06/10/04 — Consensus: Ronald Reagan again brings us harmony

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Consensus: Ronald Reagan again brings us harmony

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called the sons of God.

—Matthew 5:9

Ronald Reagan’s passing was lamented on this page a couple of days ago. Sad as it was, reaction to his departure has been, in one sense, uplifting.

During his term as president, many liberals vilified the staunchly conservative Reagan as the devil incarnate. His unrestrained abhorrence of the Soviet Union, his insistence on financing the Strategic Defense Initiative — called “Star Wars” by his opponents — his efforts to reduce the size of government and reduce taxes, all these were targets for liberal politicians and commentators.

It is said that time heals all wounds. It doesn’t heal all of them, but the 15 years since Reagan was in office certainly have added perspective to the man and to his influence on history. And in the clarifying light of time, Reagan looks quite well.

He looks well even to those who did not share his political views. Many of them were visibly touched by his death last Saturday. That is what has been so astonishing about the reaction to his death.

If he were anyone else, his death would not have been so shocking. After all, he was 93 years old, and for the last few years his mind had been shattered by Alzheimer’s disease. He was no longer the man who had been blessed with such a happy life. From all accounts, he could not even remember that life.

So why so many tears?

As we look back, we can see that Reagan was a leader who was easy to love, and he was one who had done well by us. He refused to be moved from the course that he felt was in our best interests.

He envisioned a better world for us, and a better world altogether. Reagan, Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher worked deliberately, uncompromisingly, to bring about the fall of communism in eastern Europe. Ultimately, not long after Reagan left office, all European countries eschewed communist autocracy, and even the Soviet Union fell apart.

Now, politicians who held contrary views while Reagan was president realize that even if he made mistakes, he was effective, and his heart was right. He was not content to endure the Cold War as president; he meant to win it. And one after another on the endless television interview shows, people of all stripes are expressing their admiration.

One reason may be that there was less hostility between the political parties — less of the hatred and vindictiveness that we see in Washington today. A political nemisis of Reagan was then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and while they might fight ferociously over the national budget, they got together as pals at the end of the day.

Universally, Democrats and Republicans who knew Reagan are recalling his humor. In the heat of battle against O’Neill and his minions, Reagan knew they would be friends again in the evening. Sometimes the president would ask his aides, “Is it 6 o’clock yet?”

Now Ronald Reagan has brought us together again, this time in mourning. And we grieve not just for him but also for the harmony, hope and humor that he personified.

Published in Editorials on June 10, 2004 1:35 PM