Wednesday, January 19, 2011
This year marks the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth on February 6, 1911, but I want to celebrate the anniversaries of his first and second inauguration, January 20, 1981 and January 21, 1985. Just as Reagan transitioned from being a liberal and a Democrat, his presidency did the same for me.
What remains a mystery to me is how America could rocket from the success of the Reagan presidency and that of George H.W. Bush, Reagan's Vice President, to the depths of Bill Clinton’s scandals.
For those with short memories, Americans followed Reagan/Bush with a president who engaged in a tawdry encounter with a White House intern, who lied under oath, was disbarred, but whose personal popularity and a cynical Congress allowed him to escape impeachment.
Reagan was elected in part as a rejection of the weak presidency of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who until the election of Barack Obama, has been regarded as the worst president since the end of World War Two.
Unlike Obama who has never lost an opportunity to denigrate America, Reagan never lost an opportunity to lift up our spirits and to celebrate the nation. He said, “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence, rather than your doubts.”
“My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way. What I’d really like is to go down in history as the President who made Americans believe in themselves again.”
In his first inaugural speech, Reagan said, “It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.”
The contrast between the Reagan presidency and that of the current occupant of the office is vast. Reagan understood the American can-do spirit. He celebrated a culture in which striving for wealth was understood to be a worthy goal. Obama believes being wealthy is a sign of exploiting others and of greed. He made it clear during the campaign that he wanted to be President in order to distribute the wealth of individual working Americans.
That’s straight out of the Communist Manifesto and, apparently, too many were simply not listening, dazzled by the notion of electing the first Black President.
In his first election, Reagan won by a significant majority of the popular vote, 44 million to Carter’s 36 million, despite a third party candidate, John Anderson, who won 6 million votes. He swept the electoral vote, 489 to 49, bringing with him 33 Republican Representatives and 11 Senators. Under Reagan, Republican control of the Senate returned for the first time since 1945.
Obama’s first and hopefully last term has already recorded a historic turnover of power in the House to Republicans and a diminishing of Democrat power in the Senate in response to his policies.
The conservative movement in America rose from the ashes of Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964 to Lyndon Johnson. In retrospect, it was the same torrent of liberal legislation under LBJ and the expansion of the war in Vietnam that deeply offended Americans. Elected to end the war in Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon would disgrace himself with the Watergate scandal.
To date, Obama’s presidency marks the most dramatic and traumatic lurch toward naked socialism since the days of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
It was the liberal legislation rammed through Congress by Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi that led to the rise of the Tea Party movement and a rejection of Obama’s agenda. The new Congress knows it is charged with repealing or defunding Obamacare, a vast expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. Both represent the socialist agenda of the Democrat Party that has brought the nation to the brink of insolvency.
The most casual look back over the years since the end of the Truman administration shows Americans lurching back and forth between scandals and weakness, between the leadership of Eisenhower and Reagan, to the current President who has increased the national debt more than all the previous presidents combined.
Americans, however, never truly abandoned their belief in an ever-growing federal government as the provider of all their needs. Indeed, even under Reagan, the federal government grew in size.
We arrive at the Reagan centennial as a nation burdened by an intrusive government, a history of entitlement programs dating back to FDR, massive civil service unions, and too much spending that has left the nation facing the largest debt in its history. We might as well have been drunk for the last eight decades.
“Any government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take everything you have!" warned Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States (1801-1809).
Too many generations of Americans have not paid heed to that fundamental truth, the essence of conservatism. The time to reverse threats to our Constitution and to the future as a nation is now.
© Alan Caruba, 2011