Archive for the ‘Ronald Reagan’ category

Trump’s Warsaw Speech Evoked Reagan’s Cold War Rhetoric, Not The Alt-Right’s

July 7, 2017

Trump’s Warsaw Speech Evoked Reagan’s Cold War Rhetoric, Not The Alt-Right’s, The Federalist, July 7, 2017

President Trump gave a stirring defense of western civilization on Thursday morning in Warsaw ahead of the G-20 summit in Germany. In a remarkably candid speech about the threats facing the West, Trump praised Poland for resisting communist and Nazi efforts “to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity—indeed the very essence of your culture and your humanity.”

Speaking at Krasinski Square in front of the iconic Warsaw Uprising monument marking Poland’s 1944 resistance to Nazi occupation, Trump proclaimed, somewhat dramatically, “Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph.”

The world hasn’t heard such language from a U.S. president since Ronald Reagan inveighed against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But apparently it’s racist and fascist these days to talk about resisting tyranny and defending western values—or even to talk about western civilization as such. The Guardian worried about Trump’s use of the word “civilization,” noting that he used it ten times, and claiming the speech “pits western world against barbarians at the gates” and calls for “a clash of civilisations.”

Vox blurted out the headline, “Trump’s speech in Poland sounded like an alt-right manifesto,” calling it “a speech that often resorted to rhetorical conceits typically used by the European and American alt-right. It sounded, at times, not just like the populists of the present but the populists of the past.” The New Republic’s Jeet Heer tweeted that Trump’s speech, “is evidence of how alt right still has a voice in White House” and later posted a commentary saying it “redefined the West in nativist terms.”

Even The Atlantic‘s James Fallows compared Trump’s rhetoric to the Nazi propaganda film, “Triumph of the Will,” saying Trump “represents our country as just another tribe.”

JFK Also Praised Poland’s History and Culture

These reactions belie a worldview that rejects entirely the very idea of “western civilization,” and insists that appeals to Enlightenment principles and cultural cohesion are inherently racist and fascist. And there’s a reason for that. As my colleague David Harsanyi noted, “many of the same people who believe Western values are alt-right dog-whistles want you to adopt a new set of values that have nothing to do with the founding principles and everything to do with their policy preferences.”

But Trump was espousing what used to be considered a fairly standard understanding of western values. “We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression,” he said. “We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives… And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom.”

Progressives today reject almost all of this—not because Trump is invoking the rhetoric of the alt-right, but because they have moved so far to the left. In fact, far from echoing the blood-and-soil language of the alt-right, Trump’s rhetoric here sounds a lot like the rhetoric deployed in speeches about Poland by Reagan or John F. Kennedy during the Cold War.

Back then, Poland was under communist control, its government a puppet of the Soviet Union and its people prisoners of a tyrannical regime. In a 1960 speech to the Polish-American Congress, then-senator Kennedy recalled his time in Poland in 1939, and Poland’s history fighting the Nazis during World War Two: “After the war, I visited the Polish cemetery in Italy. Some of you who have been there may recall that at the cemetery are written the words, ‘These Polish soldiers for your freedom and theirs have given their bodies to the soil of Italy, their hearts to Poland, and their souls to God.’”

He went on to address the oppression of Poland by the Soviet Union, saying, “we must never… recognize the Soviet domination of eastern Europe as permanent. We must never do it. Poland’s claim to independence and liberty is not based on sentiment or politics. It is rooted in history, and it is to history that we must address ourselves.”

Kennedy called not only for a defensive military buildup so that the Russians would know “that the route of military force can no longer be open to them,” but also for increasing cultural ties to Poland, saying the United States must “strive to restore the traditional identification which Poland has had with the Western European community, which goes back into history. It is tied by culture ties. Poland has always looked to the West, never to the East.” The Polish people, he said, “have not accepted the idea that their culture, their religious heritage, their traditions, can be destroyed by domination by a foreign power.”

Reagan Invoked God, Heritage, and History

Two decades later, Poland was still under communist rule, its government still a puppet of the Soviet Union, but things had begun to change. When Reagan took office in 1981, the Solidarity movement in Poland was building steam. Led by future Polish president Lech Wałęsa and supported by members of the Catholic Church and the anti-Soviet left, Solidarity organized as a free trade union in opposition to communist rule.

By the end of 1981, Poland’s authoritarian government would declare martial law in an effort to crush Solidarity. Reagan gave a speech on December 23 addressing the situation, and praised the Polish people for showing their resistance by placing lit candles in their windows. He said the exiled former Polish ambassador, Romuald Spasowski, had requested that on Christmas Eve a lighted candle burn in the White House window as a “small but certain beacon of our solidarity with the Polish people,” and urged all Americans to do the same that Christmas Eve, invoking God, heritage, and history:

Once, earlier in this century, an evil influence threatened that the lights were going out all over the world. Let the light of millions of candles in American homes give notice that the light of freedom is not going to be extinguished. We are blessed with a freedom and abundance denied to so many. Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us, an obligation to the heritage of liberty and dignity handed down to us by our forefathers and an obligation to the children of the world, whose future will be shaped by the way we live our lives today.

Six months later, in his famous Westminster speech to members of the British Parliament, Reagan cast the Soviet Union in the same stark terms that Trump today reserves for ISIS and North Korea. He warned of “totalitarian forces in the world who seek subversion and conflict around the globe to further their barbarous assault on the human spirit. What, then, is our course? Must civilization perish in a hail of fiery atoms? Must freedom wither in a quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?”

Reagan’s answer was an emphatic “no.” He again spoke of about Poland’s role in western civilization and its cultural lineage, saying, “Poland is at the center of European civilization. It has contributed mightily to that civilization. It is doing so today by being magnificently unreconciled to oppression.”

He closed that speech with language that would surely scandalize the progressives at Vox and The New Republic, calling the contest against totalitarianism “a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.”

Europe’s Political Elites Are a Threat to The West

Trump’s Warsaw speech should be understood in this historical context. The president rightly sees the contest between radical Islamic terrorism and the West as a contest between totalitarianism and freedom. He also rightly sees the growing tension between the European Union and the citizenry of European nations as a contest between authoritarian bureaucracy and representative, limited government. His remarks Thursday were aimed at ISIS, but also at a European elite that doesn’t have the inclination or will to defend its borders or cultural heritage.

That’s why Trump said: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

Trump isn’t just referring to ISIS when he alludes to those who would destroy western civilization. He’s also pointing to European political elites who undermine their own societies by cultural relativism and its resulting slavish and destructive adherence to open borders and mass migration.

Reagan and JFK understood that communism sought ultimately to destroy western civilization and replace it with something else. That’s why they often spoke of civilization and cultural heritage during the Cold War. Trump is saying something similar about the political elites who now rule Europe, and he’s not wrong. That mainstream media outlets like Vox and The Atlantic are scandalized by this is evidence not of Trump’s radicalism, but of their own.

John is a senior correspondent for The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.

A Little Patriotism Goes a Long Way

March 1, 2017

A Little Patriotism Goes a Long Way, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, March 1, 2017

Trump and Reagan share more than an ability to stage speeches and to articulate a patriotic message. They share a contempt for America doubters.


The slogan and organizing principle of President Trump’s administration is “America first.” As he explained last night: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

This is just common sense. Absent the Obama aberration, no president would think to say it.

However, even a message this obvious can use powerful, patriotic rhetoric and effective staging to support it. Trump’s presentation contained both, beginning with the second paragraph:

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

The address ended on the same note:

[W]hen we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears — inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past — and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and believe in yourselves.

Believe in your future.

And believe, once more, in America.

There was also the unforgettable response of Carryn Owens when Trump and Congress paid tribute to her fallen husband, Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. This was an American Greatness moment.

On Fox News, commentators of a certain age compared Trump’s address to those of President Reagan. It was Reagan, apparently, who began the practice of bringing heroic citizens to the gallery and recognizing them in his addresses.

I’m not sure that even Reagan ever matched the Ryan Owens moment.

But Trump and Reagan share more than an ability to stage speeches and to articulate a patriotic message. They share a contempt for America doubters.

This distinguishes them from the two Republican presidents who served in between them. Bush 41 and Bush 43 were great patriots. But they did not have, or at least display, a visceral reaction to nay-saying about America. (To be fair, neither followed a nay-saying administration).

Reagan and Trump have that visceral reaction, and they display it. This served Reagan well and, if Trump can control himself, it may well do the same for him.

Cartoon of the day

September 14, 2015

H/t Freedom is just another word



Here’s One for the Gipper

June 11, 2015

Reagan’s Startling Prediction Is Closer Than Ever To Becoming True

By Randy DeSoto June 11, 2015 Via Western Journalism

(So true. – LS)

Ronald Reagan once famously observed that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons about how they, in their lifetime, must do the same.

“If you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Many fear in our day that we face the prospect of freedom being lost simply due to a lack of knowledge in how we gained it. Thousands of years ago, Moses shared the same concern for his fledgling nation and instructed the people to “lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand [and your forehead]. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

History tells us that the citizens of ancient Israel eventually forget the source of their laws and their history, and suffered civil war and eventual conquest.

In modern times, the United States came into existence because the British King and Parliament forgot that the American colonists were also English citizens, guaranteed all the rights of anyone born in the Mother country. Two years before he penned the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote his influential essay A Summary View of the Rights of British America. In it, he argued that the Crown was failing to recognize their rights as Englishmen, dating back to the the Magna Carta.

The central message conveyed by that document (which would become the central message of the Declaration of Independence) is that even the king is under the law. Among the specific rights secured to all British citizens on the fields of Runnymede in 1215 included no taxation without representation, trial by a jury of one’s peers, and no loss of one’s liberty or property without due process of law (i.e. all the protections against arbitrary rule guaranteed by the law).

Jefferson eloquently addressed King George III in his essay, writing: “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” The Virginian hoped the king would “quiet the minds of your subjects in British America against any apprehensions of future encroachment” of their rights.

Avi Davis, president of the American Freedom Alliance–an organization dedicated to preserving the Western ideals of liberty–observed: “Is it any wonder that the American revolutionaries in the 1770s, in claiming their rights to reject taxation without representation, regarded themselves as doing so not as Americans at all but as British citizens, whose natural rights, they claimed, had been articulated and codified in the Magna Carta?

In an interview with Western Journalism, Davis noted the contrast in the development of countries in the former British Empire–including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand– whose citizens understood their inalienable rights, versus many nations around the world who believed, and in some instances still believe, that the “king is the law.”

He agreed with Reagan that freedom and democracies are “fragile and depend on the goodwill and respect of the citizens.” Davis believes we must keep revisiting the Magna Carta and the other sources of our liberties because they are the foundation of who we are. If we fail to do so, freedom truly is a generation away from extinction.

To that end, the American Freedom Alliance is sponsoring a two-day conference in Reagan’s hometown of Los Angeles, called Magna Carta: The 800 Year Struggle for Human Liberty. The event will take place on June 14-15 (the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta) and feature noteworthy speakers including European Parliament member Daniel Hannan and former Australian Prime Minister John Winston Howard. There will also be various panel discussions by experts in the field on the influence of the Magna Carta in America’s founding and in democracies around the world.

On the actual anniversary of the signing, Monday, the conference will go live to Runnymede, England, via satellite link up, to join the celebration there.

One of Ronald Reagan’s close Hollywood friends, Jimmy Stewart, played the role of Jefferson Smith in the iconic film Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. In the climactic final scene of the movie, as Smith is conducting a one-man filibuster against government corruption, he said: “Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here. You just have to see them again.”

The 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta offers a great opportunity to see many of those great principles again so they are not lost in our generation–and those generations yet to come.