Love and Betrayal
How two words can help conservatives capture the heart of America.

President Ronald Reagan


Lee Habeeb

It is liberals who endlessly ponder how to transfer that wealth, transfer the fruits of all of that labor and love, and who lecture us about our lack of love when we point out that they can’t keep on forever spending more than they take in.

It isn’t just bad math, what liberals are guilty of; it’s bad faith. Liberals are betraying the people they purport to serve.

This isn’t a debate we must have, but rather a competing human narrative we must construct, this story of love and betrayal.

This year’s CPAC speeches were being run in order on C-SPAN a few months ago. I watched for 30 minutes or so; it felt like one long anger-management seminar.

I then turned down the volume; the speakers looked even worse than they sounded. No smiles, no lightness. It was all bitterness. In the end, I just turned it off. Millions of Americans have just turned conservatives off, too.

One great conservative was not afraid to use the word “love.” Take a quick look at his two most famous speeches, and there it is. That word. Love.

On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Reagan stood at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc and directly addressed the ghosts of the men in the graves in front of him:

You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

In June of 1987, during his speech at the Brandenburg Gate, the “Tear Down This Wall” speech, he talked to Berliners about their city and its rise from the ash heap of Nazism. “What keeps you here?” he asked the Berliners gathered to hear him. Then he answered:

Something that speaks with a powerful voice of affirmation, that says yes to this city, yes to the future, yes to freedom. In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love. Love both profound and abiding.

Reagan used that word twice. But he wasn’t finished.

The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw: treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere, that sphere that towers over all Berlin, the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

Four times Reagan used that word in the greatest speech of his presidency.

So let’s start talking about love. About building things the way only people who love can build things. Let’s talk about improving lives and neighborhoods, and about creating the kind of prosperity only loving and passionate people can create.

And let’s start talking about betrayal. Let’s talk about Detroit. About kids trapped in bad inner-city and rural schools. And deficits and how those deficits are stealing the future from our children.

Let’s talk about real hope, not the false hope President Obama peddled, and about the kind of people who make promises they can keep, and the kind who don’t.

Let’s talk about the kind of guy who tells the girls he loves them and then just takes what he wants from them and leaves. And the kind of guy who says the word “love” and then lives it.

I know those guys. I’ve been both of them.

Americans know those guys, too.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.


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