The president was blunt:
I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state.… Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, that that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a détente, you keep that in mind.
Thus spoke Ronald Reagan at his first press conference as president in January of 1981, a mere nine days after his inauguration. The assembled press corps quite audibly gasped.
As Reagan biographer Steven F. Hayward would later write, the astonished response heard in the room that day from the press came because this “was not the way world leaders talked about other nations.”
What was being witnessed that day was the beginning of what came to be called the “Reagan Revolution,” a revolution that brought sweeping, transformational change to Washington and the way the establishment of the day did business in both foreign and domestic policy. Washington was not happy.
Hayward recounts the reactions that began the moment the results of the 1980 Reagan electoral landslide were in. “The election,” said longtime Washington Post columnist David Broder, “was a shocker.”
Hayward notes that the reaction “was as if a barbarian horde had sacked the city.” One Post headline read, “The Town Trembled.”
In Berkeley, “more than two thousand people turned out to protest Reagan’s election for three nights in a row.” There were predictions that Reagan would bring a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, and, yes indeed, the far Left compared Reagan to Hitler, saying that his election “meant only one thing: the dark night of American fascism was about to descend.”
If anything comes clear about the paranoid, manic response from Democrats and the media to the last few days of the Iran episode, it is that as with Reagan, they are psychologically unable to deal with a blunt-speaking president who is bringing sweeping change to Washington and the way America does business with the world.
Welcome to the Trump Revolution.
Focus again on that first Reagan presidential press conference. Substitute Iran for the Soviet Union, and it could easily be President Trump saying this:
I know of no leader of Iran since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Islamic Republican assemblies they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Islamic state.… Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, that that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a détente, you keep that in mind.
Iran has now learned, as the Soviet Union once learned from Reagan, that it is dealing with a president who means business.
And as was also true with Reagan, Washington has learned that Trump means business.
Washington and the entire class of political elites are agog and aghast, reduced to spluttering hysteria as the extent and detail of the Trump Revolution comes clear.
Dealing with Iran? No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more making a nuclear deal with impossibly untrustworthy mullahs, giving them a billion in cash. A cash windfall that, as the Wall Street Journal editorialized, Gen.Soleimani used to “spread revolution. Mr. Trump was right when he said Wednesday that ‘the missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last Administration.’ ”
It is said of Reagan that he once remarked to an aide of his then-revolutionary view of the then almost 40-year-long Cold War: “We win; they lose.” It was, in the view of the D.C. foreign policy graybeards, a horrifying break from the favorite Washington policy of détente and a permanent acceptance of a communist Soviet Union.
Clearly, as President Trump’s speech to the nation illustrated, the Trump view of the American relationship — indeed the world’s relationship — with Iran is just as revolutionary. Said the president (bold print supplied for emphasis),
Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.
They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal — or JCPOA — and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.
We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country.
Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred, and war. The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime:
Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer. It will not be allowed to go forward.
In other words, the status quo with Iran is no longer acceptable — just as the status quo with the country club that had become the Republican Party after Reagan left was no longer acceptable.
In his farewell address to the nation, Reagan focused on America as Pilgrim John Winthrop’s “shining city on a hill.”
He said that when he took office,
Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war, our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse.
I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that “The engines of economic growth have shut down here and they’re likely to stay that way for years to come.”
Of course, not only did none of that happen, it was the reverse. There was no war caused, the Cold War was won, just as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would later say, “without firing a shot.”
Inflation collapsed, and the economy soared.
Reagan closed by saying,
They called it the Reagan Revolution, and I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the Great Rediscovery: a rediscovery of our values and our common sense….
We’ve done our part. And as I “walk off into the city streets,” a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution — the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back: My friends, we did it. We weren’t just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger — we made the city freer — and we left her in good hands.
We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have but in the past few years the world — again, and in a way, we ourselves — rediscovered it.”
America and the world are yet again rediscovering that freedom. And as with Reagan’s “trust but verify” policy in dealing with what he called the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union, so too has Trump extended a hand to Iran — while simultaneously making vividly clear that Iran’s time of promoting violence and murder are at an end.
It is no small thing to say that President Trump, like President Reagan before him, isn’t just marking time. He is making the shining city on a hill stronger — and freer.
The Trump Revolution is here, and it is changing both America and the world.
And thank God for that.