Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2003 / 1 Kislev, 5764
Jay D. Homnick
Ronald Reagan so misunderstood
The attempt to caricaturize Ronald and Nancy Reagan in a TV movie entitled the Reagans has been, if not derailed, at least shunted on to a sidetrack. This atrocity (largely through the unheralded efforts of my neighbor, Matt Drudge) has been diverted from its original destination of a prime-time airing on CBS, and will now hobble its way over to a cable showing on Showtime. Residing in Florida has earned me the title of redneck before; now I am earning it, very hot under the collar indeed.
In response, many friends have requested that I republish my essay So Misunderstood, which was originally published in Mazel Magazine of Chicago in 1988, during the last days of the Reagan Presidency, and later included in my collection, Prayer Of Love and Other Essays, published by Landmark Press in Israel 1990. At the time, there was some considerable effort made by my readers to forward the article to the attention of the President; I was never notified for certain whether it arrived at his desk. I do own the copyright, so I will accede and reproduce it here word for word. This time I know that our mutual friends will forward it to Mrs. Reagan, so I take this opportunity to bless the President with comfort and peace and Mrs. Reagan with joy and peace and strength. (I apologize to my current readers, accustomed to a lighter touch; 15 years ago, I drove my prose with a heavy foot on the accelerator.)
"Ronald Reagan, our great statesman - I say that with tongue in cheek, of course." A young fellow intruded into the question period at a local lecture with this fragmentary remark. I was in that audience, as well, but the bile which rose suddenly to my throat inhibited me from responding verbally. I thought: this must certainly rank among the news media's proudest triumphs in modern times. They have succeeded in painting Ronald Reagan as a buffoon.
That this unscrupulous class of rootless opportunists should have set this as a goal is not at all surprising. That they should have chosen this scurrilous refuge from the embarrassment occasioned them by his persistent success is not in the least atypical. What is fiercely disillusioning is the pathetic spectacle of otherwise discriminating citizens gurgling contentedly after swallowing this diet of patronizing pap.
Anyone who has read Mr. Reagan's speeches, examined his positions, analyzed his style, and observed closely his deportment under various conditions, must come to this inescapable conclusion - that here is a great man, given the limitations of the natural world.
Amazingly, one man has masterminded alone a structural revolution in American government which has no parallel since Roosevelt. He forced taxes down from their rarefied plateaus to civilized levels, reversed the trend of Soviet expansionism in Grenada, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, eliminated inflation, decimated unemployment, revitalized American morale, brought the Soviet Union to a realistic position at the bargaining table, restored restraint in the federal judiciary, deregulated fuel and air travel prices (with the result of lowering prices and increasing consumption of both, despite the Liberal consensus of confident predictions to the contrary), pushed labor unions back from the threshhold of irresponsibility by standing up to PATCO, and took firm steps to curb the rapacious escapades of Libya and Iran. For this he has earned.... yes, ridicule. Incredible!
I managed to compile this extensive list without noting the most remarkable achievement of all, namely the Strategic Defense Initiative. Overriding the press, Congress, Concerned Scientists, academia, the phlegmatic military, and who not, he sturdily backed this visionary project (which has made staggering, though little publicized, strides.)
I was especially struck by George Schultz' description during the Iran-Contra hearings of the time he handed in his resignation, disheartened by debilitating infighting. Reagan took the letter, put it gently into his desk, and said, "George, I think it's time you took that vacation you've been thinking of; how about if we discuss this when you get back?' The matter was never referred to afterwards.
To me, a simple man, without that refinement of consciousness cultivated in the taverns of Washington, this is the essence of statesmanship: a morally founded vision of order, the capacity to communicate its essence even to the untutored, to coopt capable engineers for its implementation, to nurture a project until fruition, all without turning arrogant or losing touch with the common folk.
The pundits of Enlightened PublicOpinion must rail against him precisely because he is virtuous, which they despise, he has dignity, which they resent, he has honesty, which is to them utterly alien, and he possesses true compassion, to which they are blind.
Mr. Reagan is President of the United States for the simple reason that he is the single most qualified man for that position. Those who have failed to appreciate the enormity of his contribution have brought upon themselves sorry discredit. I, for one, have no qualms about proclaiming my pride in having shared a generation with such a man.
JWR contributor Jay D. Homnick is the author of many books and essays on Jewish political and religious affairs. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Jay D. Homnick