Obama and Reagan, &c.


I was rather fascinated by something President Obama said the other day. You remember that he walked out of budget talks, with some sharp words. According to Rep. Eric Cantor, he said, “Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this,” negotiating with you congressmen. The president’s implication was: Reagan was too big, too much a lion, for that. At least that is a possible interpretation.

Obama has spoken complimentary words about Reagan before. And, of course, he was a bitter, condemnatory opponent of Reagan’s, as all the Left was. I have a piece on Reagan in the current National Review. And I say, “The passage of time is a remarkable animal.” Are we all Reaganites now, or at least respecters of Reagan? It wasn’t always so, as you certainly know.

Let me relate something else I say in that NR piece. Throughout the 1980s, the Nobel peace committee handed out prizes to people who despised and worked against Reagan. Unilateral disarmers and the like. (Remember Alva Myrdal?) Committee members outright told the 1987 winner, Oscar Arias, that they were giving him the prize so that he would have an additional, and potent, weapon against Reagan. Arias told the historian Robert Kagan, “Reagan was responsible for my prize.”

Okay, jump forward to 2009: The committee is giving Barack Obama the Nobel. And the chairman, in his presentation speech, quotes Reagan, holding him up as a president who embodied universal values. (Obama does the same, in the committee’s mind.)

Now, consider the George W. Bush years: In a replay of the 1980s, the committee handed out prizes to those who despised and worked against the controversial Republican president. Count ’em: Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Mohamed ElBaradei, Al Gore. You could count Obama as well. And you may recall that the Nobel chairman said that the prize to Carter, in particular, was meant as a rebuke to Bush.

Okay — what will chairmen in the future say? Will they be quoting Bush and upholding him as a president who embodied universal values?

These days, you hardly ever hear a good word about Bush 43. The Left has always hated him, of course, and the Right habitually snorts at him. I have a feeling that Bush’s time will come. And that the haters and the snorters will look pretty small.

In the past few years, I have written a lot about the Internet and its effect on dissident movements. (See this piece, for example.) New technology helps both sides, of course: It helps democrats under a tyranny, and it helps the tyrants themselves. Which way does the balance tip?

I was quite interested in this news report: “Iran’s intelligence minister said Friday that his country has found a way to block the so-called ‘Internet in a suitcase,’ a program reportedly developed by the U.S. to bring online access to dissidents around the world.”

I hope that one thing is true, and one thing is false: I hope that we have, indeed, developed an “Internet in a suitcase.” And that the Iranian regime has not, in fact, found a way to block it.

To be continued . . .

The other day, I had a note about Communist Cuba, and the several myths surrounding it (health care, literacy, racial harmony). A reader felt inspired to write in about Santiago Valdeolla Pérez, one of the Castros’ prisoners. He is a pacifist and a democrat who is, of course, a deadly threat to the regime. In his own blood, he wrote statements on a Cuban flag: “The country belongs to all of us.” “For Cuba, now is the time.” “Long live a free and democratic Cuba.” Etc. This flag was sent to Marta Beatriz Roque, a well-known dissident and economist.

Think what would drive a person to write those statements, in his own blood. I don’t know, but if I were the American president, I think I’d find a way to acknowledge Valdeolla, and many others.

(If you care to see the flag, I will provide a link to “Google images”: here.)

I meant to write something more than a month ago: Rejoice over Cynthia Tucker, and say a little prayer of gratitude for what she did. She is an acclaimed columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — liberal, of course. And what she did was very hard. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to do: She changed her mind about an important issue, and said so. What’s more, the issue has to do with race. What’s more, the columnist is black.

Do you think this column was easy to write? I’m sure you don’t.

Tucker said, “I was wrong. I was shortsighted, naïve and narrow-minded to endorse the concept of drawing Congressional districts to take racial demographics into account.” She went on to say that “majority minority” districts “discourage moderation” and lend themselves to “crude racial gamesmanship and left-wing histrionics.” They also leave surrounding districts “bleached” (which a lot of conservatives like just fine).