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Fred Barnes: One of a Kind
The Weekly Standard ^ | June 21, 2004 | Fred Barnes

Posted on 06/16/2004 11:49:24 AM PDT by RWR8189

Nine reasons the world would have been different if someone else had won the 1980 election.

NINE MEN ran for president in 1980. Nine big issues would be decided by whoever won: taxes, monetary policy, the air traffic controllers' strike, deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe, missile defense, Soviet communism, anti-Communist wars of liberation, tax reform, national spirit. Ronald Reagan took a bold approach, consistent with his conservative principles, on all nine--and won. Three or four of the other candidates, if elected, might have acted similarly on a few issues, but not on all nine. That is why the election of Reagan mattered so much and why the world was changed so dramatically for the better as a result.

The other candidates were President Jimmy Carter and Senator Edward Kennedy, both Democrats, Republican senators Howard Baker and Bob Dole, House members John Anderson and Phil Crane, former Treasury secretary John Connally, and George H.W. Bush. Carter and Kennedy and probably Anderson would have decided differently from Reagan on all nine issues. Crane, Dole, and Connally would likely have come the closest to matching Reagan--but not that close.

Let's look at the nine:

* Taxes. With a large budget deficit, would any of the candidates have held out for a 25 percent cut in tax rates on individual income? Probably not. Carter and Kennedy opposed tax cuts and Bush called Reagan's plan "voodoo economics." Baker, Dole, Connally, and Anderson were not noted tax cutters. Crane? Maybe. Baker, as Senate majority leader in 1981, was queasy about the Reagan cuts, calling them a "riverboat gamble." Now we know the consequences of the cuts, a rejuvenated economy. Reagan was right.

To discredit Reagan, economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times noted that Reagan twice raised taxes. Krugman also made this point to zing President Bush for sticking with his tax cuts. Reagan, however, kept the cuts he'd proposed, plus one measure--indexing--which had been added on the Senate floor. For the most part, the tax breaks he wiped away had no incentive effects and had been tacked on to his original proposal. When Reagan took office, the top income tax rate was 70 percent. When he left, it was 28 percent. Tax raiser? Hardly.

* Monetary policy. Remember "stagflation," the simultaneous presence of high inflation and stagnant growth that, in the Carter years, seemed intractable? It wasn't.

To eliminate inflation, Reagan allowed Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to crunch the money supply and cause the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Republican and Democratic politicians insisted Volcker should let up. Not Reagan. He didn't utter a peep of protest.

Newsweek columnist Robert J. Samuelson called Reagan's hands-off approach "one of his greatest triumphs." Indeed it was. Reagan and Volcker touched off two decades (and counting) of low inflation. In other words, permanent low inflation. "No other major leader--Republican or Democrat--would have then done what Reagan did," Samuelson wrote last week. Exactly right.

* Air traffic controllers' strike. Reagan surprised the world, including the senior White House staff and his cabinet, by firing the controllers, who had violated their legal and personal obligation not to strike. More than any decision in Reagan's first year in office, this action provided a huge clue about Reagan: He was not to be trifled with. And that's exactly how Reagan saw it. "This episode was an early test of my administration's resolve," he wrote in 1989 after leaving the White House. "We had the choice of caving in to unreasonable demands while keeping our air traffic system operating without incident, or of taking a stand for what we thought was right with the risk of throwing the system into possible chaos. I felt we had to do what was right." He refused to hire the controllers back later.

* Pershing missiles. Germany had promised to accept the American missiles in 1983 to checkmate Soviet SS-20s targeted on Western Europe. But the Soviets, millions of peace marchers in Europe, and a popular "nuclear freeze" movement in the United States mounted strong opposition. Nonetheless, Reagan ordered the deployment of the Pershings, and the Soviets promptly stormed out of arms control talks in Geneva. Washington went into a tizzy. Reagan's aides feared he'd be stuck with a reputation as a warmonger. Of the Soviets, Reagan said confidently, "They'll be back." Soon they were, ready to negotiate a treaty on eliminating their SS-20s. Would others have had the nerve to carry this off? Not a chance.

* Missile defense. This was the greatest bargaining chip of all time. The Soviets were deathly afraid that their entire offensive missile force would be neutralized by what Reagan called his Strategic Defense Initiative and critics called Star Wars. American doubters said missile defense was a fantasy, but Reagan believed missile defense could provide a shield over the entire United States. He was adamant about pursuing it.

A moment of truth occurred at the Reykjavik summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. Gorbachev was prepared to eliminate all nuclear weapons--his own and Reagan's--if Reagan would give up the development of missile defense. Reagan refused. Instantly the Soviets, especially Soviet generals, realized they'd lost the Cold War. They couldn't keep up an arms race. Reagan had broken their will, and undermined their faith in their system. Reagan alone could have done this.

* Communism. For more than three decades, the bipartisan policy toward Soviet communism consisted of containment and détente. The idea was to keep the Soviets from expanding the Communist empire and coexist peacefully with them. As Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said, America was Athens, the Soviet Union was Sparta. The only hope for America was to work out a deal with the Soviets.

Reagan thought otherwise. He stood the policy on its head, tossing aside the postwar consensus and seeking to defeat the Communists and roll back their "evil empire." Few Americans felt this was possible, but Reagan said in 1982 that communism would wind up on the "ash heap of history." He did everything short of war to ensure that result. Reagan, the boldest of hard-liners, succeeded where others wouldn't have tried. He said he simply "began applying conservatism to foreign policy."

* Wars of national liberation. These had been the chief means of enlarging the Soviet empire. It was one thing to oppose this type of expansion, as the United States had. It was quite another to seek the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites. And it was a still bolder leap to support anti-Communist wars of liberation to take back countries lost to Communist takeovers. It was beyond the imagination, much less the inclination, of the State Department and the political establishment.

Carter had aided Afghan rebels against Soviet occupiers, sending them pre-World War II rifles. Reagan stepped up the support many times over, sending Stinger missiles. In Nicaragua, he backed the contras, a coalition of peasants and remnants of the old Somoza regime. Liberals and much of the world fumed at the policy, but Reagan didn't flinch. The Soviet empire shrank before collapsing altogether in 1991. Reagan alone had foreseen this.

* Tax reform. Who thought this would happen? Practically nobody. The standard practice was for presidents to talk up tax reform, then abandon the idea. That's what Carter did. The conventional wisdom in Washington was that there was no constituency for cutting rates, repealing special interest loopholes, and broadening the tax base. Reagan comprised a constituency of one, which turned out to be sufficient.

*National spirit. That Reagan, more than anyone else, drove away the gloomy, defeatist mood of the 1970s is a fact. We have this on the authority of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who praised Reagan last week for leading "the great cause of cheering us all up." Given his optimism and eloquence and storehouse of upbeat anecdotes, this now seems like no big deal. But who else could have done it? John Connally perhaps? John Anderson maybe? Howard Baker? A reelected Jimmy Carter? These questions answer themselves.

A half century ago, philosopher Sidney Hook drew a distinction between an eventful man and an event-making man. The key difference is that while both may arrive at a fork in the historical road, the event-making man helped to create the fork. The event-making man also "leaves the positive imprint of his personality upon history--an imprint that is still observable after he has disappeared from the scene." That's Reagan exactly. He not only seized opportunities successfully, he created them. This puts him in a class by himself among postwar presidents. And it reflects well on the wisdom of the American voters who chose him in 1980 over eight rivals for the presidency.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 1980; fredbarnes; reagan; ronaldreagan; weeklystandard

1 posted on 06/16/2004 11:49:25 AM PDT by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189

Reagan didn't send stingers to the Muj. It was a congressman from Texas, Charlie Wilson, and he did it on his own against the desires of the State dept., Pentagon, CIA, and even the Reagan administration foreign policy team.

And Charlie Wilson was a Rat. Top that for Freaky weird things in history.

2 posted on 06/16/2004 11:58:04 AM PDT by TheErnFormerlyKnownAsBig (You can turn your head away from the Berg video and still hear Al Queda's calls to prayer.)
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To: big ern

More of a Dixiecrat, IMO. Like Phil Gramm was in the beginning.

3 posted on 06/16/2004 12:47:31 PM PDT by Cobra Scott
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To: RWR8189
The invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 marked the high tide mark of communist expansion and the start of the Soviet Union’s long-planned conquest of the West. Few today remember just how flaccid and helpless things seemed in those days: the economy was in tatters, with double-digit inflation, interest, and unemployment rates; U.S. military prowess was at an all-time low in the wake of the Vietnam debacle; and American optimism and resolve was drowned in a sea of decadence, defeatism, and malaise under the Carter administration. Had these trends continued, it is likely that an unprepared NATO would have had to face the might of the USSR at its peak of military power in a hot war — a war that we now know would have begun with a surprise nuclear attack on western Europe. The aftermath of such a war would have been more horrible than we can imagine today.

If not for the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the implementation of his offensive against the Soviet Union, my guess is that the USSR would have attacked and overrun western Europe within five years, leading to a nuclear exchange. This opinion was shared by a great many military and political leaders of the time, one of whom, British General Sir John Hackett, wrote a best-selling fictional forecast of such a conflict. The fact that World War III never became a hot war is almost certainly due to the election of Ronald Reagan, the subsequent re-arming of the West, and the counterattack against communism he led in the years 1981-1985.

Thanks to the vision, will, and courage of America’s fortieth president, the final battle of that World War was fought over a table in Reykjavik instead of in the fields, cities, skies, and seas of a devastated Europe. Once again, God sent His people a leader just in time. We should all take a moment out of every day to thank Him for allowing us to have Ronald Wilson Reagan as our leader.

4 posted on 06/16/2004 12:49:13 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: RWR8189
Ronald Reagan was truly one of the greatest Presidents ever. He accomplished so much, mainly because he didn't care about what the polls would say at the time. He meant what he said.

I am glad that our country had such a strong leader. I remember Carter, but was only 10 when Reagan was elected, so I don't really remember how bad things were. I'm glad I was too young to really remember Jimmy.

5 posted on 06/16/2004 12:56:19 PM PDT by Koblenz (Not bad, not bad at all. -- Ronald Reagan, the Greatest President. We miss you, Mr. President!)
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To: Koblenz

Not unlike many others my age, I was a registered Independent. I lived in Los Angeles County in 1980 where the annual inflation rate was 20% and a 30 year mortgage would cost you 17%. I changed my voter registration so I could vote for Reagan in the CA primary, and never looked back.

6 posted on 06/16/2004 1:05:46 PM PDT by GVnana
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To: All
“In the first massive nuclear strike by the troops of the Missile Forces of the Czechoslovak Front, the front aviation and long-range aviation added to the front must destroy the main group of troops of the first operations echelon of the 7th US Army, its means of nuclear attack, and the centers of command and control of the aviation. 

During the development of the operation, the troops of the Missile Forces and aviation must destroy the approaching deep operative reserves, the newly discovered means of nuclear attack, and the enemy aviation.

Altogether the operation will require the use of 131 nuclear missiles and nuclear bombs; specifically 96 missiles and 35 nuclear bombs.  The first nuclear strike will use 41 missiles and nuclear bombs.  The immediate task will require using 29 missiles and nuclear bombs.  The subsequent task could use 49 missiles and nuclear bombs.  12 missiles and nuclear bombs should remain in the reserve of the Front. 

Building on the results of the first nuclear strike, the troops of the Front, in coordination with units of the 1st Western Front must destroy the main group of troops of the 7th US Army and the 1st French Army in cooperation with airborne assault troops, force the rivers Neckar and Rhine in crossing, and defeat the advancing deep strategic reserves of the enemy in advancing battle, and by D7-8 take control of the areas of Langres, Besançon, and Epinal. 

Upon completion of the tasks of the operation the troops must be ready to develop further advances in the direction of Lyon.”

[ Source

7 posted on 06/16/2004 1:05:48 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: RWR8189
Not fair. That Jimmy Carter guy was real tough on the Ruskies. Remember when they invaded Afghanistan? He retaliated in force by boycotting the Moscow Olympics.

That showed them. Think of all the poor young Soviets that got hernias lugging all those gold medals away from those games when the competition didn't show.

That Carter was sure a tough guy. < /sarcasm >

8 posted on 06/16/2004 2:09:24 PM PDT by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
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To: Ditto

LOL! And don't forget Carter taking down that swamp rabbit!

9 posted on 06/16/2004 3:02:10 PM PDT by ServesURight
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To: Ditto

Oh, the Carter years! It gives me the warm and fuzzies. He was trying to impose his environmental policies during a oil crisis! My neighbors were cutting down all the trees in their backyard to heat their homes. Carter was over his head with American hostages in Iran. All he could do is talk about it. It was my first awakening to the flaws of liberalism.

10 posted on 06/16/2004 10:37:52 PM PDT by Milligan
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