Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Look at Reagan’s 1980 Campaign

There’s an op-ed in today’s New York (Betray Us) Times which analyzes then former Governor Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign strategy. Written by four policy experts, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the op-ed begins:

It is rare for world leaders to be selected on the basis of their foreign policy acumen or experience. Most leaders are chosen over rivals because of skills in domestic politics.

Consequently, those who shape international affairs are best understood first as politicians and only later perhaps as statesmen. Understanding how leaders come to and stay in office is far more important to our grasp of major events in international politics than traditional ideas about the balance of power or polarity.

Ronald Reagan’s successes illustrate this central claim. Mr. Reagan needed to run on a peace plan in 1980: a telephone survey taken by the Gallup Poll during the primaries had found that 46 percent of those questioned thought President Jimmy Carter would be more likely to keep the country out of war, while 31 percent thought Mr. Reagan would.

Despite widespread expectations that he would favor abandonment of nuclear arms control negotiations with the Soviets, Mr. Reagan in fact supported continued talks, although under revised terms.

Mr. Reagan’s proposals in 1980 fundamentally challenged conventional economic and strategic assumptions. Mr. Reagan told voters that American leaders, including President Carter, had for decades completely misunderstood the cold war.

But Mr. Reagan’s masterstroke was to present himself as a man of peace.

Mr. Reagan told voters that they should separate his strategy of rearmament from his objective of mutual cooperation with the Soviet Union. This was the heart of his interpretation of the conservative slogan “peace through strength.”

While Mr. Carter labored to appear strong on defense, Mr. Reagan presented a more muted version of his own foreign policy and defense plans. Speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering in Chicago on Aug. 18, 1980, he expressed in peaceful terms his call for a military buildup.

“Actually, I’ve called for whatever it takes to be so strong that no other nation will dare violate the peace,” Mr. Reagan said. “World peace must be our No. 1 priority. It is the first task of statecraft to preserve peace so that brave men need not die in battle. But it must not be peace at any price. It must not be a peace of humiliation and gradual surrender.”

Speaking to a crowd in Cincinnati two months later, Mr. Reagan unleashed one of his most thorough attempts to portray himself as a man of peace and Mr. Carter as a hapless warmonger.

“The president of the United States seems determined to have me start a nuclear war,” he said. “Well, I’m just as determined not to. As a matter of fact, his foreign policy, his vacillation, his weakness is allowing our allies throughout the world to no longer trust us and our adversaries to no longer respect us.

There’s a far greater danger of an unwanted, inadvertent war with that policy than there is with someone in there who believes that the first thing we should do is rebuild our defensive capability.”
When you're weak, your enemies attack you. Negotiate from strength. Peace through strength.

Those were Reagan's beliefs.

Can you recall Reagan's 1980 campaign speeches?

Do you remember or have you read how Reagan was demonized by most of the media and the academy as a “warmonger” and ridiculed as “an amiable dunce” who didn’t understand that we needed to learn to get along with the Soviet Union?

A few years later when now President Reagan predicted the Soviet Union would wind up on “the ash heap of history,” the Betray Us Times, other Democratic Party news organizations and the usual academic “experts” were positively apoplectic.

How were the American people so foolish as to elect “this grade B Hollywood actor” president, they asked?

Well, thank God, the American people usually have more sense than the liberal/leftist MSMers and their academic soul mates.

Read the whole op-ed here.


mamalou said...

Remember? Yes, indeed. After suffering, for four years, the shame and regret of having voted for Carter, Reagan was like a hero coming to the rescue.

There was serious discussion during Carter's term that the presidency had become just too big a job for one man. Reagan fixed that.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

'Peace through strength' is precisely what the anti-American left have tried to undermine for the last 40 or so years. Hillary's sneers at General Petraeus are a naked declaration of such undermining, as well as's elementary-school snivels.

To quote PowerLine today (Peace at Any Price): "the Democrats' deep-seated belief in appeasement, pacifism, and globalism..." are the underlying reasons for their oh-so-concerned statements about American government 'losing the respect and support' of the 'world community'. They indeed would prefer "a peace of humiliation and gradual surrender", whether or not they ever gain sufficient power to preside over it.

Mark Seymour said...

And let's hope there's another actor running for President (good old Fred Thompson) who'll do as well...