Tag archives: Ronald Reagan

President Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill…and Ours

by Robert Morrison

April 27, 2015

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a student group at my Alma Mater, University of Virginia. My topic was Jefferson and Madison and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. But during the question and answer period, my audience of Young America’s Foundation listeners peppered me with questions about Ronald Reagan. They seemed most interested in my service in the Reagan administration. For young conservatives, especially, but for young Americans generally, Reagan is a wonderful story.

The media in his time could not believe that Reagan was so popular on campus, so well-loved by the young. He returned that affection fully. The young liked Ronald Reagan because he liked them. Columnist George Will commended Reagan’s optimistic vision of the future, saying “he spoke to the future in the accents of the past.” So, for the young, he offered an appealing vision, but one firmly rooted in this country’s storied past. As President, Ronald Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers more than his four predecessors combined, as Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Busch tells us. And, alas, he cited the Founding Fathers more than any of his successors.

After a tumultuous two decades for America, President Reagan said his favorite placard was not one of protest. From his Presidential limousine, he pointed out a college cheerleader holding a sign. It said: “He’s old but he’s cute.”

Ronald Reagan explained for all of us what his vision was. He spoke of the Shining City on a Hill in his Farewell Address in 1989. I thought of his vision as I drove past the U.S. Capitol at dawn earlier this month. There was Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill!

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

That’s Ronald Reagan’s love of poetry. It’s his vision. But it also had policy content. And what Ronald Reagan sought to do for America is in many ways what Family Research Council seeks to do. His pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-faith agenda is very much what inspires our organization’s efforts. It’s why I am so grateful to have served in his administration and to have followed up with service in an organization dedicated to Faith, Family, and Freedom.

President Reagan made America strong and respected again. After four years of Jimmy Carter’s misrule (1977-1981), Americans yearned to see their country become once again what Winston Churchill called us: the Great Republic.

Ronald Reagan was pro-life. In fact, he was the first politician to call himself “pro-life.” Prior to Reagan, all those who defended the inalienable right to life were cast in the “anti” mode. The media casts us this way, still.

Reagan knew that it was better to be for something than against. He cut all federal funding for Title X, the so-called family planning program, from his federal budget all eight years of his presidency. He understood how these programs are abused and how these funds support Planned Barrenhood (Parenthood). This outfit kills more than one thousand unborn children every day. They are the world’s largest trafficker in abortion. Liberals in Congress put those funds back in the budget, but Reagan made that important statement.

He spoke about the right to life of unborn children—in his State of the Union Addresses, his messages to Congress, and in hundreds and hundreds of handwritten letters to pro-life constituents. He even spoke of the unborn in his Inaugural Addresses. President Reagan every year issued Sanctity of Human Life Proclamations, many of which lauded the life-saving work of Pregnancy Care Centers staffed and funded by Christian citizens.

Since I had served in the Reagan administration in the Education Department, I knew how strong President Reagan was for parents’ rights, including the parental right to choose a public, private, religious or home school for their children.

Reagan was pro-marriage. I was recently pressed by a student group that wanted to know what Reagan thought of giving marriage rights to same-sex couples. I was hard-pressed to remember if he had ever spoken of that idea—since no one was talking of men marrying men in the 1980s.

Then, it struck me. YES! He did have a view. As with pro-life, Reagan was pro-marriage. First, he became the only Republican candidate for President since 1928 who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. It was the redoubtable Phyllis Schlafly, of course, who led the fight in the trenches against ERA. Second, it was Ronald Reagan as President who validated her brave effort and those of the tens of thousands of American women who understood what ERA would mean. It would mean drafting women and ordering them into combat, forcing Americans to pay for abortion-on-demand, including sex-selection abortions that overwhelmingly target unborn baby girls, and ERA would mean ending marriage by permitting men to marry men. It would also mean men invading women’s rest rooms and locker rooms, claiming to have changed their sex.

Finally, Reagan’s Shining City figure of speech derived from the famous sermon by John Winthrop to the Puritans in 1630. Sailing on the Arbella on the always-dangerous Atlantic. Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor told his fellow colonists the eyes of the world would be upon them, as “a citee upon a hill.”

Reagan’s love of poetry came first from his love of the Bible. He read it regularly from the days of his youth. He actually proclaimed 1983 the Year of the Bible. The atheizers howled, of course. But his Proclamation showed how the Bible had been a formative influence in the life of this self-governing People.

When President Reagan went to the Berlin Wall in 1987, he called upon the Soviet dictator, Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” But there was another part of his speech that was of great significance. Reagan pointed to the East German Communists’ radio tower on their side of that brutal and ugly wall. They’ve tried to paint out the defect in globe atop that tower, Reagan told his listeners. They’ve tried to sand blast it and etch it out with acid. But still, when the sun strikes that globe, it reflects the Sign of the Cross.

This part of the speech was never covered in the West. Not surprising. The media didn’t like the man or his message.

But Americans did. And especially Young Americans.

In the spirit of President Reagan, Family Research Council is committed to protecting the unborn from the moment of conception onward. To learn more about our work and the resources we make available at no charge, go to www.frc.org

The Ghost on the Wall

by Robert Morrison

November 10, 2014

I remember the incident in August, 1962. It was televised all over the world. A 17-year old carpenter’s assistant named Peter Fechter from East Germany was trying to escape across the plowed earth separating the inner and outer structures of what had become known as the Berlin Wall. Communist border guards known as Volkspolizei (People’s Police, or VoPos, for short) shot Peter in the back. He bled. And he cried. And cried. He begged someone to come and help him. He lay there for hours, whimpering like a child. This video clip says it was as if his life was ebbing away. No, it wasn’t as if. His life was ebbing away. I saw it. I hated Communism because of that. I never wavered in my belief it was fundamentally evil.

Those were happy days in America. I remember the carefree days at the beach that summer, going sailing on the Great South Bay, and the almost new Oldsmobile my parents helped me buy. Like Peter Fechter, I was just 17. Happy as I was then, I never forgot witnessing Peter Fechter’s real-life murder on TV.

Ronald Reagan never forgot Peter Fechter, either. He spoke of the Berlin Wall for many years thereafter. He always personalized that grim gray obscene concrete Wall (“die Mauer”) by including the story of Peter Fechter.

While President Richard Nixon went to Moscow in 1972 and gave Soviet Communist Party boss brand new American-made cars as gifts, Reagan continued to speak out against the inhumanity of a system that could build a Berlin Wall and shoot down teenagers who simply sought to escape Communism’s “Workers’ Paradise.”

After Nixon’s disgrace, President Jimmy Carter went to Vienna to meet with Brezhnev in June, 1979. He let Brezhnev kiss him on their first date! Brezhnev took the measure of the man. Six months later, he kissed off Carter when he sent Soviet troops into Afghanistan.

President Carter went on national TV to explain that he had learned more about the USSR in the previous three days than in the previous three years.

I later interviewed Amb. Malcolm Toon, the career diplomat whom Carter had sent to Moscow. Amb. Toon told me that no elected leader in Western Europe could have made such a stunning statement. If he had admitted to such incompetence, that Prime Minister or Chancellor would have been voted out of office the very next day in parliament!

As President, Ronald Reagan remained true to his convictions. In 1987, the American press corps was in its full-gush mode over Soviet Communist Party boss, Mikhail Gorbachev. The chin-pulling opinion writers who pass for serious analysts in our prestige press were all agog over Gorbachev’s new liberalization schemes for the USSR and the Soviet bloc. They repeated Gorbachev’s spin with practiced ease.

President Reagan wasn’t buying it. He went to the Brandenburg Gate, in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, on June 12, 1987.. He took with him the speech text he and Peter Robinson had crafted, the one our State Department had rejected three times. Sec. of State George Schulz, White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and National Security Advisor Gen. Colin Powell all tried to dissuade the President from saying anything that might upset U.S.-Soviet relations. Reagan was quiet, but firm, with his staff. “I think I was elected,” he mildly told Peter Robinson and that line “Tear Down this Wall” stayed in the speech.

Today, we are celebrating twenty-five years of freedom for the people of Germany and Eastern Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of that Evil Empire began this day in 1989. Reagan never claimed to have been the one who brought about this stunning change. But he was the one Western leader who never lost faith that Soviet Communism could be brought down. He told his aides: We win; they lose.

The Atlantic’s website provides this helpful remembrance of the Berlin Wall. It contains, unfortunately no references to President Kennedy’s great speech there in 1963, or President Reagan’s inspirational address of 1987.

This most interesting monument—is called the “Lichtgrenze” or Light Border. It’s well worth seeing. Thanks to the liberal editors of The Atlantic, the former Soviet dictator, Gorbachev gets a bit part in the photomontage. Thank you, General Secretary Gorbachev for not shooting any more of Peter Fechter’s countrymen!

Today, I will remember the Berlin Wall and the joy of the Germans—and all of us—when we heard young people there exclaim “Die Mauer ist Gefallen!” The Wall is Down!

My friend and colleague, FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg was in Germany when the Wall came down. Then a young liberal, our Peter was honest with himself and his friends. “This is Reagan’s doing,” Peter Sprigg said then. Peter has been a recovering liberal ever since.

Ronald Reagan never claimed credit for the Fall of the Wall. But he did go there and challenge Gorbachev to prove his liberalization schemes by tearing down the Wall. Reagan was the first President since John F. Kennedy to draw a bright line between freedom and tyranny. “Lass’sie nach Berlin kommen” the young President had said—Let them come to Berlin.

President Reagan did something there that even brave young Kennedy did not do. He described a radio tower built by the East German Communists to overshadow all of Berlin’s church steeples. The President noted that the tower had a defect that the atheist rulers of East Germany had desperately tried to etch out with acid, sandblast, or paint over.

Still, Ronald Reagan said, when the sun struck the globe on that tall tower, it reflected the Sign of the Cross.

Fifty Years After

by Robert Morrison

October 27, 2014

Every poll confirmed that the Republican nominee for President in 1964 was headed for a major defeat. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) had pulled off an amazing victory to gain the GOP nomination in San Francisco. He had soundly defeated such Eastern Establishment figures as Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (R-N.Y.) and Gov. William Scranton (R-Penn.) Goldwater’s campaign for the nomination is seen today as the beginning of the modern conservative movement in politics.

The liberal media was determined to destroy Sen. Goldwater. They depicted him as the “mad bomber.” Their editorial pages ran hostile cartoons. One typical one showed him as a crazed trainman on a San Francisco cable car. “Streetcar Named Disaster” was the caption for that political cartoon, a reference to the play “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Despite all this, and fully aware that he was about to make his national political debut backing a losing cause, actor and TV personality, and former union president Ronald Reagan went on national television to deliver a 29-minute speech titled: “A Time for Choosing.”

It’s worth watching this speech in its entirety. We see her a younger, edgier Ronald Reagan than we may be used to. He is angry but his righteous indignation is kept under tight control. He clearly believes that his friend, Barry Goldwater, has been savaged by the Lyndon B. Johnson campaign and by their willing accomplices in the press.

Reagan hammers home point after point, but he takes care to use stories to convey his message. My favorite line is about the Cuban exile who tells of his brutal mistreatment under Communist dictator Fidel Castro. When his American businessmen listeners remark how lucky they are to live under freedom, the Cuban says how lucky he is. “I had some place to escape to!” Reagan makes the point: If we lose freedom in America, there will be no place to escape to.”

I was too young to vote in 1964 and I missed this famous speech. In those days, you couldn’t DVR or TiVo TV broadcasts. But I certainly heard about Reagan’s amazing speech. It raised millions of dollars for the doomed Republican campaign. It was perhaps the only bright spot that fall for the outgunned GOP.

President Johnson carried forty-four states that fall and swept thousands of liberal Democrats into office on his coattails. Towns in Vermont and Kansas that had never elected a Democrat to any office at any level went with the Democrats that Election Day.

But within two years, the wheels were coming off the LBJ bandwagon. Within his own party, opponents to U.S. military involvement in Vietnam began to be heard. Inflation took off, leaving millions of Americans—especially retirees on fixed incomes and service members still enduring the military draft—falling further and further behind. By the time of the 1966 mid-term elections, scores of those Johnson had swept into Congress were swept out by voters.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California. He defeated liberal Democrat Pat Brown (father of the current Gov. Jerry Brown) by more than one million votes. Reagan served two highly successful terms as California’s governor.

His election as President in 1980 was still considered something of a long shot, largely because the liberal media continued to view him as “extreme” and “dangerous.” Reagan, however, never reacted angrily. He learned to keep his temper in check and use his well-developed sense of humor to puncture liberal shibboleths.

Still, it’s well worth remembering that it all began for Ronald Reagan this day in 1964, half a century ago. Reagan was what they call a conviction politician. Or, in more recent computer jargon, WYSIWYG—What you see is what you get.

Here’s an example: I attended a staff conference in the federal education department in 1985. Mrs. Patricia Hines had convened the meeting of Reagan appointees to decide on a policy to pursue about education. Of five options offered us by the career civil service employees, Mrs. Hines opened the meeting by saying: “Options number three and number five are off the table, but let’s look at one, two and four.”

Innocently, I asked why she had ruled out those two choices. As if she was gently chiding a slow student, Mrs. Hines said: “Numbers three and five are specifically condemned in the Republican Platform on which President Reagan was elected. This president may not be able to do all the things the Republican Platform recommends, but he will never do something the platform condemns. That’s basic to government by consent of the governed.”

I was embarrassed that I had not studied the Platform, but I was thrilled to be so corrected. Ronald Reagan believed that the people who nominated him and elected him had done so because they believed in him and trusted him to do what he said he would do. He would not break faith with them.

For thirty years—from this day in 1964 until that day in 1994 when  he wrote his dignified and moving letter telling us he had Alzheimer’s Disease, Ronald Reagan was the acknowledged leader of American conservatism.

I especially like the fact that he quoted Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in his 1964 speech:

The nation that prefers disgrace to danger is ready for a master—and deserves one.”

This quote reminds us that Reagan quoted the timeless wisdom of the Founding Fathers more than any of the four presidents who preceded him (and more, too, than any of the four presidents who have succeeded him.)

America’s leaders have disgraced us all too often in the tumultuous years since President Reagan left us. Strong majorities today tell public opinion pollsters our country is on “the wrong track.” There is deep cynicism about political leadership.

Studying Reagan’s career is not an exercise in nostalgia. It is a necessary task if we would seek to place our beloved country on a better course.

Ronald Reagan and the Bible: “Rock on which our Republic Rests”

by Robert Morrison

February 7, 2014

It came up again this week as I was preparing for an FRC radio interview: What to say about President Reagan’s faith, especially in a week when his 103rd birthday coincided with the annual Congressional Prayer Breakfast?

Well, President Reagan used his remarks at the 1983 Prayer Breakfast to announce his Proclamation of the Year of the Bible. Clearly, the participants at that long ago breakfast were happy to hear this good news. Just as clearly, the atheizers and the cultured despisers of religion were unhappy. It was too much mixing of church and state to their taste.

Even so, President Reagan held firm. He never wavered in declaring that:

the Old and New Testaments of the Bible inspired many of the early settlers of our country, providing them with the strength, character, convictions, and faith necessary to withstand great hardship and danger in this new and rugged land.

He even went on to quote President Andrew Jackson in his own. Jackson had said the Bible is “the Rock on which our Republic rests.” Jackson was the first president of the modern Democratic Party, the man most associated with building a powerful political movement that embraced millions of immigrants, especially Irish and German refugees fleeing tyranny abroad.

Many of these new Americans were Catholics and some were Jews. But they came here yearning to breathe free and hoping to avail themselves of the religious, civil, and economic freedoms that America even then afforded.

Reagan’s proclamation quotes Abraham Lincoln’s words about the Bible.

There could be no more fitting moment than now to reflect with gratitude, humility, and urgency upon the wisdom revealed to us in the writing that Abraham Lincoln called “the best gift God has ever given to man … But for it we could not know right from wrong.”

In early 1983, the American economy was still in deep distress. The “malaise” of Jimmy Carter’s failed policies was still being felt in the workplace, the offices, and factories of a recovering nation. Unemployment was still at 10% and inflation had not yet been brought under control.

Many of the atheizers and liberals carped that the President of the United States had, or ought to have, more important things on his mind than proclaiming a Year of the Bible.

Take U.S.-Soviet relations, they said. Why, Reagan has not even met with his Soviet “counterpart,” the ruler of the Communist Party of the USSR. President Reagan was too polite to lecture these editorial writers that he had no Soviet counterpart. He was the constitutionally chosen leader of a great Republic. He had won almost 44 million votes in a free and open election. The ruler of the USSR had been unanimously chosen by Communist Party delegates who were responsible to no one except the Communist Party.

Instead of a political science lecture, however, on the essential differences between a free country like America and the Soviet Union holding all its Captive Nations behind the Iron Curtain, Reagan deflected critics with humor.

How can I meet the Soviets when they keep dying on me?

Looking back on 1983, that long ago Year of the Bible, we can note some interesting events.

  • President Reagan addressed the nation in March of that year to announce his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Critics jumped on it and said it was dangerous and wouldn’t work. They called it “Star Wars” to show their contempt. Reagan didn’t mind: He knew Americans loved the Star Wars movies and readily identified the Soviets with the bad guys in the movies.
  • Reagan spoke in March to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and warned them not to turn a blind eye to “the machinations of an evil empire.” He only used that term once. He never said the USSR was that evil empire. But the next day, in Moscow, the Communist editors of Pravda and Izvestia exploded in rage, charging him with labeling the Soviet Union with those “provocative” words. Deep in the bowels of the GuLAG, the Soviet slave labor system, prisoners read of Reagan’s words and took heart. They excitedly tapped out the words “evil empire” on plumbing pipes. Finally, an American president gets it, they said to each other.
  • In September, the Soviet Union shot down a straying civilian jet liner, Korean Airlines Flight 007. All 269 passengers and crew of the unarmed aircraft were murdered in cold blood. Throughout the West, liberals feared Reagan would use this as his pretext for a war with the USSR. Reagan exercised amazing restraint, using the shoot down as an occasion for closing Soviet consulates and tightening the screws of his economic boycott. But he had the grim satisfaction of letting the world see the Russian bear as it truly was—with teeth and fangs bared.
  • One month later, President Reagan ordered U.S. forces to liberate tiny Grenada from Soviet-backed Cubans and homegrown Communists. The Caribbean island nation was only 1/10 the size of Rhode Island, but its 100,000 residents, most of them black, greeted the American troops ecstatically. They blessed the Americans for their new-found freedom. In this short, successful, nearly bloodless campaign, Reagan disproved the idea that Marxism was a “historic inevitability.” Leonid Brezhnev had proclaimed: What we have, we hold. Reagan thought otherwise.
  • Also in October, 1983, the U.S. economy turned the corner. Job creation began to pick up robustly. Inflation had come way down. The economic indicators all started to show healthy signs of recovery. Reagan joked that his friends could put “egg on their faces and go to their Halloween parties as liberal economists.” The Reagan recovery that began in October 1983 lasted until October 2008—a quarter century of prosperity.

Secular scholars, of course, will laugh at the notion that President Reagan’s Proclamation of a Year of the Bible had anything to do with any of these favorable events in our nation’s life. Let them laugh. God laughs, too. He laughs his enemies to scorn.

Deep-Six the Rubin “Tear Down” Message

by Robert Morrison

May 2, 2013

In a play on one of the Gipper’s greatest lines, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin urges us to “Tear Down this Icon.” The highly touted “From the Right” columnist urges conservatives and Republicans to get over the Reagan legacy.

By the recent showings of the party’s presidential nominees, one would think the GOP has certainly gotten over Ronald Reagan. When was the last time the Beltway campaign consultants, those high-priced hirelings, even attempted to win the whole country? Besotted by Red State/Blue State calculations, and armed with their white boards, the big domes never have come close to Reagan’s generous inclusiveness. Reagan thought of all the states as Red, White & Blue. He wanted to win them all, and twice nearly did.

Can anyone seriously claim that Bush, McCain, or Romney ran Reagan-style campaigns? Let’s start with the way the nominees got their gold rings. Ronald Reagan refused to attack his fellow Republicans. He invoked the Eleventh Commandment. What? Yes, he said: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” No one had ever heard of that before. No one has heard of it since.

But Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment worked brilliantly. By not attacking his GOP rivals, he could genially ignore them. Thus, their backers never got mad at Reagan. And he never had to get into that tit-for-tat ugliness that independent voters abhor. Even more ingenious: By not getting into the gutter with his Republican opponents, Reagan let millions of Democrats overlook the fact that he was a Republican.

By these methods, Reagan won 96% of Republicans and 24% of Democrats. The Reagan Democrats have been left without a political home since he left the scene. Where are the Dole/Bush/McCain/Romney Democrats? There are none.

For that matter, where are the Dole/Bush/McCain/Romney Republicans? Not one of those candidates who sought national office in the Republican Party in 2008 or 2012 wanted to claim the mantle of any of recent Republican nominees. They were all Reagan wannabes. Not one was a Reagan might-a-been.

It’s certainly reasonable for Rubin to suggest we examine the Republican performance and offer ideas for improvement. One nice thing we can say for the McCain and Romney campaigns—they left plenty of room for improvement.

Rubin cites Reince Priebus, who recently attracted notice by conducting an “autopsy” on his own shaky tenure:

We’re winning everything imaginable in off-years,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told me recently. “The governors are still going strong. We’re winning the war in issue-driven races.” However, he conceded that Republicans have lost their ability to connect with average Americans in the wider electorate: “We are not relating to people at an emotional level.”

So, Jennifer Rubin’s advice to us would be ditch the one great Republican in our lifetime who never failed to relate to people at an emotional level? What Chairman Priebus is saying in this tribute to the Republicans’ off-year performance is that his party is doing fine so long as not too many people show up to vote.

Republican leaders today behave, in Lincoln’s fine phrase, “like a duck hit on the head.” They find it incomprehensible that voters could shun a wonderful candidate who regarded 47% of Americans as irretrievable slackers, who thought of himself as “severely conservative,” and who wanted to involve us in Syriaas soon as he could figure out “who are friends are there.” (Hint, Governor: our only friends in Syria are the Christians. You weren’t thinking of arming them were you?)

Ronald Reagan gained some fame by speaking of an Evil Empire. But he never said it was Russia. He let Pravda howl in rage, thereby admitting it. In speaking truth fearlessly, Reagan inspired those in the Gulag and helped mightily to loosen the shackles of hundreds of millions in the Captive Nations.

Mitt Romney stumbled badly by naming Russia as “our number one strategic enemy.” Thus, he showed himself not a credible alternative to the failed policies of Barack Obama. Chris Matthews called the Republicans the “Daddy Party,” but today’s post-Reagan Republicans cannot convince a majority of Americans that Father Knows Best.

Thanks to Ronald Reagan, foreign policy was the Republicans’ strong suit for a generation. And Reagan brought us victory in the Cold War without invading any Communist country. Or at least, no country larger than that dot-on-the—map, Grenada. And that was over in a blink.

The GOP has yet to live down George W. Bush’s failed attempt to bring democracy to Muslim-majority countries where 84% of the people think anyone who leaves Islam should be murdered. Such countries are not democracies. Nor was Germany a democracy when Germans voted 89% to make Hitler their Fuhrer. Purple fingers can vote, but they can also slit throats and place bombs in churches.

There’s a lot to learn from Ronald Reagan. His common-sense conservatism and his uncommon ability to touch the hearts of the American people are nothing to be ashamed of. They are something to strive for.

Millions of our fellow Americans remember him with love and respect. So do their kids. Pollsters tell us even today, he would beat Obama 58% to 42% in an imaginary match-up.

We don’t need to idolize Ronald Reagan, or make an icon of him. But, it wouldn’t hurt to study how he built his winning coalition.

Reagan 58% Obama 42%

by Robert Morrison

April 24, 2013

Producers of a forthcoming National Geographic TV special polled Americans, today’s Americans, in one of those fantasy fights that are so popular with boxing fans. This time, though, the pollsters asked Americans whom they would vote for in a matchup between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

The poll produced some stunning results: Reagan would win another landslide, defeating Obama 58% to 42%. Could that be accurate? Would President Obama, with all his famous political skills, really only outpoll the famously inept Walter “Fritz” Mondale by a single point? Recall, Reagan bested Mondale in 1984 by 59% to 41%.

What’s the purpose of such fanciful exercises? It is not a pointless diversion into wishful thinking. It’s a key indicator. It tells us something very important about our fellow citizens.

Americans did respond to clear leadership, to a strong figure who had a strong message. Here’s a little thought experiment: It’s only been one year. Try to recall a single line of Mitt Romney’s that was not a gaffe much exploited by the liberal media. In all seriousness, can we remember a single memorable phrase? I cannot.

I was on the road last year on the FRC/Heritage Foundation Values Voters Bus for nearly six months. By law, I could not endorse any candidates. I found it wiser not to mention any. But that did not prevent anyone from talking up their favorite candidate to me.

I remember stopping at the Minnesota Republican State Convention in St. Cloud. It’s a beautiful state, especially in springtime. We were at the convention center early to set up. Mitt Romney had already wrapped up the GOP nomination by that time. But there were no bumper stickers, no buttons, no posters in evidence for Mitt. I talked to a lot of delegates and backers of various candidates for the U.S. Senate and the House. Not one of these political activists mentioned Gov. Romney.

I remember thinking at the time: this could spell trouble for Romney. I was aware that some parties had elected unloved candidates to the presidency. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, none of these men exuded warmth or elicited the love and esteem of their supporters. But they won nonetheless. What I had never seen in a winning campaign in more than forty years was a winning candidate who was not even mentioned by his own grassroots.

The fact that such a stunning percentage of Americans today say they would vote for Ronald Reagan in a modern election should be a source of greatest encouragement to us. It shows that a strong leader who lays out a clear program could win. Could have won.

In the aftermath of last November, the usual talking heads ran to the cable shows with their white boards and tried to prove that they hadn’t miscalculated. There was just an entirely different electorate out there. Demographics! Even Reagan couldn’t have won in this forbidding environment, they claimed.

Those political consultants—which is our twenty-first century title for flim-flam men, card sharps, and Ponzi schemers—were trying to explain away their disastrous strategizing, their deeply flawed campaign advice. Have you noticed that they are still making the rounds on TV and on talk radio, these architects of failure?

The first fatal flaw in their schemes is red state/blue state. The theory behind red state/blue state says you turn the Electoral College upside down and shoot for 270 Electoral Votes. You identify the states absolutely required to achieve this bare minimum for election. And you squeeze those states like lemons to get every last drop of voting power out of them.

A truly terrible idea, red state/blue state dangerously divides the nation. Barack Obama’s campaign in Virginia in 2008 had 84 local headquarters, staffed largely by volunteers. McCain’s campaign that year in Virginia had one national headquarters and one state campaign office—both located in the same Northern Virginia office building and both equally chaotic. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama became the first Democrat since LBJ in 1964 to carry the Old Dominion. And he did it again in 2012.

Last month, I attended the March for Marriage on the Mall. Four hundred Korean-Americans came to the event. They had all come from one church in Flushing, Queens.

That’s in New York State. The architects of failure haven’t put an ad on TV for a Republican in New York for decades. New York is not a part of the bare minimum number of 270 Electoral Votes they need for their grand strategy. So they write off the Empire State.

These architects abandoned California, too, and New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Washington and Oregon. By micro-targeting their appeals to specific groups—right to lifers, gun owners, home schoolers, NASCAR fans, etc., they lost the ability to move the country.

I still remember lines from Reagan’s 1980 campaign, and not just because I took part in it. “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.

And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his job.” It was a light jab, not mean at all.

Jimmy Carter was so weak, he could be knocked over with a feather. Best of all, Ronald Reagan said America should be “a shining city on a hill.”

What today’s poll shows us in the fictional contest between Reagan and Obama is that the American people remember that shining city on a hill. Now, all we need is the leader to take us there.

Reaganing At Grove City College

by Robert Morrison

February 6, 2013

Whenever I hold high the standard of that great champion of freedom, I like to call it reaganing. This week, I took part in the Ronald Reagan Memorial Lecture Series at Grove City College in Western Pennsylvania. What a pleasure it was! Grove City College is a 137-year old Christian institution of higher education. Dr. Richard Jewel leads this brave and independent voice and takes an active role in the programs of GCC’s highly regarded Center for Vision & Values. This small think tank has a deservedly high reputation within the conservative movement in the U.S.

Dr. Paul Kengor, a history professor at Grove City College, is also the executive director of the Center. My friend Paul is a prolific author, giving us such fine works as God and Ronald Reagan, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, and, most recently, The Communist. This last book may be the most serious scholarly work ever undertaken to document the powerful influence of Frank Marshall Davis, lifelong Communist, on the impressionable young Barack Obama.

President Reagan’s pastor, Rev. John Boyles, led off with extensive documents showing how the Washington Post had gone out of its way to delete the entire opening segment of an important Christmas Address to the nation by President Reagan. It was his first national address at Christmas in a year that had seen an assassination attempts against Reagan and against Pope John Paul II, the firing of the air traffic controllers who violated federal law by striking, and the passage of the largest tax cut in U.S. history. Perhaps most ominous that Christmas was the effort by the Soviet Union to crush Poland’s Solidarity union, the first free trade union in the Soviet bloc.

The president began with tender words about the first Christmas. He related the story of the infant Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem and called that perhaps His first miracle. “The world will never lack for wonders,” he said, quoting G.K. Chesterton, “but for wonder.”

Every word of this was cut by the editors of The Post. Even as Mr. Reagan spoke, behind the Iron Curtain, Solidarity leaders, including the heroic Lech Walesa, were languishing in prison.

Dr. Kengor then turned to me, asking what I was doing just before Reagan took office. I told his audience how I was almost boarding Soviet fishing trawlers in the Bering Sea as a Russian language interpreter in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Before Reagan, American leaders met regularly with Soviet dictators. President Jimmy Carter and Sec. of State Cyrus Vance met with Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev in Vienna. At that summit meeting, Vance said Brezhnev “shared our deepest values.”

Which values would those be, Mr. Vance? Freedom of religion? Freedom of the press? Freedom of assembly? The right to keep and bear arms? The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures? Cyrus Vance and his president clearly had no real knowledge of life in the Soviet Union. I did. And it was deeply troubling to know that my civilian leadership was so woefully blind to reality.

All that changed when Ronald Reagan swept Jimmy Carter out of the White House in 1980. I no sooner left active duty than I was volunteering for the Reagan for President campaign in Washington State. At his first press conference after being inaugurated, White House reporters challenged President Reagan. Did he really mean it when he said the Soviet leaders believe in no morality except that which advances international Communism? Reagan replied mildly, with a pleasant smile: Yes. And then he proceeded to quote Vladimir Lenin, the father of Soviet Communism. “My God,” one seasoned reporter was quoted, “he’s going to govern as Ronald Reagan!”

President Reagan soon sent Rev. John Boyles on a pastoral mission to Moscow. He wanted to send a message of support to the Siberian Seven, a family of humble Pentecostal Christians who had come all the way to the Russian capital and rushed past

Soviet guards into the U.S. Embassy. They had taken refuge there—for years. Ronald Reagan wanted them to know they were not forgotten. I noted that those dear simple Christians may have read the sign on the American Embassy in Moscow. It says Spaso House. In Russian, that means “salvation house.”

Rev. Boyles bravely got past Soviet border guards wearing a special belt buckle. It was a wooden device which when disassembled could be fashioned into a cross.

This was Ronald Reagan’s message of hope to these people suffering under a brutal tyranny. He would later speak to the world at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. He told the story of the Communists in East Berlin and their radio tower. Built to overshadow all the church steeples in free Berlin and captive Berlin, the globe atop the tower had a defect, President Reagan said. The Communist authorities tried to efface that defect with acid, by sandblasting it, even by painting it over. “But when the sun strikes that globe, it reflects the Sign of the Cross,” Reagan said.

That part of his famous “Tear Down This Wall” speech, June 12, 1987, was also censored by our liberal press. I did not discover this phrase in the speech until I was researching my own small book, Reagan’s Victory: How He Built His Winning Coalition, in 2009.

It thrilled me to see that man in whose administration I had proudly served invoke the Sign of the Cross. As a history researcher, I was sure that no other president had ever publicly invoked the Sign of the Cross.

Meeting with some of Grove City College’s best and brightest students is always exciting. What did Reagan think about marriage, they wanted to know? I told them how President Reagan had tasked my then boss, Gary Bauer, to write the first comprehensive federal report on this topic. Gary wrote: The Family: America’s Future. And that report led President Reagan to issue an Executive Order requiring every federal agency to do a family impact study before issuing regulations that might harm the family.

Jimmy Carter’s “White House Conferences on Families” had nearly broken up over wrangles about the definition and nature of the family. His attempts to paper over these differences and to push an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution helped defeat him in 1980. Constitutional lawyer and grassroots activist Phyllis Schlafly knew the E.R.A. would lead to drafting women for combat, federal funding for abortion-on-demand, and giving same-sex couples rights to marriage and adoption. Do these issues have a familiar ring today?

Ronald Reagan was elected as a pro-life, pro-family candidate. He carried forty-four states in 1980 and forty-nine in 1984, never wavering on his strong stands.

Cut government, fight Communism, the Pieties (traditional family values)” was the way one writer for the conservative flagship publication, National Review, summed up the Reagan program. “Invertebrate,” was my one-word summary of Jimmy Carter’s administration.

At Grove City College—which famously takes no federal funds—you can still honor God, honor America, and give thanks for the faith, the life, and the great achievements of President Ronald Reagan. Now I fully understand what the great Daniel Webster meant when he defended his own Dartmouth College before the Supreme Court of the United States:

It is as I have said a little college, sir. But there are those who love it.” For little Grove City College, there is a great mission. Count me among those who love it.

I Like Ike

by Robert Morrison

November 2, 2012

Its the first election I can remember. I was just a second grader in 1952, but I knew who I wanted to be my president. The campaigns slogan was I Like Ike. In my family and in my grammar school, almost all of us liked Ike. This was eons before red state and blue state divisiveness. Even in liberal New York State, it seemed everybody liked Ike.

The campaign of 1952 was the first one to use TV ads. Supercilious folks frowned on selling the president like a soap flakes. Catchy jingles and cartoon figures of happy Americans marching behind the popular war hero horrified the chin-pulling media elites. Yes, even then we had liberal media elites. In those days, thats all we had.

It didnt matter. Dwight D. Eisenhower was an internationally known quantity. He had been a five-star general who commanded the Allied forces for the invasion of Normandy. It was Ikeeveryone called him thatwho took the huge risk of sending the largest invasion force in history to liberate a continent from Hitlers cruel grasp.

Unlike other famous generals from World War IIDouglas MacArthur and George Patton, for exampleEisenhower always had the common touch. He never failed to stress his simple Midwestern roots. Ikes Guildhall Speech accepting the keys of the City of London in 1945 will stand forever as a tribute to his plain-spoken decency and his eloquence.

Ike was sneered at by intellectuals of his day. They adored their cerebral candidate, Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. But Eisenhowers World War II memoirs, Crusade in Europe, have never been out of print. You have to go to the back shelves of university libraries to find slim and unchecked-out volumes of Stevensons deeper thoughts.

Eisenhower the candidate would have preferred having the Republican nomination offered to him. He would have liked to avoid having to campaign at all. He wanted to be elevated to the presidency as the great Gen. Washington wasby unanimous vote of the Electoral College.

He soon learned, however, that he would have to fight, and fight hard, for that Republican nomination. And, in a country still in the sway of Franklin D. Roosevelts powerful 12-year domination of politics, Ike had to reach out well beyond the ranks of the shriveled Republican Party. Ike didnt reject support from Democratic grassroots; he welcomed it.

The Eisenhower election campaign was a model how a political campaign should be run. His Electoral College total was 442-89. He garnered 55% of the popular vote. No one questioned the legitimacy of his victory. His landslide win brought the country together. Americans looked to Ike for leadership with hope and expectation.

Of late, We have become accustomed to seeing presidential campaigns run to win red states and blue states. We hear endlessly of battleground states and how only 10 or 11 states really matter in this contest.

Whether or not our favored candidate is elected next week, this red state/blue state thinking must be rejected. It is dangerous to the Union; it is harmful to the loser and the winner alike. It guarantees petty and shabby politics. It is unworthy of this Great Republic.

The Eisenhower victories of 1952 and 1956 were the models for the Reagan campaigns of the 1980s in which I was proud to take part. In those contests, too, the winning formula was to create a great national wave of support and to surf that wave to an overwhelming popular mandate. That would bring a commanding majority in the Electoral College.

There was no whining about the biased liberal press. Of course they are biased. They were biased in 1952. They were even worse in the Reagan campaigns. Both Ike and the Gipper serenely rolled over the media as they rolled over their opponents.

The best part: You didnt have to stay up late on election night. With Ike, with Ronald Reagan, you could go to bed early, and sleep soundly. The country was in good hands with these good men.

If We Forget…

by Robert Morrison

May 25, 2012

If we forget what we did, we will forget who we are. Those were the words of President Ronald Reagan in his Farewell Address to the American people in 1989. They are especially poignant words, since it was just five years later that the former President was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease, a fatal ailment that first robs victims of their precious memories.

Ronald Reagan has been given credit for restoring American patriotism at a time when corrosive cynicism threatened all our institutions. This Memorial Day is a good time to remember who we are.

Family Research Council is grateful to Californias Kim Bengard, who serves as a board member. Kim and her husband Tom have given so much to FRC, but they have also helped to give us back our memories. They produced Mother of Normandy. This film and website tells the story of Madame Simone Renaud, wife of the Mayor of the little French village of Sainte Mere Eglise. This was the first town liberated by American soldiers when we invaded on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Madame Renaud, fluent in English, began writing to the young widows and mothers of American soldiers who had been killed fighting to free her country. She was shown in LIFE magazine putting flowers on the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the son of the President. What began as a mission of mercy became a lifetime calling. Mother of Normandy tells this touching story of war and remembrance.

President Reagan gave another famous speech, this one at the 1984 ceremonies marking the fortieth anniversary of D-Day. The president spoke from the heights that had been scaled by American Rangers. Many of the survivors sat before him as he hailed The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. He lauded their heroism and thanked them on behalf of a grateful nation for their sacrifices.

Historian Douglas Brinkley says that Reagan revived American patriotism with this speech. By focusing on a small group—those valiant few who scaled the heights on that cold and blustery June morning—Reagan lifted up all soldiers, all sailors, and all airmen. He lifted up an entire generation of Americans who gave their all for Victory.

Subsequent presidents have gone to Normandy. It is no partisan statement to say their words there have been largely forgotten. One of them even hovered over the nations like a god. Hovered and departed.

Reagan, with his unerring sense of drama, took care not to make his words too abstract. He pointed to living, breathing men, to the gnarled hands that once stabbed their daggers into hard and unyielding stone to reclaim a continent for freedom. Like Lincoln, he lifted them up, not himself. This is why we can remember what he said there.

He spoke of the band of brothers who buried their dearest friends in Normandy. Today we can think of those beaches at Normandy and know that they represent all the places where American warriors have carried the flag to defend our enduring freedom.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of the summer season. It is not unfitting to take time for recreation and enjoyment. Those who fought and died enjoyed the blessings of liberty, too. They wanted us to share in that joy of living.

Still, we should take time as well to thank God for the gift of freedom. Let us pray for the families of those they left behind. We can pray, as well, for the families who today receive uniformed officers bearing the dreaded news: their loved one has been killed inAfghanistan, or some other trouble spot.

We can share with our own families words from Stephen Spenders poem, words that Ronald Reagan memorably shared with the world.

The names of those who in their lives fought for life,

Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.

Born of the sun, they traveled a short while towards the sun,

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

Ronald Reagans 101st: A Banner of Bold Colors or Tricky Pivoting?

by Robert Morrison

February 6, 2012

Ronald Reagan was what they call a conviction politician. He often described himself as a citizen in politics. And if you look at his long, successful life, you see only two eight-year periods of office holding: theCaliforniagovernorship (two terms) and the presidency (two terms).

Ronald Reagan did not play by the playbook described on the front page of Sundays Washington Post. The liberal voice of the nations capital headlined this thought:

Tricky pivot for Romney to the center.

Senior reporter Karen Tumulty led off the story with this:

The playbook for Republican presidential contenders goes at least as far back as Richard Nixon: Run hard to the right in the primaries; steer back to the center for the general election.

In other words, be as cynical as Nixon and take our advice: Sucker the voters of your own party into backing you. Then, once youve gulled enough of them to gain a first-ballot nomination at the convention, tack to the left to attract the broad middle of the electorate.

Reporter Tumulty did not list Ronald Reagan in her widely-read story because he did no such thing and, gee, he only won two back-to-back landslides, carried only 44, then 49 states, and won only a total of 1,014 Electoral Votes. Of course, reporter Tumultys friendly advice on tricky pivoting is given to candidates she would never back in any event.

Why didnt Reagan pivot? Why wasnt he tricky? I remember a staff meeting at the U.S. Department of Education early in his second term. Five different proposals were on the table for discussion. Well, we know we cant do numbers 3 and 5, said Patricia Hines, one of my favorite colleagues. Why not? I asked innocently. Because, she patiently explained to this slower student in the class, the platform on which Ronald Reagan was twice elected specifically condemned those policies. President Reagan may not be able to achieve all he endorsed in that platform, but he would never, never go against his platform.

I soon learned the high ideals and the deep commitments of the Reagan movement from Mrs. Hines and many other Reaganauts. We never called ourselves Reaganites. (Leave iting for the Trostkyites and the Castroites).

President Reagan had a strong sense that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. And it was not only dishonorable to pivot, or to engage in tricky maneuvers to gain that consent of the governed under false pretenses. Worse, it was corrosive of free government to do so.

Take Richard Nixon. Please. He came into office a staunch anti-Communist. He had waged political battles all his life against liberals and Democrats he accused of being soft on Communism. Then, in office, he abandoned Taiwan and flew to Red China. He toasted Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, wishing the bloody dictator a long life. Mao had shortened the lives of some 60 million Chinese.

Could there be a better example of bottomless cynicism? And how did that tricky pivot work out for Mr. Nixon? Did any of the liberals who applauded his unprincipled flight to Beijing vote for him or defend him against impeachment?

Or, take George H.W. Bush. As Reagans vice president, he had to convince some skeptical conservatives he had truly learned his lessons, and overcome his moderate background. Read my lips, no new taxes, Bush told cheering conservatives at his partys 1988 convention. Elected not by tricky pivoting or tacking to the center, but by emphasizing his differences with the ultra-liberal Michael Dukakis, the senior Bush raised taxes and split the Reagan coalition. Columnist George Will said Bush had turned a silk purse into a sows ear. That coalition of social, defense, and economic conservatives has not been reassembled to this day.

Writer Andrew Busch notes that Ronald Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers more than any of his four predecessors (Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter) combined. I would point out that Reagan also cited the Founders more than any of his four successors combined (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama).

Quoting George Will again, Ronald Reagan spoke to the future in the accents of the past. He was well-grounded. He didnt need fancy footwork or clever positioning. He knew who he was and what he stood for. And so did we.

Faith in God, faith in the America as A Shining City on a Hill, a deep and abiding love for the American people, and a determination not to give in to threats or blandishments. These were the sources of his strength. He called for a Banner of Bold Colors, not one of pale pastels.

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair, said George Washington at the close of the Constitutional Convention. That, too was a Banner of Bold Colors.

Its not surprising that so many candidates today want to emulate Reagans success. Then they should reject tricky pivoting and tacking toward the Washington Post. Instead, let them rally to Reagans Banner of Bold Colors.

Family Research Council Senior Fellow Bob Morrison served in the Reagan Administration and is the author of Reagans Victory: How He Built His Winning Coalition. This book will soon be available in pdf and audio formats on this website.

  • Page 1 of 3
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3