Believe it or not, I had this week’s column outlined in my head
before the Malaysian jet was shot down over the Ukraine this week. I
happened to be reading Ronald Reagan’s autobiography last weekend and
was ready to write about the different approaches to leadership Reagan
took as compared to those of the current President.
In my house,
FoxNews is usually on somewhere in the background. (Yes, I know I’m
getting my news with a conservative bias – I trust myself to filter it.)
I came home Thursday night to footage of the speech Reagan delivered in
1983 following the Russian downing of a Korean passenger plane. Megyn
Kelly was contrasting that with President Obama’s response to the
current disaster, where he hinted at tragedy before telling some jokes
and heading off to a fund-raiser, not to be heard from again that night.
Other Fox personalities also noted the contrast.
Well, it wasn’t
the example I was going to use, but it’s exactly on point with what I
had been planning to write. I just missed the chance to be prophetic.
The topic: leadership and politics. Our current President is intensely
interested in one and seemingly annoyed at the obligations of the other –
I’ll let the reader pick which so as not to be labeled a racist. (Be
careful how you choose reader, very careful.)
This isn’t about
ideology. FDR was every bit as good at accomplishing his goals as Reagan
was at accomplishing his. Knowing what to do intuitively, being able to
convince others to come along, and having the resolve to move forward
despite bad polls - that’s the subject here. Reagan made hugely
unpopular decisions in his time but carried them through until they
Reagan won the Cold War and he saved millions of
lives in the way he did it. It wasn’t like the killing of Osama Bin
Laden where the President had no more to do with it than saying “Go!”
The whole strategy of bringing down the evil empire came from Reagan and
It was innovative but it was
also political dynamite – very easy to criticize in the short-term.
Early on, Reagan took a bath in the polls.
In retrospect, the
decline of the Soviet Union might seem to have been inevitable. In 1981,
nothing seemed inevitable. After four years of appeasement under Jimmy
Carter, we were well behind the Soviets in the arms race and everyone on
both sides was scared feces-less. But Reagan noticed how globally
stretched on credit the Soviets were (similar to where we are now). If
America utilized its superior economy to outspend the Russians in arms,
the Soviet Union could very well collapse trying to keep up.
Left screamed for arms reduction, as if the Soviets were ready to agree
to such a thing. They labeled Reagan a warmonger for the dramatic
increase in military spending. It would have been politically expedient
to change course, but Reagan didn’t. Eventually, the Soviet Union did
collapse, unable to financially maintain the grip on its empire. We won
the most critical war this world has known so far without firing a shot.
Reagan dealt with his enemies decisively, but he was just as decisive
in handling friends. The Iran-Contra affair involved Israel selling arms
to a moderate element in Iran that was helping to negotiate the release
of hostages held by terrorists. When Oliver North illegally diverted
some of the money from the sales to support the Contras opposing
communism in Central America, a scandal ensued.
What did Reagan
do? He immediately appointed a special prosecutor, knowing that it would
be the end of his National Security Advisor John Poindexter, who knew
of the transfers. Any appearance of impropriety in government beyond the
few bad actors was promptly eliminated. You could trust the Reagan
Reagan’s famous tax cuts that led to a decade of
prosperity were passed through a Democratic Congress. In contrast,
President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act without one Republican
vote, creating the bitterest bi-partisanship in this country’s history.
He now refuses to work with Congress at all – it’s too difficult.
The President refuses to hold friends accountable, prohibiting some
from answering questions about the IRS and Benghazi and allowing others
to arrogantly ignore requests for information. He changes course on
tough political questions – like he did a few weeks ago on immigration –
when his big donors disagree with him.
strategy is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. What will be our response to
the jet downing? What can our allies or enemies expect from us? Who are
our allies and our enemies anymore? What is our long-term strategy with
Iraq, Iran, Israel and Russia? Is there one? Even if it’s
non-intervention, why isn’t that clear?
With Reagan, you knew
where he stood on an issue as soon as you asked him. When air traffic
controllers went on strike, they were fired. Air traffic controllers
didn’t go on strike anymore. When IRS agents illegally targeted
conservatives, Obama was outraged. What happened next? Nothing. Not one
person held accountable.
That old footage of Reagan has to make
the staunchest liberal long for the days when the country’s leader
exuded commitment and strength. Whatever this leader has been exuding
for five and a half years, it doesn’t resemble either of those two