lives and he wanted protection for the God given right of the people. He did not believe those rights were dispensations granted by the King to the people, he believed that he was born with them. Well, that today is the conservative." - Governor Ronald Reagan, Interview, Sept. 15, 1973.
I remember the day after President Reagan was shot one of my usually nice co-workers, Rachel, said she was "glad" Reagan had been shot. I said, "But, he's our president." Didn't make a dent. It was shocking to hear a young woman with such hate for another human being she had never met. Where did the hate come from? From the press.

Ronald Reagan overcame the barrage of negative, and at times hateful, press the old fashioned way. He proved them wrong by succeeding and not in just one major area, but in two.

Reagan fixed the economic mess Jimmy Carter had left. The misery index (inflation + unemployment) under Carter in 1980 was 20.76. By 1982, Reagan's second year in office, it had been cut almost 1/4--to 15.87. By the end of Reagan's presidency it had been cut by more than half--to 9.57.

More than this, Reagan is the only president to win a major war without a shot being fired. He believed in winning rather than following what everyone else said:  peaceful coexistence ("detente") or stalemate through mutually assured (nuclear) destruction were the only alternatives. Mark Steyn writes:
"It was the era of 'détente', a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Under cover of 'détente', the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who subscribed to this feeble evasion – Helmut Schmidt, Pierre Trudeau, François Mitterand – but most of the so-called 'conservatives', too – Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, Gerald Ford.

"Unlike these men, unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts: He brought down the 'evil empire', when few others in the west would even entertain the possibility.

"At the time, the charm and the smile got less credit from the intelligentsia, confirming their belief that he was a dunce who’d plunge us into Armageddon."
Ronald Reagan won the four decades long Cold War, that had bedeviled six previous presidents and had erupted into two "hot" wars. He did it through economic strategy rather than military force. That will not only put him in the top five greatest presidents, but among the greatest military strategists of all time.

Reagan said, "I am not a great man, I just believe in great ideas." Yes, but it turns out that if you believe in great ideas and have the courage to stick with them through hard times, you become a great man.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! And may God continue to bless America by giving her leaders like you.

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