A great Reagan story

Posted by Helen Sunday, February 04, 2007

Certainly one can argue as one reader did very forcefully and Tory Historian somewhat less so, that Lincoln was not in any real sense a conservative. There can be no such argument about the fortieth President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

Tory Historian is fully aware that a couple of Reagan quotes went up on this blog very recently but this story is not a very well known one and is worth repeating.

It comes from a book already mentioned in a previous posting: John O’Sullivan’s “The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister” and describes an episode that took place in 1984, when Reagan was over in France for the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

For some reason, hard to discern now, the American President who had been the first to be called a cowboy and a bully by the West Europeans who were sheltering under the NATO umbrella was temporarily quite popular with the French government and with President Mitterand.

Here is the story from O’Sullivan’s book. To understand it fully one must remember that Reagan had volunteered for the US Army six years before the outbreak of World War II but because of poor eyesight and deafness in one year was assigned to making films for the armed forces at the outbreak of hostilities (I suspect, that means 1941).

Later that day [of Reagan’s address to the veterans], Evan Galbraith, the U.S. ambassador to Paris, brought the president some heartwarming news. The French government had decided to award him a decoration. Galbraith had not been told exactly what decoration; he thought it might be the Croix de Guerre.

“The Croix de Guerre,” said Reagan, looking distinctly upset. “I couldn’t possibly accept that. That’s for bravery. All I did in the war was to fly a desk.” He asked Galbraith to find out if it were true and to solve the problem. Some time later the ambassador returned with the good news that the decoration was the Legion d’Honneur. But Reagan was still not quite satisfied. What was the citation? What were they giving him the honour for?

“For statesmanship,” replied Galbraith.

“Oh, statesmanship!” said Reagan and relaxed. “I can play that.”
As the famous saying goes: they don’t make ‘em like that any more.

Tory historian promises to keep away from American subjects next week.


  1. Dustin Axe Says:
  2. In Ronald Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union address he said , “We honor the giants of our history not by going back but forward to the dreams their vision foresaw.”

    As we honor Ronald Reagan in his death we are honoring another “giant of our history.” Yet, I am not one to blindly accept anyone as just another figure in our past who helped engineer our wonderful country, without first reviewing some facts. A brief review of the history of our new War on Terror reminds us that much of our problems today are a direct result of twenty-five years of failed foreign policy, starting with the Reagan Administration.

    Reagan's Cabinet: gave billions of dollars in aid and military support to Saddam Hussein when Iraq was actively using chemical weapons against its own people; armed and trained Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; funded and trained terrorists in Central America; and ended the Iran-Contra scandal by secretly selling weapons to Iran. At the time, these things seemed “okay"; history claims these things helped win the Cold War. (Many believe it was more Soviet reform then anything.) Yes, the Cold War ended and millions of people gained freedom; however, the way it was done has given us our problems today. Not only did this administration break the law, but it provided arms and created alliances with terrorist networks, brutal dictators, and nations all over the world. The hypocrisy of supporting thugs to fight our wars for twenty-five years has caught up with us today.

    Unfortunately, the same men who served under Reagan for eight years, also served under George Bush I, and they now serve George Bush II: Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, etc. These men and women are opportunists with no moral convictions. They find quick military solutions for the moment, and in the process they recklessly disregard cultures, traditions, religions, and governments of other countries involved, ultimately creating even bigger and more global consequences for the future. Twenty-five years of failed foreign policy has given us new problems involving the same names today: Saddam Hussein, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden.

    In addition to foreign policy, “Reaganomics” is a complete failure. It first promises tax cuts, which in theory will increase investment and spending, thus generating more taxes; and secondly, government spending is cut, which is supposed to balance budgets. This sounds great in theory; however, this is not what happens, as we are again seeing with G. W. Bush’s economic plan. First, tax cuts do not benefit the middle class or the poor, rather they help only Fortune 500 companies and the richest 1 percent of Americans. Second, a decrease in government spending is codeword for a decrease in welfare programs, entitlements, and affordable housing for the poor, and it is not a decrease in the already colossal military budget. As a result the national debt tripled during the Regan Administration, and the distribution of wealth between the rich and poor worsened.

    Indeed Ronald Reagan is a “giant of our history”; history has already treated Ronald Reagan very, very well. However, as much respect as he has gotten since his death, I caution you in how you view his Presidency given our problems today.

  3. Helen Says:
  4. I shall leave the foreign policy to another posting. However, your discussion of Reaganomics can be accurate only if you ignore the development of the US economy over the last 25 years and the continuing rise in the standard of living. Your comments about taxation and welfare can be deemed to be accurate only if one takes the entirely unconservative view that the state must decide where people stay in a particular social structure and keep them there through tax redistribution. Handing out welfare has destroyed whole acres of society.

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