Observations on a Good Book

I just bought a book entitled Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader by Dinesh D’Souza. It’s a little dated (published in 1997), but still well worth the $5.00 I paid for it (it was at one of those stores where people put up their used stuff for sale, and the store owner divides the profit with them; kind of like a primitive form of Ebay).

I just have some random political observations about what I have read so far:

– Ronald Reagan, as we know now, was a man who changed the world. He is largely responsible for the end of the Cold War (a war with no shots fired, thanks to his policies). He predicted that communism would collapse because of its moral bankruptcy. He was right. He pushed for strong defense, tax cuts, and smaller government. He had to make some compromises with Congress, but his policies brought us out of an era of recession, high unemployment, and inflation that had spiraled out of control. He ended price fixes and trusted that the free market was better for the country. Again, on all these things he was right, as the prosperity of the 1980’s has proven. And yet, in his own time he was hated, ridiculed, and written off. The liberal elites despised him. Even many high profile conservatives thought of him as a simpleton. He tended to view the world in terms of black and white. He portrayed our struggle against communism as one of good vs. evil. He had an unflinching confidence that good would prevail in the end. He was not oriented to details; he focused on the big picture. He thought the country could basically run itself with minimal government interference, so he never worked too hard as president. For all of these things he was criticized, and yet, together with FDR, he is a president who shaped the twentieth century more than any other.

– I am struck at how many parallels there are between Reagan and George W. Bush. Both men are hated by the left. Both men are largely considered simpletons. Both men view the world largely in terms of black and white. Both are accused of naivete in that regard. Both believe that good will ultimately prevail. Both are involved in an epic struggle against an enemy who seeks world domination.

– Of course, there are differences. Bush is not the kind of communicator Reagan was. This may be his Achilles Heel. He has not been able to generate the same kind of grassroots popularity, and it has cost him dearly. Republicans need a new Reagan. The problem is, I don’t see one in the near future.

– There is one quote I want to share with you. In the late 1960’s when Reagan was governor of California, he butted heads with the counterculture movement on the college campuses (the hippies who run the Democratic party today). D’Souza writes the following about one particular exchange:

“Then Reagan turned to the activists. Initially he tried to engage them in dialogue, but he soon found that they only wanted to trade barbs and insults. Regan’s quick-wittedness is apparent from records of some of those exchanges. At one campus meeting, a student told Reagan that it was impossible for people of Reagan’s generation to understand young people. ‘You grew up in a different world,’ he said. ‘Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers.’ Without missing a beat Reagan replied, ‘You’re right. It’s true that we didn’t have those things when we were young. We invented them.'”

That’s better than George Costanza’s comeback: “The jerk store called. They’re runnin’ outta you!”

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