So Long, Mr. President, And Thank You
Ronald Reagan's passing at age 93 last Saturday completes the last chapter of an extraordinary American life.
He was, without question, the greatest president of the last century and among the best of all time.
Always, in the face of withering criticism and cold blooded attacks on his intellect and character, he greeted each day with a cheerful optimism with love in his heart for his country, his God and his family.
It is hard to underestimate how bleak things were in our country in 1979. The interest rates were sky high, around 23%. A bunch of Iranian thugs had captured a group of Americans and held them hostage in Tehran. The Soviets were in an expansionist mode, invading Afghanistan and threatening Central America. The prevailing view, as advanced by President Jimmy Carter, was that the Soviet empire had achieved a moral equivalency and the best we can hope for was a peaceful coexistence.
"Detente" was the word used to describe such a position. It was exemplified by the sight of Jimmy Carter kissing Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party, on both cheeks during a treaty ceremony.
Ronald Reagan would have none of it. He saw the Soviet system for what it was, a corrupt and sinister socialist structure that enslaved millions throughout the world.
You see, President Reagan believed, as most conservatives do, that every individual has a built-in need to be free. He respected peoples' abilities to seek freedom wherever it has been denied.
Recall the angst and wailing by the liberals and naysayer when President Reagan called Soviet Russia the "evil empire" and predicated that they will reside on the "ashes of history."
He knew that behind those big missiles that were paraded around Moscow on May Day resided a society teetering on bankruptcy and a weary populace which had sacrificed its years to accommodate the Soviet military.
Some may recall how outraged the Democrats were when he pressed for the Strategic Defense System or SDI, a shield to cover the U.S. from incoming nuclear warheads. They called it "Star Wars" and ridiculed it. The Russians took it seriously. They knew that its implementation would render their offensive weapons worthless.
They knew they couldn't afford it. Ultimately, it spelled the end of the Soviet Empire.
It was a gentleman by the name of Clark Clifford, a long time Democratic influence peddler and Secretary of Defense in Lyndon Johnson's administration, who summed up the way liberals felt about Ronald Reagan. He called him an "amiable dunce." They were convinced that the American people were charmed by his style and were unable to grasp his substance. They fought him every step of the way.
He sought to aid Nicaraguans as they fought for their freedom. The Democrats supported Daniel Ortega, a communist puppet.
When they had a free and fair election, Mr. Ortega lost. Democrats tried to criminalize policy differences when profits from a sale of arms to Iran were diverted to the freedom fighters in Nicaragua. Congress had cut off funding for those fighting a communist insurgency.
The Iran Contra hearings were intended to diminish President Reagan's stature and derail George H. W. Bush. It was a disaster for the Democrats.
Ronald Reagan is often accused of not caring for the poor, but he instituted the Earned Income Tax Credit, that effectively gave the poor $2,000 in cash at tax time.
His speech at the time of the Challenger disaster helped heal a nation. Try reading his remarks at the 40th anniversary of D-Day, specifically his remarks at Pointe Du Hoc , and not get teary eyed.
He was a big picture guy, not into the small details. He said what he meant and meant what he said. Why else would the Iranians give up their hostages the day he assumed office?
He was deeply devoted to his wife Nancy. Theirs was a great love story.
Mr. Reagan leaves a wonderful legacy! Who will ever equal his? As I proposed in this space some time ago, the Board of Education should consider naming the new East County High School after Ronald Reagan. His life would be an inspiration to all the students who pass through the doors. It would no doubt please him.
Their nickname? "The Gippers' of course.
Rest In Peace, Mr. President. A grateful nation will forever honor you.