Eight years later, the Soviet Union was in its death throes, Latin America, the Philippines and Eastern Europe were blooming with freedom, the Berlin Wall was teetering, the U.S. economy was enjoying the longest peacetime expansion in history, and American self-confidence and patriotism were restored.
What sort of magician accomplished all of this? No magician, but a great man -- with many of the qualities just then desperately required.
He had fortitude. When the recession of 1982 was at its worst; when The New York Times proclaimed that Reagan's was a "failed presidency"; when most of the nation, including some of Reagan's supporters, were losing hope; he did not waver. He knew that wringing inflation out of the economy would be painful in the short run and that the tax cuts would take time to work. When the sun began to show through the economic clouds at the end of the year, he quipped, "You notice they don't call it ?Reaganomics' anymore."
That same fortitude was evident when, in response to Soviet aggression, NATO placed Pershing missiles in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of protesters thronged the streets of Europe and the United States with posters denouncing the United States and Reagan. They bore inscriptions like "Better Red Than Dead." The Democrats were certain that Reagan was endangering the peace of the world. He was steadfast.
There were many other gifts that made Reagan a political genius: disarming humor, a natural grace and courtesy, an actor's stage presence and rock solid integrity. But his greatest gift was, in Lincoln's phrase, his "firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right."
It wasn't just that he believed things; it was that he believed the right things, as history has shown. God bless him.