Reagan, Havel & Kasparov

by Jay Nordlinger

No, that’s not a law firm, but it would be a pretty good one. I just want to say, I have a two-fer for you. I like Reagan stories, and I like Havel stories. Rarely tire of them. And I have one that combines those men. It comes from Garry Kasparov, whom I talk about in my “Oslo Journal” today (the seventh and last part of a series).

Kasparov, as you know, is the chess player — some say the greatest ever — and Russian oppositionist. Havel was the leader of Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” and the first president of the freed nation (which soon became nations). Reagan was a radio announcer for WHO in Des Moines.

In Oslo, Kasparov told us about a conversation he once had with Havel, at a restaurant. “Now and then, you have to negotiate with evil regimes,” said Havel. “But you don’t have to do so without bringing up human rights.” The great man continued, “Take Ronald Reagan. He negotiated with the Soviet Union, about arms control and geopolitics. But he always put political prisoners on the table.”

With this, said Kasparov, Havel tossed down his menu on the table. He put it on the table, forcefully.

By the way, there’s something I’ve noticed about Kasparov ever since he came into NR’s offices, many years ago. He has a formidable brain, needless to say. And he has a lion’s heart, as he has proven on the streets of Russia in the last several years. But he’s also a physical bad-a**. He always looks like he could strangle you, or batter you, with his bare hands — and kind of wants to.

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