Ronald Reagan was extraordinary. Not just because his policies helped secure a strong, free and prosperous America. But because he called it like he saw it – honestly, boldly, and with a down-to-earth charm that left many elitists scrambling to try to dismantle him. Henry Kissinger referred to him as “a pretty decent guy” with “negligible” brains. Richard Nixon described him as “pretty shallow” and “of limited mental capacity.” And there were others.
The truth is that Reagan was sharp as a tack. But he was sharp in a way that scared the heck out of a lot of people. His common-sense approach irked many ivory-tower academics. Plenty of GOP establishment big shots feared he would play by his own rules rather than theirs. Stuck-up elitists weren’t often amused by his jokes or the gift he had of looking into a camera and talking straight to the American people. And there was something so real about him — something relatable — that distinguished him from many politicians who were trying so hard to create an image of themselves they thought the public would like.
As we gear up for the 2012 presidential election, it’s important to remember not only the beauty of Reagan’s delivery and his take-me-as-I-am approach, but the significance of his message. I have included four quotes from Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech below, statements that merit revisiting at this pivotal point in our nation’s history:
(1) “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
(2) “But beyond that, ‘the full power of centralized government’ — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.”
(3) “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they are going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer and they’ve had almost 30 years of it, shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? . . . But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater, the program grows greater.”
(4) “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this Earth. . . . These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards.”
We’re soon to arrive at yet another time for choosing, a choice between the continuation of Obama’s ballooning-government, coddle-our-enemies, spend-to-high-heaven agenda and that of what I hope will be a strong conservative opponent.
Times may have changed since 1964, but the profound distinction between the Left and the Right has not. Nor has the fact that big government cripples big dreams, that the world is safer when America is strong, and that if the Constitution were “living” and “breathing” as many on the Left would like it to be, then the foundation upon which we stand would be rooted in nothing.
Ronald Reagan spoke truths that have withstood the test of time, truths that continue to guide us toward sustaining everything that makes America exceptional. He challenged the status quo and reminded us that you can’t be afraid to shake things up in order to make them right.
As the next presidential election approaches, don’t lose sight of Reagan’s wisdom or forget what some in the GOP establishment had to say about him. Remember his unconventional humor, the way he beat the media at its own game, and the fact that he often scared the heck out of both the Left and the business-as-usual D.C. crowd alike.
Reagan was one of a kind. He’ll never be replaced, and the unique combination of gifts God gave him will always be a tough act to follow. But as the 2012 candidates step up to their podiums, be on the lookout for someone with plenty of common-sense wisdom, lots of bold honesty, some unconventional humor, and a desire to push all the nonsense aside, look straight into the camera and speak directly to the American people.
I, for one, will be listening.