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Thoughts On Reagan

When the news came of Ronald Reagan's death, even his old rivals and enemies
offered great praise. Ted Kennedy said he had "immense respect"
for Reagan's leadership. John Kerry praised his spirit. Even Jimmy
Carter expressed admiration.

Like a lot of Americans, we came to know Reagan slowly. He came close
to winning the Republican nomination in 1976, and of course got it four years
later. Even so, even with all the problems we faced near the end of the
Carter Administration (interest rates over 20%, hostages in Iraq in the first
inkling most of us had of the turmoil soon to roil the Muslim world, and the
Russians in Afghanistan, in position to overrun the Middle East oil fields on
which the world did and continues to remain quite dependent), it wasn't until
the debates that Reagan won voters over.

And when his administration started, in a huge sea of bunting, with the
hostages released, well it was an amazing time. A sense of gloom was
lifted (the U.S. hockey team also had a hand in this, defeating the awesome
Soviet team in the Olympics).

We learned pretty quickly what Reagan's strengths were: he was humble,
resilient, and stuck to his guns. And he won a lot of battles no one
expected him to win.

When he was shot, and told his wife, "Honey, I forgot to duck," and
told the doctor "I hope you're a Republican," his image, and his bond
with the American people, was sealed.

But still, in spite of the optimism, a trait emulated by every candidate
since, it wasn't clear until a lot later that Reagan was thinking in much bigger

If you were old enough to be aware of things during his Presidency, you'll
recall how entrenched Communism seemed. Before Reagan, there was either a
defeatist school of thought, or at most the desire to limit their advances.

Reagan had the nerve to call Communism what it was - a monstrous evil which
killed millions in the name of the people - and caught a lot of hell for
that. But he was right.

He had the nerve to think of toppling the entire, sorry system, and was
healthy long enough to see it happen.

We cannot recall any other politician who was bold enough to work not just to
resist the perversities of Communism, but to conceive, and execute a strategy
for leaving it on the ash heap of history.

Reagan did some amazing things in retrospect, and what's really amazing is
that he did it with virtually no one having a clue as to who exactly he was.

Edmund Morris, who wrote a tremendously respected biography of Theodore
Roosevelt, had no clue how to write one of Reagan. His book was roundly
ridiculed, and his explanation was simple: he had no idea whatsoever who Reagan

It wasn't just him. His daughter, Patty, wrote an eloquent article in
recent days about longing to know her father and to have some insights into his
nature. She said he was a shy man, and that she had learned to be happy
for what she did have instead of wishing for what she could never have.

It struck us as an immensely sad thing to say about one's father.

But you heard the same thing, time and again, from his friends and
family. Probably only Nancy really knew him well.

One of the things Reagan probably hasn't gotten enough credit for, partly
because he was so far ahead of the curve in this regard, is that he bridged show
business and politics. Now, of course, presidential candidates are
expected to pop up on late night talk shows or Saturday Night Live. Before
Reagan, the only example of this that we can recall is Richard Nixon's bizarre
appearance on Laugh-In, where he had a single line: "sock it to me!"

Today, you see not just Arnold Schwarzenneger, who has won and run, but other
actors considering it: Kelsey Grammer wishes to run for office eventually,
Al Franken seems likely to run for the Senate in Minnesota, and others are
intrigued as well.

We're not sure it's something to be proud of, but Reagan was unquestionably
the pioneer.

There were some low points, too: the Iran-Contra mess, which was
disgraceful, the Middle East deployments, and others things as well.

But on balance, when you consider that he inherited what can only be called a
mess in this country, and cleaned that up, and then helped to liberate millions
upon millions of Europeans, well it's not bad for a small-town kid from

We realize that there his presidency was in many respects a sharp departure
and therefore divisive, but we'd like to think that he was pretty much who he
said he was: a guy who loved his wife, loved his country, loved freedom,
and wanted to make a difference in any way he could. That's why for so
many, even those who disagreed with him profoundly, his death is quite
sad. Among other things, it underscores how weak, in different ways, those
who came after him have been. Reagan was unwavering in his beliefs, and
never hesitated to do what he thought was right, and what's more, he usually
explained himself clearly and thoughtfully. We've missed that for a decade
now, and will look back to his day as a remarkable era in American and World