Skip to comments.Let Bush Be Bush: "Mr. Bush is Mr. Reagan's Heir"
Posted on 12/17/2003 12:28:46 PM PST by bdeaner
|By Michael A. Ledeen|
|Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2003|
|New York Sun|
|Publication Date: December 17, 2003|
As the Reagan years pass further back into time, both his enemies and his admirers are straining mightily to write the history the way they want it to have happened. In the process, those eight years are taking on almost mythical characteristics. The 'phobes see an ideologically driven administration almost psychotically obsessed with defeating communism; the 'philes see a simpatico human being who understood America perfectly and used American strengths to bring down the Soviet empire.
It wasn't like that. Actually, in many ways it was very much like today. As President Reagan headed into the fourth year of his first term, there was a fierce battle within the administration, within the Republican Party, and within the conservative movement that the combatants all saw as an epic struggle for the heart and soul of the president himself.
On the one hand, the hawks, headed by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, and National Security Adviser William Clark, argued that the president should focus his re-election campaign on the guerrilla war in Central America, and the real danger that the Soviet empire could solidify a land base in the Western Hemisphere for the first time.
On the other hand, Mr. Reagan's political advisers, from James Baker to Michael Deaver to Nancy Reagan, and, at least in part, Secretary of State George Shultz, wanted to keep issues of war and peace secondary, and certainly didn't want any new geopolitical initiatives before the election. The economy was improving, there was already a lot on the president's plate, and they didn't want any unpleasant surprises or, worse still, any setbacks. They wanted to run on the uplifting theme of "Springtime in America."
The hawks feared that such a campaign would paralyze foreign policy for a year or more and give the Soviets and their many proxies the chance to challenge us, both on the ground in Central America and in the ongoing debate over the "Euro missiles" in NATO. And so the hawks launched their own slogan: "Let Reagan Be Reagan."
The implication was clear: Left to his own instincts, the president would pursue an aggressive foreign policy regardless of the political calculus. The fear was also clear: If he listened too carefully to the politicos, he might gut our foreign policy and incur terrible costs in his second term. The battle was intense, inconclusive, and unending.
One of the most poignant and instructive moments in the congressional hearings into Iran-Contra came when somebody asked Mr. Shultz why he hadn't killed off an NSC initiative, and he answered, in essence: "I thought I had, but in this government nothing is ever really over. The debates keep coming back over and over again."
That's the way democracies work, to the consternation of those who prefer clear definition and final decisions, and that's exactly the way this administration is working. If you listen to today's hawks, you can well imagine them saying "Let Bush Be Bush." They believe that left to his own instincts, the president would be much more aggressive than Secretary of State Powell has been. They think he would move more quickly against the terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, give greater support to democratic movements throughout the Middle East, and keep our enemies on the defensive.
On the other hand, the more moderate presidential advisers and, in all likelihood, the politicos, think they've got a pat hand: The economy is improving, Iraq is coming along, the president's image is improving here and abroad, and we've got plenty on our plate for the moment. So let's run an upbeat campaign on American resilience and glory, get a working majority in both houses, and then we'll see.
The "Let Reagan be Reagan" effort largely failed, "Springtime in America" produced a landslide, the situation in Central America became hotter and hotter, the Soviets were indeed aggressive on the Euro missiles, and the hawks were greatly discouraged.
As we know, things did come around for the hawks. We won the Euro missile debate (thanks to the Italians, then as now, willing to be extremely brave when serious Western interests were on the line, even though, then as now, the Germans were inclined to hide behind shortsighted peace slogans), we eventually prevailed in Central America, and, shortly after Mr. Reagan's second term, the Soviet empire collapsed.
The point is that there was no ideological juggernaut. There was, as there always is, an ongoing struggle for the president's heart and soul. And at a moment comparable to this one, the hawks feared they were losing Mr. Reagan.
The "Let Bush Be Bush" effort is also likely doomed to failure, for electoral politics invariably trumps geopolitics, unless there is a clearly perceived crisis. At least for the moment, the president is going to try to deal with the problems we already have and is not going to expand the terror war. Events could force him to change strategy, but I think that's the only way it will happen before November 2004.
In this, as in many other ways, Mr. Bush is Mr. Reagan's heir. And he is carrying on the tradition of the real Mr. Reagan, not the caricature we are getting from some of Mr. Reagan's most passionate lovers and haters.
Michael A. Ledeen holds the Freedom Chair at AEI.
Presidency of George W. Bush -- the first 35 months
President Reagan didn't ban Partial Birth Abortion. Bush did.
President Reagan didn't kill the U.S. - CCCP ABM Treaty. Bush did.
President Reagan was great. Bush will be better.
Hint, hint, all you fair weather, maybe-I'll-support-Bush-and-maybe-I-won't RINOs.
Southack: your list is, as always, irrefutable. :)
You know just because you post these actions in bold, larger font, and different colors on every thread that dares question the President doesn't make any of the actions listed anything more than big government and a waste of taxpayer dollars
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