LONDON -- The other morning I wandered down to Grosvenor Square to see the July 4th unveiling of a statue of President Ronald Reagan, despite reports that only a handful of people would be there. That invaluable piece of intelligence was handed down by the Hon. Louis B. Susman, our ambassador, who was busy as a director of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team during the 1980s when President Reagan was staring down the Soviets with his befuddling mixture of amiability and steely resolve that astoundingly “ended the Cold War without firing a shot.” That is how Lady Thatcher memorably put it. She was not astounded, nor was President Richard Nixon or other hawkish Cold Warriors.
Our Liberal friends had a different way of seeing it. They thought Reagan was a dunce, and many still do. They feared he would bring us to nuclear holocaust, and Senator Ted Kennedy surreptitiously entered into league with the Soviets to oppose the president in 1984. They did not know what to make of his meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, and I remember one, the journalist Michael Kinsley, saying no one Left or Right predicted the peaceful end of the Cold War. Later, as the historically minded dug out Reagan’s assurances that the Cold War could be won, the Liberals had moved on to a different subject. No one is better than the Liberals at avoiding epochal events that they have played little part in.
I liked the Hon. Susman’s crowd estimate. It shows how attuned to the times he and all his Liberal friends are. They are now predicting an Obama victory in 2012, and when it fails to take place they will change the subject. How about the conservatives are scary or leading America to its doom? Actually, the crowd Monday morning numbered in the thousands and many had to be turned away. There were hundreds more who turned out in the evening at an elaborate black tie tribute to the 40th president at Guildhall that was more than a tribute to Reagan. It also seemed to me to be an acknowledgement of the vast achievements of America and Great Britain’s “special relationship,” and of what great things those two resolute powers have achieved since the dawn of the 20th century. July 4, 2011 was a great day of American and British friendship.
There in Grosvenor Square, with statues of Dwight David Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt looking on, a handsome ten-foot statue was unveiled of the Old Cowboy, looking out on the festive crowd with a vaguely amused look on his face but his chest thrust out, his shoulders broad. He once corrected me when I told him I had heard that in recuperating from an assassin’s bullet he did bench presses and put an inch of muscle on his upper body. “Two and a half inches,” he serenely but firmly said.
There were speeches by Congressman Kevin McCarthy, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the invaluable erstwhile Reagan aide, Frederick Ryan, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Ronald Reagan Foundation. A note by the ailing Lady Thatcher was read. The Hon. Susman gave a speech that was admirable in its recognition of Reagan and also of FDR and Ike too. His predecessor Robert Tuttle spoke engagingly and, of course, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain the Rt. Hon. William Hague, who said “it is a fitting tribute to the honor of the truest friend that Britain has ever had,” Ronald Reagan.
We all walked off glad to be breathing the sweet air of a Free World.