Years ago, when I was a media fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, I got to sit down with Martin Anderson, one of Ronald Reagan’s closest advisers.
We were discussing what had happened at Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986, when Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The two men left without an arms treaty after discussing ways to reduce ballistic-missile arsenals. There even was talk, as today, of eliminating nuclear weapons entirely.
Reagan’s willingness to negotiate with the communist leader prompted one prominent conservative to call him a “useful idiot,” a statement that, given how things have turned out, the good conservative probably has regretted more than once.
“Why,” I asked Mr. Anderson, “when we held the upper hand, did Reagan allow such apparent parity?”
Mr. Anderson smiled at my question and said something along these lines: “Look, that was for the press. I was with Reagan, and let me tell you, it was brutal. Behind closed doors, Reagan stiff-armed Gorbachev.”
Mr. Anderson went on to relate that Reagan warned his counterpart that the United States was so far ahead technologically that the Soviets would go bankrupt if they tried to match us. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and growing computer gap were simply too much for the Soviet Union’s doddering socialist economy. But Reagan had to save Gorbachev some face, so they let the press make it appear that the two sides left the table as equals.
In December 1987, the United States and Soviets signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but the U.S. continued to work on SDI. This anti-ballistic-missile program was better known to the public as “Star Wars,” thanks to the liberal media’s miscalculation that the public would find it silly. But Americans loved the cinematic “Star Wars” saga of good versus evil, and they loved Reagan’s description of the Soviets as “the evil empire.”
Three years after Reykjavik, the Berlin Wall fell during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, and two years after that, the Soviet empire crumbled. The events followed a script Reagan had crafted years earlier.
In 1977, Reagan had a conversation in Los Angeles with Richard V. Allen, who later became Reagan’s first national security adviser. In a Hoover Digest article in January 2000 titled “The Man Who Won the Cold War,” Mr. Allen recalled Reagan telling him: “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic. It is this: We win and they lose. What do you think of that?”
Mr. Allen acknowledged being surprised that someone who might become president would suggest outright victory instead of managing the relationship. But unlike the current occupant of the White House, Reagan believed in American exceptionalism and saw through the false promises of socialism. He thought we could win.
Containment had been U.S. policy toward communism since World War II, but Reagan did not concede this stalemate. Instead, he crafted the Reagan Doctrine of rolling back communism. Beginning with liberating the island nation of Grenada in 1983, he stiff-armed the communists until they cried uncle. This outraged the left, whose mantra is that their triumph is inevitable and that any ground they conquer, they keep. And they are shameless about it.
On Feb. 1, the New York Times editorial board called federal Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling against Obamacare a “breathtaking example of judicial activism.” Isn’t it fun when liberals decry “judicial activism”? It’s like Eminem complaining about someone exclaiming “Darn!” in his presence.
In the decision, Judge Vinson rightly reminded Congress that the Constitution gives it no authority to force people to purchase health insurance. When leftist decisions are hatched from “penumbras” and “emanations,” they instantly become “settled law.” By contrast, when rulings are grounded in the Constitution’s actual written word, well, that’s “judicial activism.”
Liberals are still peddling the notion, even after the Great Shellacking, that America loves the health care takeover, loves trillions in new spending, loves radical social engineering such as letting homosexuals serve openly in the armed forces, and just wants to “move on,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says.
No, most Americans want to roll things back to some degree of normalcy. Feb. 6 marked the Gipper’s 100th birthday. I think it’s obvious that Reagan would have been right at home in the Tea Party movement, which is applying his rollback strategy to bloated government. The Tea Parties are not interested in “making government work better.” They want less of it, period.
As the business-as-usual Beltway crowd tries to temper and divert the Tea Party’s energy into merely “fixing” the health care bill instead of repealing it, and balancing the budget with more taxes - which only feeds the monster - the Tea Party needs to stick with its Reaganesque commitment to rollback.
Given the stakes, it wouldn’t hurt to throw in “We win and they lose,” either.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.