Brad Causey
Brad Causey,
Editor and Publisher
R. Shannon Pollard
Kevin Sommers
David R. Wehry
James E. Foy
The Freedom Letter
Remembering the Gipper
As this is written, our 40th President, Ronald Reagan is safely home. His body is entombed behind his Library in Simi Valley, California. His spirit is, as he would say, "with the big fella upstairs."
I believe Ronald Reagan was the greatest President of the 20th century. Even his detractors put him in the overall top 5. So where does he place, and why?
Let us return to the year of 1980. Gasoline had gone from $.50 per gallon to a dollar. (double) On top of that, it was not always available. Mr. Carter, in his bureaucratic zeal, had involved the federal government in the distribution system. The result was, of course, less and more expensive gasoline. GM and Ford were bleeding red ink, and Chrysler had been rescued from bankruptcy the year before. Inflation was 15%, unemployment was 10%, and home mortgage rates were 11%. Our embassy staff in Tehran was being held hostage by Islamic militants, and a half-hearted attempt to rescue them had failed. The Soviets were on the offensive in Afghanistan, and we had boycotted the Summer Olympic Games in protest. Ted Kennedy even decided (a mere 11 years after Chappaquiddick) to oppose the incumbent President of his own party. The Republican Party was a shambles. Nixon had resigned in disgrace only 6 years before. The Democrats had nice majorities in both houses of Congress, and the national debate was about America on the decline. No one seemed to have an answer.
On to this stage stepped the former actor, former Democrat, admirer of FDR, and former Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. He had almost defeated Gerald Ford (the sitting President) for the Republican nomination in 1976. Now at 69 years old, only his most die-hard supporters thought he would do anything except be content to stay on his beloved ranch, chopping wood and riding horses. Born in 1911, he had seen four major wars. He had seen the income tax start at 2% only on the very wealthy, to a top rate of 70% applying to all but the poorest of citizens. He had seen an America go from being the pre-eminent power on earth to a shadow of its former self. He decided he needed to do something. He said that government was not the solution to our problems, but was the problem. He said we needed to cut taxes. He said we needed to increase defense spending. He said that America's best days were in front of us, not behind. He talked of America being a "shining city on a hill." The media roundly criticized him as "too old and out of touch", "a grade B actor", and "a wild cowboy unfit for high office". The "polls" predicted a Carter victory, or at best "a dead heat". On election night, before the polls closed on the east coast, Mr. Carter had conceded defeat. Even with some people turning around to go home and not voting at all, Mr. Reagan achieved a majority of the popular vote, in a three-man race. He carried 48 states in the Electoral College. With him, the Republican party took control of the Senate for the first time in 40 years. The people had spoken.
He single-handedly changed the debate. Our hostages in Iran were released the same minute he took office. (He had warned them he was coming) Suddenly, there was no question we would cut taxes. The only decision was how much and how soon. Now, there was no question we would increase the defense budget. The only question was how much and where to spend the money. He gave the Federal Reserve free reign to control the money supply. He ended price controls on gasoline and other fossil fuels. He fired 11,000 air traffic controllers that dared to strike, although their union had endorsed his candidacy. He placed quotas on Japanese cars, thereby forcing them to open factories here. He was almost killed by an assassin's bullet, but survived. He was criticized for not working hard enough. He liked to take a nap in the afternoon. Unless he was giving a speech, he tried not to work past 6pm.
In 1984 he ran for re-election, and won 49 states, and over 60 percent of the popular vote. The people again, had spoken.
He had some notable failures. Iran-contra, increased deficit-spending, two tax increases in 1982 and 1986. He did not eliminate the departments of Energy and Education. He was not able to get rid of various "great-society" programs. During his tenure the federal government almost doubled in size.
Ask Mikail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher who is most responsible for ending the Cold War and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union. Their answer: Ronald Wilson Reagan. They should know, they were there. Vladimir Putin (the current Russian President) was a bureau chief for the KGB in the 1980s. He credits Reagan also.
Simply put, Ronald Reagan left America, and the World, a better place than he found them. No other epitaph is needed.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of meeting and speaking with Mr. Reagan in 1977. He was very personable, and very sharp mentally. As a former radio announcer he was quite a sports fan. When my friends and I told him where we went to college, he proceeded to tell us who our basketball team had lost to in the NCAA tournament that year. He knew where our golf and baseball teams had placed, and that we did not have a Division I football team. He had just given a 30 minute speech. No teleprompter, no notes. He did not, at the time, have any staff with him. Pretty sharp for a guy the media liked to say had no ideas of his own. Later, he signed a photo for me after riding down the driveway of his ranch on a horse. I know that Ronald Reagan was simply one the finest human beings to ever walk on planet earth. We are all better, because he chose to serve us.
I leave you with a few of his quotes.

"This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan for ourselves."

-- Oct. 27, 1964, televised speech for GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater
"We have to move ahead, but we are not going to leave anyone behind."

-- Republican National Convention, July 1980
"Government is not the solution, it's the problem."

-- Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
"All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states, the states created the federal government.... Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government."

-- Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981
"I've always stated that the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth is a government program."

-- April 1986
"Honey, I forgot to duck."

-- To Nancy Reagan in the emergency room after he was shot by a would-be assassin, March 30, 1981
"Some argue that we should encourage democratic change in right-wing dictatorships, but not in communist regimes. Well, to accept this preposterous notion -- as some well-meaning people have -- is to invite the argument that once countries achieve a nuclear capability, they should be allowed an undisturbed reign of terror over their own citizens. We reject this course.""

-- June 1982 speech to the British Parliament
"A (nuclear weapons) freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength. ...

"I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. ... I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written."

-- Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, March 1983.
"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

-- Joke while testing a microphone, Aug. 11, 1984
"If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate ... open this gate ... tear down this wall."

-- June 1987 speech at Brandenberg Gate in Berlin. Remarks addressed to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.

"You know, by the time you reach my age, you've made plenty of mistakes if you've lived your life properly. So you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward. My fellow Americans, I have a great deal that I want to accomplish with you and for you over the next two years. And, the Lord willing, that's exactly what I intend to do."

-- March 4, 1987, speech acknowledging dealings with Iran had deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages deal
"I did not see it as trading arms for hostages because we were dealing with Iranian intermediaries, not the kidnappers themselves. I know it may be a fine line to most people, but it's what I believed then and what I still believe."

-- About the Iran-Contra affair, from his 1989 book, ``Speaking My Mind''
"The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest."

-- On 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1984
"Sending the Marines to Beirut was the source of my greatest regret and greatest sorrow."

-- About the Lebanon bombing that killed 241 servicemen in 1983, from his 1990 book, "An American Life''
"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

-- After the shuttle disaster, Jan. 28, 1986
"By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith; to strive with all our strength toward the ultimate of individual freedom, consistent with an orderly society.

"We believed then and now: There are no limits to growth and human progress, when men and women are free to follow their dreams. And we were right to believe that. Tax rates have been reduced, inflation cut dramatically and more people are employed than ever before in our history We are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust, and alive. There are many mountains yet to climb. We will not rest until every American enjoys the fullness of freedom, dignity, and opportunity as our birthright. It is our birthright as citizens of this great republic."

-- Second inaugural address, Jan. 21, 1985
"So, you can see why, to me, the story of these last eight years and this presidency goes far beyond any personal concerns. It is a continuation, really, of a far larger story, a story of a people and a cause. A cause that, from our earliest beginnings, has defined us as a nation and given purpose to our national existence. The hope of human freedom, the quest for it, the achievement of it, is the American saga."

-- Last weekly radio address as president, Jan. 14, 1989
"In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

-- Nov. 5, 1994, announcing he had Alzheimer's disease
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