Friday, July 29, 2011

Reagan the Statesman - Rich Lowry

> As for raising taxes, Reagan acceded to a big tax increase in 1982 only after a historic, much larger cut in 1981. He gave a little back after finding a shift in the political climate on Capitol Hill too difficult to resist. (He later regretted surrendering, since the budget cuts promised in exchange for the tax hike never materialized.) With the Soviets, he negotiated only when he knew he had a position of strength. These moves were the zigs and the zags of Reagan pursuing his highest goals of fundamentally lower taxes, a freer economy, and the defeat of the Soviet Union.
>> Few on the left considered these goals reasonable at the time. They seem so commonsensical now because Reagan effected them, against the pitched resistance of his adversaries and the contempt of polite opinion. Reagan changed the definition of “reasonable.”
>> The liberals’ hankering for Reagan is only possible when they abstract him from the context of his times and focus on his pragmatic tactics to the exclusion of his fixed ideological goals. Some conservatives make the opposite mistake by ignoring Reagan’s adept maneuvering, as if the only ingredient to his success was maintaining the right convictions.
>> Both sides, then, tend to misunderstand the well-springs of Reagan’s achievement. Having grand goals is easy, if you don’t care much about reaching them. Cutting deals is easy, if you don’t care much about where they take you. Knowing how to accommodate reality, when to give way and when to stand firm, while never deviating from your ultimate purposes, is the stuff of statesmanship.

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