Friday, December 09, 2011

Ed Meese on Reagan, Stenberg and the Election of 2012

Last night Claire and I braved the snowstorm to attend what turned out to be a wonderful event at the Regency Marriott. It was an appetizer party to promote the candidacy of former Attorney General and Sate Treasurer Don Stenberg for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Ben Nelson. As you may know, I have enthusiastically supported Stenberg from his first announcement. He is definitely the guy for the job. He's got the credentials as a lifelong conservative, the skills and experience developed from many years of effective public service, and the deeply held moral convictions on issues of life, religious freedom, marriage etc. that will make him a true champion in the Senate.

But supporting Don Stenberg was just one of the reasons we dared go out on those icy streets; the other was the guest speaker, Edwin Meese, whose impressive career has included serving as a law professor, an Attorney General of the United States, and several high-ranking advisor positions in the gubernatorial and presidential terms of Ronald Reagan. Meese is also an author, a conservative leader involved with such groups as the Young America's Foundation and The Heritage Foundation, and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Ed Meese opened his remarks with a strong endorsement of Don Stenberg and a warm thank-you to Charley Thone who was the honorary chairman of last night's event. For health reasons, former Nebraska Governor Thone wasn't able to attend the meeting, but he was well remembered for being the first governor to endorse Reagan's Presidential bid back in 1979. Listening to Meese describe the context, we learned that Thone's endorsement was more of a breakthrough event than we had realized. Way to go, Charley!

Meese complemented the audience on making it through the rough weather to get to the hotel. He explained that Californians like himself disdain "involuntary snow." They prefer it up in the Sierra Nevadas where they can drive up, ski on it for awhile, and then drive back home to their warm, dry homes. Nebraskans can only dream of such pleasures -- as we were vividly reminded when we had to try and get home after the party!

Meese began his remarks by talking about the numerous events taking place honoring Ronald Reagan in this, the 100th year of his birth. Statues and other monuments honoring Reagan's courage, principle and devotion to freedom and human rights have been especially popular in eastern Europe. But here in the States too, Reagan remains a beloved hero, despite everything the mainstream press and Democrat leadership has done to diminish his reputation.

There are two reasons why Ronald Reagan stands so tall in the esteem of freedom-loving people everywhere, Mese explained: the remarkable things he accomplished and his unique and powerful example of leadership. In the first case, Meese talked about what Reagan faced when he came into the White House in 1981. There was, on the home front, economic "stagflation" and a dispirited morale among the nation's citizens that Jimmy Carter called (and, at least, partly created) "America's malaise." Beyond our borders, the Soviet Union was massively spending to upgrade their military and, thus empowered, were rattling their sabers all over the world. It looked like the tenuous truce of the Cold War was ready to break -- and in the favor of the Soviets.

Yet Reagan came with a bold new approach to government, to international relations and to the rediscovery of America's moral strengths. He initiated programs (and eliminated a bunch too) that resulted in unprecedented economic growth. He began rebuilding the military and vastly improving the morale of the troops serving their country. He made the voluntary army work...and work well.

The motivations for Reagan's devotion to the military included his own experience in the service. Meese recalled for the audience a bit of Reagan's early career as a radio announcer for WHO in Des Moines and shared how impressive it was for Reagan to leave that job (he was becoming a very popular and well known voice in the Midwest, particularly due to his broadcasts of Chicago Cub games) for the U.S. Army. His motivation to do so included his desire to learn to ride horses better so he enlisted as a private in the cavalry. But he also took the classes available to move up in the ranks. When war suddenly and savagely came to America via the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ronald Reagan was a 2nd Lieutenant.

Unknown to the public throughout his public career was the fact that Reagan had very poor eyesight. In his Hollywood days, this was covered by wearing contact lenses. But he had fooled the army doctors to his weakness by always being in the end of the line when taking eye exams. He listened carefully to the guys in front of him, memorized their answers and then acted out the part of a well-sighted soldier when his turn came! But when stricter tests for combat preparedness were given, Reagan's weak eyes were discovered. He was assigned to general duties and eventually was used in making training films, a service in which he was very effective and assumed increasing leadership duties.

Meese's reviewing these details of Ronald Reagan's career were delighting the audience as were his retelling a few of his favorites from Reagan's seemingly endless collection of jokes. But Meese had more serious points to make too. He spoke of specific qualities of Reagan's leadership -- qualities that included moral vision (developed from his mother, church, reading Harold Wright novels, dealing with Communism in Hollywood, visiting hundreds of GE plants, etc.), communication skills, courage (both moral and physical), integrity, perseverance, and an boundless optimism and cheerfulness.

Such qualities are in desperately short supply in America's leadership nowadays. Indeed, Ed Meese gave us details of the bad news that has resulted from the dearth of quality leadership. What is needed is a return to four of the basic policies Ronald Reagan instituted in his presidency. There must be (and quickly) 1) a reduction of tax rates across the board, 2) a sharp reduction in the regulations that strangle business and personal freedoms, 3) the creation of a stable monetary policy, and 4) a slowing of the rate of federal spending. These things are do-able. Ronald Reagan's administrations did them. And, Lord help us, they must be done again.

Hardly needed was an explanation of how dramatic a contrast to these are the actions of Barack Obama and the current Democrat leadership. Rather than reduce the red-tape regulations imposed on American citizens and businesses, President Obama seeks to strangle them with more. Instead of outlining a moral vision for why America must win wars, President Obama apologizes for America, demeans her, offends her allies, emboldens her enemies by appeasement, reduces military spending, and even announces to our enemies the exact schedule of our involvement!

Instead of appointing strict constructionists to the nation's courts as Reagan tried hard to do, President Obama gives us far-left activists. And instead of standing for the sanctity of life, religious freedom, marriage and other crucial moral traditions of America, President Obama serves the interests of Planned Parenthood, ACORN, Marxist-inspired liberation theology, same-sex unions, embryonic stem cell experimentation, and even the removal of basic freedoms of conscience.

This is why the election of 2012 is so critical to the future of America. The Republican victories in Congress in 2010 were a start, an important start...but only a start. So far, all of their efforts to rein in ObamaCare and the other effects of Obama's socialist makeover of the nation have been countered by the Democrat-controlled Senate. That is why Ed Meese and other conservative champions like Senator Jim DeMint are urging Nebraska to send to Washington tried and true conservative statesmen like Don Stenberg. They don't need just any Republicans. They want Don Stenberg.

With those closing comments, Ed Meese stood down and Don Stenberg took the podium for just a few minutes. He thanked the crowd, thanked the guys on his team who put the evening's program together, thanked Charley Thone and Ed Meese for their enthusiastic support. And that was it. No hard sell. No denunciations of other candidates. Just a reminder that the condition in Washington, D.C. is one of "code red" desperation. And it has come about because the powers that be believe that the American people are flat out incapable of deciding what's best for the future of their families.

Yes, modern Democrats care about people (in their way) but they truly believe that the people are ignorant and must be carefully led -- even if it takes coercive (if need be, punitive) measures. Democrats have decided that American citizens need government "experts" to tell them what kind of insurance to get, what kind of health care they need, what type of car to drive, what kind of light bulbs to buy -- and they demand more and more taxes and fees to pay for the Big Brother structure that's needed to enforce this control.

But Don Stenberg, like Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese and, I suspect, you and most of your friends, believes quite differently. He believes in less government, less regulation, less control. Rather, he believes in freedom, responsibility, in the proper balance of government powers, in the rule of just law, in the necessity of a strong and idealistic military, in family values, in the sanctity of human life, and in the promise which America's heritage still presents to the world.

Claire and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening. And it deepened even further our resolve to help get Don Stenberg elected to the United States Senate. I invite you to join us in that noble endeavor.