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Drawing on his father's conceit (borrowed from Pilgrim John Winthrop) of an America that shows the rest of the world just how to create a paradise on earth, the San Diegobased radio talk-show host provides a cluttered blueprint for restoring the putatively lost glories of yesteryear when Reagan père was cutting taxes, rearming the US military, jump-starting the domestic economy, and otherwise giving the country greater confidence in itself. His four-point program envisions realigning the roles played by mainstays of American society. By way of example, he would cut the federal budget and shrink government while reasserting national sovereignty. In like vein, the author urges that job-creating business be relieved of regulatory and tax burdens. He commends supporting civic and religious institutions that can take up the slack left by welfare reform and castigates government agencies at all levels for their paternalistic intrusions into the American family. At least as interested in tearing down as in building up, Reagan the Younger assails Clinton early and often, characterizing him as a slick (rather than great) communicator and the make-love- not-war president. Nor does the aggrieved author neglect to get even for slights he has suffered at the hands of Republican Party officials, Nancy Reagan (who on occasion has treated him, well, like a stepchild), and others.
An odd sociopolitical amalgam, of interest mainly for the personal insights a lightweight son can provide on his world-class father, rather than its anti-Democrat invective or pro forma attempt to revive the Reagan Revolution.
|1. The New American Millennium||1|
|PART 1: THE FAMILY NEIGHBORHOOD|
|2. A City Made for Families||19|
|3. A City of Knowledge and Wisdom||52|
|4. A City Without Fear||78|
|PART 2: THE CORNER OF FAITH AND CHARITY|
|5. A City of Faith||109|
|6. A City of Hope and Charity||135|
|PART 3: MAIN STREET|
|7. A Thriving City||161|
|PART 4: THE CITY SQUARE|
|8. A City Secure||195|
|9. A City of the World||220|
|10. Building the City Together||251|
|About the Author||275|
THE NEW AMERICAN MILLENNIUM
"THE WORLD IS QUIET TODAY, MR. PRESIDENT"
We raised a banner of bold colors--no pale pastels. We proclaimed a dream of an America that would be a Shining City on a Hill.
Ronald Reagan Acceptance Speech Republican National Convention Dallas, Texas, August 23, 1984
I keep remembering all those magazine photo essays of past presidents. There's always that one shot of the president standing in the Oval Office, silhouetted against the window. He's always alone, and the picture is always taken from behind. And the caption invariably quotes the president as saying that this is the loneliest job in the world or some such thing. Well, I never felt that way. I enjoyed it. I haven't been lonely one minute.
Ronald Reagan Farewell to the White House staff January 18, 1989
After eight years as the leader of the Free World, Ronald Reagan was ready to go home. Unlike his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who had aged visibly in a mere four years in the White House, Ronald Reagan seemed unchanged, and even invigorated, at the end of his two terms in office. He not only loved the job of being president, he had succeeded in the job, confounding his critics and excelling even the wildest expectations of his friends and supporters. But at noon on January 20, 1989, it would be over--and that was fine with him. He was ready to return to California and resume his private life as Ronald Reagan, citizen.
At a little before 10:00 A.M., "Rawhide" (his Secret Service code name) stepped into the Oval Office for the last time. He stood cowboy-straight and cowboy-tall, impeccably dressed in a black suit and striped tie. Also in the Oval Office with him were his personal assistant Jim Kuhn, press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, personal secretary Kathy Osborne, and a White House photographer. The photographer hung around the edges of the office, trying to blend into the ivory-white walls as his camera clicked off the waning seconds of the Reagan presidency.
Ronald Reagan paused in the center of the carpet that bore the seal of his presidential authority, and he took in his surroundings. The office looked naked and unfamiliar to the outgoing president, having been cleared of all his photos, mementos, and other personal effects. Even his large, comfortable executive chair was gone, replaced by a worn secretary's chair that had been moved in from another office. The desktop was bare of everything but a single telephone.
The president sat down at the desk, picked up the phone, and asked the White House operator to place a call for him. It was the last phone call he would make from the Oval Office. Typically for Ronald Reagan, this call was to give a personal word of comfort. Sue Piland, the daughter of the president's longtime friend and aide, Lyn Nofziger, was dying of cancer, and after trying unsuccessfully to reach Sue at the hospital, he called Lyn's wife, Bonnie, and talked with her for about ten minutes. As he was on the phone, chief of staff Ken Duberstein came into the office, along with national security advisor Colin Powell.
After Ronald Reagan said his good-byes to Bonnie Nofziger and hung up the phone, he leaned back and chatted with his aides who had gathered around him. He talked about his favorite room in the White House residence, the Yellow Room, and mentioned the note he had left in the desk drawer for George Bush on a notepad with the printed heading, DON'T LET THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN. Someone suggested that the president carve his initials in the Oval Office desk. A chuckle went around the group, and they all felt the bittersweetness of the moment.
Ken Duberstein stepped forward and briefed the president on the schedule for his last day in office--where he was to stand during the inauguration ceremony, when he would board the helicopter that would take him to Andrews Air Force Base for his final flight on Air Force One, when he would give his speech to the well-wishers at Los Angeles International Airport. As Duberstein finished his briefing, the president reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plain white, plastic-coated card, like an unmarked credit card.
"Well, I guess I won't be needing this anymore," he said, holding the card out in General Powell's direction. "Whom do I give it to?"
It was the nuclear authentication code card that Ronald Reagan had carried throughout his presidency. That thin plastic wafer, when inserted into a black leather briefcase carried by a military aide, had the power to unleash Armageddon upon the world.
"Just hold on to it, sir," said Jim Kuhn. "You're still the commander in chief. You can turn it in after Mr. Bush is sworn in as president."
Ronald Reagan nodded and placed the card back in his pocket.
Then Colin Powell stepped forward and gave the president the most succinct national security breefing of Ronald Reagan's entire presidency. "The world is quiet today, Mr. President," said Powell.
The photographer snapped a few more pictures, including some group shots with the staff clustered around their boss, who was still seated at his desk. After the pictures, Jim Kuhn said, "It's time, Mr. President."
Ronald Reagan stood and faced the door that led through the Rose Garden to the car that waited to take him to the Capitol for the inauguration of his successor. Kuhn opened the door and moved aside. The president stepped forward--then paused at the threshold for one last glance at the room that had been his workplace and sanctuary for eight years. He paused for a few seconds, thinking his private thoughts. His aides waited in silence.
Then Ronald Reagan turned and stepped out of the White House and into history.
PERIL AND OPPORTUNITY
We are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
We have every right to dream heroic dreams.
Ronald Reagan First Inaugural Address January 20, 1981
Ronald Reagan is my father.
As his presidency was drawing to a close, I was three thousand miles from Washington, D.C., having just started my new job as a news coanchor on Radio KSDO in San Diego. So I witnessed this transition in my father's life the same way everyone else in America did: I watched it on television.
The Monday morning before Friday's inauguration--my first day on the job, right in the middle of the news broadcast--Dad called me from the White House. He told my radio audience and me how much he was looking forward to coming home to California. He closed with the words, "Nancy sends her love, and please give our love to Colleen and the children."
"You take care, Dad," I said in return. "Love you."
"Well ... love you."
A few days earlier, on January 11, he had gone on television and radio and given his last speech as president. In that farewell address, delivered live from the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan summed up his two terms in these words:
It's been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.
The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of 1981 to 1982, to the expansion that began in late 1982 and continues to this day, we've made a difference. The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created--and filled--nineteen million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.... Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world....
Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: We the People. We the People tell the government what to do; it doesn't tell us. We the People are the driver; the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which We the People tell the government what it is allowed to do. We the People are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I've tried to do these past eight years.
But back in the 1960s, when I began, it seemed to me that we'd begun reversing the order of things--that through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom. I went into politics, in part, to put up my hand and say, "Stop!" I was a citizen politician, and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do. I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts....
The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "Shining City upon a Hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim.... He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. 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....
Eight years earlier, Ronald Reagan had defeated Jimmy Carter with a politically devastating question: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" And on Election Day 1980, with inflation nearing 13 percent, with the prime rate hovering at more than 15 percent, and with unemployment topping 7 percent, Americans knew the answer to that question. The Carter years were America's darkest days since the Great Depression. Cans on supermarket shelves were topped with ten layers of price stickers, because food prices leapfrogged every few days. Economic growth had stalled, median family income was falling, and the Keynesian economic theories that had produced this crisis couldn't find any solution.
By the end of Ronald Reagan's two terms in office, inflation was tamed to a mere 4.4 percent, the prime rate stood at 9.32 percent, and unemployment was down to 5.5 percent. He presided over the greatest peacetime economic expansion in American history--a time in which nearly every economic indicator demonstrated unparalleled economic health and vigor. The economy grew by a third. The gross national product nearly doubled. Except for a brief, but scary, crash in 1987, the stock market roared through the 1980s. The Dow-Jones industrial average stood at 2235.36 on January 20, 1989--up from 960.68 the day Ronald Reagan took office.
Clearly, my father had made a difference. The Shining City he left in the hands of his successor was a more prosperous, secure, and happy City by far than the one he had inherited from Jimmy Carter. The incoming president, George Bush, had a golden opportunity to consolidate the achievements and public confidence passed down from Ronald Reagan--but Bush got in the way of his own success. Instead of building on that foundation, George Bush distanced himself from the Reagan legacy.
Though communism collapsed on his watch, Mr. Bush was a mere observer of events already set in motion by Ronald Reagan. By pledging to be "the education president" and "the environment president," he signaled his intent to reverse Ronald Reagan's efforts to shrink government spending and regulation. And, as everyone knows, he betrayed his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge. Bush's one great achievement in office was Operation Desert Storm; all else is mere footnote.
My first inkling that George Bush intended to break faith with the Reagan revolution was his constant use of the campaign slogan "A kinder, gentler America." It nagged at me. I wondered, Kinder than what? Gentler than whom? Kinder and gentler than Ronald Reagan? Impossible! Preposterous! Unfortunately, that's exactly what George Bush meant. After eight years as Ronald Reagan's understudy, he never truly grasped what the Reagan revolution was about. In the 1980 campaign primaries, Bush--then my father's nearest Republican rival--called Ronald Reagan's supply-side theory "voodoo economics." Eight years of Ronald Reagan in the White House proved that supply-side Reaganomics was not voodoo--it was miraculous. Bush was there; he watched it happen. He saw that while Ronald Reagan cut top marginal tax rates from 70 percent in 1981 to 28 percent in 1986, overall tax revenues rose from $599 billion in 1981 to nearly a trillion dollars in 1990.
Why did George Bush decide in 1990 that you and I were undertaxed? Because he didn't believe in Reaganomics. He was still thinking, That's a lot of voodoo. He supported a massive tax hike because he thought higher taxes would close the gap in the deficit by $100 billion. In the end, the Bush tax hike didn't close the federal deficit at all--but it did contribute to a lot of middle-class family budget deficits. Worse, it produced the recession that tragically hurt American businesses and families, corroded Bush's lead in the polls, and gave Bill Clinton his winning campaign issue. If George Bush hadn't been so eager to distance himself from the Reagan legacy, he almost certainly would have been a two-term president.
To make matters worse, Mr. Bush also betrayed the defense agenda of Ronald Reagan. Immediately after using America's Reagan-restored military might against Iraq in Desert Storm, he proceeded to slash defense spending, supposedly in response to a reduced threat from the former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism. Bush's cuts in defense spending were coupled with massive increases in domestic social spending. The domestic budget--which had consumed 15.3 percent of the gross national product (GNP) under Jimmy Carter, and which Ronald Reagan had cut to 13.0 percent of the GNP--swelled to 15.8 percent (worse than Carter's) under George Bush. That was what George Bush meant when he announced a "kinder, gentler" America.
Domestic spending rose faster under Bush than under other so-called big spenders such as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. In his first two years, Bush launched dozens of new spending programs while increasing many existing programs--$34 billion for housing and related programs, $5.5 billion for agricultural programs, $4.7 billion for the Department of Education, $2.5 billion for the Department of Energy, and on and on. Whereas Ronald Reagan had tried to abolish the education and energy departments, Bush enlarged their budgets and their bureaucratic power over our lives.
In 1994, the Republican Party, stormed the halls of Congress, armed with the Contract with America--a Reaganesque agenda that included the balanced budget amendment, the line-item veto, anticrime legislation, welfare reform, pro-family tax cuts and education reform, a restored national defense, raising the senior citizen's earning limit, regulatory rollbacks, commonsense legal reform, and congressional term limits. Grassroots America read the Contract and threw a party! At last, the Republicans were the party of Ronald Reagan once more!
But then came the election of 1996. At the Republican National Convention in San Diego, it was as if the Contract with America never existed! The agenda that took the Congress by storm was suddenly no longer even whispered about among Republicans. Believe it or not, if you wanted to hear about the Contract with America, you had to go to the Democratic Convention! There, in Chicago, Bill Clinton cited achievement after achievement during his first term--and virtually every one of those achievements was a provision of the Republican Contract with America! It was ludicrous! Bill Clinton ran on the Contract with America--and the Republicans ran away from it!
During the 1996 primary campaign, every Republican candidate, from Bob Dole to Bob Dornan, tried to position himself as the heir to Ronald Reagan. Yet out of the entire 1996 campaign cycle, only one candidate emerged who truly ran a Reaganesque campaign--the Democratic incumbent, Bill Clinton! Here was Bill Clinton, committed to dismantling everything Ronald Reagan stood for--yet he shamelessly modeled his campaign after the campaign style of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
If Ronald Reagan's Shining City fell into disrepair in the hands of George Bush, it is becoming a slum in the hands of Bill Clinton. By the end of Clinton's second term, it could well be a ghost town. We are experiencing the highest tax rates and slowest growth of any economy since the Carter administration. America is broke. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. Our military has been hollowed out, and our national sovereignty has been surrendered to the United Nations. Our education standards and our children's test scores have fallen into the red zone. Teen drug use doubled in the first four years of Bill Clinton's presidency. The terror of crime keeps law-abiding citizens locked behind bars in their own homes.
Our society is approaching a meltdown--an economic meltdown, a cultural meltdown, and a moral and spiritual meltdown. We are poised at a moment of great peril and of great opportunity for American society. Are we witnessing the end or the rebirth of America? Ours is the generation that will answer that question.
THE BLUEPRINT TO RENEW SOCIETY
A growing economy and support from family and community offer our best chance for a society where compassion is a way of life.
Ronald Reagan Second Inaugural Address January 21, 1985
On June 18, 1996, Congressman George Radanovich (R-California) gave a talk before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., in which he laid out a vision for American society that he called "The Blueprint to Renew Society." As he spoke, he presented a simple, easy-to-grasp picture of what is fundamentally wrong with American government today--and how to fix it. Radanovich, president of the freshman class of the 104th Congress, pictured our society today as, quite simply, a chair.
What's wrong with the chair in Figure 1.1? Obviously, it is wobbly, unstable, and unbalanced. It can't support weight. It is doomed to fail. The leg labeled Government is much longer than the other legs, labeled Family, Religious-Civic, and Business. This chair represents the fact that our society is unhealthy and unbalanced because it is dominated by the federal government, while the other pillars that support our society--family, business, and religious-civic--have become stunted.
A healthy society is a balanced society, built on four sturdy legs, each leg bearing an equal share of the load. See Figure 1.2.
So how do we accomplish this vision for our society? Clearly, we have to saw off some of the leg that is too big--government. And we have to lengthen the legs that are too short. The roles of each of these pillars of American society have to be realigned:
* Family. The federal government's paternalistic intrusions into the American family must be halted, and families must be empowered (through sensible tax and education policies) to take complete charge of the raising of their children. Parental rights must be restored and respected. Neighborhoods and schools must be made safe from crime and drugs.
* Religious-Civic. The role of helping the poor and needy must be removed from the gray cubicles of the federal bureaucracy and restored to the caring, compassionate sanctuaries and shelters of our religious and civic organizations. We must commit ourselves, regardless of our political persuasion and religious convictions, to stop demonizing one another. We must work together and solve the problems of poverty, illiteracy, racism, teen pregnancy, AIDS, and abortion.
* Business. Both large and small businesses in America must be relieved of regulatory and tax burdens so that more jobs and individual opportunities can be created. Government must learn to work with business instead of against it, and our leading edge in technology and scientific research must remain a high national priority.
* Government. We must maintain our national sovereignty and restore our military strength. Domestically, we must not only balance the budget but also run surplus budgets so that we can begin to level the mountain of debt we have accumulated. We must work together to save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.
"The result," says Congressman Radanovich, "is a positive vision of what America should be, based on a new foundation: a society of four equal institutions--family, religious-civic, business, and government--to provide freedom, security, and prosperity to the American people."
From the Reagan era to the present day, one of the biggest roadblocks to shrinking the government has been fear: the fear that a downsized federal government will leave a vacuum in our society. The fear that if government gets out of the welfare business, the poor and needy will have nowhere to turn for help. The fear that businesses, state and local governments, religious and civic institutions, and families either can't or won't step up to the plate and shoulder their responsibilities. We have to allay these fears and meet these concerns. We have to make sure that the American people understand the enormous benefits that come with greater freedom and smaller government. We have to empower the nongovernmental sectors of our society to handle the job the government will no longer do (and has never done well). As Congressman Radanovich concludes, "The American people will not allow us to redefine the role of government unless they are assured the other institutions in this country will assume their rightful roles."
JUST AROUND THE CORNER
And how stands the City on this winter night?
Ronald Reagan Farewell Address The Oval Office, January 19, 1989
There is a clear contrast between what America is and what America could become, as the Radanovich chair model makes clear. Another way to illustrate this concept is with the image Ronald Reagan spoke of so often in his political career--the image of the City on a Hill. America today is not the Shining City that Ronald Reagan envisioned--"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." Here, at the brink of a new millennium, America looks more like a vast concrete fortress on a hill, surrounded by three squalid little slums, populated by bickering, contentious factions. The massive concrete fortress is the federal government--huge and imposing, bureaucratic and impersonal, cold and forbidding, demanding and intimidating.
The glowering gray fortress of the federal government is proof of Ronald Reagan's warning, "Man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts." The ponderous, hyperimmense Washington bureaucracy represents force and control, not freedom. And the three slums that huddle at the feet of the fortress? They are the family neighborhood, the religious and civic sector, the business district--and they are pitiful and shrunken in size and influence. As the gray fortress of government has expanded, these three other sectors have been forced to retreat. And the people who live in this place are at war with one another over who will receive the meager benefits dispensed from the fortress.
That is not Ronald Reagan's vision for America. His Shining City on a Hill is a beautiful, well-planned city divided into four equal, mutually supportive districts:
* The Neighborhood, where the American family lives free and grows strong.
* The Corner of Faith and Charity, where the religious and civic institutions of our City live out their beliefs and carry on their compassionate work.
* Main Street, bustling and prosperous, where the business and industry of the City are freely conducted; where the opportunities for individual success and achievement are truly limitless.
* The City Square, where the City's public servants govern according to the will of "We the People."
That is the Shining City in all its glory--a golden and joyous City; a beacon to all who seek freedom; a place of opportunity and compassion, of vital schools and safe streets; a place where people keep and enjoy the fruit of their labors--but also look out for the needs of their neighbors. This book is the blueprint for that City.
We don't have to live out our lives in the shadow of the gray concrete fortress. We can create a New America--the Shining City Ronald Reagan envisioned--and we can pass that City on to our children and to our children's children. In the pages that follow, we will look at this Shining City through the eyes of Ronald Reagan and hear it described in his words. We will see how, by joining together to build this City, we can meet the challenges and solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
We know that the principles and ideals presented in this book will work in the future because they have already been tried and proved in the past. Most Americans look back on the Reagan 1980s as a time of great hope, optimism, opportunity, and growth. It was the Great American Decade. It was a good beginning--but somewhere along the way, during the Bush-Clinton 1990s, America got derailed. The hope faded, opportunity receded, the economy stalled. Our proud, flag-waving optimism soured to cynicism: "All politicians are scoundrels--so why not elect the scoundrel who promises us the most goodies from the public treasury?" We don't have to settle for that. America can be America again.
You may think because my name is Reagan and I'm writing about Ronald Reagan's vision for America that this book only presents a glowing, one-sided assessment of Ronald Reagan's presidency and views. But if you've listened to my radio show or read my previous books, On the Outside Looking In and Making Waves, then you know I've disagreed with Ronald Reagan before, and I'll do so a time or two in this book as well. And that's okay. The fact that I don't agree with everything he said and did in no way diminishes the respect I have for my father or the awe in which I hold his accomplishments.
When you get to the end of this book, I think you will find that you have just read one of the most honest assessments of President Ronald Reagan ever written. As a son, I have admired this man--and I have struggled with him. I have watched him up close and from a distance. I believe this experience has given me a unique perception of who Ronald Reagan is, what he believed, what he achieved, and what his vision for America's future truly is. And my experience as a political observer over the nation's airwaves has given me the ability to apply that vision to the realities of the fast-approaching new millennium.
Posted November 30, 2000
A must read for anyone who is discouraged with our current political leadership at any level. This book reminds us of President Reagan's vision for America and how he accomplished it during his terms in office. Michael Reagan shows us how we as a country call pull together today to make America the Shining City on a Hill that President Reagan sought.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2009
No text was provided for this review.