July 08, 2004

We Shall Not See His Like Again

Pat Buchanan on Ronald Reagan:

In the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1964, Reagan’s speech of blazing defiance vaulted him into the leadership of the conservative movement. And after Watergate and the loss of Vietnam, with the Soviet Empire rampant and America held hostage, the country, unready for Ronald Reagan or conservatism in 1964, took a chance in 1980. And when she did, America won the lottery.

(...)

In the 1960s, it was a handicap in a presidential campaign to be a conservative. Republicans shied away from the label that a hostile media had equated with extremism. With Reagan, it was an honor. He was never embarrassed or ashamed at being a man of the Right. He was as proud of it as we were to have such a leader.

Every year he would speak at the Conservative Political Action Committee. In every State of the Union he demanded that a line be inserted calling for an amendment to the Constitution to protect the life of the unborn. He believed God had spared him and that the time left to him was to be spent doing God’s work here on earth.

Where other politicians avoided battles over philosophy and principle, Reagan relished that conflict. Nominated in 1980, he demanded a "no pale pastels" platform - then ran on it.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved stories. Seconds before going out to face the press in primetime news conferences that 80 million Americans and the whole world would watch, he was still telling jokes. He was devoid of ego and of the boastfulness so common in this capital. "There is no limit to how far a man can go," read a plaque in his office, "so long as he is willing to let someone else get the credit."

Yet he was proud of what he had accomplished. His friend and barber Milt Pitts told that me that when last he saw Ronald Reagan, the ex-president mused that he had come to Washington do to five things: cut taxes, rebuild America’s military might, unleash the American economy from the burden of government, lead America and the West to face the challenge of the Soviet Empire - and balance the budget. "Four out of five ain’t bad!" he told Milt.