The Twilight's Last Gleaming
By Mark Alexander
"It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives." --Samuel Johnson
RONALD WILSON REAGAN, 1911 - 2004
"And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way. My fondest hope for each one of you -- and especially for young people -- is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here. May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill." --Ronald Reagan (1992)
The death of President Ronald Reagan is bittersweet for all American Patriots, especially those of us who knew him and were honored to be mentored by him. Somehow just knowing that President Reagan was still breathing the same air we breathe was a comfort, though we are greatly relieved that his suffering, and that of his dear wife, Nancy, who watched him languish during the last decade, is over.
I first met President Reagan in 1983, a few years after completing undergraduate studies and, in the words of one of my favorite Founders, Samuel Adams, engaged in "the animating contest of freedom." Like many others who had personal contact with Ronald Reagan, I was awestruck that a man who had risen to such heights could be so genuine and humble -- so faithful. I was inspired. In all the years since that first meeting, my admiration for Ronald Reagan, both as President and Patriot, had nary a moment's waver; rather it has only deepened. No man, other than perhaps my own father, has had greater influence on my life.
Overlooking the desk from which I write these words, as it has been since the inception of The Federalist Patriot, is a wonderful image of Ronald Reagan by Don Adair, evocative of his appearance when I first met him. As I leave the office each day, I honor him, through that image, with a snap salute and a "Goodnight, Sir." A bit cliché, some might suggest. And I might agree -- had I not known the man.
The Patriot's staff join me in placing atop our beloved mentor's expanse of accomplishments two broad themes: He tore down a towering and threatening international wall, while at the same time restoring the foundations on which our nation was built.
The Revitalization of Federalism
"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and in order to restore the division of governmental responsibilities between the national government and the States that was intended by the Framers of the Constitution and to ensure that the principles of federalism established by the Framers guide the Executive departments and agencies in the formulation and implementation of policies...."
Of all his accomplishments, perhaps the most profound part of the Reagan legacy -- and we hope the most enduring -- was President Reagan's commitment to our nation's Constitution and its explication of federalism, though that foundation had been neglected for most of the 20th century. With the constitutional aberrations of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society well-embedded in the nation's collective consciousness, Reagan's commitment to constitutionally limited government and the pre-eminence of the states in the American system envisioned by the Founders came as a much-needed shock to the system.
Issued on 26 October 1987, President Reagan's Executive Order 12612 on federalism [http://reagan2020.com/federalism.asp] speaks directly to the point. Indicating federalism's "fundamental principles," Reagan wrote as crisply and cogently as Madison, Hamilton or Jay ever did: "Federalism is rooted in the knowledge that our political liberties are best assured by limiting the size and scope of the national government. ... The people of the States created the national government when they delegated to it those enumerated governmental powers relating to matters beyond the competence of the individual States. ... All other sovereign powers, save those expressly prohibited the States by the Constitution, are reserved to the States or to the people."
Unlike many of his political contemporaries, Reagan understood that the fundamental premise of American society, and that society's greatness, did not reside in, nor was it regulated by, Washington. Instead, he understood that "The people of the States are free, subject only to restrictions in the Constitution itself or in constitutionally authorized Acts of Congress, to define the moral, political, and legal character of their lives."
Likewise, the President wrote, "In most areas of governmental concern, the States uniquely possess the constitutional authority, the resources, and the competence to discern the sentiments of the people and to govern accordingly." Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Reagan added that the States are "the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies."
Never known for his subtlety, Reagan concluded, "Acts of the national government -- whether legislative, executive, or judicial in nature -- that exceed the enumerated powers of that government under the Constitution violate the principle of federalism established by the Framers."
Never known for his integrity, constitutional or otherwise, Bill Clinton revoked EO 12612 in 1998 and replaced it with EO 13083, which largely re-justified the excessive unconstitutional role the federal government has assumed since the time of Franklin Roosevelt.
Reagan's EO was re-established under the current administration, and it is this publication's ardent hope -- and calculated expectation -- that the principles of that Order will be seen to bear fruit in a second Bush term.
"The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people, and they knew that when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing."
In some ways, Reagan's economic legacy is so great, so influential, that it is easily overlooked. Today, it is largely assumed by most everyone (with the exception of Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il, and a few American university professors) that the free market is the best way known to man to produce wealth freely and, in the long term, to distribute it widely.
However this was not always the case -- and how easily we forget. There was a time, not so long ago, when the Soviet Union was a real competitor with the United States. There was a time when many weren't quite sure whether a free market or totalitarian economic control was the best way to go. And even more disturbing, there was a time when that largely economic dispute found its expression in nuclear warheads aimed at nearly every major urban center in the world.
It was President Reagan who had the vision to see that Communist Socialism was doomed to failure, and it was Reagan who had the leadership ability necessary to instill that vision in others. At a time when Communism was competing for economic dominance, Reagan inherited an American economy in disarray -- an economy suffering from high inflation and unemployment. In the political climate of the day, many were clamoring for greater government involvement in the economy. But instead of capitulating to the principles of Socialism in the short term, Reagan resolutely stood against artificial inflation and higher taxes. Anticipating the inevitable self-destruction of Communism, he pursued greater economic productivity in America. He lowered taxes, encouraging work and investment, and he worked to get the government out of the economy in general. Free trade, deregulation, and less government restrictions on businesses all contributed to greater production of goods and services.
Ultimately, it was the superior productivity of the market economy -- productivity helped along by Reagan's economic policies -- that ushered Communism down the path toward resounding defeat. Under Reagan, America proved to the world that the free market is unparalleled in its ability to encourage the production of wealth and widespread prosperity.
The Evil Empire
"In an ironic sense, Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis -- a crisis where the demands of the economic order are colliding directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West, but in the home of Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet Union.... [Communism will be] left on the ash heap of history."
Given his passion and vision for liberty, Ronald Reagan understood two key facts about the Communist threat facing our world, and he encapsulated them in that magnificent conflation of "The Evil Empire." Reagan knew that the Soviet Union was evil -- corrupt and rotten in its tyrannical foundations and utterly destined to fail. But he further understood that it was also an empire that harnessed enough power and resources to destroy the West before its own predictable demise.
To assure the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal would not be unleashed against us, Ronald Reagan well knew that our best course was to take down the Iron Curtain as quickly and decisively as we could. He intended that we should do so, and he set out with determination to construct a deliberate plan to bring this about. He gathered allies -- Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher chief among them -- and he collected a close circle of trusted aides -- led by CIA Director William Casey -- to carry out this visionary endeavor.
The plan was to bring manifold pressures to bear against the Soviet Union from multiple quarters. A sampler of actions from the plan: The flow of money was West to East was slowed, with Saudi allies agreeing to flood the international oil market to drive down Soviet earnings from their natural resources. The transfer of technological innovations was disrupted, with international agreements limiting sales of militarily sensitive technology, and even with intentionally facilitated Soviet espionage of faulty designs. Our nation built up its own military resources, leaving the Soviets little choice but to spend at a pace that it couldn't sustain. We supported freedom fighters and liberty-minded peoples behind the Iron Curtain, with special efforts in the Solidarity movement in Poland. And Ronald Reagan spoke at every occasion about his desire to expand freedom everywhere.
Some have quibbled with this analysis, suggesting that Ronald Reagan was merely in the right place when the inevitable collapse of Communism began. But the Soviet Union didn't just collapse -- it was actively crushed. As tersely noted by Gennady Gerasimov, senior spokesman for the Soviet Foreign Ministry in the 1980s, "Reagan bolstered the U.S. military might to ruin the Soviet economy, and he achieved his goal."
President Reagan himself was unperturbed by the commotion over his record. "I'm more than willing to submit my actions to the judgment of time," he said. "Let history decide. It usually does."
Indeed, in a letter to Mrs. Reagan this week from Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet President wrote, "Ronald traveled his life journey with dignity.... I shall always remember the years of working together with President Reagan, putting an end to confrontation between our two countries, and equally, our friendly rapport, which revealed Ronald's human qualities. ... Your husband has earned his place in history, and in the people's hearts."
In the final analysis, the most fitting monument to Ronald Reagan's legacy is not the Ronald Reagan Building or Ronald Reagan Airport in D.C. Nor would it be the addition of his image on Mt. Rushmore. Perhaps the most fitting monument to Ronald Reagan is one that was torn down -- the Berlin Wall.
The Shining City
"I've thought a bit about the 'shining city upon a hill.' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, [a Pilgrim] who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. ... I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still. And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: After two hundred years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home. We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all. And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America." (From his Farewell Address to the Nation, 1989.)
Among the most important charges President Reagan passed on to us is this: We are custodians of his best hopes for that "shining city upon a hill" -- that America true to her founding -- and we have much still to do in that regard. We will "travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp" guiding our steps, never forgetting our heroic origins, never failing to seek divine guidance, and never losing our natural, God-given optimism. As Patriots, we willingly and gratefully bear his legacy forward.
As noted in our mission statement, The Federalist Patriot was founded in honor of President Reagan with the objective of sustaining his legacy. Indeed, as noted by his son Michael Reagan, "The vision and legacy of the Reagan Revolution flourish on the pages of The Federalist." Additionally, The Federalist Patriot has developed the most comprehensive resource on, and tribute to, Ronald Reagan on the Internet: Reagan2020.com.
The body of Ronald Wilson Reagan, faithful servant of God and of the American people, was slated for rest at sunset this day; his body will be buried on a hill on the grounds of his Presidential Library, looking West over the Pacific Ocean.
"Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears...," runs one anthem played as his body was borne toward places of honor. Yet this day, while our weeping will most certainly soften the gleam of Ronald Reagan's earthly "city," we are comforted in the knowledge that multitudes have welcomed him into the most shining city of all.
God bless you President Reagan! "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...."