On the homepage today, we have Part II of our series “SDI at 30.” An excerpt:
Reagan is the object of widespread respect today. He is respected even by some of those who once scorned him. So it may be hard to imagine just how mocked and reviled he was in his time. Liberal elites (to use a convenient though unsatisfactory phrase) painted him as a Hollywood simpleton who would inflict his fantasies on the country and world.
The second after he gave his missile-defense speech, they dubbed his project “Star Wars.” The first movie in that series had come out six years before — i.e., in 1977. The third movie, Return of the Jedi, would come out in a few weeks.
Reagan, of course, hated the name “Star Wars” — it was belittling, trivializing, falsifying, and other bad things. In my series, I quote from a letter Reagan wrote to a friend in 1985. Talking about his missile-defense project, he said, “I bristle every time our media friends (?) call it ‘Star Wars.’” That question mark within parentheses is classic Reagan.
Here is what Ted Kennedy told the kids at Brown, two and a half months after Reagan’s speech: “We cannot found national policy on fond memories of radio serials, dreams of the Old West, and the thrilling days of yesteryear. We must reject the preposterous notion of a Lone Ranger in the sky, firing silver laser bullets and shooting missiles out of the hands of Soviet outlaws.” That’s pretty nifty derision. Did Bob Shrum write it?
So, here in this Corner post, I’d like to address the question, Just who put the label “Star Wars” on the American missile-defense program? I was discussing this with a colleague yesterday. It appears to be a tie: between Senator Kennedy and the New York Post. As soon as Reagan gave the speech, Kennedy blasted its “misleading Red Scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes.” Hmmm — did Shrum write that too? Smells of it. And here is how the New York Post bannered its early edition: “STAR WARS PLAN TO ZAP RED NUKES.”
I have a message for the Ted Kennedys of today, and always: Missile defense ain’t so silly when there’s a missile racing toward you. May you never find out.
It is true, though, that you hear “Star Wars” much less than you once did. The Obama administration doesn’t use the term, to my knowledge. Indeed, they just ordered up the additional interceptors for Fort Greely that they had canceled when they first took office. Reagan liked to quip, “You can tell our economic program is working: They don’t call it ‘Reaganomics’ anymore.” Something similar can be said of “Star Wars.”
And yet . . . sometimes people like to “own the insult.” As I mention in today’s installment, WFB staged a big missile-defense debate on television. The year was 1985. He wrote the resolution as follows: “We should go full speed on Star Wars.” Yeah, we should, actually.