Special Report

Sean Hannity and the Importance of Reagan Conservativism

Conservative Victory tour debuts at Reagan Library as Obama damage mounts.

By 3.30.10

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Somewhere Ronald Reagan is smiling.

As Sean Hannity takes the stage at the Reagan Library this afternoon and tonight for the kickoff of the tour for his first book in six years, Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda,

one can almost see and hear the former President. Eyes twinkling, a nod of the head and a smile, the voice like soft velvet:

 "Well…."

With shocked Americans watching the damage to the American free-market system and their fellow citizens surface less than a week after ObamaCare has been signed into law, Hannity's book tour and the spotlight he brings to Reagan's principles could not have come at a better moment. So too does Hannity's tour remind of the furious battle Reagan himself had to wage for an earlier conservative victory, a fight to return time-tested and very American conservative principles to the center of American life after they had been targeted by the liberalism of his own day. 

It is worth remembering as Hannity takes the library stage that there was a time when there was no Reagan presidential library. That the man who has become an American icon, along with the case he was making for free-market economics and peace through strength, was once mocked and scorned. Ridiculed as a not-very-bright extremist well outside the mainstream parameters of American political acceptability.

"He's an actor," sniped Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown as he confidently squared off against Reagan in Brown's 1966 race for re-election as governor of California. "And you know who shot Lincoln, don't you?" Brown went on to lose to Reagan by almost a million votes.

You would think there was a lesson in that for liberals, but, alas, no. This kind of venom towards both Reagan and the cause he was representing grew exponentially as Reagan became an ever-larger figure in American life. At one point in his presidency, over a million and a half leftists massed in capitals around the world while 140 anti-Reagan rallies in the US were held, all protesting Reagan's decision to challenge the Soviets by deploying Pershing missiles in Europe. Signs and rally speakers depicted the President determined to vanquish the "evil empire" once and for all as a crazed, bloodthirsty warmonger intent on bringing violent mass death to millions. His domestic opponents insisted his other objective was throwing old ladies into the snow to pay off the rich.

This irrational reaction was then -- and very much is now-- a seemingly intractable part of what Whittaker Chambers once called "the fierce vindictiveness" of the liberal temperament. While today it is Hannity himself -- along with his friends Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin and other figures of what we refer to here as the Virtual Newsroom (not to mention political figures like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin) -- who are targeted for so much fury, initially it was Reagan upon whom this kind of vitriol was poured.

The question, the obvious question: is this new? What is it that elicits such irrational anger from the left? And why?

Here's a Reagan story.

It's the late 1940s. Reagan, a self-described "near hopeless hemophilic" of a bleeding-heart liberal is in the beginning of his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He is stunned to quickly find himself in the middle of an intense battle by Communists to take over the Hollywood film industry. One fine day Reagan and his friend Edward Arnold, the great character actor famous for roles like that of Jimmy Stewart's antagonist Boss Jim Taylor in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, are on their way to a SAG Board meeting. Walking along the street in Hollywood, they see two fellow actors they both know approaching from the other direction. Always the friendliest of men, Reagan smiles.

Let's let Reagan tell the story:

My smile was already forming and I had just started to greet them when one of the two thrust his face close to mine, his eyes burning with hatred. "Fascist!" he hissed, literally spitting the word at me.

"Communists hate," Reagan would reflect years later, recalling the incident, as well as a threat to throw acid in his face. "Light was beginning to dawn in my head. I was seeing the seamy side of liberalism." William F. Buckley would later say of such moments: "Cross a liberal on duty, and he becomes a man of hurtling irrationality."

Indeed.

Over time this rabid, frenzied hatred has become a telltale trademark of the American left. (For that matter the left anywhere. Take a good look at the "hurtling irrationality" displayed on the faces of those in the crowd outside the venue protesting Ann Coulter's recent dip into the exotic Canadian waters of something called "free speech" in this clip from The O'Reilly Factor. A reaction invited by no less than a letter from a University of Ottawa vice president helped incite this graphic demonstration of what hate looks like.)

Why is this? Because socialism/social justice/liberalism/progressivism is received by these people, even those theoretically benign Canadians, as what F.A. Hayek once noted as a secular religion, a status symbol that marks the "good" person. And if this secular religion is the mark of the "good person" -- those that oppose this so-called goodness must necessarily be "bad." Or, as that actor who literally spit in Ronald Reagan's face believed of a man who would go on to bring freedom to millions, a "fascist."

As we watch the vitriol that has flowed from the American left over health care or Sean Hannity or Rush or Levin or Beck or Fox or Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin or the long list of other issues and people, one always comes back to the stunning realization of just how much Ronald Reagan achieved in the face of this kind of intense opposition. Along with his friends Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley and another long list of people, he fearlessly took on the task of formulating and articulating a cohesive conservative philosophy that would both stand the test of time -- and call to account the false gods of the leftist faith. Head held high, he gracefully and courageously withstood a virtual acid bath of criticism -- along with that very real threat of an actual acid bath.

Around the time of the incident with Edward Arnold, Reagan decided he needed a vacation. He chose to go to Lake Arrowhead in California's San Bernardino mountains. "There," he said, "I could laze around and take time to figure things out." What did he do while he was figuring things out? In a bit of eerie foreshadowing, he spent two months carefully and patiently assembling the model of a real-life ocean liner piece by piece. The name of the ship he was building? The America.

Said the future president of the decision he reached while building the America one painstaking step at a time:

The results of my weeks of freedom crystallized a determination in my mind. I would work with the tools I had: my thoughts, my speaking abilities, my reputation as an actor. I would try to bring about the regeneration of the world.

And while Reagan hadn't yet thought of it in these terms in the late 1940s, he was in fact planting the seeds for what today Sean Hannity terms a "conservative victory." Because bringing about the "regeneration of the world" using conservative principles is exactly what Reagan did -- and in spectacular fashion.

Yet Ronald Reagan would be the very first to say -- he himself understood intuitively -- that the fight to regenerate both America the country and the larger world is never over. Regeneration is in fact an eternal requirement of life itself. And there is, history shows, always a genuine call for another conservative victory.

In real life the ocean liner SS America that Reagan so admired had in fact seen many battles of its own. Originally completed in 1940 as a luxury passenger ocean liner with a route between New York, France, Germany and Ireland, the arrival of World War II had the ship transformed by the U.S. Navy into a troop transport. Renamed the USS West Point, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor it was hastily sent to the Pacific, spending endless time fighting stormy and dangerous seas as it carried U.S. and allied troops while simultaneously dodging Japanese submarines, minefields, and bombers. Instead of sailing back and forth across the Atlantic into placid peace time ports, the ship was now steaming in and out of wartime ports from Singapore to Cape Town to Bombay, Ceylon, Guadalcanal, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Auckland, scoring a victory each time it safely landed allied troops. By war's end, the ship had carried over 350,000 troops, a record for a ship on Navy duty.

Back in civilian service with the war over and victory won, once again renamed America, by the time Reagan began building his model the ship was finally sailing on those smooth peacetime waters, taking delighted passengers as originally intended on voyages between the United States and Europe. In 1994, now 54 years old and under tow in the Atlantic during a violent thunderstorm, its towlines snapped. Adrift, its crew unable to save her amidst the relentless pounding of the sea, the America ran aground off of the Canary Islands. On July 6, 1994, the America, at the end bearing the name American Star, was declared a total loss. In another eerie coincidence, four months after the America began to face its final battle with the elements, Ronald Reagan wrote his own final letter to the American people announcing his last battle with Alzheimer's. Its famous last line reading:

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Pounded relentlessly for another decade, the America slowly broke apart, its natural life finally ending as it vanished into the sea in 2007, three years after President Reagan was laid to rest as the blazing California sun slowly sank into the blue Pacific.

Yes, as Ronald Reagan well learned, there is very much a need in life for conservative victories. Hard fought conservative victories. Very good conservative victories. Just as the America had successfully sailed to victory facing the treacherous storms and enemy attacks of World War II, as a result of Reagan's braving the political storms during his life the conservative victory for the American economy produced over twenty million jobs during the 1980s alone. The Cold War was won, the Soviet Union is no more and a colorful remnant of the Berlin Wall with the word "free" scribbled on it stands not many feet from where Sean Hannity will be speaking this night. The Age of Reagan was a glittering conservative victory that will shine brightly as long as history's great stories are told.

But as Reagan also knew, the world's struggles would not end there. Each generation has a responsibility to take up the cause of conservative victory anew, to assess the circumstances of their own day and time, and apply the ageless and classical principles of conservatism that Ronald Reagan played such an important part in bringing to triumph in modern American life. As Reagan himself reminded:

History comes and goes, but principles endure and inspire future generations to defend liberty, not as a gift from government, but a blessing from our Creator.

Which is why Hannity's appearance this evening, and the conservative victory that his book and tour is designed to begin promoting, takes on such importance. Americans now understand the serious threat ObamaCare and the rest of the Obama agenda poses to this country. It is their turn -- our turn -- to rebuild and regenerate the model of America -- the country -- that was so patiently built by Ronald Reagan and many millions before him.

Sean Hannity is a Reaganite. A "Reagan Conservative," as he discusses in his book. He has become a living embodiment of those Reagan spoke about, a member of the inspired "future generations" who understand the principles Ronald Reagan spent so much time understanding himself, before going on to spend a lifetime successfully educating others how to change the world.

If there's any doubt about the importance of Reagan's principles and why the Hannity book and tour are so important, one need only check in with this recent New York Times article headlined:

In Health Care Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

No kidding? Ya think? And why, exactly is this necessary? Because, informs the Times:

Beyond the health reform's effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.

Ahhhhhhhhh. But of course. That cursed Age of Reagan. Who wouldn't want to get away from an era that created 50 million or so jobs from 1983 until 2008? How fortunate we are to have lost four million jobs in the last year, no?

No less than President Obama himself has assured that all is well in the wake of the ending of the Age of Reagan and the rise of the Age of Obama.. The President took time last week to drop into Iowa and say this after he signed ObamaCare:

"So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there any -- (laughter) -- asteroids falling or -- (applause) -- some cracks opening up in the Earth. (Laughter.) It turned out it was a nice day. (Laughter.) Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall. People still have their doctors."

Ahhhh yes. All is well.

 Except, of course, for the unfortunate and inconvenient announcements that began seeping into the news media within days of ObamaCare's passage, like water through the very fine cracks of a shoddily built dam.

Even as the President was smugly asserting that all was well in the Age of Obama, AT&T, according to the Wall Street Journal, announced that it "will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses." That wave also includes a $150 million writedown from John Deere, the Iowa makers of those iconic green tractors. For Caterpillar it will be $100 million. AK Steel is stuck with $31 million. The 3M company $90 million. Verizon and Valero Energy are alerting employees their health costs are about to skyrocket. The Journal also highlights a report by John DiStaso of New Hampshire's Union Leader "that ObamaCare could cost the Granite State's major ski resorts as much as $1 million in fines, because they hire large numbers of seasonal workers without offering health benefits."

Result?

A rising tide of disaster is already flooding through the country at ground level, sweeping along lost jobs for workers, massive losses for shareholders, destroying desperately needed capital even as it inevitably betrays the promise of not raising taxes and allowing Americans to keep the doctor of their choice.

The waters of economic wreckage rise! How exhilarating!

What a wonderful treat to move from the Age of Reagan to the Age of Obama if you work for AT&T, Deere or Caterpillar or Verizon. OK, so you will lose your choice of doctors because your health care costs will go up. So you lose your job because your employer simply can't afford you anymore. So your shares in the company stock are worth less and beginning to drain your retirement fund or that money you invested for your child's education. So you make a heck of a lot less than $250,000 a year and your taxes are going to go up. So the IRS is busily hiring 16,000 IRS agents to keep track of whether or not you have a government-approved insurance policy. So you weren't exactly told the truth about all this. So what? What's the big deal?

Question: What was the liberal response to this news? As The Prowler right here at the American Spectator has reported:

On Friday White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett were calling the CEOs and Washington office heads of the companies that took the financial hits and attacked them for doing so. One Washington office head said that the White House calls were accusatory and "downright rude."

Now, Congressman Henry Waxman is launching a congressional investigation and demanding internal documents, e-mails etc. In other words, America’s descent into the dark world that Reagan described as the path “down to the ant heap of totalitarians” is picking up speed.

Isn't it great to see that sense of desperation, hopelessness, and -- yes -- fear in the eyes of our fellow citizens as they behold the personal consequences of government-induced economic wreckage once again? Not since Jimmy Carter and those wonderful days of yore when you had to wait in endless lines just to fill your car with gas while losing your job and paying for basic groceries in double-digit inflation rates have Americans been having such a great time.

Having fun yet? No?

In writing Conservative Victory Sean Hannity has written a book that has an urgent relevance to what is going on in America right this minute -- while we are increasingly caught up in the quicksand of a downward spiral of events that make the book necessary in the first place. Every candidate for office anywhere on the ballot should be reading this book.

The Conservative Victory tour Hannity launches today can effectively be seen as the opening bell in the fight to lead America out of the disastrous mess into which Obamanomics and socialist/social justice/progressive liberals are steadily leading America. There is nothing new about the so-called "change" Barack Obama has brought to this country. It has been tried around the world for over a hundred years -- failing every single time.

Some version of the contrast between the Obama and Reagan worldview could and can be seen vividly in the side-by-side economies of East and West Berlin or North and South Korea. Not to mention the Soviet Union itself. The collapse of the latter, onto the "ash heap of history" it should be recalled, was predicted by Reagan to catcalls of derision by his leftist critics. But in fact you don't have to leave the country to see the consequences of unchecked leftist policies, as Reagan well knew. Even the Nation magazine admitted in an otherwise adoring profile of Obama the presidential candidate that the grinding poverty of the South Side of Chicago wasn't dented by Obama's community organizing. 

Now, AT&T, Verizon, the Deere Company, Caterpillar and some New Hampshire ski resorts are learning the same lesson as those poor souls in North Korea, East Berlin and the South Side of Chicago.

As Gomer Pyle used to say: Golllllleeeey Ned!

Ignoring the central principle that the free market cures poverty -- while socialism and social justice/liberalism/progressivism or whatever you choose to call it spreads poverty -- is not simply to ignore the economic reality of our time or any time. It is, as Ronald Reagan came to understand in his bones, to willfully reject a central moral truth of human life. Which is to say, expressed in the terms Reagan himself used in his 1964 speech A Time for Choosing, the difference between Reaganomics and Obamanomics is whether the American people move towards "the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism."

In launching the tour for his book from Reagan's library, by coincidence just less than a year from the centennial of Reagan's birth and just over a week following the health care debacle in Washington, Sean Hannity is shining the light on Reagan's hard earned wisdom even as the consequences of The Age of Obama begin to spread like an economic pandemic before our eyes. Reagan's wisdom? That "regardless of their humanitarian purpose those who would sacrifice freedom for security have, whether they know it or not, chosen this downward path."

The fight to get America moving into the future again, towards the "bright dawn ahead" that was once called Reagan's "morning in America" is on.

Today and tonight, at the Reagan Library, some will hear or see Sean Hannity on stage talking about a Conservative Victory

What will I see?

I will see Ronald Reagan once again asking all of us to help build a boat called America.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.