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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Gipper in the Wide Shot

Feeling very sick:

The story of Ronald Reagan's life -- from boyhood to Hollywood actor to leader of the free world -- is about to spill out on the big screen in a way quite different from the miniseries that caused such a stir seven years ago.

[…]

But that sort of less-than-reverential treatment has been done before, as in the 2003 miniseries "The Reagans." That will have little in common with the feature film, which begins with the 1981 assassination attempt and tells Reagan's story through flashbacks and flash-forwards.

McCord describes Reagan's childhood as "a surreal Norman Rockwell painting with his alcoholic Catholic father, devout Christian mother, Catholic brother and ever-changing boarders the family took in."

Said Joseph: "This is a great story. I'm just glad no one else in Hollywood thinks so, or they'd have made this film by now."

Not in a hundred years will the American Left grasp the importance, or essential greatness, of Ronald Reagan. He was not, admittedly, anywhere near as much the free marketer as either legend, or his rhetoric, would lead one to believe. His genuflecting to the less subtle elements of American Christianity was more annoying than dangerous. America is no more religious today than it was thirty years ago. 

The Gipper's central accomplishment was in arresting the downward slide in American power and prestige, while slowing down the rapid rise in the scope and scale of the federal government. In retrospect these seem like less than stellar accomplishments. The Soviet Union was fated to go bust - though who knew when - and the government as a percentage of GDP is today at a peacetime high. What's the fuss them? A few pretty speeches aside, would things really have turned out differently? Why bother to even vilify or praise such a figure?

Because when Reagan was making all those pretty speech, so many years ago, almost no one else was. Freedom was a dirty word, not after dinner speaking boilerplate, among the political classes. Acceptance of American decline, reasonable accommodation with communism and perpetual economic stagnation were the order of the day. That people today find what Reagan said, and did, to be unexceptional is a tribute, albeit an ironic one, to his legacy. Because his rhetoric succeeded so well then, it seems common place to us now, both on the Left and Right. 

Much of his power in the 1970s came from the shock of heresy. What then had been established political fact and theory for nearly two generations was being challenged, and challenged boldly. When he assumed power, first as Governor of California and then as President, he faced overwhelming unreconstructed Democratic legislatures. His large budget deficits, and the need to rebuild the American military, must be seen in that light. The Reagan years saw little in terms of real shrinkage in the size of government - the biggest post-war drop in government spending came under Bill Clinton. What that time did see was a shift in the burden of government. Marginal tax rates were cut from a crippling 70% to 28%, a major boost to the ambitious and skilled. The dirigistes in the Department of Justice's Anti-Trust Department were reined in. The emerging PC revolution was not smothered in J.K. Galbraith style central planning. 

It's very difficult, perhaps impossible, to change the present. It far easier and more important to change the future. What Ronald Reagan allowed was for the future to happen. That the American military would be strengthened just enough, and Western resolved stiffened just enough, that it would outlast the Soviet Union. That the free market would be revitalized, just enough, to allow PC and the Internet to come to the fore and begin to undermine the industrial-age welfare state. If we have a fighting chance today, it is because of what was said and done all those years ago.

Posted by Richard Anderson on September 14, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

Ronald Reagan did a number of things help the demise of the Soviet Union.
Reagan proposed the missile defense system SDI or commonly referred to as Star Wars. The Soviets were terrified of this. Whether the Americans had the technology to pull it off is irrelevant. The point was the Soviets most certainly believed the Americans INDEED were capable of this and they knew they themselves certainly did not. So they spent mammoth amounts of money to try to counter this. I heard once that some military secrets the Soviets had were secrets because they didn't want the world to know that some of this hardware was junk.

Posted by: StanleyR | 2010-09-18 12:25:09 PM


Another thing was Reagan's excellent relations with Saudi King Fahd. Reagan got cahoots with the King using the argument that the Soviets had the nerve to be atheist and that they oppresses Muslims and does the King want to help punish the atheists for their unbelief. He used this line to play on the Saudi King's Muslim religious beliefs. Reagan persuaded the Saudi's to turn on the taps and let the oil gush and the price of oil go in free fall. The Saudis were blessed with easy to extract oil land geography which can still deliver a profit even at $10 a barrel. But the Soviets could not come close to breaking even at $10 with their harder to extract oil (includes virtually everyone else for that matter except the Saudi's) That dried up the Soviets only source of hard currency.

Posted by: StanleyR | 2010-09-18 12:42:20 PM


Reagan reversed the doctrine of accommodation call "detente" used by previous Democrat and Republican Administrations.
He imagined a world without the cancer of communism.
His 1983 Evil Empire speech was blasted by the Leftist Liberal Media in the U.S. (New York Times) but many Soviet refusniks in the gulag at the time were elated. It soared their spirits they recalled years later after being released. Finally someone understood their plight.
Reagan's Brandenburg gate speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987 calling Gorbachev to tear down that wall- the Berlin Wall challenged the Soviets.
Originally the speech writers tried to persuaded Reagan to drop that call from his speech because might strain relations but Reagan insisted and got his way.

Posted by: StanleyR | 2010-09-18 12:58:40 PM



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