06/08/04 — Reagan: History must rank him among our greatest

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Reagan: History must rank him among our greatest

Ronald Reagan, dead at 93. If history is fair — and it eventually is — he must go down as one of the nation’s truly great presidents. And one of the world’s greatest leaders of the last century.

Most liberals and many in today’s media will scoff at that suggestion — just as they scoffed at Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency.

They chose to depict Reagan as a superficial, somewhat sleepy and shallow individual who rose to the top because of his handsome features and the name recognition from his leading role in movies, “Grade B movies,” they would be quick to note.

But what many failed to realize was that Reagan was a man of tremendous strength — physical, philosophical and spiritual. He demonstrated his leadership early as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Like most in the movie business, Reagan was a Democrat. But he became disappointed with some of the people his party chose for national leadership. Consequently, he became one of the “I like Ike” Democrats who supported Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also supported Richard Nixon.

In the early1960s, he switched his affiliation to Republican and campaigned for Barry Goldwater.

In 1964, he upset incumbent Pat Brown to become governor of California. And he made that state a great governor, serving two terms.

Except for Sen. Jesse Helms and the voters of North Carolina, Ronald Reagan might never have become president. In 1976, Reagan was challenging President Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. Most of the state’s Republican bigwigs, including Gov. Jim Holshouser, were for Ford. But Helms threw his support behind Reagan — who proceeded to win our state in the primary.

He lost out to Ford nationally in the primaries and Ford subsequently was defeated by Jimmy Carter.

Four years later, Ronald Reagan beat President Carter by 10 percentage points and won a clear victory over both Carter and Independent candidate John Anderson.

Four years later, he carried 49 of the 50 states to wipe out challenger Walter Mondale.

So much for his success at the voting booths.

Although he had been president of the national movie actors’ union, as president of the United States, Reagan stepped up to the plate and fired 11,000 federal air traffic controllers who went on strike despite his admonition not to do so. And he made it stick.

He named the first woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1983, he used military force to successfully counteract a Communist-inspired takeover of Grenada.

He advocated a program — earlier spoofed as “Reaganomics” — that gave stability and strength to the nation’s economy.

But all of these accomplishments pale beside some other contributions: President Ronald Reagan rebuilt the nation’s military, its structural strength, its moral and its international credibility.

And it was because of his influence that the world saw the Berlin Wall come tumbling down which was symbolic of the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Reagan helped end the Cold War and bring a gradual reduction and dismantling of an awesome array of intercontinental ballistic missiles ready on a moment’s notice — or miscalculation — to reduce much of the world to radioactive cinders.

History cannot fail to acknowledge such greatness.

Published in Editorials on June 8, 2004 11:04 AM