Wanted: A Real Leader / Re-revolutionize like Reagan
- http://news.mywebpal.com/news_tool_v2.cfm?pnpID=724&NewsID=884339&CategoryID=16783&show=localnews&om=1Wanted: A Real LeaderRe-revolutionize like ReaganThis column is the third in a series.The Gipper to his fans, Dutch to his father, Ronnie to his wife, and The Great Communicator to admiring Americans and devotees around the world, Ronald Reagan is regarded by many as the greatest president of the 20th Century. In this third of a five-part series where we examine what made great presidents great we focus on our 40th Commander-in-Chief and explore the character traits that made him such a successful leader. We also pose the question of which, if any, candidates currently seeking the office of President most closely measures up to his standard.Throughout the caucusing process Republicans sought to claim the mantel of Reagan. Even Obama, now almost certainly to be named the Democratic nominee, likened himself to what many on the Left consider the arch-Conservative. Why? What is it about a Republican president deeply loved and respected by his own that would make even a liberal liken himself to this arch-Conservative?It is more than just an attempt to link themselves to a man loved by so many in hopes of capturing their votes. It is also because Reagan truly revolutionized, or perhaps better expressed, re-revolutionized America. When he took office unemployment stood at 7.62 percent, inflation was 10.35 percent, and the interest rate on a 30 year mortgage was a staggering 15.13 percent and would go up even higher before Reaganâs reforms took effect. America was also languishing on the international stage; dÃ©tente with the Soviet Union was getting the United States nowhere while allowing millions of the Soviet Empireâs own people to continue suffering under the evils of socialism. And Americans themselves had low morale. Many doubted that the United States truly was, in Reaganâs words, a shining city on the hill.What was it about Reagan that made him able to change all that? First, he wasnât afraid to call things like he saw them (and, indeed, like they truly were). Secondly, he was willing to personally change when presented with new facts as opposed to sticking with failed or failing policies or ideas. And, lastly, he believed not only in America but in her people as well.Talk is cheap, but the Great Communicator backed up his words. He openly referred to the Soviet Union as an evil empire as, indeed, it was. Granted, the height of its evil under Joseph Stalinâs rule â which resulted in at least 3 million and perhaps as many as 40 million deaths â was long over. But even by Reaganâs presidency â more than a quarter century after Stalin died â the Soviet Union maintained the Berlin Wall, continued its military buildup at the expense of other much-needed internal reforms, and held its people in the grip of communism. Eastern bloc nations were still dominated by the Soviets, held in check by the threat of a Soviet military invasion. Afghanistan suffered under invasion from the Red Army. And the Soviets themselves suffered under a perpetually weak economy, shortages of consumer goods, and, most seriously, a lack of the basic freedoms that so many Americans take for granted.Reagan backed up his tough words by supporting anti-communist movements, supplying weapons and funds, and building up the U.S. military at a pace with which the Soviets were unable to keep up. He was also willing to negotiate with the Soviets but, refusing to rest all his hopes on talk, he wasnât afraid to break off those negotiations. The 1986 summit in Reykjavik ended without an agreement as Reagan walked away, refusing to drop plans for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), better known as the âStar Warsâ Program, that so worried the USSR. But Reagan knew what he was doing. The Soviets eventually came around as the summit turned out to be a breakthrough, leading to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) signed the following year in Washington, D.C. Ultimately, Reaganâs efforts helped to not only win victory in the Cold War for the United States but to bring the Soviet Union itself to its knees.Reagan also recognized the crisis in his own country and called it, too, like he saw it. âGovernment is not the solution to our problems,â he said. âGovernment is the problem.â Reagan implemented new political initiatives as well as economic policies, advocating a much-needed limiting of government intervention as he followed an economic laissez-faire philosophy. Did his plan work? When Reagan left office, unemployment was down from when he first took office by 2.36 percent to 5.26 percent, inflation was cut by over half and stood at 4.83 percent, and the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was down by nearly one third to 10.73 percent. Further, the boom of the 1990s was a direct result of Reaganâs presidency. So, yes, Reaganâs policies worked. Less government, less taxes, less regulation, and more individual accountability â as he put it, âto send the welfare bums back to workâ â led to a better, stronger America. Those that disparage the gains resulting from his policies, citing a ballooning national debt, fail to realize that it is not tax cuts but government spending and government spending alone that increases the national debt. The problem wasnât Reaganâs policies, but out of control government spending. As our economy is currently experiencing a downward turn we can see the initial results of Bush Oneâs tax increases and Bush Twoâs failure to reign in government spending, regulation, and interference.Reagan was also willing to change. An admirer of FDR (who is the subject of the final part in this series), Reagan was once a New Deal, liberal Democrat. But from the 1950s on Reaganâs growing awareness of the communist threat and his disenchantment with centralized, federal power grew. As Dr. Edward M. Yagerâs book, âRonald Reaganâs Journey: Democrat to Republicanâ explains, Reagan steadily moved to the Right, eventually to become the very model of conservatism. Much of this change resulted from his experiences as an ambassador for General Electric. GE hired him to host the General Electric Theater in the then new medium of television. Through his association with GE Reagan visited their plants, met with employees, and boosted morale. Through his interaction with GE employees Reagan learned of the working manâs complaints about high taxes and government overreach through industry regulation. He did his own research and, in 1962, he formally switched parties.One of Reaganâs most compelling character traits was his eternal optimism.In his speeches and personality, in his actions and his outlook, and in his beliefs and in his determination Reagan held faith in America and her people. He believed that they are basically good and, unchained from government bureaucracy, can and will do great things. Even his political opponents â those that believe in socialism, burdensome government regulations, higher taxes, and in federal oversight rather than in individual responsibility admit to Reaganâs great optimism and his ability to spread that optimism. After his death in 2004, many Democrats hailed this optimism and his ability to inspire Americans. Even Ted Kennedy lauded Reagan, saying, âI had immense respect and admiration for his leadership and his extraordinary ability to inspire the nation to live up to its high ideals.â He added that Reagan would âbe honored as the president who won the Cold War.âReaganâs presidency validated conservative principles and their ability to improve lives. The proof of his convictions exists in the collapse of the Soviet Union, a revitalized economy, a restoration of hope in the hearts of Americans, and a reaffirmation of the status of America as that shining city on the hill that still exists, even today when terrorism has replaced the Soviets as the new threat to peace and liberty.Do McCain, Obama, or Clinton (if she somehow secures the nomination) measure up? Can McCain talk tough against the current evil that America faces and defeat it the way Reagan defeated the Soviet Union? Can Obama back up his message of hope with results as Reagan did or is he all talk and no substance? Does Clinton believe in people or will she impose higher taxes and greater government regulations upon Americans?Near the close of his farewell address, President Reagan, speaking of America â of that shining city on the hill â said: âAnd how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And sheâs still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.âAfter four or eight years, how would McCain, Obama, or Clinton leave that city standing?Jeff OâBryant is an amateur historian and holds two degrees, a bachelorâs in education and a bachelorâs with honors in history. He can be contacted at jeffobryant@.... or through his blog, rightnewsandviews.com.