01/24/11 – Romney on Reagan: A Legacy of Optimism, Strength

This was originally posted in the USA Today

Romney on Reagan: A Legacy of Optimism, Strength

By Mitt Romney
January 24, 2011

An “amiable dunce” is what Washington super-lawyer Clark Clifford once called President Reagan.

That was the conventional wisdom among liberals back then. But opinions, at least in some important quarters, have shifted. Campaigning for the presidency, Barack Obama paid tribute to our 40th president’s remarkable achievements. Ronald Reagan, he said, “changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, that Bill Clinton did not.” He put “us on a fundamentally different path.”

I agree with President Obama. Ronald Reagan was a transformative president.

America entered the Reagan era as one kind of country and exited it another. His mixture of extraordinary personal and political qualities made it possible. One must begin with his sunny disposition: cheerful conservatism in flesh and blood. The Gipper’s irrepressible high spirits tapped into something deeply rooted in the country: optimism, faith in America itself.

Reagan came to occupy the White House in a moment of national crisis, not altogether dissimilar from the one we face today. Abroad, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had brought the Cold War to the boiling point. Islamic radicals in Iran humiliated our country in a 444-day hostage drama.

At home, the misery index — the sum total of unemployment and inflation — had reached a post-war high. Jimmy Carter, shivering in the under-heated White House, was complaining about American “malaise.”

Reagan would have none of this. His policies, foreign and domestic, reflected his optimistic spirit. He confronted the Kremlin frontally. He initiated a military buildup that outmatched the USSR, challenged it in Afghanistan, and launched the Strategic Defense Initiative that is now vital to our defense.

Reagan’s words were even more significant. He rang the bell of freedom and gave courage to brave souls resisting one of the great tyrannies of modern times — the “evil empire,” he was not afraid to call it. Reagan was quick to see what many experts could not: that the Soviet system was faltering. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” is what he boldly demanded during a visit to Berlin. In short order, the wall came tumbling down. The Cold War was over and America had won.

Here at home, Reagan saw a federal government that had become, like a diseased heart, enlarged and sclerotic. Paving a path trod today by the Tea Party, he sharply cut taxes to restore economic growth. He took painful measures to rein in double-digit inflation. He fought to cut federal spending. He sought to restore our Founding Fathers’ vision of American greatness and limited government.

Reagan’s legacy is very much alive. Only amiable dunces cannot see that.

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