Saturday, June 12, 2004


It has been a sad week for me. I loved everything I ever saw or heard of Ronald Reagan and the thought that he is now gone forever is deeply upsetting to me. It must be the sentimental Celtic component in my ancestry but the tears have never been far away in the last few days. When he was in the White House I felt that he was MY President too -- even though I am a 5th generation Australian and live half a world and nearly a whole time zone away from America. So I offer below some brief thoughts about him and what he was -- to coincide roughly with his being laid to rest in his final place in his beloved America

Reagan had the strong, independent psychological makeup that Leftists lack: "I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie. He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn't feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone." --Nancy Reagan. And: "He was hated for precisely the same reasons he was loved. He had convictions and made those without them look weak. ... He knew who he was before he came to office; he did not need the office to complete him." --Cal Thomas

And Eamonn Butler (post of 7th) noted Reagan's lack of egotism too: "The pompous conceit of the media Establishment is parried by Reagan's own epitaph on his administration, which reveals his own complete lack of both pomposity and conceit, tempering his pride in having changed minds and changed events: "Men and women across America for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.""

But Jeff Jacoby sums up Ronald Reagan's humility best. A small excerpt: "But one trait has gone largely unmentioned: His remarkable humility.... But if no man was his better, neither was he the better of any man. That instinctive sense of the equality of all Americans never left him -- not even when he was the one with fame and power. I don't think I have ever heard a story about Reagan in which he came across as arrogant or supercilious. In a number of reminiscences this week, former staffers have described what it was like to work for the president. Several have recalled how, even when they were at the bottom of the pecking order, he never made them feel small or unworthy of notice. To the contrary: He noticed them, talked to them, made them feel special. Reagan climbed as high as anyone in our age can climb. But it wasn't ego or a craving for honor and status that drove him, and he never lost his empathy for ordinary Americans -- or his connection with them"

A Leftist who grew up speaks (excerpts) : "When I was a young professor at the University of California in the late sixties I despised Governor Reagan, the more fool I... Later I read the Austrian free market economists, and realized two things: one, that they had essentially won the argument with the socialists, both on the theoretical level and on the level of practical results; and two, that Reagan had realized this twenty or thirty years earlier, and it was I, the socialist, who had been the pseudo-intellectual, and not he.... Those who never grow up in our society always blame our own responsible officials when something goes wrong. Reagan taught us to place the blame where it belonged, on the enemy, and to make peace with them as our enemies -- without firing a shot, as Margaret Thatcher put it.... The Europeans and intellectuals thought Reagan was brain dead; but he was Old Possum: he was only playing brain dead... Reaganomics were likewise just a matter of being adult. The child lives in a world of gift.. ..But the eternal children in our society refused, and still refuse, to accept that they will die. Their anguish at the cost of the Iraq war is the great symptom of that refusal, of the inability to grow up. There should be no costs, they feel; when we were children there were no costs, in a socialist society there would be no costs...."

Further to my comment yesterday that ideals are not ideology and that Reagan showed true conservative pragmatism rather than an ideologist's dogmatism, I note that Gorbachev saw that too. He commented in the New York Times: "Reagan was a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations and cooperation"

A good Reagan saying: "I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress." The 1982 speech in which Reagan foresaw the Soviet system ending on the "ash heap of history" is here. And how can I, as a libertarian conservative, go past this Reagan quote: "If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism."


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