Today I was driving from Southern California back to the North, returning from a business trip to LA. Since I stay at a motel in Newbury Park I was close this morning to the Ronald Reagan library and wanted to go visit it again. The Ronald Reagan Library is located in Simi Valley California, off of the Olsen exit on the 23 Freeway in Thousand Oaks. It was a beautiful day to be at the Library.
I first went to the Reagan library not long after it opened in 1991. This was my first visit since then and the 2010 refurbishment of the location, along with the addition of Air Force One and Marine One makes for a good day. While there is a lot of interesting memorabilia there including the suit cut off of the president on the day he was shot (along with two of the bullet holes, one very near his heart!), but what interests me the most are the video presentations of the president talking, his campaign speeches, his press conferences, and his writing. President Reagan was the last president where I looked forward to seeing him on camera and listening to him. Above all the president radiated common sense, a jovial outlook, and an earnest love for the country and the American people. I was honored as a 20 year old when I worked on his campaign in 1980. The best part of this visit had little to do with the place but it had to do with a conversation with a docent there, that illuminated something important related to those who seek to be our leaders in the republican party today.
On my way out of the library facility I happened to run into a docent named Jane. She was a bit flustered as she had just come out of a test she had taken related to a job she wanted to do at the library. She asked me how I liked my visit and we chatted. I told her that this was my first visit since the early days of the library and we talked about the differences and improvements. However, the revelation had to do with a discussion we started having about the difference between republican politicians today and Mr. Reagan. Jane had been at the library since it opened in 1991 and had a deep understanding of president Reagan. What she said was that she did not really like any of the modern pretenders to Mr. Reagan’s mantle because they were all one trick ponies. That is, most of them are very very good in one area. Paul Ryan on the budget, Rubio on immigration, and others who are very good in one area but none of them with the breadth of Mr. Reagan and his innate understanding of the problems of the country and how to apply conservative principles to solve them.
I immediately agreed with her and it was immediately apparent to me that this was what was wrong with the crop of presidential pretenders in 2012 and a warning for 2016. It is not enough to be very good on one subject. This explains the meteoric rise and subsequent crash in the polls of many of the candidates in 2012. Some like Herman Cain, was great with a very good idea on economics but he wilted under the pressure of the liberal media and old hidden problems. Newt Gingrich had great ideas in many areas but just could not help self destructing. Mitt Romney? At some level we really wanted him to rise up, and he did in that first debate but he could not sustain it, he listened to his handlers rather than that inner guiding light, trying to say what the thought people wanted him to say rather than what needed to be said.
Mr. Reagan had decades of experience in terms of developing a philosophy, and retaining an inner moral compass on what was the right thing to do in terms of being true to his beliefs and applying those principles to solve the problems at hand. This is another problem of today’s republicans, they misunderstand this aspect of Reagan and seek to apply his solutions to problems that have little bearing on the problems that we have today. He discussed this a bit in some of the prologs to his speeches in a book that he wrote called “Speaking My Mind”. What he said was this: (page 51)
After I left the governorship, I got into radio again– this time doing syndicated commentaries. Writing these pieces was a lot harder than sportscasting. In fact, it was something of a grind turing these things out. But I’ll tell you what these commentaries did. They kept my name before the public while I was out of office, and they did something else that was probably more important. The commentaries forced me to have a broader, more national outlook on issues than perhaps I had when I was governor. They forced me to articulate my opinions on a whole range of matters, which I think in turn helped prepare me for my run for the presidency.
What we need are leaders who are well grounded in their conservative beliefs who have have delved deeply into the problems that we face today and have confident solutions to them. The economic problems of today cannot be solved by Reagan’s solutions of 1983 just has he understood that the solutions of 1963 were not the solutions of his era. However, we can find solutions to our problems by applying our conservative principles to the problems of today, along with Mr. Reagan’s faith in a better future for Americans. At the end of the day, this is the antithesis of Mr. Obama, and it is the opposite direction that we need to go….
I want to thank Jane the docent for her marvelous insight into the heart of why Reagan was successful, I hope your pass your test!