The candidate taking on Ron Paul’s assault on the Reagan legacy.
(Page 3 of 6)
Yes, Felix Morley was one of the founders of Human Events. And yes, indeed, Woods is more than correct to say that Human Events is one of the most important conservative newspapers “well, basically, ever.” All true. What Paul and Woods cleverly do not say is why this particular conservative paper became one of the most important conservative publications “well, basically ever.” Much less do they discuss the historic connection between Human Events and Ronald Reagan.
There’s much more to the story of Felix Morley and Human Events, and tellingly, neither Paul in his book nor Woods in his video is about to explain it to you. And there is much more to the story of Murray Rothbard, the man Woods identifies as a “very important intellectual influence” on Paul. And once again, neither Paul in his book nor Woods in his video will explain to you the rest of the story about Rothbard that eventually caused Russell Kirk to devote an entire essay labeling Rothbard and his views — now the very heart of the Paul campaign — as “mad” “lunacy” and more appropriate to “inmates of ‘mental homes.”
Since Mr. Woods won’t tell you the story, I will.
Human Events, as Reagan White House staffers well knew, was one of the President’s favorite reads. He loved to read it, had been reading it for decades and — something to remember as this evening’s debate at Reagan’s library unfolds — credited the paper with helping to educate him as a conservative. In fact, the paper was such a Reagan favorite that the moderates on the White House staff — this would be then-White House Chief of Staff Jim Baker, Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver, and Baker deputy Dick Darman — became annoyed at the straight-from-Human Events-conservatism the President was constantly inhaling in his reading. Reason? In typical Reagan style the President would clip articles from the paper and pass them along to this or that Cabinet member or staffer, who, having received them directly from the President of the United States, would in some manner follow up. In particular, Human Events frequently published articles about the then-exotic idea of a nuclear space shield — “space lasers” the paper called them — as the imaginative ultimate arrow in the American national security quiver. Reagan, a regular reader, took note.
This appalled Baker/Deaver/Darman. Quietly they made certain Reagan stopped getting the paper in his packet of evening reading and presidential “homework” that went upstairs nightly with Reagan after he left the Oval Office for the day. Reagan, no dummy, realized what had happened when Human Events stopped showing up in his reading — promptly ordering multiple subscriptions for the White House. And, as if to underline the point, personally throwing the conservative paper a 40th anniversary reception in the East Room.
The American notes for the famous Reykjavik summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, as reported by Reagan biographer Richard Reeves in President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, show Reagan citing Human Events by name to the Soviet leader as Gorbachev presses Reagan to give up his commitment to the Strategic Defense Initiative (or Star Wars, as his left-wing opponents called it). Reagan stubbornly held on to SDI — the quite real policy result of his reading all those Human Events articles on defensive “space lasers.” The notes from the Reykjavik summit report the President saying to Gorbachev that his (Reagan’s) friends at Human Events were already “kicking my brains out” at the thought the President might give in by trading away SDI. He didn’t. When Gorbachev insisted that Reagan agree only to laboratory experimentation with SDI, effectively killing the program, or it was “goodbye” — Reagan dramatically gathered his papers, stood up — and walked out of the Summit. As history now records, it was this steely Reagan resolve on “Star Wars” that is credited by historians as helping to bring the Soviet Union itself crashing down onto what Reagan predicted would be “the ash heap of history.”
That small morsel of fact about Ronald Reagan, his love for Human Events and the impact the paper had in the demise of the Soviet Union is actually very important to understand as tonight’s Reagan Library debate unfolds. Why? Precisely because it is an example of just why Congressman Paul’s and Mr. Woods’ description of Felix Morley and Human Events is so deceptive. The reason the two men are so disingenuous in their story-telling goes straight to the heart of exactly what Ronald Reagan was reading when he ordered up his first subscription of Human Events in 1961, long before anyone, Reagan included, thought he would be anything other than a Hollywood actor. And it also goes to the heart of Rick Santorum’s direct criticisms of Ron Paul. Criticism that has drawn Tom Woods’ attention towards Santorum, who is briefly mentioned (10:26) in Woods’ video.
Felix Morley left Human Events. In 1950 — six years after its founding in 1944. Out. Gone, hasta la vista. Why? Let’s rely on historian George Nash’s description in The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America: Since 1945.
Felix Morley left Human Events precisely because he had a serious disagreement with his colleagues, one of whom, co-editor Frank Hanighen, said (according to Morley himself as quoted by Nash) that Morley was “tending to be ‘soft on Communism.’” Said Morley years later: there was a “cleavage” in the conservative movement between what Morley described as “a generally pacific, even isolated, America and an actively interventionist America.”
In short, just as America was facing the terrifying dawn of the Cold War, as Stalin tested nuclear bombs created from stolen U.S. secrets, blockaded Berlin, with Greece, Turkey and South Korea under Communist siege and Winston Churchill (the leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, it shouldn’t need to be said) warning that a Communist “Iron Curtain” was descending over Eastern Europe — the fledgling American conservative movement was undecided.
So: what to do?
In 1947 James Burnham, a New York University philosophy professor and ex-Communist himself — the latter experience changing his life and turning him into both a formidable Communist foe and a passionate conservative — had written a book called The Struggle for the World. According to Alfred S. Regnery in Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism, Burnham argued that
… a third world war, one against Communism, had started even before World War II ended. Burnham argued that international Communism, headquartered in Soviet Russia, was bent on world conquest and was therefore a threat to the cherished values of the free world, particularly those of the West. The struggle between Communism and the West, between slavery and freedom, was inescapably a struggle to the death.… To counter this peril, Burnham believed, America must assume leadership of the non-Communist world…. But Burnham doubted the resolve of the American people and its political elite, being young and naïve, to carry out a consistent, successful anti-Communist foreign policy.
The Burnham book was a bombshell inside — and outside — the conservative movement. And in his video, Mr. Woods curiously never mentions Burnham’s name once. A decided peculiarity. Why is this? After all, in his recitation of conservative names from this period Woods goes out of his way to mention and praise Felix Morley and Murray Rothbard. Why leave out Morley and Rothbard’s equally prominent fellow Founding Conservative Burnham? Why, for that matter, leave out the impact of Whittaker Chambers, the conservative hero of the Alger Hiss affair?
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?