July 14, 2011
It was certainly good to see that former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci recently told Princeton students here for summer internships that Ronald Reagan was a great man and a great president. And it was also good to see Sec. Carlucci ascribe Reagans motives to his strong Christian faith.
Some men want to be president to compensate for deep yearnings within, and psychological wounds. Nixon was one of these. Others seek the presidency for the good they can do in that powerful office. Reagan was one of these.
While I agree with much of what Mr. Carlucci had to say about the two men, I think he falls into the common error of Washington insiders when he says that Nixon was considerably more intelligent than Reagan.
Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence uses a wonderful phrase: Let facts be submitted to a candid world. And as honest old John Adams said, facts are stubborn things.
Here are some important facts about the Nixon and Reagan administrations:
Nixon imposed wage and price controls that every knowledgeable economist knows will not work. (Obama is doing the same thing with health care).
Under Nixon, Americans stood in line for gas. We could buy it only on odd and even days. (I once had to drive into Canada on a Sunday in order to get gas.)
Reagan abolished all price controls on gasoline on Inauguration Day, 1981. Americans have never lined up one day since.
Nixon appointed a commission to study pornography. He packed it with liberals who said, not surprisingly, that pornography was not harmful and might even be good for you. When our POWs came home, they were shocked to find the America they left awash in smut. And many of these men were sailors. (Of course, if Nixon's commissioners really wanted to study pornography, Nixon could have let them listen to his White House tapes.)
Reagan appointed a Pornography Commission with men like Ed Meese and Jim Dobson and women like Kay James. They found that pornography harms women and children most of all, but it harms men, too. So Reagan hired men like Pat Trueman to fight it in the Justice Department.
We are told Nixon understood statecraft, the great game of nations. He wrote books in his after years pumping for American power politics.
He gave Soviet dictator Brezhnev a new car from Detroit every time he met him. He sent Kissinger to Moscow to tell the Soviets we regarded them as our equals. The Soviets advanced in Asia, Africa, and Latin America while Nixon was president.
Not one person escaped from Communism while Nixon was president.
Reagan gave the Communists nothing. He called them an Evil Empire. He took away their parking space at the State Department, took away Grenada from them, and challenged them to "tear down this wall" in Berlin. Within months of Reagan's uttering those words, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Empire dissolved, with hardly a shot being fired.
Two hundred million people escaped from Communism as a result of Reagan's policies.
Nixon appointed a population commission stacked with liberals who recommended abortion on demand. He signed Title X legislation that began to sluice billions to Planned Parenthood.
Reagan recommended giving no money--zeroing out--Title X and issued the Mexico City policy that said human life is the source of all wealth for advanced countries and the key to development for poorer countries.
When the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, two days after Nixon's second inauguration, Nixon sent a letter to Cardinal Cooke of New York saying he didn't agree with it.
Reagan sent his Solicitor General to the Supreme Court to call for the repeal of Roe, terming it illegitimate. And President Reagan used the Bully Pulpit of the White House to appeal for the lives of unborn children. He used the State of the Union Address to call abortion "a wound in the nation's soul."
Nixon left office in disgrace, following the revelation that he had been lying and covering up for a year and a half about his knowledge of the crimes associated with Watergate.
Reagan left office loved and honored by millions. When he died, tens of thousands stood in line through a hot June night on the Mall, just for the chance to walk past his bier in the Capitol Rotunda. It was the un-Woodstock Nation.
When Nixon left office, he was the only one of our 44 presidents to resign. His own chosen successor said "our long national nightmare is over." Barring a presidential pardon, he would likely have gone to jail.
Heres a story that illustrates the essential difference between these two men.
When President Nixon went to a Los Angeles hotel for a political fund-raiser, he had his dinner alone, consuming his ketchup and cottage cheese in isolated splendor. He invited then-Gov. Reagan to come up to the presidential suite to give him some friendly advice.
He told Reagan it wasnt a good idea for him to eat rubber chicken with the common run of party county chairman. He made a point, Nixon said, of always keeping some distance between himself and the button-holers and back slappers who frequented these gatherings.
Gov. Reagan smiled genially and graciously thanked the president for his adviceand then ignored every bit of it. Reagan liked people. They liked him. Reagan liked to get the feel of an audience. He never failed to connect with an audience. Nixon never succeeded.
Clark Clifford, one of the Wise Men of the liberal intelligentsia, met President Reagan at the White House. He went back to the cocktail party circuit in Georgetown, terming Reagan an amiable dunce. Clifford ended his career narrowly avoiding prosecution for influence peddling in one of Washingtons periodic money scandals.
The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It seems Reagan feared nothing else. He saved 77 people from drowning as a lifeguard on the Rock River in Illinois.
We also read in Scripture that you will know them by their fruits. The fruits of Ronald Reagans presidency reveal a practical intelligence that places him far above his peers. Thats what I would like to share with Washingtons bright young interns this summer.