Sunday, October 17, 2004
Carol: I'm glad even a diehard liberal like you was able to see what a disaster Jimmy Carter's presidency was. Your confession about John Anderson compels me to make one of my own. I voted for Libertarian Ed Clark that year, one of almost 1 million who did so; I think the Libertarians' share of the vote peaked in 1980. Of course I voted enthusiastically for Ronald Reagan's second term. My experiment with the extremes of my philosophy was over, and I came back to the mainstream. Ha, ha, ha.
I think I'm justified in being a little skeptical when people who admit they never liked Reagan and surely do not remember him fondly invoke him to make a point in support of something he would have found unpalatable, e.g. the notion that someone like John Kerry could be a credible commander-in-chief. So let me share a few thoughts about Dutch.
To this day, Reagan's detractors insist on portraying him as an amiable dunce, out of his depth. But if you take the trouble to actually read the things he wrote, especially the scripts for his radio shows and his personal correspondence (he was a remarkable letter writer, sharing thoughts with thousands of people), you'll discover he had complex, nuanced positions on every complicated issue of his day. And he had a clear vision and a specific plan for dealing with the threat of communism long before he even ran for the presidency. If you read the comments of people such as Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, you'll realize that the (thank God!) premature collapse of the Soviet Union and all that followed was not an accident of history. It was, more than anything else, the result of one man's unshakable conviction that he could push the Soviets into an arms race their economic system would not possible enable them to win.
I came to appreciate, intellectually, mostly in retrospective study, that singular focus of Reagan's, but I never quite understood the power it had to affect people on an emotional level. I began to understand that on the Friday night of Reagan's memorial service this year, while I was watching it on TV in my favorite restaurant (known affectionately to me and a few others as the Midwest headquarters of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy). I was sitting with Sam, the co-owner, and he asked me if I had my video camera (we are fellow amateur film-makers). I said yes, and he asked if I could tape the customers in his restaurant watching the memorial service. I did, and later presented him with a videotape of the evening. I had known that Sam's family came to Fort Wayne from Greece, escaping from the misery the communists were inflicting on that nation. I had not known, until that Friday night, how important it was for people like Sam to hear Ronald Reagan speak and connect with his passionate belief that there was, indeed, an evil empire with a foothold in the world that it was trying to dominate. Sam did not just agree with Ronald Reagan, or appreciate him, or support him. He revered the man.
Perhaps it is a trifle premature to say it now, but I think history will make the same judgment about George W. Bush and his approach to radical Islamic terorism that my friend Sam did about Reagan's singleminded focus on communism. Bush recognizes the nature of the evil we face, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to hunt it down and destroy it.
Compare that to the approach of John Kerry. Read (please, carefully) his 1971 testimony to the U.S. Senate. While he was disparaging his fellow Vietnam comrades as village burners and baby killers, the same ones he would later claim as his band of brothers, he testified that our "mystical" attempts to eradicate communism weren't worth a single American life. Much later, after the communists in Camodia had put 1 million in the graveyards of the killing fields, after thousands of Vietnamese drowned in their attemtps to escapte the monsters we gave up on freeing them from, he could never bring himself to admit he was wrong, except to say that his remarks might have been just a little "over the top." Even Jane Fonda went further in apologizing for her help in creating this nation's Vietnam wounds that Kerry ever has.
And consider his views on the current threat of terrorism, which he hopes we can reduce to a "nuisance" on the order of prostitution and illegal gambling. Or remember the first Gulf War -- a world coalition, just like Kerry says we must have; as clear a threat as imaginable, with a madman invading another nation and trying to control the world's supply of oil -- which Kerry could not bring himself to support.
Whatever else might be said about John Kerry, it simply is not possible to claim that he is focused on and passionate about and committed to anything. The fact that he can never find such singlemindness when there is a clear and present danger should give pause to anyone considering making him commander-in-chief. Mentioning him and Reagan and George W. Bush in the same breath when it comes to the U.S. need for strong leadership is, in a word, absurd.
The three debates did show one thing Kerry can point to from his 20-year Senate record -- mastering the art of debate. Presumably if he had a record of legislation to be proud of, or even a single sterling accomplishment, he would have been pointing that out. Debating is not the same thing as leading. Endlessly massaging nuance will not suffice when decisive action is required.
It would require a lengthy, separate post to explore it, but, by the way, Reagan had a clear vision on the economy and domestic issues as well. Try as they might, his critics cannot find the factual evidence to dispute his supply-side contention that the right kind of tax cuts can actually dramatically increase government revenues. Reagan was not the first with this insight; he was merely following in the footsteps of JFK, who unleashed the explosive growth of the 60s with his tax cuts, and Coolidge and Harding, who did the same thing for the 20s. Bush isn't quite the visonary Reagan was in this area (as he demonstrably is in the foreign-policy arena), but his tax cuts at least compete quite well with John Kerry's tiresome and effete "punish the rich" class-warfare nonsense.
posted by Leo Morris at # 11:30 PM
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