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Ronald Reagan and America's Alzheimer's
By Bruce Walker
As we heard stories about the amazing life of Ronald Reagan, the most amazing fact is that this growing awareness amazes anyone. Ronald Reagan was almost a transcendently great figure in American history and, indeed, in human history.
The big picture - winning bloodlessly a global war against an evil which had the power to destroy mankind, reigniting the dynamo of the American economy so that all people are most prosperous, and introducing such an atmosphere of hope and of kindness to politics that Walter Mondale during his presidential debate with Reagan thanked Reagan for the America people - will be told and retold. Reagan was often (arrogantly and ignorantly) accused by Leftists of not being detailed. Here are some details of the life of Ronald Reagan which speak volumes of the man.
Anyone who has read much of my work knows that I am a big fan of Senator Mike Mansfield, who served as Senate Majority Leader for a long period during the 1960s and 1970s. Mansfield was very liberal. He was a very loyal Democrat. I disagreed with almost every policy position he ever took.
But Mike Mansfield was, in every good sense of the word, a gentleman. He did not attack people. He loved his wife. He served his country honorably in two different branches of the armed services. He worked hard for everything he ever achieved. He was one of a breed of men desperately needed by America today, and while I could recount all the former good men who were conservative, it is more helpful to mention those who were not: Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hubert Humphrey.
Mansfield was a real expert on the Orient and Jimmy Carter had made him ambassador to Japan, the second largest economy in the free world or, indeed, in the world. That post was a plum job, and certainly President Reagan had many good conservative Republicans who would serve him well in that post, but the President wanted to send a signal to Democrats, who had just lost control of the Senate. He reappointed Ambassador Mansfield to the position he had held.
During the 1980 campaign, President Reagan and Carter both sought the farm vote. Both men professed the same deep faith which appeals to most farmers. Jimmy Carter had, in fact, been a farmer. Ronald Reagan said that, if elected, he would end the grain embargo on the Soviet Union which Jimmy Carter had imposed.
Candidate Reagan noted that other nations could sell grain to Russia and that, unlike high technology transfers, this did not affect the Soviet military but rather the Russian people. Hurting our farmers and hurting the Russian people was not part of Reagan's vision of the world. Leftists smirked: this was simply politics as usual, which would be abandoned as soon as Reagan won.
Then - surprise! - Ronald Reagan did precisely what he said that he would do. He ended the grain embargo. His countless political enemies were mystified. He had already won the White House and the grain embargo was one of the few tools which he could exercise without congressional support. What gave? Honor, as also with Reagan, would not give.
Libyan monarch (because "Presidents" in place like Libya, Syria and Iraq are simply kings without the credentials) Qadafi had drawn a "Line of Death" across the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. Carter never thought to challenge this brazen violation of international law.
President Reagan, however, did challenge it. He sent a carrier task force into the Gulf of Sidra. When Libyan fighters engaged our Tomcats, our guys shot back and downed two Libyan MIGs. The Leftist elite, of course, were agog: the thermonuclear war, the end of all things to an atheist, was about to begin.
President Reagan, like all presidents, rely heavily on their press secretaries. At the press conference the next day, breathless reporters asked whether anyone had awaken President Reagan when our boys shot down the Libyan warplanes. The answer was President Reagan's answer, although his staff said it for him: No, the President was not woken up - why should he be? - our armed forces did precisely what they were supposed to do, and there was no problem that required his attention.
Honor, honor and honor. Again and again and again. In small ways, as well as big, the Reagan Legacy was one of pure nobility. His legacy was very much the legacy of Barry Goldwater and Robert Taft, two often forgotten but very great conservative political statesmen, but the legacy of Ronald Reagan was also the legacy of Mike Mansfield and of Hubert Humphrey.
The biggest mission for Americans today is to bring the decency and honor of the Gipper to political life in our Republic. President Bush has done all he can to accomplish this good goal. Despite all his faults, I will say what many of my conservative brethren will not: Democrats, in nominating John Kerry, made a step - perhaps a tiny step or perhaps a bigger step - toward bringing honor back to their party. Godspeed to that cause. As Americans, we should all say, Godspeed.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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