Friday, June 11, 2004

Remembering What They Said

I have had some fun watching various pundits and newscasters speak of Reagan in such glowing terms this week. Fun, because I remember so clearly the viciousness with which they attacked him before. A dunce, a cowboy, a simpleton, a war-monger, a fascist, someone who will take our rights away, a religious nut, etc... Now, he is prescient, principled, smart ('we learned that he really did write all those speeches', 'he walloped Bobby Kennedy in a 1967 debate',etc...), a visionary. Yeah...thanks. A bunch of us knew that for the last 20 years. Perhaps even most of us. But I don't like seeing people bury their past positions so effortlessly. They learn nothing from it, and are doomed to repeating those errors. So as an antidote, Andrew Sullivan posts a glorious collection of past commentaries from some our most celebrated and nuanced minds. They are priceless and should be read by all. I enjoyed seeing that pompous idiot Arthur Schlesinger write
"A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today."

So, who exactly was hallucinating? Then there is the often insane and always maddening columnist for the NYTimes, Anthony Lewis:
"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. … 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?... What must the leaders of Western Europe think of such a speech?"

Ah, Lewis, in the tradition followed by many today, looked to Europe to validate our foreign policy. And only such a nuanced and sophisticated mind could grasp the primitiveness of Reagan's the indentical manner as those who attack Bush. Much better to see the Soviet Union and Islamofacism as a mixed bag. Hey, they can't be all bad. I mean, aren't we flawed too? Who are we to judge them as such? To cast them as evil would imply that we are better and may mean that we think we represent good, and that would truly be a fascist mentality. Only totalitarianism could come from such simplicity.

Do I simplify and paraphrase that viewpoint too much? Perhaps just better to let them choke on their on words verbatim. And important, I think.... because we see in the criticisms of 20 years ago the seeds of today's venom toward Bush and Iraq. It's nothing new...its the same, and its far more virulent and aggressive.

By the way, note this quote from 1986:
"Are we rushing headlong into the next step of those 40 years of progressions by which we do something then they do something, by which we pretend that we're going to build this and it will somehow strengthen our deterrent then they do it, and low and behold, the next thing we know is, the President of the United States is addressing the nation saying, ‘My fellow Americans, I hate to tell you this, but the Soviet Union is deploying more of these, and we have to respond, and I'm asking the Congress for more money in order to respond.’ Star Wars is guaranteed to do that, and it's guaranteed to threaten the heavens -- the one line we haven't yet crossed with weaponry: the heavens."

Yes....Senator John Kerry. On the policy that Gorbachev said made him come to the table. Just the man we need in office now.

Anyway, I am stealing Sullivan's thunder. Read the whole thing.


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