- The Washington Times - Friday, June 11, 2004

Among the most ungenerous and uninformed obituary comments about President Reagan, I give the cup to Thomas Cronin, the McHugh Professor of American Institutions at Colorado College. With sneering rhetoric, he is quoted in the New York Times obituary that Americans evaluate the greatness of a president on “criteria that are over and above popularity and re-election,” criteria that in Mr. Cronin’s opinion President Reagan obviously did not fulfill.

Quoted by the New York Times, Mr. Cronin credited President Reagan with enhancing national security by successfully negotiating the 1987 I.N.F. (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) treaty, but asked: “Did he expand opportunities for all Americans regardless of race, gender or income bracket? It’s my view Reagan has not enlarged the equity factor nor the educational opportunities for most Americans.”

And the Reagan presidency lacked moral leadership, he said, an essential for greatness. “He was too late, too little and too lame when it came to human-rights abuses at home and abroad,” Mr. Cronin said. “He was not willing to be a leader.”

Mr. Cronin is one of the mainstream American historians who, when not trying to write Mr. Reagan out of history, ignore his spectacular achievement, one that undoubtedly saved millions and millions of lives, an achievement even Russian leaders recognized was Mr. Reagan’s and only Mr. Reagan’s: His policies ended the Cold War without a hot war.

Also ignored by Mr. Cronin is that Mr. Reagan inherited from the calamitous Carter administration a recession Reagan policies turned around in two years. As Martin Anderson noted in his book “Revolution,” Mr. Reagan presided over the longest economic expansion in American history, an expansion that helped create 16 million new jobs.

Mr. Cronin kisses off as a mere trifle Mr. Reagan’s historic achievement. Mr. Reagan policies not only averted Soviet aggression but ended the Soviet Union as a threat to all humanity. He freed mankind from the overhanging threat of nuclear destruction. Eastern and Central Europe, under Soviet domination for a half-century, was liberated thanks to Mr. Reagan’s foreign policy and pronouncements about the “evil empire” for which he was savagely attacked by the liberal left. Mr. Reagan removed the fear of nuclear war.

Such findings are not mere right-wing boasts. Russians have said publicly it was Mr. Reagan and his “star wars” program — the Strategic Defense Initiative — that set them on the road to ruin and collapse. Scorning Mr. Reagan’s leadership in winning the Cold War is akin to ignoring Lincoln’s leadership in ending slavery.

Mr. Cronin’s scholarship is lamentable in that he has ignored the volumes of letters and manuscripts published in a recent book titled “Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America.” This documentation was so stunning a revelation that Lou Cannon, Mr. Reagan’s biographer, has begun revising his earlier volume to include the implications of the volume of Mr. Reagan’s manuscripts.

Even more lamentable is that few, if any, of the obituaries will remember these words of Ronald Reagan at the Bergen Belsen dedication of the Holocaust Museum:

“Here lie people — Jews — whose death was inflicted for no other reason than their very existence. Here death ruled. … As we flew here, over the greening farms and the emerging springtime, I reflected that there must have been a time when the prisoners of Bergen-Belsen and those of every other camp must have felt that the springtime was gone forever from their lives.

“Here they lie. Never to hope. Never to pray. Never to love. Never to heal. Never to laugh. Never to cry. Never again…. ”

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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