Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Quote of the Day: Reagan's 11th Commandment

Peggy Noonan writes today about Ronald Reagan, who would have turned 96 next week. Her focus is why Reagan is still remembered as a good man and a great president, but she closes with an interesting take on "President Reagan's famous 11th commandment: 'Speak no ill of a fellow Republican' " (emphasis mine)
It's a good rule for both parties, but it's good also to remember how he approached it in practice. Ronald Reagan turned his own party upside down, enraged its establishment, and threatened its immediate future when, in 1976, he mounted a fierce challenge to an incumbent Republican president. He ran full and hard against Jerry Ford and it was bitter--the stakes were high, the issue freedom at home and abroad. Reagan lost, his challenge doomed Ford in the general election, and four years later Reagan roared back. And when he won the nomination he turned around and seriously considered as his running mate . . . Jerry Ford.

When he ran against Ford, it wasn't personal. And when he almost picked Ford as his vice president, that wasn't personal either. It was more like this: This is America. We have been arguing about everything for 200 years. It's what we do. It's our glory.

Our politics then were grimmer yet had a lighter touch. The Soviets could nuke us tomorrow; let's have a hellacious brawl. It was a serious time, but I don't think we were in general so somber, so locked in. The 11th commandment meant the fight should never be mean, low or unnecessarily injurious to the person, or the party. But a fight could be waged--should be waged--over big, big things.

That he knew that is part of why we remember him as great . . .
Thus, when he took on Ford in 1976, it wasn't a violation of the 11th commandment, because Ronald Reagan had the ability to step on the Republican Party's toes without including the personal mud slinging that is so commonplace today.

Oh, that we -- whether seeking to maintain the direction of a party or to steer it elsewhere -- could all be so gifted.

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  • At 2/02/2007 12:52 PM, Blogger OregonGuy said…


    You're probably too young to remember, but the Ray-gun candidacy was an incredible slap to President Ford. Ms. Noonan is a wonderful writer. And, I've always thought she was hot. I mean, looks and brains?

    When President Ford was chosen to replace Vice-President Agnew everyone on both sides of the aisle knew him to be honest and smart. When Nixon resigned it was a sad day, but I knew that we had a smart, honest man as our President.

    By pardoning Nixon a month after assuming office, Ford was prepared to move on from the depressed national mood of the day. An elected Ford presidency would have allowed that wound to heal. Instead, we had four more years of scab picking. Starting with the congressional class of '74, through the endless days of the Carter ascendancy, that scab was picked.

    What President Reagan did in challenging Ford was to galvanize a minority within the Republican party by playing to their intrinsic weakness. Thankfully most of these people are currently Lyndon LaRouche disciples.

    By 1978 the Republican party in Oregon had become so splintered that a PAC had to be set up outside the party to fund candidate races in the state of Oregon. Now there were two issues that defined the organizational Republicans. Abortion, and right-to-life. President Reagan was able to call on teh new base of fundamentalists but was willing to, and did, throw the party to the wolves.

    Since that time we've lived in the era of "Republicans hate women, children, the poor, teachers and public employees." Because none of those issues--women's rights, childen in poverty, redress of educational rights and wrongs, and the role of public employee unions and their obligations to the state--have ever since been addressed in a helpful way by the Republican party.

    We've been defined by our successes. And succesfully defeating President Ford has been one of those definitions. I own a "WIN" button. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the Carter presidency had never been allowed to take place. We'd still have a CIA, we'd still have a place at the table on women's issues and children's rights. President Ford would have taken the lessons of Mayaguez and rescued the Iran hostages.

    And in a run-off between Vice-President Dole and Governor Reagan I think we would have had a much more interesting campaign...and a much different now.

    I know a lot of this comment is whimsey, and for that I apologize. But, then "Ronny Ray-gun" left a mark, I guess.

  • At 2/02/2007 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this was a really good post
    Thanks for posting this


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