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Articles yesterday by Dan Balz in the Washington Post and Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times debate the impact of the ceremonies and commentary on President Reagan on the 2004 election.
On Monday, before the talking points got circulated, honest Democrats were admitting that focus on the presidential leadership of Ronald Reagan, especially his steely determination to counter the Soviet threat, would help George W. Bush directly and indirectly.
“I’ve been dreading this every election year for three cycles,” former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan told the New York Times Monday. “Bush has totally attached himself to Ronald Reagan. He’s going to turn Reagan into his own verifier.”
But after a day of watching the networks watch the people file past President Reagan’s body in repose, the spinners came out.
- Dem pollster Stan Greenberg: “[I]n political terms, voting terms, I don’t see any discernible impact.”
- Dem strategist Steve McMahon: “The focus on Ronald Reagan will inevitably lead to comparisons that frankly don’t leave President Bush in such a good light.”
- CNN talking head Bill Schneider: “If this had happened in mid-October, it might have been different … But it’s five months too early. A week in politics is a lifetime, five months is an eternity.”
The impact of remembering Reagan is most powerful for reasons these guys don’t see or won’t admit to seeing. As Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson said on my program, “Ronald Reagan was great because Ronald Reagan was right.” There was a right way to confront the Soviet Union –Reagan’s way – and a wrong way, Jimmy Carter’s.
There is a right way to defeat radical Islamists and the states’ that harbor them – Bush’s way – and a wrong way, the Kerry-Kennedy-Pelosi-U.N.-cut-and-run-Michael Moore fog.
Reagan’s legacy helps Bush in other ways as well, such as the obvious benefits of tax-cutting to the overall economy, and to the benefits of good humor and optimism in a president.
But the key lesson of the Reagan years is that genuine conviction about the goodness and greatness of America combined with steely determination to defend that goodness and greatness brings peace through victory.
Just like the defeatist caucus in the Democratic Party today – a caucus that includes John Kerry, Hillary, Daschle, Byrd, Leahy and the rest, who want to “manage” the terrorist threat, treating it like a “law-enforcement matter,” instead of waging all-out war on it and, if necessary, on other states that harbor the “evildoers” – the defeatist caucus in the Democratic Party of the ’80s, the San Francisco Democrats, blamed America for the problems in the world.
Reagan, like Bush, used the term “evil” during his presidency. Bush, like Reagan, was hammered by the sophisticates for doing so. Both were mocked for their lack of subtlety, for their hopeless naivete.
Except that the American people like victory. The knew the Soviet Union was indeed an “evil empire,” and that Saddam’s Iraq, Iran and North Korea were an “axis of evil.” They wanted the wall torn down, and they want a new Iraq to be a genuine democracy, not a strongman who tilts the U.S. way.
They want a president who believes that the country he leads is uniquely good and great.
That’s why the memorials to Reagan will have an impact far deeper than Democratic spinners are admitting. In the midst of difficult times, the legacy of Ronald Reagan reminds America that America can and has won difficult battles in the past against powerful adversaries, but only when its leadership was committed to winning.
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