Politics & Policy

“The Happy Warrior”

The Joke's on Them

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the June 28, 2004, issue of National Review.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew the jig was up. It wasn’t Reykjavik or the fall of the Wall. It was when Gennadi Gerasimov, spokesman for President Gorbachev, appeared on TV and, seeking to explain the Soviet Union’s loosened grip on its Eastern European satellites, inaugurated an all-new Warsaw Pact: “The Brezhnev Doctrine is dead,” he declared. “We now have the Sinatra Doctrine: You do it your way.”

Mr. Gerasimov was on TV a lot in those days. Plausible, genial, bespoke, tanned, he looked like a White House press spokesman doing a tour of duty in the Kremlin, which was the whole idea. For the “reformers” in Moscow, reform was mostly a matter of style. If they aped the manners of the West, maybe the Politburo could retrench, hold on to what mattered, survive.

So they sent their first and last Western-style spin doctor out before the cameras to do a one-liner about Ronald Reagan’s old buddy Frank that could have come straight from the Gipper himself. Dan Quayle responded by noting the continued presence of Soviet troops in Warsaw Pact countries and urged Moscow to remember the Nancy Sinatra Doctrine: “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” The Reds couldn’t win on this turf. To modify Mrs. Thatcher, Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without a single shot. Just rimshots.

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Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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