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Then the media was brought into play, as this internal cabal fed stories to favored journalists who hungered for a way to grind their liberal axes against the Reagan Revolution. Stockman even gave lengthy interviews to liberal journalist William Greider for a story in the Atlantic, telling the only too-delighted Greider that “supply-side is just trickle-down” economics, the entire Reagan program nothing more than a “Trojan horse” to give tax breaks to the rich.
The cry was immediate among Reaganites on the staff for the President to fire Stockman. Graciously, he did not — but the only member of the senior staff to urge the President not to fire Stockman was…Jim Baker.
The fat was in the fire, however, and the idea of, again in Meese’s words, “government by leak” really took off. Washington was virtually inundated with stories that the President was the only one in his administration, not to mention Washington, who just didn’t understand reality. For example, there was a story in (where else?) the New York Times that said there was now a “full-scale battle” underway “for the soul of the Reagan administration and the mind of Ronald Reagan,” a battle designed to convince Reagan to give up on his tax cuts. Washington Post columnist Joseph Kraft reported that various members of the President’s own staff were trying to bring Reagan out of his “dream world.” Columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak said the President had “to fight better than two-thirds of his economic team to save his program.”
Writes Meese of the media blitz by the president’s own people against their chief: “Daily stories filled the media, quoting various ‘aides,’ ‘senior officials,’ and ‘advisors to the President’ to the effect that he would have to change his course if the nation was to avert disaster.”
WHAT WAS REAGAN’S REACTION to all of this? He never flinched. Sometimes he used humor to deflect the criticism, repeatedly telling the story of the two boys who were an optimist and a pessimist. The pessimist, he said, was shown into a room piled high with toys, yet within minutes was in tears, having broken them all. The optimist is shown into a room filled with manure and joyfully starts digging. When asked why he’s so happy, the optimistic boy replies that with all this manure “there has to be a pony down here somewhere.” But behind the Reagan humor was the steel of real leadership. “No retreat,” he snapped on one occasion as he was being pressured for the umpteenth time by a staff member. “I will stand by my word,” he insisted on another occasion.
And he did. Believing that policy should drive process and not the reverse, Ronald Reagan successfully resisted all the nay-sayers in Congress, the media — and most importantly, his own administration. The results, as they say, are now history. Reagan was proved right. By 1983 the economy came roaring to life, as, more or less, it has remained to this day.
While this episode involved taxes, Reagan’s leadership qualities were repeatedly on display when dealing with issues that touched his core principles and beliefs. Again and again, whether it was tax cuts, the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe, preserving the Strategic Defense Initiative or walking out of the Reykjavik Summit with Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan simply ignored the deafening chorus of his critics. These are moments worth remembering now as the rubber meets the road on President Bush’s Iraq policy. As with Reagan, the media is filled with stories that have alleged presidential allies (and advisers to Bush 41) discussing the President they serve or nominally support with an eye rolling contempt. There is no small irony that many of these same people not only advised the Gerald Ford and Bush 41 presidencies to humiliating failure but tried — and failed — to do the same with Reagan, the latter simply refusing to listen to them. As with Reagan there is an attempt to have process (having the Baker-Hamilton group reach “consensus”) drive policy, heedless of whether the consensus is wrong, or worse, as the Iraqi president has quickly realized, “dangerous.”
At the end of all this is the realization of just what true presidential leadership demands: the ability to stick to core convictions on the most important issues of the day — and not retreat under the veritable hailstorm of criticism that follows. It is the one decided pattern that links the presidencies of those considered to be America’s best presidential leaders, from Lincoln to the Roosevelts, from Truman to Reagan.
RONALD REAGAN UNDERSTOOD WHAT it meant to be a real leader. He “got it,” and because he did his presidency, once written off by caustic critics of the day as a failure, is now rated as one of the greatest.
The fate of Iraq — and the future of both America and the West — is increasingly in the hands of one man, a man increasingly being isolated by the media and the Establishment in his belief that only victory will do. Alone like Reagan, one hopes that with his core convictions on the line George W. Bush will remember the trials of Ronald Reagan and the gritty positive attitude that epitomized Reagan’s leadership, a leadership that led to eventual — and spectacular — triumph in so many areas.
It’s worth remembering as well Reagan’s daring view about of the Cold War, a view that sent shudders through the Establishment of the 1980s. It is a view the Iraq Study Group apparently — if typically — refused to consider right from the start.
What was that view?
“We win, they lose.”
Exactly, Mr. President.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?