Thank You, Ronaldus Magnus
By Rush Limbaugh
The profound words and ideas - yes, genius - of this great American transformed the world. We knowthat even now, a scant 15 years after he left office - which is but a sliver of time, as history moves. You could feel it in waves, as the thousands lined streets to witness his casket's journey, as the fire-fighters hoisted huge American flags atop ladders on highway overpasses, as Boy Scouts saluted, as grown men stood with hands over hearts, eyes full. You could feel the nation turn history's firstpage, sensing that Ronald Wilson Reagan, in President Bush's poignant words, "belongs to the ages now." Yet we didn't want him to go. It was a national outpouring of love, respect, gratitude - from the ordinary Americans Reagan so well knew and with whom he kept faith, and who, in response, took him to their hearts. And now the country paused to remember, and to mourn, as God took him home. And "home" is how he would have put it. In fact, that is how he did put it: "When the Lord calls me home," Reagan had told us, "I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future." That love and that optimism and that faith sustained him - and, in turn, sustained us. It renewed us. It, still living, will sustain our children, and theirs. In the afterglow of the warm tributes to Ronald Reagan at his death, it is hard to remember the utter loathing and vitriol heaped upon him during his life. It is hard to remember the near-insurmountable political and geopolitical obstacles he faced. It is hard to remember the intensity of the attacks by his opponents, the roadblocks they erected, the sabotage they wrought. When Reagan died, liberals hid their own history. They did not quote themselves. Let me: "Yet I wonder how many people, reading about the ['evil empire'] speech or seeing bits on television, really noticed its outrageous character ... Primitive: that is the only word for it," wrote Anthony Lewis in the March 10, 1983 New York Times. "What is the world to think when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology - one in fact rejected by most theologians? ... The exaggeration and the simplicities are there not only in the rhetoric but in the process by which he makes decisions." A January 1983 New York Times editorial sneered: "The stench of failure hangs over Ronald Reagan's White House. The people know it, judging by the opinion polls." Corporate titans know it and whisper disenchantment..." Writing in Foreign Affairs in 1985, Michael Mandelbaum described Reagan's reputation as "ill equipped for the responsibility that he bears, a kind of cowboy figure, bellicose, ignorant, with a simplistic view of the world pieced together from the journals of right-wing opinion and old Hollywood movies." The hatred among liberals didn't dissipate when he left office. If there has ever been a quotable President, it was Ronald Reagan. Yet the 16th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1992), which lists 35 entries for FDR, 28 for JFK, and includes the essential quote, "Me want cookie," from Sesame Streets Cookie Monster, deigned to include only three minor Reagan comments. Bartlett's editor, Justin Kaplan, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "I'm not going to disguise the fact that I despise Ronald Reagan." Reagan was used to such nonsense. He dealt with it his entire public life. And he didn't care. It never affected his temperament demeanor, or judgment, it never embittered him. He had absolute faith and security and trust in us, and in the Americans who will come after us, to understand the truth about his achievements. "The judgment of history is left to you - the people," Reagan said at the dedication of his Presidential library. "I have no fears of that, for we have done our best." This was totally consistent with the message he wrote me in 1994: "Unfortunately today we cant escape the so-called experts who are busy chipping away ast all we accomplished, no only our record but also our integrity. Frankly, I've never been distracted by revisionist claims, Rush. I feel strongly we should allow our record to stand the test of time. Let history decide, I know it'll judge us fairly." This confidence was rooted in who he was, in his character. "I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie," noted Nancy Reagan. He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn't feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone." The attacks ("distractions," as he called them) rolled off his back.
He also well knew the basis for the liberal rage. He knew that his every word caused them torment. He had gone to Washington fully intending to shove a dagger into the heart of the status quo. ("Status quo," as he said, "you know, that is Latin for 'the mess we're in.'") In his first inaugural speech, in 1981, Reagan declared war: "It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal estab lishment and to demand recognition of the dis tinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people ... We are a nation that has a government-not the other way around." You cannot imagine the impact of those words, This was the rhetorical equivalent of a nuclear bomb. And when he added, "It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed," the Capitol shuddered. This was worse than heresy. He had given fair warning. He pulled no punches in his campaign, sticking it to his opponent: "Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his." Making Carter a punch line, Reagan took Carter's job. Once in office, he was as dangerous as the opposition feared. He made fun of government. ("If the federal government had been around when the Creator was putting His hand to this state, Indiana wouldn't be here. It'd still be waiting for an environmental impact statement.") He made fun of liberal bugaboos. ("I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself") He celebrated the greatness of America. ("Double - no, triple - our troubles and we'd still be better off than any other people on earth.") He talked openly about God. ("Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.") He struck at the heart of liberalism. ("Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.") He actually said, "I don't believe in a government that pro tects us from ourselves." Well, to liberals, that is the whole point of government. He went to Washington to do three enormous things: cut taxes, shrink government, and stand up to the Soviet Union. And from the day he got there, he actually started doing all three. When Reagan took office, the top income tax rate was 70 percent. When he left, it was 28 percent. He called Communism "a form of insanity," and set about rebuilding the military in order to defeat the Soviet Union. And while the left was caterwauling, Reagan looked them in the eye and said: This is the future. "To those who are fainthearted and unsure, I have this message: If you're afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again." "The future," he said, "belongs to the free." Ronald Reagan - a true visionary - saw this future. In fact, he created it. It cannot be overemphasized how out of step his vision was. Nobody saw a free future. Nobody saw the inherent weaknesses of the Soviet Union. Liberal journalists were busy praising the superiority of the Soviet system, not predicting its collapse. The only approach they could conceive was compromise, detente, appeasement. But Reagan, virtually alone, knew its ultimate defeat was inevitable. He said, "[T]he march of freedom and democracy ... will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people." Even more interestingly, he predicted: "The West won't contain Communism. It will transcend it. It will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written." And he knew why: "Communism is neither an economic or a political system - it is a form of insanity - a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is contrary to human nature. I wonder how much more misery it will cause before it disappears."
This idea of the West "transcending" the Soviet system, that it would "disappear," fade to ash, was virtually unique to Ronald Reagan. Such a thing was unheard of, but that's precisely what happened. "Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired," said Margaret Thatcher. His insistence on "peace through strength," manifested in his Strategic Defense Initiative and the Reagan Doctrine, supporting anti-communist movements everywhere - for which he was routinely called a warmonger - was brilliant statecraft. The Berlin Wall came down ten months after Reagan left office. When Reagan died, Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement (and President of Poland from 1990 to 1995) wrote, simply: "We owe him our liberty." Decades before, in 1964, Reagan had exhorted his fellow Americans: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done." He - and therefore America - did not fail. The consistent thread running through every word Reagan spoke was: the truth. "Don't be afraid to see what you see," he once said - profound and bracing counsel on facing reality. This was a man who saw what he saw, and did not flinch. "Ronald Reagan loved the truth," said Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. "We all do, or say we do, but for Reagan it was like fresh water, something he needed and wanted." It was the essential source of his strength. As was his love of and belief in America. "Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her, that the American spirit has been vanquished. We've seen it triumph too often in our own lives to see it stop now," he said. "America is too great for small dreams." Actually, among all Reagan's inspirational statements, there is one I take issue with. As he left office, he said: "Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead we changed a world." But the fact is, Ronald Reagan meant, from the beginning, to change the world. And he did it. God bless you, Ronald Reagan. "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose" "The most terrifying words in the English Language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." "The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant: It's just that they know so much that is'nt so." "Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong."