Genius and greatness: Reagan and Churchill

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 5, 2001

Hallelujah! The scorn, the ridicule, the parodies, the venom, and now its collapse before the true face of genius, courage, and nobility that was Reagan - none of it comes in time for the greatest American since Lincoln, and perhaps since Washington, to hear or understand - but perhaps in time for the angels in Heaven to dance! As someone who has followed this man who was much more than just President since 1964, it has simply been dumbfounding how the arrogance of liberals has sought persistently to whittle him down to a size, say, only ten feet taller than them.

Do not mistake and never doubt: Ronald Reagan was brilliant. More than that, however, much more in that in ways that the bobbing heads of the pseudo-intelligentsia lack the wisdom to comprehend, President Reagan was brilliant and much more. That last dismal century - the Twentieth Century, home of the horrors of war writ large, the genocide of many peoples as if Hell had won some special election, the cold war of arms and colder war of giant monuments to the ghoulish power of lies built on lies, end of our long journey into a non-existent material utopia that led instead to the dingy and nasty bus station of nihilism - had many more fools and cowards than geniuses and heroes.

Count on one hand, and maybe count them all: Winston Churchill, who had more "locust years" than "glory years", and who did not gain the power to fight evil until he was sixty-five, then ended up repudiated by the English at war's end; Pope John Paul II (whose intellect - again, as with Reagan! - is mocked, despite clear school records of his brilliance, and who in turn resisted Nazism, Communism, materialism, atheism, and Anti-Semitism; George Orwell, who died relatively young and ignored by his age, in spite of his incredible insight into the true, slipper nature of socialist pit; and now, at last, Ronald Reagan.

Ronald ReaganThe mystery is that anyone in sensible company could ever question the intelligence of President Reagan. How many of them have been major successes outside the general area of politics, government, and law? From FDR to Bill Clinton, Reagan is the only man - the only one! - who long before he entered politics had been very successful and well regarded by his peers. Before them, except for the occasional war hero, there were none except for Herbert Hoover.

In that rare class of very politically successful American Presidents, Ronald Reagan stands uniquely successful by middle age in an entirely different career. As if to add an exclamation point to Reagan's exceptional life, he is one of the very few Presidents who truly arose out of poverty. Ordinary or disadvantaged in every way except what talents he alone possessed. How different from - for example - FDR or JFK, who was born the rich children of political dynasties!

What about his "Hollywood background"? The problem with that argument, as most Americans are now learning, is that Ronald Reagan was the antithesis of the bubble headed actress or abysmally ignorant director about whose political views we now, sadly, know so much (too much). Ronald Reagan read and wrote voraciously. His ideas, unlike the dullards and dolts of the entertainment industry, were his own. He switched political parties, and switched allegiances, as his educated conscience directed him.

His radio commentaries, an accomplishment that simply no one, including screenwriter, in Hollywood today have the intellect to produce, are stark evidence of the vast gulf between a great mind who mastered theater and film as well and those who master nothing - save publicity and homage to liberals gods and goddesses - and couldn't tell you where East Timor was, even as they babbled nonsense about our immoral position there.

Reagan is as much our American Churchill as anyone else. Winston, poor Winston: A crank, a warmonger, a lush (although he wasn't), too old, too opinionated, too difficult. Like Reagan, Churchill understood the power of theater and its necessity to do good. Winston Churchill was no more a "born actor" than Ronald Reagan.

In fact, Churchill overcame obstacles to public speaking that would have crushed a lesser man, just as Reagan overcome poverty and a disfunctional family, which are supposed to respectably incapcitate any average modernist. Yet both men were so incredibly eloquent. Style? Well, both understood communication, but it was much more than that. Winston Churchill knew what he believed and why, just as Ronald Reagan did.

Winston ChurchillChurchill, like Reagan, stood almost utterly alone against vast evil which lesser men thought undefeatable. It is easy in 1960 or 2000 to think that stopping Hitler or Stalin's children was so inevitable, so certain by the weakness of our foes, yet Churchill in 1940 as Reagan in 1980 performed a service to mankind perhaps beyond measurement. Had Winston had yielded to the good sense that everyone else saw, then Hitler's children would be sitting in Berlin today, friends - no doubt - with brainless and spoiled Americans. Had Ronald Reagan had not declared the evil empire evil, and made the policy implacable, might not the Soviets be in Arabia and the world plunging towards a ghastly war or worse dark age?

How peculiar and yet how revealing that when Churchill and Reagan were asked about their policies towards the depthless evils of National Socialism and Socialism in One Nation (Communism), there answers were almost identical. "What is our policy? I will tell you what our policy is: It is victory. It is victory at all costs. It is victory in spite of the losses and suffering. It is victory however long it takes." (paraphrasing Churchill in 1940). "How about this: We win; they lose?" (Reagan in 1980, describing his policy towards the Soviet Union to Richard Allen).

Each man, like Orwell, was far ahead of his times. Each of man, thankfully, wrote what he meant. In President Reagan's case, because of the transitory nature of electronic communication, he understood the vital importance of communicating truth in clear terms. Academics and bureaucrats, who would die from fright if confronted with a new idea, forget that brillance and eloquence are always joined with clarity. What were the three rules of Greek Rhetoric: Be clear! Be clear! Be clear! Reagan, I suspect, knew much more about the true character of Greek Civilization those professors of Classics who mocked him.

Each of these two men who saved us from the worst of civilization entered office very late in life: Churchill at age sixty-five and Reagan at age sixty-nine. How many men at their time in life, having been ignored and ridiculed for so many decades, would have had the strength not only to persevere against foreign foes, but domestic as well?

Churchill and Orwell left paper traces of their genius. Few realize, for example, than Churchill was the highest paid journalist in the world before the Great War of 1914. Those who have read his exquisitely written books, however, see the workings of an exquisite mind as well. Perfect? Free from any flaws? No - Reagan and Churchill were human, but much farther above our species than most of us can in comfort endure.

And most of all - lonely. Biographies of Reagan, until recently, have skipped over this very nice and friendly man's lack of close friends. It was a social problem he shared with George Orwell, and perhaps - if Churchill's black depressions can be properly seen today - with Churchill as well. It is lonely being at the top, particularly when you sit on the twin peaks of courage reminiscent most of biblical men and wise beyond any other men alive.

Happy birthday, President Reagan! He Who made all good in reality most certainly made you with special purposes. We have a new guy in town now. Perhaps, soon, from Heaven you will get to look over his shoulder. He is his father's son - with justified pride that you, as much as any person alive, would have respected - but to many of us he is also carrying a banner dragged through sewage for eight bitter years. We wish him well, and we are his soldiers just as we were once your soldiers in a good war.

When you enter the Kingdom of the Good Souls, seek our Winston and a few of the others tasked to the lonely vigil of saving the world. Thanks.. Each night I give my three littlest children the same blessing and prayer: "Daddy loves you, Mommy loves you, God love you." In your cogent years you gave us that same blessing a thousand times or more. Just a few days ago, just a few days before your birthday, one of my little ones gave me - for the first time - his childlike blessing: "Mommy loves you. I love you. God loves you." We love you, Mr. President.

Bruce Walker is a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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