In the 1960s, it was a handicap in a presidential campaign to be a conservative. Republicans shied away from the label a hostile media had equated with extremism. With Reagan, it was an honor. He was never embarrassed or ashamed at being a man of the right.
Every year, he would speak at CPAC. In every State of the Union, he demanded a line be inserted calling for an amendment to the constitution to protect the life of the unborn. He believed God had spared him and that the time left to him was to be spent doing God's work here on earth.
Where other politicians feared to tred on the battlegrounds of philosophy and principle, Reagan rushed in. Nominated in 1980, he demanded a "no pale pastels" platform -- and then ran on it.
He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he loved stories. Seconds before going out to face the press in prime-time news conferences 80 million Americans and the whole world would watch, he was still telling jokes. He was devoid of ego and of the boastfulness so common in this capital. "There is no limit to how far a man can go," read a plaque in his office, "so long as he is willing to let someone else get the credit."
What did he achieve? Ronald Reagan let the American eagle soar. He cut tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent, restored our spirit, rebuilt the armed forces into the most formidable the world had ever seen and led us to bloodless victory in the Cold War. Time declared Mikhail Gorbachev Man of the Decade. America knows better.
Branded by a hostile city as "an amiable dunce," he paid no heed. He was more concerned with what his friends at Human Events wrote than what his adversaries at The Washington Post or The New York Times said.
He was warned that his determination to challenge the Soviet Empire philosophically, and strategically in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua, risked war. Yet this 70-year-old man who began his presidency calling the Soviet Union an evil empire ended it strolling through Red Square arm-in-arm with the last leader of that empire.
A British statesman once said all political lives end in failure. As always, Ronald Reagan is the exception. We shall not see his like again.
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