The Reagan I Knew isn't the Reagan You Knew

I am not a fan of biography.  Auto-biography is by definition a biased view and other-biography can never be entirely complete.

I’m a map guy, a history guy, a “just the facts, ma’m” kinda Joe Friday guy.  In my world of black and white, biography is so many fuzzy shades of gray.

I remember growing up with Ronald Reagan on the national stage.  As a youngster he was the joking grandfather and protective uncle and dashing movie star all wrapped up into one.  Most importantly, he was everything Jimmy Carter wasn’t.  Reagan was confident, assertive and not afraid of anything or anybody.

Nobody was going to push America around with Ronald Reagan at the helm.

Of course this sentiment was naive and simplistic.  But in my formative years after the hostages in Tehran and the Soviet Union’s nuclear threat and two-bit communist thugs in Central America and Japan buying up our real estate market, it felt good to have a hero in the White House again.

In my world of 1980s gray, President Reagan stood for the rule of law.  He stood up to bullies and got America working again.  He said what he meant and meant what he said.

Now argue as you will about the who’s and where’s and what’s.  Those are details and lessons for the future.  In your worlds of gray, he may have stood for much different things.  Each of us has our own world of gray, back in 1980 or in the election of 2010.

Reagan also opened the world of Conservative thought to me.  It was through the President, or rather through meeting others who also supported the President, that I came to know of William F. Buckley and his National Review, Senator Barry Goldwater and Milton Friedman and other political philosophers from Russell Kirk back to Edmund Burke.  In the years since I’ve gone warm and cold on National Review—as Reagan and Buckley, Goldwater and Friedman passed on, the magazine seems to me to lose focus, as did much of the Conservative movement.  Where is today’s Buckley, let alone tomorrow’s Reagan?  I don’t see them in the blogs at NRO… (and the print edition is locked behind a subscriber wall).  The clear alliances of the Cold War have given way to the foggy gray of multi-polar, post-national statecraft.

In your world that gray may be a good thing.  In mine not so much.  So it is with, yes, certain nostalgia that I look back on 100 years of Ronald Reagan, but mostly hope for Morning in America in the next 100.


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