Ronald Reagan's Lost Legacy
Twenty-five years ago this November, Americans elected the successor to our greatest president, Ronald Reagan. George H. Bush won an easy election in November 1988. He proceeded to purge many of Reagan's best soldiers from the White House and notoriously pledged that he would institute "A kinder, gentler America." There was no sensible interpretation of that odd statement except that Bush perceived Reagan's conservative policies had been, somehow, mean.
Reagan left America and humanity in much better shape than when he took office. Although the Berlin Wall did not fall during his administration, it fell soon after he left, and this was due to the "troika" of Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II -- aided, of course, by wise and good men like American Thinker contributor Herb Meyer. A world war had been won without bloodshed. Consider that again, because it is so truly stunning: A world war had been won without bloodshed.
President Reagan also left us with a "Peace Dividend," because our bloodless victory in the Cold War meant that we could safely reduce defense expenditures without affecting domestic programs at all, and his adoption of "Supply Side Economics" meant that Reagan left us also with a strong economy that entailed more tax revenue and less need for social welfare programs.
What made Reagan who he was? He was a brilliant man content to be thought of as an "amiable dunce" if that meant that his policies prevailed. Consider the contrast between Reagan and Obama. Our current president has a craving to be considered a genius when, of course, by all appearances he has the most pedestrian intellect of any man to sit in the Oval Office. His ego, more than anything else, drives Obama.
President Reagan also grasped and articulated the moral nature of the political battles he fought. He called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" -- and, indeed, it was just that. God, and Reagan meant the loving deity Christians and Jews worship, was the true source of goodness in everything. Government was not the answer to the problem; it was the problem. Reagan never yielded the moral high ground to the left, even when he compromised to advance his objectives.
Ronald Reagan also was a man who "grew," as leftists like to put it. Reagan, however, "grew" away from leftism. He had been a New Deal Democrat who saw over time that the New Deal had failed. As a consequence, Reagan was able to get inside the mind of many Democrat voters. He understood the long trek that many of these voters made from left to right.
Our greatest president was also brave in ways that few of us can understand. All America saw when he was almost assassinated the almost surreal courage under fire that Reagan displayed, knowing that he might easily be dead soon. But this courage appeared in his youth, as a life guard -- and as president of the Screen Actors Guild, when communist thugs threatened to throw acid in his face.
This very genuine courage meant that Reagan did not fear the certain sliming which the brutal establishment left was going to pour on him for pursuing his political agenda, and he did not dread the danger of losing popularity when pursuing what he knew was right. He was mocked, ridiculed, scorned, and sneered at as few presidents since Lincoln have been. Reagan did not care. Reagan simply ignored the stings and taunts, treating his enemies like a grown-up treats spoiled rotten children -- which, of course, is just what they were.
The bad news is that no one on the political horizon today has the greatness of Reagan, but the good news -- and it is good news -- is that it takes only one real "Reagan" to transform the whole landscape of government and politics.
In politics, as in war, it is the quality of leadership that performs miracles. There is little doubt that Ronald Reagan's magnificent legacy has been squandered by petty little men eager to gain popularity and approval at the cost of honor and truth. But there is no doubt at all that if we can find just one true "Reagan," all that is lost can be recovered.