Tag archives: Ronald Reagan

What is a Reagan Conservative?

by Family Research Council

February 1, 2012

Everyones grabbing at the Reagan mantle these days.

Under the Wikipedia entry What would Reagan do? one can find the following summary:

The phrase on occasion has been used by iconoclastic conservatives to claim the mantle of Reagan as they criticize mainline conservatives, by some liberal commentators as a way of chastising Republicans whom also they believe fall short of Reagan’s ideals and also by non-partisan public policy organizations that seek to emulate aspects of Reagan’s leadership.

But one Reagan historian doesnt find that surprising at all. Professor and author Paul Kengor notes that Reagan won the presidency in 1980 by defeating an incumbent in a landslide, winning 44 of 50 states, and then got reelected in 1984 by sweeping 49 of 50 states. Few presidents enjoyed such decisive success at the ballot box and, more broadly, in changingAmerica and the world for the better.

Tomorrow, Dr. Paul Kengor will address the question, What did Ronald Reagan believe? Or, even more specific: What would Reagan do if he were president right now?

Dr. Kengor will lay out the underlying thinking that formed the basis of Ronald Reagan’s political philosophy and the policies (foreign and domestic) that he pursued. Dr. Kengor will share what he calls his “Reagan Seven;” that is, seven beliefs that undergirded Reagan’s actions as president and as a public figure. These core principles get us closer to the crux of what Ronald Reagan’s conservatism was about, and what his GOP emulators today might take to heart.

To RSVP for tomorrows event, click here: What is a Reagan Conservative?

Franklin D. Roosevelt: January 30, 1882

by Robert Morrison

January 30, 2012

We who hate your gaudy guts salute you

William Allen White

Republican William Allen White, editor of Kansas Emporia Gazette, was often exasperated with President Franklin Roosevelt, but he recognized his great qualities of leadership. Recently, one of the callers to a popular conservative talk show was especially angry at Newt Gingrich: Why, he said FDR was the greatest president of the twentieth century!

A highly acclaimed recent book, The Forgotten Man, by Amity Shlaes, argues that Roosevelts famous New Deal did not improve the stricken economy in the 1930s, and may even have slowed the recovery. Its a commonplace among conservatives to argueagainst the New Deals vast public works projectsthat it was really the military buildup leading into the Second World War that got us out of the Great Depression. But that leads us inevitably to look at FDRs wartime leadership. Columnist Pat Buchanan agrees with libertarian Ron Paul that we should never have entered the war against Hitler in 1941. Both of those gentlemen seem to have forgotten that it was Nazi Germany that declared war on the U.S.

As a conservative, I would not defend many of FDRs New Deal policies, although we should note that his Labor Secretary, Frances Perkins, the first woman of Cabinet rank, fought tirelessly to protect women from the hazards of coal mining, tunnel construction, and lumbering. Why? Because such jobs were hazardous to mothers. FDRs backing of union demands was always linked to a living wage for the working man. It was assumed he was working to support a wife and children.

Who does not admire the courage of a man who overcame polio? FDRs story of personal triumph over adversity inspired a nation whose economy was crippled. Times are bad now, to be sure, but we dont have to post armed guards on U.S. Mail Trucks. We are not seeing a hundred banks fail a day. And thank God we do not have 25% unemployment.

In the days before the 22nd Amendment, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president four times. Reagan thought the 22nd Amendment was a mistake. So do I.

Ronald Reagan used to enjoy telling historians and visiting Democrats that he had voted for Roosevelt every chance he got. When Sam Donaldson bellowed a question in his foghorn voice, asking Reagan if any of the economic mess he inherited was his fault, President Reagan smiled sheepishly and answered: Yes, for a long time, I was a Democrat. The puckish aside, the irrepressible humor covered Reagans savvy political strategy: He never criticized FDR.

Reagan was hostile to Big Government. FDR was Big Government. Reagan refused to forget the 100 million people trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Many conservatives blamed FDR for the abandonment of Eastern Europe to the Soviets. (Its an odd criticism coming from folks whose home team wanted to abandon Western Europe to the Nazis.)

Reagan campaigned against wasteful government spending, red tape, and higher taxes. The New Deal was awash in all of that. And yet, Reagan never attacked the man who embodied liberalism in his era.

Why not? I suspect it was because Reagan knew that not only he, but millions of his own supporters, had backed Roosevelt with enthusiasm. If your grandparents were Evangelicals or Catholics in the 1930s and 40s, the odds were they voted for FDR. If your family was Jewish or black, they almost certainly would have been Roosevelt loyalists.

Reagan wanted to keep the loyalty of these voters. His coalition contained major elements of the old Roosevelt coalition. Reagan even swiped some of FDRs best lines: This generation has a rendezvous with destiny. Many of those young Republicans who thrilled to those words were unaware Franklin Roosevelt had spoken them first.

If the greatest evil on the world stage in the first half of the twentieth century was Hitler and Nazism, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the leading opponent of that demonic regime. From the day that Hitler became Chancellor of Germanyon Roosevelts 51st birthday in 1933until their death twelve years later, the world was focused on a titanic struggle between freedom and tyranny. The outcome of that struggle was by no means assured.

Ronald Reagan gave his heart to FDRs fight against Nazism. Reagan volunteered for the military at the outbreak of the war. When poor eyesight kept him out of combat, Reagan made training films for the Army and raised millions in war bond drives.

It was doubtless that uncompromising stance against Hitler tyranny that made Reagan such an outspoken foe of Communist tyranny, the focus of evil in the second half of the last century.

Both men shared more than an aversion to tyranny. They shared a strong Christian faith.

When FDRs son Elliott boarded HMS Prince of Wales in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in August, 1941, he informed Prime Minister Winston Churchill my father is a very religious man. Indeed, that Christmas, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war, Churchill took up residence at the White House for three weeks.

FDR was worn out by Churchills late night sessions, fueled by tobacco smoke and whisky. But on Christmas morning, FDR insisted on prompt attendance at Foundry Methodist Church. I like to sing hymns with the Methodies, the President said, and besides, it will do Winston good. It did.

FDRs D-Day Prayer was broadcast from the White House on June 6, 1944. (Atheizers, hold your ears!) His Inaugural Day activities for his unprecedented fourth swearing-in in 1945 began with services at St. Johns Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House.

Conservative hero Winston Churchill appreciated FDRs leadership qualities. He would certainly find it strange to see us denigrating the man he called the Champion of Freedom. At the outset of the Second World War, Churchill said: If we open up a quarrel between yesterday and today, we may lose tomorrow. Good advice.

The Pearl Harbor Attack—December 7, 1941: A Date Which Will Live in Oblivion?

by Robert Morrison

December 7, 2011

Defense Sec. Leon Panetta has issued a commemorative message to the survivors of Pearl Harbor. It might better be called Leons Amazing Whodunnit. The secretary waxes poetic, calling the generation that fought World War II the greatest generation and lauding their heroic sacrifice. He thanks them for their courage and steadfastness. This is entirely appropriate.

Theres only one thing missing: Nowhere in Panettas paean to the vets does he mention why this date, which President Roosevelt called a date which will live in infamy, should be remembered. He never mentions that the attack was staged by air and naval forces of Imperial Japan.

Now, if you are a modern Secretary of Defense, you must remember always that America has had a close and cooperative alliance with democratic Japan for more than half a century. You doubtless recall as well that we have U.S. armed forces stationed in various bases in Japan today. You will also want to keep in mind the fact that Japan looks to us for military assistance in the event that North Korea attacks South Korea, or China attacks Taiwan. And we rely on Japan for vital intelligence about movements in Asia.

All of that is well and good. It would have been quite fitting to denounce only the infamy of Japans militarists of 1941. For more than twenty years prior to that dastardly attack, the forces of democracy in Japan were under assault at home. Leaders of Japans parliamentary government were systematically targeted for assassination by young fanatics in the military. Those militants were given encouragement and shelter by these same senior militarists.

No good purpose is served by failing to point these things out. When Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975, the hapless President Ford said this is no day for recriminations.

Ronald Reagan, soon to mount a powerful challenge to Ford, reportedly said: What better day?

So it is today. What better day to recall that on this date in 1941, air and naval forces of the Empire of Japan staged a bloody attack on a nation with whom they were at peace? Failure to point these things out today leads us to underestimate the miracle of our genuine friendship of today.

Former President George H.W. Bush spoke to the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen several years ago. He said the most underreported story of the second half of the Twentieth Century was the renewal of close friendship between the American and Japanese peoples. Bush told the Mids they could not imagine the hatred that existed toward all Japanese in the Second World War. As the youngest naval aviator in history, Bush described his plane being shot down by the Japanese over Chichi Jima.

As the waves pushed his inflatable boat inexorably toward that Pacific island, Bush described how he frantically paddled to get away. He knew that captured American fliers were tortured, killed and eaten there. Crying and puking, he said, he thanked God when he saw the submarine USS Finback surface to rescue him.

President Bushs remembrance was of vital importance to those Midshipmen. Within the Brigade of Midshipmen that listened attentively to him that night were several cadets from the Japanese naval academy. Also in attendance were several exchange officers from todays Japanese Navy.

My own family cherishes the friendships we have with foreign exchange officers at the Naval Academy, including those from Japan and Germany. Those nations were our bitterest foes in World War II. We have reached out to our foreign friends, as well as to those Midshipmen who come from newly independent navies of the former Soviet Union.

Peace and reconciliation are sweet rewards of American victories. They are the fruit of peace through strength. Nothing is served, however, by memorial messages that dont memorialize. Amnesia is never a good policy. Mr. Secretary: There is a who in this whodunit!

Reagans Favorite Sign: Hes Old But hes Cute

by Robert Morrison

November 17, 2011

A glittering panel was assembled this week on Washingtons EYE Street, the home of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). They had come to discuss Ronald Reagans career in the movies and how that influenced his political life. Before Reagan, people asked: How can an actor be president? After Reagan, people recognized his joke: How can you be president if you havent been an actor?

The panel was chaired by Politicos John Harris. He led off by telling the 40-50 attendees that he graduated from high school in 1980 and cast his first presidential vote in 1984. Mr. Harris was too tactful to mention that it probably wasnt cast for RR. Thats OK, 59% of the votes cast that year were cast for the Gipper; he carried 49 states.

The panelists included NBC News Andrea Mitchell, ABC News Sam Donaldson, former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, and, of course, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) Dodd left the Senate in January to assume the presidency of the MPAA. I counted one likely vote for President Reagan of the five panelists. Fair and balanced.

Sen. Dodd was most charitable. He spoke of having gone to the White House early one morning for a meeting. The night before, President Reagan had lost the Louisville debate to challenger Walter Mondale. Fritz even got a baseball bat from his admirers in the press titled The Louisville Slugger. Dodd expected to find Reagan down in the mouth, or at least tired.

Not at all, Dodd said. The president was bright-eyed and chipper, greeting him by name and offering him coffee and Danish. It was then, Dodd said, that he learned in politicsas in the moviespresentation is everything. Indeed.

Andrea Mitchell described going to the De-Militarized Zone in Korea with Reagan.

There, at one of the flashpoints in the Cold War, North Korean Communists had built a phony village with happy peasants supposedly enjoying the good life in the Workers Paradise. (All those workers villages were so paradisiacal they had to have barbed wire around them to keep out the starving stooges of Wall Street.) She tweaked one later famous GOP president when she said Reagan looked over the DMZ with binoculars, from which he had carefully taken off the lens covers. What do you see, reporters wanted to know. It looks like a Hollywood back lot, but not as important, Reagan jibed.

Ken Duberstein said it was true that Reagan learned lessons in the impact of taxation on economic activity in Hollywood. It was not just that it didnt pay him—the king of the B moviesto make more movies when he was taxed at the rate of 91 cents of every dollar he earned. Reagan was a wealthy man. He could afford not to make another oat burner Western.

Reagan realized then that when he passed up more movies, the ticket sellers, ushers, popcorn vendors, cameramen, make-up ladies, and a host of other workers lost work, lost opportunities to realize their dreams.

Most of the members of the Screen Actors Guild are people youve never heard of and who may make one or two movies a year. They are the thousands of non-stars who love being a part of Hollywood. These folks elected and re-elected Ronald Reagan president of the Screen Actors Guild seven times. He was genuinely loved by the SAG members.

And it was for them that he went to bat when Communists tried to take over Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s. (Ronnie! Come back! Theres no term limit for SAG president!)

Sam Donaldson was almost glowing in his praise of Reagan the Performer. Sam looks wonderful. Tall and narrow as a rake, he still has that same foghorn baritone with which he used to bellow hostile questions as President Reagan. He described Reagans classic putdown of President Jimmy Carter in their only 1980 debate. Carter unleashed a withering attack on Reagan the Right Wing Reactionary, grimly reciting a barrage of charges against his affable, smiling opponent. Instead of a Dan Quayle, rabbit-in-the-headlights look, Reagan aw shucks-ed him. There you go again. Yes, by this time, the country was very tired of the increasingly shrill Carter.

Sam didnt mention his famous trip to the Kremlin with President Reagan in 1988. In Saint Catherines Hall at a grand state luncheon with Gorbachev and the entire Soviet politburo, Sam glowered at the president.

Who eez zat man, ze one looking at Reagan wiss such an evil look, one Russian asked author Edmund Morris. Oh, thats just Sam Donaldson. Hes a reporter, a thorn in Reagans flesh. The atheist Russian asked for a translation of that unfamiliar term. Ach! We wood say hes a splinter on Reagans a__.

Ken Duberstein noted that President Reagan never put his nose in his briefing books when traveling in the limousine. He knew it meant a lot to people who had come out, sometimes waiting for hours, just to see him. He made a point of making eye contact and waving with them all.

One older lady in Connecticut carried a sign: We loved you in the Knute Rockne Story, but more in the White House. She was referring to Reagans most famous movie, where he played dying football hero, George Gipp. Two hundred thousand people had come out to Notre Dame to see Reagan and Pat OBrien when that movie was first released.

Thats my second favorite sign, the President told Duberstein. The Chief of Staffs question, inevitably, was: OK, Mr. President, what was your favorite sign?

Reagan winked: The one that young cheerleader at Ohio State held up: Hes old but hes cute!

He was more than that: He was old but courageous. When he visited Moscow, he jumped out of his limousine and waded into the crowd at the citys famous shopping district, the Arbat. The Secret Service nearly had heart failure. The Russian people mobbed Ronald and Nancy. The KGB began pushing, shoving, and kicking their own people away. This was the same outfit that had arranged the shooting of the Pope, that had doubtless supplied the plastic explosive the IRA used in their attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher.

Here was President Reagan fearlessly moving among them.

I drafted a letter for President Reagan one time when I worked for him at the U.S. Department of Education. I wrote if we dont teach phonics to our children, I fear that the rising generation will lack the essentials of literacy. Barely an hour later, the approved draft was back on my desk. Circled in red was that phrase: I fear that…

In the margin was this note: This president has concerns. He has no fears.

That was twenty-five years ago. Those words inspire me still.

October 3, 1990: The Day of German Unity

by Robert Morrison

October 3, 2011

It was Ronald Reagan, my hero, who stood at the Brandenburg Gate and cried out: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! But it was President George H.W. Bush who, two and a half years later, quietly and skillfully guided the process of German Reunification. So, today, 21 years later, we can take note of the national day of Germany, or, Tag der Deutschen Einheit. And give credit where credit is due.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1990 wanted desperately to unite his country with the East. It had been divided since the end of World War II. But Kohl was the only other world statesman who wanted this.

The Polish Pope, John Paul II, was all for ending Communisms iron grip, but he was not overly eager about the Germans coming together. Poland had suffered horribly at the hands of the old Germany. The Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, remembered the Blitz of World War II. She was cool to the idea of Germany becoming Europes premier economic and political giant. Frances Francois Mitterrand was unexcited about a new next-door neighbor reunified and rejuvenated. France had been overrun three times in a hundred years by Germany. He had reason to fear.

Back in the USSR, with the Communist regime spinning out of control, party chairman Mikhail Gorbachev was dealing with the inevitable consequences of his decision in November 1989 not to shoot as demonstrators danced on the crumbling Berlin Wall.

The German Democratic Republic (DDR) was the name of the rump state created by Stalin. It was never a democratic republic. And, as became obvious once the Wall came down, it wasnt German either.

TIME Magazine, of course, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee would credit Gorbachev for the peaceful end of the Cold War. Well, they certainly couldnt give credit to Ronald Reagan and George Bush! As my friend Morton Blackwell says, is there any other example of giving credit to the hostage taker for not shooting his hostages?

Actually, there is. Its called the Stockholm Syndrome. Theres probably no better description of the mindset of Western liberalism than this bizarre situationwhere the hostages began to identify psychologically with their own captors.

Gorbachev came to power with 27,000 nuclear weapons trained on the West. Some of them doubtless would have hit Manhattans West Side, Washingtons Georgetown, and they may even have had one targeted on Marthas Vineyard. They had enough to spare.

So, when Gorbachev didnt shoot, he naturally became the darling of the Western elites.

If, as a candidate for President in 1988, George H.W. Bush had said he would like to see Communism collapse in on itself, the Outer Empire of Eastern Europe liberated, and the Inner Empire of the Baltic Republics, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Byelorussia go free, he would probably have been dismissed as dangerous, even delusional.

Its not at all clear that George Bush himself envisioned all that would come to pass on his watch. He was, however, prepared and coolly capable of pressing events to their proper and pacific conclusion.

Germany had been the source of incredible danger and terror for the entire worldbut only from 1890 to 1945. We should never forget the Rape of Belgium in 1914 or the Holocaust of 1942-45. Still, the German people had centuries of spiritual, cultural, and scientific genius to share with mankind.

With the single exception of unjustly persecuting home schoolers, Germany since 1945 has been a reputable modern democracy. Ambassador Klaus Sharioth publicly thanked America for sending 60 million young soldiers and airmen to defend his divided country. He said no nation in history had so generously protected another.

In 1989, I loudly opposed George H.W. Bushs policy of not dancing on the Berlin Wall. I thought Ronald Reagan would have publicly celebrated the great day. But President Bush was right and I was wrong. He surely deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for this signal achievement. And just as surely, he will never get it.

God and Country…and Ronald Reagan

by Michael Skiles

July 13, 2011

Last week, Frank Carlucci (who served as Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan from 1987-1989 and, before then, had played very prominent roles in every administration since Nixon’s) sat down for an informal lunch with a few students from his alma mater, Princeton University. After providing many anecdotes and insights from his decades of service, he closed with an unexpected but deeply profound assessment of what ultimately differentiated Reagan from Nixon.

He felt that, while Nixon was considerably more intelligent and cunning than Reagan, the fundamental reason that Reagan will go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents, “whereas Nixon will always have somewhat of a question mark next to his name,” was that Reagan was profoundly guided, in all of his actions, by his deep faith in God.

In Nixons case, faith was very much in the background, and his lack of faith caused him to develop a great cynicism towards other people. This caused him to lose respect for the truth, and led him to do what he found expedient, rather than what he knew to be morally right; in the end, this got him into serious trouble.

Reagan, by contrast, was driven profoundly by his Christian faith. It drove him to work tirelessly to share the gifts of freedom and respect, to which he knew all human beings were entitled by their nature, and to focus particularly on promoting religious freedom, which he knew was essential to the emancipation of the human race. His charisma came from the transcendent nature of his mission. So much of the world saw him not merely as a politician pursuing self-interested goals, but as a man deeply devoted to doing what he knew to be morally right. This enabled him to face Gorbachev and demand the destruction of the Berlin wall, not just as the President of the United States, but as the voice of every person everywhere who yearned for freedom, righteousness, and justice and who knew that the forces of good would always prevail, and that governments based on religious, social, and economic repression would always inevitably collapse.

Carlucci, a Roman Catholic, went on to say that in order to be an extraordinary president, one must be a man of extraordinary faith, either in God, or in some transcendent principle such as justice or democratic freedom, because it is these transcendent beliefs that give purpose to and shape one’s life, keep one on a righteous course, and motivate others with the knowledge that one really is acting for the good of mankind.

Celebrating Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

by Krystle Gabele

February 7, 2011

Check out an op-ed that was written by FRC’s Bob Morrison that appeared on American Thinker.

President Reagan spoke of the unborn in his Inaugural Addresses. He appealed for their lives in his State of the Union Addresses. These are the most august ceremonies in this Great Republic. By bringing the fate of unborn children into those state occasions, he said he knew and he cared. He said we must all know and must all care. He would not be silent about what he called “the slaughter of innocents.”

A Sputnik Moment, or a Skutnik Moment?

by Robert Morrison

January 28, 2011

This weeks State of the Union Address brought reminders of those long ago. TIME Magazine compared President Obamas polished delivery to Ronald Reagan. Reagan had suffered a down economy and mid-term losses in the House of Representatives. Yet, Reagan bounced back and won a smashing victory in 1984. One thinks the wish is father to the thought.

President Reagan in 1982 created a great tradition by introducing American hero Lenny Skutnik in the family section of the House Visitors Gallery. Mr. Skutnik two weeks before had risked his life to dive into the icy Potomac waters to rescue passengers from the Air Florida crash. It was a dramatic, and thrilling moment.

I know, because my young wife and I watched it live. We watched all of President Reagans State of the Union Addresses. Like this week, there would often be heavy snow during, or in the week of, the address. Outside, the weather might be frightful, but inside it was warm and intimate.

It was the Reagan equivalent of FDRs Fireside Chats.

I recall when President Reagan would speak of the abortion crisis. The fate of unborn children has not been mentioned in any State of the Union Address since Reagans last one in 1988. My great chief described abortion as a wound in Americas soul. He condemned no one but he appealed to Americans to rise above self-interest and embrace the right to life of innocent human beings.

There was no hint of the fate of unborn children last Tuesday night. Fifty-three million Americans have been denied the first of all inalienable rights.

Might we consider what those fifty-three million could have contributed to the State of our Union? We face a crisis of illegal immigration. Obviously, we dont have enough workers. We face a government spending crisis. We dont have enough workers paying taxes to support the government we demand.

Government projections tell us the Social Security System will go broke in 2037, just twenty-five years from now. When it began in 1935, there were 17 workers for every American receiving Social Security. Today, there are only three.

And yet our government continues to sluice billions of dollars to organizations like Planned Parenthood. This outfit has given us 53 million abortions, 65 million STDs, and an out-of-wedlock birth rate of 41%. Still, Mr. Obama tells us funding for this group is essential. To do what, further depress Americas population? To further spread anti-family doctrines? To ensnare more young men and women in its web of deceit?

We face an economic crisis that began in the housing market. Wall Streeter David Goldman wrote in Of Demographics and Depressions (First Things, January, 2009) that the meltdown was bound to start in the housing market.

Young marrieds with children are the drivers of the housing market, he says.

And we have no more of these young families today than we had in 1969.

David Goldman says we may not come out of this severe economic crisis until we address the problem of family formation.

There was surely no such addressing in the presidents address this week. His administration is far down the path of abolishing marriage altogether.

And, because the vast majority abortions are done on unmarried women, an attack on marriage is always an attack on unborn human life itself.

President Obama has thoroughly committed himself to the Planned Parenthood agenda. He may yet express shock at Kermit Gosnells little hell in Philadelphia. Some pro-abortion folks have. They even argue that Gosnell is why we need his health care law—to make sure that these things are done right.

Gosnell has apparently been snip-snipping spinal cords for years in a filthy, vermin-infested abortion mill by night that doubled as an oxycontin den by day. Gosnell doesnt kill unborn children and, allegedly, newborn children in the trim and tidy fashion of Planned Parenthood, but he, too, is a beneficiary of Roe v. Wades unlimited abortion license. And thats a license President Obama defends—to the deaths.

President Reagan understood that we could not have a more perfect Union without attending to the plight of the unborn. He saw all of societyas the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke saw it: As a compact, a union between the living, the dead, and those yet unborn. He would also have agreed with Burke that in order for us to love our country, our country must be made lovely.

And President Reagan knew that America needed more men like Lenny Skutnik—someone willing to risk his life that others may live. President Obama wants us to rise to a Sputnik Moment. President Reagan asked us instead to rise to a Skutnik Moment.

Ronald Reagans First Inaugural: January 20, 1981

by Robert Morrison

January 20, 2011

President Ronald Reagan took the oath of office thirty years on the West Front of the Capitol thirty years ago today. Reagan wanted his Inauguration to symbolize a break with the past. This most outspokenly conservative president believed that the journey West had been the most significant part of our national character. He had himself taken New York editor Horace Greeleys advice: Go West, Young Man.

As he looked out on that fine, clear afternoon, he spoke of the scene before him:

This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held… on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on this city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.

Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man: George Washington, Father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence.

And then beyond the Reflecting Pool the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Unlike todays leaders, Reagan was in no doubt about American exceptionalism. He thought an overweening government threatened Americas exceptionalism. He said so plainly:

Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before.

Reagan went to Hollywood as a young man. There, he built a career and a family and a modest family fortune. He came to understand that under liberal tax laws, it made no sense to work harder, to make that extra movie, or host that extra few TV programs if Washington was going to claim all that income in higher taxes.

Liberal Speaker of the House Tip ONeill thought Reagan terribly selfish for his opposition to higher marginal tax rates. And Tip thought he was about to unleash a decade of greed upon the country. Reagan thought a man could be counted as truly liberal who gave away his own money, not if he voted to have the government take away his neighbors money. Reagan was extremely generous with his own money. In the decade of the 1980s, under his leadership, we saw an unprecedented avalanche of private charitable giving.

We also saw some terrible scandals on Wall Street. But why is it a reflection on Reagans conservatism when liberals on Wall Street commit abuses? Even recently, we saw that most of Bernie Madoffs victims were charter members of that same Hollywood left that thinks every other business and industry is crooked. When called upon to invest their own money, these Hollywood liberals beat a path to the quick, if shady, buck.

Speaker Tip ONeill held the seat in the House of Representatives that young John Kennedy had occupied until 1953. Young Jack was inaugurated as President on this day fifty years ago.

Its a matter of historical fact that Reagan the President never criticized President Kennedy. He had too much respect for all our great history to do that. And he was wise enough to know that millions of those who had voted Jack into office became Reagan Democrats by 1980.

Perhaps thats why Reagan, on this day in 1981, sought to unify the country by quoting not one of his fellow Westerners, not some conservative political icon from the 1950s, but a Patriot from Boston, the beloved hometown of Tip ONeill and Jack Kennedy:

Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of…. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”

We are today at the halfway point of a radical new administration. What is most amazing about this administration is what a sharp departure it is from the America of both Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Its time again to act worthy of ourselves.

Im Pro-Life Because…

by Robert Morrison

January 20, 2011

Im pro-life because Thomas Jefferson was. Whats that, you say? Jefferson never spoke about abortion. Of course not. Surgical abortion was so dangerous prior until about 1800 that it killed the mother as well as the unborn child. But Jefferson was assuredly pro-life.

The care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of good government, he wrote when he was president. They had a balanced budget then, because the president had his priorities straight. In 1774, young Jefferson had written the god who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time. That was his ringing phrase in the Summary View of the Rights of British America. God gives us life; God gives us liberty. Pretty clear. Later, of course, Jefferson would give us his best lines: …all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under the misrule of Roe v. Wade, 52 million Americans have been denied their inalienable right to life. It is, as it has been from the beginning, wholly illegitimate. Jefferson thought there should be more Americans, not fewer. When he purchased the Louisiana Territory, he said there would be room enough on those fruited plains for Americans to the hundredth generation.

Im pro-life because Benjamin Franklin was. Well, if you were the tenth son of your father, youd probably be pro-life, too. Franklin, we know, was not always chaste. He had a child out of wedlock. And he immediately brought him into the family circle, where he raised his son as his own. When that son also had a son out of wedlock, Benjamin loved and cherished this grandson and kept him close to his heart. I dont recommend this as a way of enlarging a family, but it is surely a pro-life sentiment to love and guide your flesh and blood. Franklin, too, welcomed more Americans. In 1762, before we were even a nation, he calculated what our population might be one hundred twenty years thence.

He predicted that America would be home to 162 million people in 1882. The U.S. Census of 1880 showed Old Ben to have been off by less than one percent! When Dr. Franklin served in Paris, he rode out in his carriage to see the first manned ascent in a hot-air balloon. Fashionable French women fainted to see the balloon rise high above Versailles. (Well, maybe it was those tight corsets or those heavy hairpieces.) Four hundred thousand Frenchmen had come out to see the great event. Someone in the crowd was skeptical, however. They asked Dr. Franklin of what practical use the manned balloon was. With a twinkle in his eye, the most practical man in the world replied: Of what practical use is a newborn baby? Now, thats pro-life!

Im pro-life because George Washington was. He spoke often of his hopes for America, for millions yet unborn. He noted, in words that were not included in his First Inaugural, but which revealed his heart, that he and Martha had not been blessed with children.

One of Washingtons successors seems to think of childrenat least those born out of wedlock as Franklins son and grandson wereas punishments. Washington knew that children are a blessing from the Lord, and said so. Washington looked West, as Jefferson did, so that America could have room to expand, room to become the haven for the oppressed of many lands. No one comes to America to do away with their unborn children.

In signing the Constitution, Washington joined with the childless James Madison in seeking the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Now, just who might these men have been thinking about if they did not have children of their own? Us. They thought of us as their posterity. Pro-lifers care about our posterity. We welcome every child in life and work to see them protected in law.

Im pro-life because Lincoln was. He rejoiced that Americas population was growingeven in the dreadful days of civil war and slaughterLincoln welcomed the swelling chorus of the Union. He had put the slavery issue in this context: Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon. FRC welcomed President Obama to Washington with those words and this most civil and respectful question: Are not unborn children so stamped?

Im pro-life because Ronald Reagan, my great chief, was pro-life. In fact, Reagan was the first president to use the term pro-life. He wasnt just anti-abortion, as the liberal media constantly said. He understood that being pro-life inspired us to oppose abortion and euthanasiaas well as standing up to an evil empire that killed to keep itself in power.

It was Reagan who said abortion is a great wound in the soul of America.

And, yes, Im pro-life because, more than any of these, Jesus is pro-life: I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. His Word tells us therefore choose life.

Do we need a better reason?