A Tribute to Ronald Reagan
I subscribe to an economic newsletter that Gary North puts out. Most of the time which I don't bother to read it because it is pretty depressing. Today's issue, however, is a touching tribute to Ronald Reagan that I thought I would post in its entirety (leaving out my subscription information at the bottom).
Gary North's REALITY CHECK
Issue 350 June 8, 2004
[This is written by the only living writer who
voted for William Penn Patrick in California's
1966 Republican gubanatorial election because
Ronald Reagan's conservatism was too soft core.]
RONALD REAGAN'S EXTRAORDINARY TIMING
Ronald Reagan died on Saturday, June 5, 2004. Of all
days on which he could have died, this was the best
possible day for his reputation's sake. Even in death, his
timing was perfect.
Saturdays are low-news days. Businesses and
governments are shut down. Most people are enjoying a day
off. Weekend editors are always looking for Sunday's lead
Last Saturday was different. Every editor had
selected the lead story for Sunday: the 60th anniversary of
D-Day. President Bush was at Normandy. With 1,000 World
War II vets dying every day, and with three-quarters of
them gone, this would be the last major memorial of D-Day
in which vets would participate. D-Day was the defining
day of the war.
Then the news came from California: Ronald Reagan was
dead. Across America, Sunday's lead story changed. The
headline and two subheads of the "Arkansas Democrat
Gazette" are representative:
Former president Reagan dies
Arkansans remember his optimism
America mourns lost leader
Under his photo was this quotation:
"I've always stated that the nearest thing to
eternal life we'll ever see on this earth is a
government program." (April 9, 1986)
There it was, in one quotation: his humor and his
message. Combined, they inflicted utterly unexpected
losses on the political establishment of 1912-1980. Not a
defeat, but serious losses.
We are now seeing what America has never seen before
and will likely never see again: the entire nation is
saying a fond farewell to a President who did not die in
office. This mourning is not grief. It is more like
relief. When Lincoln was assassinated and Franklin
Roosevelt died and Kennedy was assassinated, they were in
office. The outpouring was grief more than mourning. Only
one non-sitting President has ever generated the emotional
response that has now begun and will last until Reagan's
funeral: George Washington. But his legacy was that of
"father of his country" more than it was his role as
Ronald Reagan had begun his death as no other
president had: the day, ten years ago, that he was told he
had Alzheimer's. That was a death sentence. By the time
he died, he did not know who he was or what he had done.
There was nothing left of him worth writing about.
In the years between his retirement and the
announcement of his Alzheimer's, anyone who had anything
negative to say against him had his opportunity. On
Saturday came the announcement of the fulfillment of the
fait accompli. The critics by then had nothing left to
There is something else which no one else will say in
print, so I will. I am a card-carrying member of the NASC:
the National Association of Scribblers and Chatterers. We
make our livings with words. Take away our ability to
write and speak, and we are nothing. Our definition of who
we are disappears. So, we live in fear of Alzheimer's.
Diagnose us with any other disease, with the exception of
the worst of all ways to die by disease, hydrophobia, and
we think, "I can at least die in dignity with this." But
Alzheimer's strips us of the two things that matter to us:
our ability to write and our ability to speak. There is a
tendency for writers to stop criticizing any victim of
Alzheimer's. Ronald Reagan received Kings-X on the day
that he wrote his letter of goodbye. Charlton Heston is
receiving it now.
So, the critics had already said their two cents'
worth on June 5. Reagan's day had long since turned into
night. In a sense, we were all standing outside 668 St.
Cloud, Bel Air, California, waiting for the announcement.
The announcement came on the day before the memorial
of the day of days for his generation. This gave the TV
networks time to make final edits on the videotapes that
they had no doubt prepared years ago, and broadcast them on
a Sunday, which above all other days, is the special day
for the TV networks' news departments: talking head
morning. This day, they got their Nielsen ratings.
Normally, no one tunes in until golf or NASCAR.
REAGAN'S RATINGS: UP, DOWN, UP
Of all professional actors in man's history, Reagan
got the ratings. He got the ratings because of his
extraordinary sense of timing. We have never seen anything
like it. You and I will not see anything like it again.
Historians search for continuity and discontinuity in
life: that which is predictable and that which isn't. They
look for grand patterns and quirky turning points. If
everything were governed exclusively by a grand pattern, we
could not explain why any fact is unique. After all, every
fact is just one cog in a grand machine. But if everything
were governed exclusively by unique facts, then this world
would be all cogs and no machine. Whirl would be king.
Whirl was not king in the life of Ronald Wilson
He started out as a sports broadcaster during the
Great Depression. He had done some acting at tiny Eureka
College. He had tried to get a job at Montgomery Ward in
1932 to run the sports department: $12.50 a week. He did
not get that job. A door closed. In the worst year of the
Great Depression, closed doors were a way of life.
He then decided to get a job as a sports announcer.
He had played football in college. He had acted on stage.
Why not sports announcing? In the Great Depression, sports
were second only to the movies as revenue-generating
entertainment activities. Radio was the cheapest
technology of escape on earth.
He got an announcing job at a small station in Iowa.
He learned his trade rapidly. He had the innate ability to
do what few people can do: instantly convert into words the
unique yet structured events on a field, so that his words,
coming out of a box, enabled listeners to imagine what was
going on. In the 1930s, this skill was central to sports
Within months, his career jumped several notches when
the small-town station he worked for merged with a large
station whose signal covered the Midwest. He became a
major regional sports announcer. He made his way up the
broadcasting ladder until he was announcing the games of
the Chicago Cubs. (The Cubs took as much optimism to
believe in then as they do now.) That job eventually took
Reagan to baseball training camp on Catalina Island -- "26
miles across the sea," as an implausibly popular song said
two decades later. It was close to Hollywood. Through a
series of improbable events -- as always -- Jack Warner
made the decision to hire him in 1937.
There were three categories of films in Hollywood
prior to the cineplex: the A-picture, which was what people
paid to attend, the B-picture, which was what kept them in
the theater long enough to get hungry, and the C-picture,
usually a Western, which drew kids into the theaters on
Saturday mornings. The C-pictures were produced mainly by
small independent companies, not the main studios. They
called the C-pictures B-pictures, but this was misleading.
The B-picture let the studios present new faces in
front of audiences to see if some newcomer could become a
potential star. There was no scientific, statistical study
of audience reactions until the early 1940s, so Reagan
entered the industry when studio heads guessed. He was a
second banana in A pictures before World War II, and a
leading actor in B-pictures after the war.
Then, over time, his popularity with fans waned. His
last starring role of substance was in "The Winning Team"
(1953), co-starring a bankable star, Doris Day. It was in
fact a B-picture, though my favorite Reagan film in my
youth. It was the story of baseball pitcher Grover
Cleveland Alexander, who came back from double vision and
alcohol to become a star again. That role, as it turned
out, was the model for Reagan's career.
Reagan was a political liberal in these years. He had
also been elected repeatedly to the Screen Actors Guild.
He had influence even though he had a small viewing
audience. He was a member of the United World Federalists.
As an SAG official, he gave speeches. He gave anti-
"neo-fascist" speeches -- which was a safe topic in
Hollywood. Then, at a men's club at Hollywood Beverly
Christian Church, which he attended, a pastor came up to
him after the meeting. He suggested that Reagan make clear
in his speeches that he also opposed Communism. That brief
comment was to change his career and change our world. He
told the pastor he would look into this. He did. He
mentioned the possibility of the threat of Communism at
another meeting. There was no applause. A woman who had
been in the group wrote to him and pointed this out to him.
She told him the group was a Communist front. He later
said, "I began to wake up to the world."
He began reading about Communism. He learned that
there was a small group of Communist sympathizers in
Hollywood, mainly among script writers and the crews. In
1946, there was a Hollywood strike that led to bombings and
physical violence. Reagan opposed it. He began mentioning
Communism more and more. He began getting anonymous
threats to his life. He began wearing a shoulder holster,
at the suggestion of the FBI.
Years later, a reporter asked Sterling Hayden, perhaps
the most left-wing non-Communist major actor in Hollywood,
what had stopped the Communists in the industry. He said
it had been Ronald Reagan. He called him "a one-man
battalion of opposition."
It was as the President of SAG that Reagan was
approached by a starlet named Nancy Davis, who came to him
when her name appeared on a list of Communist actors. It
was not her, she told him, but someone with the same name.
Could he straighten it out? He asked her for a date. His
first wife, Jane Wyman, had divorced him. There is no
doubt that Nancy Reagan became his shield and supporter for
the next half century.
As his ratings slipped in one market, they rose in
another. From second banana in the 1930s to headliner in
B-movies in the late 1940s to SAG President: every time one
door closed, another opened.
In the mid-1950s, he left the movies. He had been
hired by General Electric to be its spokesman. He
introduced the GE Theater on TV. He began reading about
the free market. Slowly, his ideology shifted. He began
to shed his politically liberal outlook. He mastered the
art of speaking in front of crowds of workers, mainly GE
workers. He once estimated that he spoke to 250,000 of
The "Reagan Democrats" of the 1980s were preceded by
the GE blue collar capitalists of the 1950s. They liked
him. They liked hearing him. He liked speaking to them.
That would never change.
Ed Rollins, Reagan's campaign manager, revealed in an
interview that all through his presidency, Reagan would
schedule secret meetings with average workers. This was
known to few of his staff and none of the press corps. He
would talk with average people, one on one, trying to find
out what they were thinking.
We Americans love to believe this can happen to all of
us. We want to believe that it's a pattern that gives
meaning to the unpredictable, painful events in our lives.
We want to believe that personal perseverance pays off,
that closed doors are the prelude to open doors. In all of
American history, no president's pre-political career
better illustrates this faith in action.
Reagan had faith in a providential world. With the
exception of his failed first marriage, which for a time
seemed to crush him, he never lost this faith. The
"Morning for America" theme that marked his presidency was
There was something else. He was not a great actor.
He knew this. He was in his share of turkeys. He got his
share of bad reviews. He learned to shrug them off. Much
later in his career, he told people that this experience
had prepared him for his job as President. Criticisms had
little effect on him.
CHARIOT OF FIRE
If you have seen "Chariots of Fire," you know the
story of an athlete who had a door closed to him, but who
went through another door. Eric Liddell, Scotland's
greatest athlete, 1920-24, refused to run his best race,
the 100-meter dash, in which he was considered the most
likely British runner to beat the Americans at the 1924
Olympics. The race required that he run a heat on a
Sunday, and he was a strict sabbatarian: a
Congregationalist. Scottish Protestants for centuries had
a kind of theological monopoly: strict sabbatarianism.
They did not work for money or play sports on Sundays.
Liddell switched to the 400-meter dash. This took
place months before the Olympics, unlike the movie's
version. He trained for a longer distance event than he
preferred to run. He won the gold medal in the 400,
setting the world record (a one-turn 400-meter track
helped), won the bronze in the 200, and opened the door for
teammate Harold Abrahams to win the gold in the 100. It
made a great movie.
What has this to do with Reagan? A great deal. There
was an American Eric Liddell. No one has made a movie
about his life. His name is Donn Moomaw. In 1950 and
again in 1952, he was a 1st team All-American linebacker on
the UCLA football team. He was drafted by the NFL. He
turned down the offer. It would have required him to play
on Sundays. Instead, he went to Princeton Theological
Seminary. Soon after graduation from seminary, he was
ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He returned to his
old stomping grounds, close to UCLA, when he was called to
become the minister of one of the two choicest plum
congregations in the conservative evangelical wing of the
Presbyterian Church: Bel Air Presbyterian. (The other was
Hollywood Presbyterian Church.) Moomaw believed in, and
his career testified to, a providential world in which a
closed door, or an open door that we should not go through,
leads to another, better open door.
Ronald Reagan became a member of that church in 1964.
Moomaw found himself as Reagan's spiritual counsellor just
as Reagan's political star began to rise: in the year of
"The Speech" for Goldwater, in the last days of the
Goldwater campaign. That speech elevated him into the
candidacy for governor about 18 months later. In an
interview in "Christian Life" magazine (May 1968), Moomaw
told the writer, William Rose, that Reagan had spent hours
with him in prayer.
The following event is now long forgotten:
When he stood in the rotunda of the capitol
in Sacramento for the oath of office during the
first minutes of 1967, he surprised the assembled
guests and the television audience by declaring
his intentions to conduct his office according to
the teachings of Jesus Christ and to seek God's
help in the discharge of his office. . . .
Today, after 16 months in office, the
Governor says, "While prayer always has been a
part of my life, I have spent more time in prayer
these past months than in any previous period I
The writer was able to get an interview with Reagan.
He asked Reagan directly if it was true that he had
committed his life to Christ, as rumors had said.
"Yes! Yes!" came the reply. "I've always
believed there is a certain divine scheme of
things. I'm not quite able to explain how my
election happened or why I'm here, apart from
believing it is part of God's plan for me
Then, with his pleasant smile turning into a
grin, he said, "There are some days I ask 'Why am
I here?' more than others."
Reagan believed in a providential world in which men
are not cogs but which is not random. He did not believe
that men make their own destiny in the way that spiders
According to those around him in Washington, Reagan
had no inflated ego. Rollins said on camera that Reagan
was the only politician he ever knew who had this quality.
Yet others have said that Reagan kept his own counsel, that
he was guided by some inner vision that he failed to
explain to those around him. I think both statements are
true. He saw himself as God's tool. George W. Bush has
taken a lot of heat for saying something similar, but he
has not lived what appears to be a charmed life. He was
born rich, lived wild, got sober, got religion, and got
elected. Reagan's life is a story of rags to riches, of
closed doors that always opened -- except for the final
one, Alzheimer's. Reagan's life, like his never-ending
success with his audiences, is an enigma to most
He was called the Teflon President, and he was. So
was Clinton. But there was a huge difference: Reagan
believed that he was called to something higher than
getting elected. He, unlike every other President, came
from success in another field, the field of movies and TV
and entertainment, which seem to be a pinnacle of success
in the thinking of most people: a never-never land. As he
told Mike Wallace, he was dragged, kicking and screaming,
into politics. Ronald Reagan did not need politics. The
voters knew that. Even the press knew that. It made a
huge difference in how people perceived him and assessed
THEN CAME 1979
The year 1979 was the greatest disaster year since
1939. The disaster was worldwide, and it appeared to be
systemic. It had to be changed. By 1989, it had been.
Completely. Unpredictably. The political landscape was
In 1979, Soviet Union troops invaded Afghanistan.
Their tanks rolled down the road system that the Soviets
had built, and the United States government had financed,
in the mid-1960s. The Soviets' decade-long road to
military and political disaster had begun.
In Great Britain, the economy was in shambles after
years of Labor Party rule. The coal miners, whose trade
union was run by a near-Communist, looked like they could
shut down the newly elected Conservative government of
In the United States, inflation was rampant eight
years after Nixon had announced that the U.S. Treasury
would cease redeeming central bank-held dollars for gold,
thereby ending the Bretton Woods monetary agreement of
1944. He had floated the dollar, which immediately headed
down. President Carter in 1979 somehow persuaded the
hapless Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, G. William
Miller, to resign. He put the 6'7" cigar-loving Paul
Volcker in Miller's place. Volcker, pressured by the other
Board members, ceased inflating the money supply in
October, 1979. Within six months, this decision would
drive the American economy into a major recession and the
highest interest rates in American history.
A year later, Reagan was elected President with this
line: "Are you better off under Carter than you were four
years ago?" He suggested a measure of economic pain: the
rate of inflation plus the rate of interest. It was hard
to argue with those numbers!
Across the Pacific Ocean, China's Deng Xiao Ping was
facing a growing population that was in turn facing near-
starvation conditions. The Chinese economy was locked in
permanent stagnation at a subsistence level. There would
be too many mouths to feed. So, Deng did the impossible.
He introduced capitalist ownership to agriculture, all in
the name of Communism.
By 1989, that world was ancient history.
THE EVANGELICALS SIGN UP
In August, 1980, there was a huge political rally held
in Dallas at Reunion Arena. That event is rarely mentioned
today. Only a few references to it, mostly mine, appear on
Google. That was the meeting at which the New Christian
Right -- Falwell, Robertson, et al -- and the new activist
conservatives first got together. Phylis Schlafly was
there. So was Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress
Foundation. I even spoke. It was the largest crowd I ever
About 13,000 attendees showed up on the final night,
when Ronald Reagan spoke. Jimmy Carter had been invited.
He refused to come. Third party candidate John Anderson
had been invited. He refused to come. So, Reagan shared
the podium that night only with evangelist James Robison,
in his fire-breathing period. There are few men who can
hold a large audience the way Robison used to, and his main
rival in this regard, black pastor E. V. Hill, also had
spoken earlier that week.
For three days, pastors and previously non-political
fundamentalist laymen listened to political activists tell
how it is done and why it must be done. The two groups
agreed by the end of the convention: Ronald Reagan was
their man. That opinion never changed.
If you want to date the public origin of the
Republican Party's evangelical swing vote, date it with
that assembly. Reagan made it happen.
THE UNRECORDED MEETING IN 1980
Nine years to the day before Reagan died, an obituary
appeared in the "Washington Times." No one noticed. No
one except me.
The writer was the former editor of the newspaper,
Arnold de Borchgrave. The deceased was his cousin,
Alexander de Marenches, who had been the head of France's
spy system for years. De Borchgrave then did what I have
never see any other ex-reporter do: he admitted that his
reputation as a scoop-master had been based on the fact
that Marenches had repeatedly tipped him off to imminent
hot spots. De Borchgrave would get on a plane and be there
when the place exploded.
He told of a meeting that he, Marenches, and Reagan
had, before Reagan's inauguration but after his election.
Marenches told Reagan that the Russians were bogged down in
Afghanistan. If Reagan would supply Stinger missiles to
Afghan troops, this would force the Russians to fly their
support planes too high to provide effective support to
ground troops. Second, he told Reagan that if the Russians
lost that war, the Soviet Union would disintegrate. Third,
he referred to the USSR as an evil empire. Reagan, de
Borchgrave said, accepted Marenches' analysis.
Reagan adopted the term, "evil empire," much to the
consternation of the State Department. It took five years
for the Reagan Administration to implement the Stinger
plan, because of infighting between the State Department
and the CIA. As soon as the Afghans got Stingers, Soviet
air-support tactics shifted, and within four years, the
Soviets had been defeated. Within three years of the
Soviet Army's exodus, the USSR had ceased to exist.
THE RHETORIC OF THE 1980S
Mrs. Thatcher was not only very smart, very
determined, and a first-rate economic thinker, she was also
eloquent. There were no "uhs," "ums" or "you knows" in her
Parliamentary debates and on-camera interviews. One does
not think of Mrs. Thatcher saying, "like, I mean."
Reagan was the finest stump speaker in the history of
the American Presidency. His stump was in front of TV
cameras. Teddy Roosevelt called this a bully pulpit.
Little did he know.
Between the Thatcher and Reagan, the terms of debate
in English-speaking politics shifted. By 1990, it was no
longer wise politically to be known as a liberal outside of
Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. In one
decade, it had all changed. The New York publishing houses
started publishing books by conservatives.
This had its effects across the Pacific, when the New
Zealanders elected a Labor government that turned out to be
Critics on the right -- I was one of them --
complained that there was no roll-back of the Federal
government's bureaucracy. The Department of Education
survived. So did the Department of Energy. Reagan vetoed
almost no spending bills. The Federal deficit soared. He
invariably handed to Congress budgets that were larger than
Congress sent back to him to sign.
Thatcher had similar problems in Great Britain. But
she ramrodded a full-scale privatization of government-
owned monopolies, and this was a great benefit. The
British economy did recover under her leadership.
The two of them talked the talk even when they did
not walk the walk. Talk matters. It matters tremendously.
Each of them was replaced by a man of no strong
economic or ideological opinions. I remember a cartoon
from an English newspaper that had a giant pair of high-
heeled shoes, with tiny John Major standing in them. I can
even remember a taped extract from a speech on the floor of
Parliament by a Labor Party member. He was emotional. He
said to the assembled body, "Maggie, they can't hold a
candle to you," or words to that effect. He was right.
Nobody since then, on either side of the Atlantic, has held
a candle to them.
Everyone knew in 1989 that everything had changed.
The USSR was ruled by a bunch of old men in 1980-85.
Three of them died in office -- Brezhnev, Andropov, and
Chernenko -- before Gorbachev rose to power.
Reagan was as old as they were. But there was an
enormous difference. Reagan looked young.
My friend Angelo Codevilla, a master of the details of
foreign policy, the ghost writer for Gen. Dan Graham's
original "Star Wars" book, and then the senior Republican
staffer at the time on the Senate military committee, once
told me of the effect in the Kremlin of TV broadcasts of
Reagan at his ranch. Reagan was out there riding his
horse, chopping wood, mending fences. These film clips
were not for network consumption. He was the working head
of that ranch, which he loved.
Codevilla told me at the time: "Think of the Kremlin's
leaders. They are old men. Here is this man, as old as
they are, who seems to be a cowboy. He has energy. He is
riding around on a horse. It scares them."
Reagan was physically strong, really strong. He
lifted weights. His upper torso was large. For a man his
age, he was built like a night club bouncer. This probably
saved his life when Hinckley shot him. The bullet was
stopped by muscle just an inch from his heart.
Then came the PATCO strike. The air traffic
controllers' union walked out. Reagan stood his ground,
just as Thatcher would three years later with the coal
miners. PATCO was a union working for the government.
Legally, it could not strike, but it did. Codevilla said
that the Russian leaders watched this event very carefully.
Reagan fired all workers who did not return to work within
48 hours, and he replaced them without any major problem
for airline traffic. The Russians knew they had a problem.
That problem ultimately bankrupted their already shaky
KEEP THEM LAUGHING
Reagan had an estimated thousand jokes that he could
recite from memory. He understood that humor can disarm a
critic. He mastered this skill as no President ever has,
although Kennedy was close in his press conferences.
In 1981, Bill Adler's book was published, "The Reagan
Wit." It was a collection of one-liners and quips going
back several decades, but concentrating on his political
years. It went to the printers in May, after Reagan had
visibly recovered from his gunshot wound.
When he was shot, he retained his humor. He told the
doctors at the hospital, "I hope you are all Republicans."
The doctor's answer was perfect: "Today, Mr. President, we
are all Republicans." On that day, the whole country was
Republican. He told his wife, "Honey, I forgot to duck."
He endeared himself to the nation.
When he came out of the hospital a month later, his
public approval rating was so high that the House of
Representatives, then controlled by Democrats, could not
resist when he submitted a bill to cut marginal income tax
rates by 10% for three years in a row.
Timing? A fraction of a second, a fraction of an
inch, and he would have died.
Six weeks later, the Pope was shot, also by a man
carrying a .22 instead of a .38. The Pope had just bent
down to see a emblem of Our Lady of Fatima on a little
girl's dress. His shift in position saved his life. (On
this, see Malachi Martin, "The Keys of This Blood", 1990,
People speak of luck. They also speak of fate. Both
are impersonal. Reagan spoke of providence. It is not
Reagan's career is surely consistent with how
Americans like to think of America. As Adlai Stevenson
once said, "Any American can be elected President. It's
one of the risks you take." He, too, was a master of the
quip. But he ran for President against a general who had
come up from nothing and nowhere, not as Stevenson had
grown up, the grandson of a Vice President. (His
grandfather also was a quip-master. Someone asked him,
"Has Mr. Cleveland consulted you to that extent?" He
replied, "Not yet. But there are still a few weeks of my
term remaining.") Eisenhower had been a very careful
planner of his own career. Reagan just seemed to fall into
things, one by one. Good or bad things, he always came out
smelling like a rose -- until Alzheimer's.
Yet even Alzheimer's was a blessing -- not to him or
his immediate family, but to the rest of us. It allowed us
to prepare, through the long goodbye that Alzheimer's is,
to say goodbye this week. We have not as a nation said
goodbye in this way to any retired President.
Why Reagan? Because he was a common man with uncommon
abilities: speaking and acting. He was not long-winded.
He did not pontificate. He did not bloviate. He always
got to the point. People identified with him because of
his jovial demeanor and his gifted rhetoric. They trusted
him because he talked straight. And then he was struck
down by a disease that we all fear.
Dan Rather narrated a half-hour Reagan special on
Saturday. He closed with words that were audibly
emotional. Rather is surely no Reaganite conservative.
Yet the effect of Reagan's Presidency, and I think also his
personal demeanor and unflagging good will, spread even
into the news rooms, where political cynicism reigns
supreme. Most of us really do want to believe that it is
morning for America, especially today, in the midst of
obituaries trickling in, day by day, from Iraq. Like
yeast, Reagan's personal influence took time to rise.
Reagan took us from what looked like military
armageddon to the last days of the cold war. He never got
the budget balanced. It is doubtful that any President
ever will -- not without a prior default, either openly or
through inflation. But he talked the talk even when he did
not walk the walk. He walked enough of the walk to deliver
us from a great evil. He turned Communism into a joke --
the same way he handled every other bad thing he ever
encountered, even Alzheimer's. He said, "The good thing
about Alzheimer's is that you meet new people every day."
Anyway, this quip has long been attributed to him. It sure
sounds like him. Even if it is apocryphal, it is a tribute
to how we think of him.
Reagan did not view the world as a machine, a game, or
a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. He viewed it
a place where men are called upon to do the best they can.
That is what he told David Frost, twice, separated by two
decades. On his gravestone, he wanted it said that he did
the best he could.
The best he could do will still be in the history
textbooks in two hundred years, maybe even Russian history
textbooks. Mr. Gorbachev never did tear down that wall,
but he refused to intervene when the people did. That was
enough. The wall came tumbling down.
If we stay the course, maybe we can tear down some
(If you want to read a book on Reagan, read Peggy
Noonan's "When Character Was King.")
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