Monday, February 05, 2007

Remembering the Gipper

As I reflect on upon the state of politics in our country today, it's hard not to be pessimistic. I'm sure many would say that this has been the case for many years, but I have reason to believe the political climate today is as dark as it has been for a long time. For Republicans like myself, 2006 was a rough year. The war in Iraq went badly. The president's credibility suffered as he endured his lowest approval ratings. Scandal after scandal crippled the Republican led congress. There was a failure to pass any sort of meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform. And the party of small government let spending get completely out of control. Republican leaders appeared apathetic, adrift, and utterly removed from their core principles. Despite their victories on taxes and pushing through two conservative judges to the Supreme Court, the Republican party failed to unite on a number of issues, got caught up in party politics, and splintered from within.

The result was a devastating defeat at the hands of the Democrats in November, the voters choosing to end the Republican majority in both houses of congress.

Yes, they had help. The Democrats made it their full-time job to criticize Republicans without offering any solutions. Joining them was the news media, who in 2006, unleashed a smear campaign of historical proportions against President Bush, the war, and the Republicans. Unconcerned with how transparently partisan their reporting appeared, the media continued their biased attacks on all things right of the political spectrum.

The truth is, however, the Republican wounds were self-inflicted. They deserved to lose. One can only hope that Republicans learn from this defeat, get back in touch with the conservative principles which have always served the party, and the country well -- smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense, and an adherence to traditional values.

What better opportunity to reflect upon these issues than the birthday of arguably the greatest conservative leader of the 20th century? Born Feb. 6, 1911 in Tampico, Ill., Ronald Wilson Reagan went on to become one of America's most popular and beloved presidents.

In a new article, Michael Medved lucidly articulates what made Reagan special, and what Republicans today can learn from his example. I for one would welcome the sort of cheerful, principled leadership that Reagan embodied. America is more divided and polarized than anytime in her history and as I look ahead to the elections of 2008, I desperately hope that a leader will step forward who is unafraid to confront and articulate issues that matter, offer real solutions to problems, and who has the ability to remind us of those qualities that make us uniquely American; uniting us rather than dividing.

This is who Reagan was. And nowhere did he more clearly communicate his vision than in 1964 when he delivered his "A Time For Choosing" speech. It is, in my opinion, one of the finest (and fearless) speeches in American History. He gave this speech in support of the failed Barry Goldwater campaign for president. The political climate is that of the mid-1960s in the midst of the Cold War and the growing threat of worldwide communism, and the rapidly growing size of government and entitlement spending at home. Nevertheless, it is uncanny how relevant his words are in 2007.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we'll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he'll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer -- not an easy answer -- but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we're willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one."

This speech is some 30 minutes long, and I don't expect anyone to listen to all of it (although they should). I must, however, insist you listen to the last 1/4 (or last 5-7 minutes)of the speech. Reading his words doesn't do him justice. Enjoy.

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