Jewish World Review June 8, 2004 / 18 Sivan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Why Reagan's death worries the Dems | "I've been dreading this every election year for three cycles," Jim Jordan, Sen. John Kerry's former campaign manager, told Adam Nagourney of the New York Times upon learning of Ronald Reagan's death.

A lot of nice things have been said about Reagan since his passing Saturday by people who didn't have much good to say about him when he was president.

"All of a sudden Reagan's a good guy," said University of Pittsburgh military historian Donald Goldstein. "All my colleagues who bad-mouthed him then now acknowledge he did a lot of good things."

Among the good things Reagan did were to win the Cold War, and to preside over what was then the longest and largest period of economic growth in American history.

"I never voted for him for governor or president," said the novelist and screenwriter Roger L. Simon. "But he undoubtedly had a more positive effect on history than all those for whom I did."

Kerry issued a gracious statement on learning of Reagan's death: "Ronald Reagan's love of country was infectious. Even when he was breaking Democrats' hearts, he did so with a smile and in the spirit of open and honest debate."

All the major media, save the New York Times, treated the former president with dignity and respect.

Some of the belated Reagan admirers are sincere. Others are mouthing their tributes through clenched teeth. But Reagan was as "controversial" and "polarizing" a figure then as George W. Bush is today. Most journalists and academics and Democrats regarded Reagan as a "moron," and a "cowboy."

"The Reaganites on the floor were exactly those who in Germany gave the Nazis their main strength and who in France collaborated with them and sustained Vichy," wrote the Washington Post's Henry Fairlie about the GOP convention that nominated Reagan in 1980.

"Ronald Reagan was hated, and still is, in the feminist-establishment circles in which I grew up," said Tammy Bruce, for many years the head of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization of Women. "That milieu subsists on enemies and hatred...They knew Reagan was evil."

"Reaganism is economic elitism," said CNN's Bill Schneider in a 1984 magazine article. "It is the view that hunger in America is merely anecdotal, that the homeless are homeless by choice, and that only the morally unworthy have been hurt by the administration's policies."

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In short, all the nasty things that are being said about President Bush today were said about Ronald Reagan then. Democrats fear that Americans, in fondly remembering "the Gipper," will see other parallels between Reagan and Bush.

There are plenty. Reagan built up the military and beat the communists.

Bush is building up the military and fighting the terrorists. Reagan cut taxes a lot and triggered an economic boom. Bush cut taxes a lot and triggered fastest 12 months of growth since, well...Reagan.

Reagan was an ordinary guy who was devoted to his wife, and who would rather be on his ranch than in Washington D.C. George W. Bush is an ordinary guy who is devoted to his wife, and would rather be on his ranch than in Washington D.C.

Reagan was optimistic about America's future. Bush is optimistic about America's future.

Reagan was — and Bush is — a hedgehog, not a fox like Jimmy Carter or Bill

Clinton or John Kerry. The Greek poet Archilochus said, as Isaiah Berlin reminded us: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

The big thing that Reagan knew and Bush knows is that the expansion of human liberty is the only sure route to peace and prosperity. Reagan knew and Bush knows that liberty is G-d's gift to all people, not just to Americans.

Reagan knew and Bush knows that America — despite her many flaws — is a powerful force for good in the world. Reagan knew and Bush knows that evil exists, and must be confronted, not appeased or accommodated. The foxes have a more nuanced view.

Bush lacks Reagan's oratorical skills. But he shares Reagan's vision, courage and persistence. Times of crisis are times for hedgehogs. That is why Democrats — the party of the foxes — are so concerned.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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