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Paine in the . . .


In today’s Impromptus, I have a note on Tom Paine and Ronald Reagan. (This week, I’m doing a series on Roger Kimball’s latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence.) Reagan loved a Paine quote: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” He included it in his 1980 acceptance speech.

Indeed, the stage that year, in Detroit, had a banner: “A New Beginning.”

Anyway, George Will shook his head over that Paine quote, and Reagan’s use of it: The most un-conservative statement ever made, he said. Will is an intellectual; and of course he was right.

Here in the Corner, I thought I’d add another word about Paine — whom I’d always viewed favorably. It’s natural, I think, for Americans to view Paine favorably. But along came our colleague David Pryce-Jones to disabuse me: in his Treason of the Heart: From Thomas Paine to Kim Philby.

We might argue about what Paine did in America. But what he did in revolutionary France? Ghastly. If your kids believe in Santa Claus, keep P-J away from them.