Iconic battle with fanatic moderates, liberals replayed in attacks on Israel, talk radio, Roger Ailes.
“But several of his characteristics seemed to rule him out as a serious challenger. One was his penchant for offering simplistic solutions to hideously complex problems.”
”We have very little in common.”
“I knew…that trying to satisfy these (right-wing)
zealots would doom any general election hopes…”
— Former President Gerald Ford on Ronald Reagan and conservatives
Gerald Ford didn’t get it.
A nicer man you could not meet. Wonderful family, kind, hearty, outgoing. Your basic All-American — literally, as a football player (center) for the University of Michigan, and certainly figuratively.
But Gerald Ford had a fatal political flaw, one that is aptly described in another fashion by James W. Ceaser in a recent Wall Street Journal review of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood’s new book entitled The Ideas of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States.
The Visionary Generation was the title of Ceaser’s review of Wood’s book on the ideas behind the Revolution and the men we know as the Founding Fathers. The description could easily be applied to the now iconic battle between President Ford and Ronald Reagan for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. A battle that Ford won on his way to losing a much larger war.
An epic confrontation over the role of government — both in American life and around the world.
A crusade to speak plainly the principles of liberty and tyranny (to borrow the title from our friend Mark Levin’s bestseller) that some wish to obfuscate — whether discussing the size and scope of American government or facing the stark reality of evil as manifested by the Soviet Union in 1976 or the Israel-hating terrorist group Hamas today.
Says Ceaser of Wood:
The historian has the advantage of hindsight. He can see the development of an idea or principle in a way that the participants along the way never can…. For this reason, Mr. Wood has conceived the proper period for studying the Revolution as running from the 1760s through the Jacksonian era, since this time span allows one to see the full shape of the event.
Which is to say, the battle over the acceptance of the democratic principle (as Ceaser terms it) was fought and won not simply in the seven-year time span of the American Revolution but over a much longer period of almost eighty years, from 1760 until Andrew Jackson’s final term in the White House came to an end in March of 1837.
In a strikingly similar fashion one can easily look back and realize that what is now known to history as the “Reagan Revolution” began not in January of 1981 when Reagan himself took the presidential oath. Nor did it end eight years later when he left the White House. In fact, it began in fits and starts roughly with the emergence of the British philosopher John Locke and picking up intellectual grounding and authority as it made its way through the centuries developed by a group that includes everybody from the English-Irish statesman philosopher Edmund Burke to the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln and on to the 20th century. With the advent of the American Progressive movement and the presidencies of both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson and (yes) Herbert Hoover (a Progressive Republican), by the time a young William F. Buckley arrived on the scene in the early 1950s with his famous line of standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” the idea of an ever-expanding state was not only mainstream it was the mainstream. In both political parties, the media, academia and religion as well.
It was an idea that was hopelessly doomed, considering the inevitable massive failures in a philosophy that was succinctly labeled by its foes as “tax and spend” domestically or mocked on national security with the slogan “Better Dead Than Red.” Sooner or later progressivism/liberalism was destined to find itself perched at the very edge of the cliff where Americans find themselves and their country today. Out of cash and out of credibility. But in the day, all manner of people thought this was a big no-never-mind. And if the Goldwater — Rockefeller fight for the 1964 GOP nomination was in retrospect an enormous political warning flare, the Ford-Reagan fight was, in retrospect, the tipping point when the balance began to shift.
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?