Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire” again

Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire” again

Speaking to a convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Florida on March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan publicly refers to the Soviet Union as an evil empire for the second time in his career. He had first used the phrase in a 1982 speech at the British House of Commons. Some considered Reagan’s use of the Star Wars film-inspired terminology to be brilliant democratic rhetoric. Others, including many within the international diplomatic community, denounced it as irresponsible bombast.

Reagan’s aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union became known as the Reagan Doctrine. He warned against what he and his supporters saw as the dangerous trend of tolerating the Soviets’ build-up of nuclear weapons and attempts to infiltrate Third World countries in order to spread communism. Advocating a peace through strength policy, Reagan declared that the Soviets "must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards [nor] ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire. To do so would mean abandoning the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil."

READ MORE: Why Reagan's 'Star Wars' Defense Plan Remained Science Fiction

Reagan proposed a policy that went beyond the Truman Doctrine of containment, urging active intervention. He vowed to increase U.S. military spending and to use force if necessary to roll back communist expansion in Third World nations. His administration provided military aid to Nicaraguan groups fighting the leftist Sandinista government and gave material support to the Afghan mujahideen in their ongoing war against Soviets. At the same time, he reassured Americans that he would pursue an understanding with totalitarian powers and cited the United States’ effort to limit missile development as a step toward peace.

Reagan’s doctrine came at the same time as a surge in international and domestic protests against the U.S.-Soviet arms race. His opponents blamed the administration for causing the largest increase in American military spending since the beginning of the Cold War, a policy that swelled the nation’s budget deficit.

The Soviet economy ultimately collapsed in the late 1980s, ending decades of communist rule in Russia and Eastern Europe. Economists determined the Soviet empire had buckled under the weight of its own bloated defense spending and a protracted war in Afghanistan, while Reagan and his supporters credited his hard-line anti-communist policies for defeating Soviet communism.

A Time for Choosing

"A Time for Choosing", also known as "The Speech", was a speech presented during the 1964 U.S. presidential election campaign by future president Ronald Reagan on behalf of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. The speech launched Reagan into national prominence.

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Ronald Reagan Evil Empire Speech

Ronald Reagan: Evil Empire Speech
Assignment: Analyze how Ronald Reagan uses rhetorical devices to depict relations between the US and Soviet Union. Thesis: Reagan organizes and structures his speech using various rhetorical devices in order to depict the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire”. P1: Invention (Speaker/Ethos)

People pray to him, therefore he considers himself God.
Leader of the United States, a major superpower in this point in time Can borrow power from his position and put it into his speech Position and other’s opinion of him works toward his credibility P2: Style

Unique way of being informal yet authoritative
Very influential, by instilling fear into audience
Uses many metaphors to indirectly insult the Soviet Union
To make it look like he’s not directly insulting
Abortion = Communism
P3: Memory
Uses many examples in history
Relates back to the 1930s
No one wants something like that to happen again
How the USSR killed its own citizens
Refers to the American mythos
We were meant to lead
We were meant to protect the weak
We do not restrict individual liberties
P4: Conclusion
Sum it all up!
In his “Evil Empire” speech, Reagan organizes and structures his debate using various rhetorical devices in order to depict the Soviet Union as an enemy of the United States. In presenting his address, Reagan makes use of his role in office in his “Evil Empire” speech. By holding a high position such as the leader of the United States, one of the two superpowers during the Cold War, he establishes his authority and ensures trust in the audience. His credibility and the American public’s assurance in his words are supported by the incident in which Reagan was worshipped by the people outside of the East Room of the White House during a meeting. As a result of the event, Reagan assumes himself to be an entity similar to that of God. Reagan speaks with a style of informality, but maintains his authority throughout the entire speech. This is.

Reagan Called Africans ‘Monkeys’ in Call With Nixon, Tape Reveals

A newly released recording of a conversation from 1971 was the latest reminder of the long history of racism by American presidents.

Ronald Reagan was the governor of California in 1971 when he phoned the White House to vent his political frustration to President Richard M. Nixon and, according to a newly released audio recording, called African people “monkeys” in a slur that sparked laughter from the president of the United States.

The previously undisclosed exchange took place after the United Nations voted to expel Taiwan in order to seat representatives from Beijing, a move that the United States opposed. Delegates from Tanzania celebrated with a victory dance in the General Assembly hall.

“To see those monkeys from those African countries, damn them,” Reagan said, to laughter from Nixon. “They are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.”

In other recordings, Nixon went on to recount his conversation with Reagan to others, describing the African delegates as “cannibals” as he sought to blame them for the United Nations vote.

The exchange between two former presidents of the United States on Oct. 26, 1971, was revealed in new audio released by the National Archives and published on Tuesday by The Atlantic. The audio was the latest reminder of the long history of racism by American presidents and came as the current president faces fierce criticism for his attacks on prominent people of color.

Listen to Reagan’s Call With Nixon

“Reagan opens the door and Nixon runs with the racist tropes,” said Timothy Naftali, the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum who requested the recording and wrote the article in The Atlantic.

“This is not just a story about Reagan’s racism,” he said in an interview. “It’s also a reminder about how in the Oval Office, racism can beget racism” and “reveal latent racism in others.”

The National Archives originally withheld part of the recording to protect Reagan’s privacy, said Mr. Naftali, who requested a full version last year. He said the timing of the release this month was a coincidence that offered important historical context.

In recent weeks, President Trump has been under renewed criticism for comments that have been condemned as racist. He told four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries, echoing language long used to discriminate against people of color and deny their constitutional rights to citizenship and speech. (Three of the congresswomen were born in the United States and the fourth was naturalized as a teenager .)

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump set off a backlash after he assailed a Baltimore-based congressional district that is 53 percent African-American as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

A poll conducted this month by Quinnipiac University found that half of voters believe Mr. Trump is racist, but voters are sharply divided along partisan lines. When separated by party, 86 percent of Democratic voters classified Mr. Trump as racist, while 91 percent of Republicans said he was not.

Race is expected to be a key issue in the 2020 election, as Democratic candidates seek to prove they can help America bridge its racial divide.

From the beginning, the American presidency has been stained by racial prejudice, often a reflection of broader sentiment among white citizens. Such views have persisted well into modern times.

“If you dig deep enough you’ll find something like this in probably most presidents of the 20th century,” said Jelani Cobb, a professor of journalism at Columbia University and former director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, who frequently writes on race, politics, history and culture.

George Washington owned slaves and wrote that “most” were lazy when unsupervised, though he later freed his slaves in his will. Theodore Roosevelt dismissed “Negroes” as a “perfectly stupid race,” while Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower frequently espoused prejudiced views and told racist jokes. Lyndon B. Johnson, sometimes hailed as a civil rights hero, espoused racist views, often referring to African-Americans using slurs .

And Nixon’s own tapes had already revealed that he made disparaging remarks about Jews, black people, Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans while in the Oval Office.

Reagan was accused of making coded racial appeals. After the Republican convention in Detroit in 1980, he gave a speech on states’ rights at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi. That choice of location, near where three young civil rights workers were murdered in 1964, was seen by some as a subtle nod to white segregationists.

He is also credited with helping to popularize the political trope of the “welfare queen,” based on a real African-American woman and often used by conservatives to demonize the poor and justify strict regulation of public benefits.

Reagan died in 2004. “If he said that 50 years ago, he shouldn’t have,” Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said in a statement. “And he would be the first person to apologize.”

Mr. Naftali said that the tapes revealing the private conversation between Reagan and Nixon were a “data point” to help understand their racial worldview and a prism through which to view their policies. At the same time, the legacies of some of the presidents who held such views are complicated, Mr. Cobb said.

“The fact that they said something racist doesn’t tell you everything about their politics,” he said. “And then sometimes it does.”


Most historians begin the era in 1980, when Reagan was elected president, and usually probe back into the 1970s for the origins of the Reagan Era. For example, Kalman (2010) explores multiple crises of the 1970s that eroded confidence in liberal solutions: the rise of the religious right and the reaction against the gay rights movement, feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment, grassroots reactions against busing ordered by federal judges, the defeat in Vietnam, the collapse of détente and fears of Soviet power, the challenge of imported cars and textiles, the deindustrialization of the Rust Belt, soaring inflation, stagflation, and the energy crisis, as well as the humiliation the nation suffered during the Iran hostage crisis and the sense of malaise as the nation wondered if its glory days had passed. Kalman shows step by step the process by which one political alternative after another collapsed, leaving Reagan standing. [2]

The term "Reagan Era" is often used to refer to the United States only during Reagan's presidency, but it has also taken on an extended meaning that incorporates other periods. The George H. W. Bush presidency (1989–1993), the Clinton presidency (1993–2001), and the George W. Bush presidency (2001–2009) are often treated as extensions of the Reagan Era. [3] Wilentz additionally includes the Ford presidency (1974–1977) and the Carter presidency (1977–1981). [4]

The endpoint of the Reagan Era is often seen as the election of Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. [5] Midterm elections in 2010 and 2014 seemed to cast doubt on a true end of the Reagan Era as conservative Republicans claimed two major victories winning both the House and later the Senate. However, the sweeping policies pursued by the Obama Administration constituted a clear break with Reagan Era social issues, as Americans became more supportive of social issues like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. The 2016 election victory of President Donald Trump has stirred debate over whether his rise signifies the continuation of the Reagan Era or represents a paradigm shift for American politics. Political scientist Stephen Skowronek argues that Trump's election shows that the Reagan era continues. Skowronek compares Obama to former presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Richard Nixon, who governed at a time when their own party was generally in the minority at the federal level. [6] Julia Azari, by contrast, argues that Trump's election signifies the end of the Reagan Era and the beginning of a new cycle in politics. [7]

Wilentz traces the start of the Reagan era to the Watergate scandal, which ended the presidency of Richard Nixon and created an opening for a new Republican leader. [8] Along with the Watergate scandal, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and poor economic conditions created widespread public alienation from political leaders in the mid-1970s. A mass movement of population from the cities to the suburbs led to the creation of a new group of voters less attached to New Deal economic policies and machine politics. [9] Reagan and other conservatives successfully presented conservative ideas as an alternative to a public that had grown disillusioned with New Deal liberalism. [10] Reagan's charisma and speaking skills helped him frame conservatism as an optimistic, forward-looking vision for the country. [11] Reagan challenged Nixon's successor, incumbent President Gerald Ford, in the 1976 Republican presidential primaries. Ford defeated Reagan to win the presidential nomination at the 1976 Republican National Convention, but he lost in the general election to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter. [12]

During his presidency, Carter alienated many of those who had voted for him in 1976, including many in his own party. In the 1980 Democratic primaries, Carter defeated a strong challenge from the left in the form of Senator Ted Kennedy, who had clashed with Carter over the establishment of a national health insurance system. [13] Carter, and the Democratic Party as a whole, also alienated other voters, while the conservative movement gathered strength. A continually poor economy bred frustration over taxes, and voters became increasingly receptive to those advocating for a smaller government. A backlash also developed against affirmative action programs, as some whites claimed that the programs constituted reverse discrimination. The president had won a majority of evangelical Protestant voters in 1976, but the increasingly-politicized Christian right came to strongly oppose his presidency. Many of these religious voters were swayed by the public campaigns of leaders such as Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority and Phyllis Schlafly, who opposed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Another important conservative organization, The Heritage Foundation, emerged as an important conservative think tank that developed and advocated conservative policies. [14]

With the backing of many in the conservative movement, Reagan defeated establishment favorite George H. W. Bush, moderate Congressman John B. Anderson, and others in the 1980 Republican primaries. To ensure party unity, Reagan named Bush as his running mate at the 1980 Republican National Convention, even though Bush had characterized Reagan's supply-side economics as "voodoo economics". Reagan mobilized his base by campaigning on his conservative positions, while the Carter campaign sought to portray Reagan as a dangerous extremist. An improving economy helped Carter overtake Reagan in the October polling, but Reagan won a decisive victory in an October 28 debate. On election day, Reagan narrowly won a majority in the popular vote but took the electoral vote by a wide margin, carrying 44 states. In the concurrent congressional elections, Republicans won several seats in the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate for the first time since the 1950s. [15]

Upon taking office, Reagan argued that the United States faced a dire crisis, and that the best way to address this crisis was through conservative reforms. [16] His major policy priorities were increasing military spending, cutting taxes, reducing non-military federal spending, and restricting federal regulations. Reagan believed that reducing the role of the government would lead to increased economic growth, which in turn would lead to higher revenues that would help pay down the national debt. Working with Congressman Jack Kemp, the Reagan administration introduced a major tax cut bill that won the support of enough Republicans and conservative Democrats to pass both houses of Congress. In August 1981, Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which enacted a 27% across-the-board federal income tax cut over three years, as well as a separate bill that reduced federal spending, especially in anti-poverty programs. [17]

A recession in the early part of Reagan's term, combined with tax cuts and increased military spending, led to an increasing deficit. Democrats won several seats in the House of Representatives in the 1982 mid-term elections. [18] Reagan's approval ratings fell to 35%, and many Democrats believed that their party could defeat Reagan in the 1984 presidential election and roll back some of the Reagan administration policies. [19] A strong economic recovery that began in 1983 boosted Reagan's approval ratings, and the administration argued that the tax cuts had been the primary factor in turning the economy around. In the 1984 presidential election, Reagan won his party's re-nomination without facing a serious challenge, while former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination. On election day, Reagan won 59% of the popular vote and carried 49 states, leading to speculation of a permanent realignment in U.S. politics towards the Republican Party. [20]

Despite his re-election, Reagan faced significantly more difficulties in enacting conservative policies in his second term. His domestic agenda was hindered by growing deficits and the fallout of the Iran–Contra affair. However, the administration did win a significant foreign policy success when Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reached the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty INF Treaty in 1987. [21] Reagan also appointed numerous conservative judges, including Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist, who Reagan elevated to the position of Chief Justice. The Rehnquist Court would hand down several conservative decisions in ensuing years. [22] Vice President Bush defeated Senator Bob Dole and televangelist Pat Robertson to win the 1988 Republican primaries. [23] Aided by Reagan's renewed popularity, Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. [24]

Bush's presidency focused largely on foreign affairs, and he faced a series of major foreign policy issues as the Eastern Bloc collapsed. Many of Bush's top foreign policy appointments, including National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, were realists who were influenced by Henry Kissinger. While the Berlin Wall fell and other Soviet-aligned countries experienced turmoil, Bush pursued friendly relations with Gorbachev, which played a part in the Soviet Union's assent to the reunification of Germany. [25]

Bush launched a successful invasion of Panama in 1989 and led a multinational coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. After the quick U.S. victory in the Gulf War, Bush's approval ratings soared. [26] However, the Bush administration found less success in domestic policy, where deficits continued to be a major issue. Though Bush had promised not to raise taxes at the 1988 Republican National Convention, his hand was forced in part by the Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget Act, a 1985 law that purportedly required a balanced budget by 1993. After a long battle with the Democratic Congress, Bush agreed to sign the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, which contained a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. Conservative Republicans, who had never fully accepted Bush despite his move towards the right during the 1980s, were outraged by the deal. [27]

Adding to the administration's challenges, the country entered a recession in 1990, with the national unemployment rate rising to 7.8%. [28] Even the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991 did not greatly help Bush, as many conservatives credited Reagan's policies for the collapse of the U.S. long-time rival. [29] Bush won his party's re-nomination after defeating a challenge from right-wing commentator and former Reagan official Pat Buchanan in the 1992 Republican presidential primaries. In the general election, Bush faced Democratic Governor Bill Clinton and an independent candidate, Ross Perot. Perot ran a populist campaign that focused on opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement and Bush's failure to balance the budget. [30] Clinton, a founding member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), focused on the poor economic conditions. In the three-way race, Clinton won a majority of the electoral vote and took 43% of the popular vote, while Bush 37.4% of the popular vote and Perot took 18.9%. [31]

Clinton's victory made him the first Democratic president since Jimmy Carter left office in 1981, and he began his term with a Democratic Congress. Though Clinton won early legislative victories such as passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, his administration was damaged by a series of minor scandals and the failure of his health care reform proposal. [32] In the 1994 mid-term elections, Republicans took control of both houses of Congress. In response, Clinton hired political consultant Dick Morris, who advocated a strategy of Triangulation between the Republican and Democratic members of Congress. [33] In a major budget stand-off that involved two government shutdowns, Clinton won congressional approval of his own budget proposal, which avoided the deep cuts Medicare and other programs that had been sought by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and other congressional Republicans. [34] In 1996, Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a Republican-authored bill which placed several new limits on those receiving federal assistance. [35] Clinton had called for a reform of the welfare system during his 1992 campaign, wanting to add changes such as work requirements for recipients.

In the 1996 presidential election, Clinton defeated Republican nominee Bob Dole by a wide margin in both the popular vote and the electoral vote. As Republicans retained control of Congress, he was unable to advance much of his domestic agenda. [36] Economic growth was especially strong during Clinton's second term, and the unemployment dropped to 4% in 2000. In 1998, the government experienced its first budget surplus since the 1960s. [37] Much of Clinton's second term was dominated by impeachment proceedings against Clinton, which stemmed from his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. [38] Though the House voted to impeach Clinton, he was acquitted by the Senate, as all Senate Democrats and several Senate Republicans voted not guilty on both impeachment charges. [39] Due to the strong economy, Clinton's Vice President, Al Gore, most Washington pundits regarded Gore as the early favorite in the 2000 presidential election. [40] However, in an extremely close and contested election that ended in a controversial Supreme Court decision, Governor George W. Bush of Texas, the son of former President Bush, defeated Gore. [41]

Bush's administration included many prominent figures from previous Republican administrations, including Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell. [42] Upon taking office, Bush signed a major tax cut, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. [42] After the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration launched the Afghanistan War and the War on Terror, a global conflict against al-Qaeda and other groups. [43] In 2003, the administration launched the Iraq War, which deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Despite the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War, Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. [44] In the two years after Bush's re-election, the Jack Abramoff scandals, the administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina, Bush's failed attempt to reform Social Security, and the Iraq War's continued unpopularity all weakened Bush's public standing. [45] Aided by Bush's popularity and the Mark Foley scandal, Democrats won control of Congress in the 2006 elections. [46] In 2008, a collapse in housing prices led to a major financial crisis, which marked the start of a prolonged economic downturn known as the Great Recession. In the 2008 presidential election, held in the midst of the financial crisis, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain. Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney and won re-election in 2012. In the 2016 presidential election, Republican nominee Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, despite losing the popular vote. In the 2020 presidential election, held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeated Trump.

Tom Clancy wrote three best-selling novels that illuminate the Reagan era: The Hunt for Red October (1984), Red Storm Rising (1986), and The Cardinal of the Kremlin (1988), which reflect Reagan-era Cold War values. The Soviet Union as an evil empire and the superiority of American values and technology are all themes both of Clancy's thrillers and Reagan's rhetoric. Policy elites used these novels (and the filming of one of them) to promote their ideas of national security to the American public. [47] Kendrick Lamar has a song titled "Ronald Reagan Era" off of his 2011 album Section.80.

Reagan appears as a character in the comic books The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Legends (1986–87).

Many scholars take an international perspective, linking the Reagan Era with the Thatcher Era in Britain. As one scholar explained,

Throughout many of the capitalist democracies in Western Europe and in North America, the recession that began with the sharp rise in petroleum prices in 1973–74 signaled an epochal shift in the patchwork of growth- based economic and social policies. The demise of Keynesianism which followed meant far more than the obsolescence of an economic doctrine that had been used to justify a broad range of economic policies. It represented a significant retreat from a vision of society—the Keynesian welfare state—that had motivated state strategies to harmonise interests through social policy, to politically regulate the market economy and thereby reduce class and diverse social conflicts, and to promulgate for the state a tutelary role in securing business and trade union acquiescence (and less commonly approval) for a limited set of important economic policies. [48]

Historian Doug Rossinow reported in 2007, "As of this writing, among academic historians, the Reagan revisionists—who view the 1980s as an era of mixed blessings at worst, and of great forward strides in some renditions—hold the field". [49] Other scholars agree on the importance of the Reagan Era. [50]

Against Evil

One could assume that the dubious straw men invented by Peter Beinart ("Think Again: Ronald Reagan" July/August 2010) are the result of innocent misconstruction. After all, Beinart was only 10 years old when Ronald Reagan became president and began the daunting task of re-establishing American pride, confidence and global leadership after Jimmy Carter’s disastrous presidency. But it is more likely yet another example of the refusal of liberals to acknowledge the success of Reagan’s Cold War policies: first, rebuilding a disastrously diminished security establishment (diplomatic and political as well as military), then challenging the Soviet Union in a way that surely hastened the demise of the "evil empire."

While Beinart is quite right when he refers to a conjured, mythic Reagan who "never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight," it is the author, not the conservatives he disparages, who is the conjurer.

Beinart attributes to the "American right" the view that Reagan policies led the Politburo to install Gorbachev, "who threw in the towel." But he seems alone in taking this view. What many of us who served in the Reagan administration do argue is that the delegitimization of the Kremlin dictators (accomplished, in part, by what Beinart calls "virulent Cold War rhetoric"), the rebuilding of American military capabilities, and a skillful arms control strategy (that eventuated in Soviet acceptance of Regan proposals they began by categorically rejecting), led to the Western victory in the Cold War.

Recognizing none of this history, and with a thesis to propound, Beinart creates his own false, but necessary history. He writes: "In 1983, after more than two years of epic defense spending, virulent Cold War rhetoric, and no arms-control talks, Americans were demanding détente. Public support for defense spending fell, and the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons."

Thus does Beinart portray Reagan as a president forced to change policies in the face of political pressures. This is nonsense. Reagan barely took notice of what was an insignificant "demand" for détente. He regarded the nuclear-freeze proposals, which never gathered enough support to undermine his tough approach to arms control, a mere nuisance emanating from people who had not a clue how to negotiate with the Soviets. He had negotiated with the Soviets from the moment he took office, but with a subtlety that escapes Beinart completely. Reagan knew what he wanted and he knew how to achieve it. He was rock solid in defining — and sticking with — policies he believed were right. This was especially true with respect to arms control, where, often against the advice of the experts, the liberals, and much of the media, Reagan stayed the course until the Soviets gave him the agreement he wanted.

What the article calls Reagan’s "sudden infatuation with arms control," is pure invention. Beinart refers to the failure to conclude a U.S.-Soviet arms control treaty in Iceland in 1986 and implies that Reagan, his heart and mind changed by political expediency, had abandoned the tough policies to which he had been committed. In fact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty vindicated Reagan’s approach to arms control. When he proposed eliminating all intermediate range missiles in 1981, he was denounced for overreaching. Indeed, he was accused of having put forward a proposed treaty for the express purpose of assuring that the talks would fail. Reagan would happily have signed the INF Treaty in 1986, but Gorbachev refused. For his success in out-waiting and out-negotiating the Soviets, Beinart and those who share his outlook, will never forgive him.

Beinart is not alone in confusing a tough, deliberate application of American power to achieve American ends with the bellicose reckless abandon that he seems to think is the essence of a "conservative" foreign policy. Indeed, it is a common liberal conceit (which Beinart swallows whole) that conservatives, like Reagan, are always spoiling for a fight, eager to launch wars and send American troops in harm’s way. In Beinart’s worldview, only liberals, relying on the United Nations, international law and multilateral diplomacy can secure U.S. interests and preserve peace in the world. But Reagan, following his own beliefs and proceeding in his own way, achieved results no liberal foreign policy has approached — or is likely to achieve.

One could assume that the dubious straw men invented by Peter Beinart ("Think Again: Ronald Reagan" July/August 2010) are the result of innocent misconstruction. After all, Beinart was only 10 years old when Ronald Reagan became president and began the daunting task of re-establishing American pride, confidence and global leadership after Jimmy Carter’s disastrous presidency. But it is more likely yet another example of the refusal of liberals to acknowledge the success of Reagan’s Cold War policies: first, rebuilding a disastrously diminished security establishment (diplomatic and political as well as military), then challenging the Soviet Union in a way that surely hastened the demise of the "evil empire."

While Beinart is quite right when he refers to a conjured, mythic Reagan who "never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight," it is the author, not the conservatives he disparages, who is the conjurer.

Beinart attributes to the "American right" the view that Reagan policies led the Politburo to install Gorbachev, "who threw in the towel." But he seems alone in taking this view. What many of us who served in the Reagan administration do argue is that the delegitimization of the Kremlin dictators (accomplished, in part, by what Beinart calls "virulent Cold War rhetoric"), the rebuilding of American military capabilities, and a skillful arms control strategy (that eventuated in Soviet acceptance of Regan proposals they began by categorically rejecting), led to the Western victory in the Cold War.

Recognizing none of this history, and with a thesis to propound, Beinart creates his own false, but necessary history. He writes: "In 1983, after more than two years of epic defense spending, virulent Cold War rhetoric, and no arms-control talks, Americans were demanding détente. Public support for defense spending fell, and the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons."

Thus does Beinart portray Reagan as a president forced to change policies in the face of political pressures. This is nonsense. Reagan barely took notice of what was an insignificant "demand" for détente. He regarded the nuclear-freeze proposals, which never gathered enough support to undermine his tough approach to arms control, a mere nuisance emanating from people who had not a clue how to negotiate with the Soviets. He had negotiated with the Soviets from the moment he took office, but with a subtlety that escapes Beinart completely. Reagan knew what he wanted and he knew how to achieve it. He was rock solid in defining — and sticking with — policies he believed were right. This was especially true with respect to arms control, where, often against the advice of the experts, the liberals, and much of the media, Reagan stayed the course until the Soviets gave him the agreement he wanted.

Evil Empire Speech Analysis

When Ronnie took the stage at the convention of the National Association of Evangelists in 1983, his metaphorical gloves came off, and he was ready to get down and dirty talking about the state of the country, and the state of the world in the midst of nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviet Union.

In discussing such "lighthearted topics" (they said sarcastically), Reagan knew the key to packing a punch began with tugging on the heartstrings of his audience, which he does from the very beginning by highlighting a bunch of patriotic quotes that make you wanna stand up and wave the stars and stripes while eating a slice of apple pie.

Reagan's appeal to the patriot inside us all kindles an emotional response from the audience, called pathos, and he continues to feed the flames throughout his speech. By reminding everyone of their love of country, they become way more invested in the problems he's talking about, because they're everyone's problems, and everyone needs to be part of the solution.

First, he takes the time to address the ever-rising rates of abortion in the United States, particularly that young women are able to just walk into a clinic and undergo the procedure without parental permission.

And isn't it the parents' right to give counsel and advice to keep their children from making mistakes that may affect their entire lives? (54)

It's a powerful line, and the use of pathos here is stellar. He's appealing to every parents' desire to protect their children, and in using the word "promiscuous" to describe the girls having the abortions, he is almost shaming both parties for not preventing this from happening. And shame is a really powerful emotion.

He goes on to talk about other issues in American society, including infanticide and mercy killings, saying they "lead to a decline in respect for human life" (80). And as leaders in the fight to contain communism and protect oppressed populations around the world, the U.S. cannot condone anything that disrespects human life.

Reagan is a master with pathos all throughout his Evil Empire speech. He detailed all the bad things happening in America, followed by some information on the nuclear arms negotiations that are not going super well. By the time he's halfway through, the audience is about ready to go grab a pint&mdashof Ben and Jerry's, of course&mdashand wallow like Rory Gilmore.

&hellipand a Pinch of Logos

But, instead of kicking everyone while they're down, Reagan flashes that award-winning smile and tells them not to worry&mdashAmericans have the solutions to all these problems, and they'll be found in the basic traditions and principles that define the ol' US of A.

There's a great spiritual awakening in America, a renewal of the traditional values that have been the bedrock of America's goodness and greatness.

At this point, Reagan brings the logos, the logic, to the front of his argument. He offers statistics on the value of family in America, as well as the number of people who wholeheartedly disapprove of "adultery, teenage sex, pornography, abortion, and hard drugs" (91).

He's using a combination of reason and emotion to assure his audience that while America still has her problems, the average person does have the power to make some real change. And it's super important that people understand this, because Reagan's speech is intended to inspire the world to fight the Soviet Union with words, instead of on the battlefield. If the audience doesn't believe they can solve the national problems, they're not even going to try and touch the international ones.


Rear-View Mirror: Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear

No matter your opinion of our 40th president, you can't deny Ronald Reagan was a smart dude, and it's super obvious he ate his Wheaties the day he delivered his Evil Empire speech.

Instead of standing up and going on and on about America's greatness and strength and superb fashion sense, he spent a lot of time reflecting on the blooper reel: anti-Semitism, racism, infanticide&mdashall terrible parts of American history that really didn't happen all that long ago.

There's a method to the madness, however. Reagan wanted everyone&mdashAmericans, Soviets, citizens of Westeros&mdashto know he was aware of some rather evil parts of America's past. But the difference was that Americans weren't afraid to create a better future by looking in the rearview mirror and learning from their mistakes.

That's why Ronnie the Renegade was able to totally dis a moody country with access to nuclear weapons, and basically get away with it. He spent the first half of his speech talking about the bad stuff, which gave him the right to spend the second half talking about an evil empire that didn't even seem to have rearview mirrors.

And, really, that's just downright dangerous&mdashsomeone should call the DMV.

Oh, and before you go&mdashtake a glance at the Rhetoric section of this learning guide for the specifics on the structure of the speech.

How it Breaks Down

Section 1: "It's Been a Hard Day's Night, and I've Been Working Like a Dog."

President Reagan, after thanking the good people of the National Association of the Evangelists, quotes Abraham Lincoln to illustrate how tired and frustrated he is with the state of America, as well as the state of the world.

Section 2: St. Peter and the Politician

Reagan shares a short anecdote about a politician meeting St. Peter in Heaven to emphasize that while there are many good, spiritual people in the public eye, it is the responsibility of the average American to keep them good and spiritual, to hold them accountable.

Section 3: "Our [Founding] Fathers, Who Art in History. "

With a few quotes from some of those old white guys in American history, Reagan makes it clear that liberty has always been connected to religion, to godliness, and that shouldn't ever change.

Section 4: Parental Controls

According to Reagan, the government is taking all sorts of liberties, interfering with parents' rights to take care of their kids. Why are the American people letting that happen?

Section 5: It's All Downhill From Here.

Here's a video of puppies protecting their baby friends. You'll need to watch something cute and uplifting after reading this section of Reagan's speech.

Section 6: Wait! It's Not All Downhill From Here&hellip

Just when you think all hope is lost, Reagan reminds his audience that Americans always have the power to share their principles and values with the rest of the world. And the nation has overcome so much already&mdashAmericans are definitely equipped to solve this problem, too.

Section 7: "And That Brings Me To My Final Point Today."

Here's the crux of things, kids&mdashnuclear freeze is a bad idea, as are any negotiations with totalitarian groups. It comprises all the U.S. stands for, which is completely unacceptable.

Section 8: "Can We Fix It?"

Well, yeah, of course we can fix it&mdashbut not with military might. The solution comes from U.S. values and morals, as well as remembering the spiritual powers of American principles.

What's Up With the Title?

"The Evil Empire" refers, first and most obviously, to the Soviet Union. The government killed millions of people in the twentieth century&mdashnot to mention how few citizens enjoyed basic human rights, and how many spent time in state-sponsored prisons.

So, yeah, if it walks like an evil duck and quacks like an evil duck, it's probably an evil duck.

But, just in case you've forgotten, the U.S. has quite a tangled history on its own, with the good guys doing bad things for selfish reasons. Which means the title referred to us a little bit, too.

Reagan could've stood in front of the world and said the U.S. was perfect and pretty, and the Soviet Union was not. Instead, he chose to be really honest, to reveal he knew that (*gasp*) U.S. history was actually really messy, and we have a little bit of evil in there, too. The difference is we had learned from our mistakes, and it was high time the USSR did the same.

P.S. This speech is the first time Reagan actually refers to the Soviet Union as "the evil empire," which is how the speech gets it nickname. It would also technically be the address to the National Association of Evangelists, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it.

What's Up With the Opening Lines?

Those of you in the National Association of Evangelicals are known for your spiritual and humanitarian work. And I would be especially remiss if I didn't discharge right now one personal debt of gratitude. Thank you for your prayers. Nancy and I have felt their presence many times in many ways. And believe me, for us they've made all the difference. (3-7)

Do you feel a little like you're eavesdropping on a conversation? Like any minute Crookshanks is going to saunter on by and grab your Extendable Ear like it was some cheap cat toy?

Don't be fooled. It may seem like Reagan is indulging in a wee bit of small-talk prior to getting into the nitty-gritty of his speech, but that's just what he wants you to think.

Actually, the opening lines of his speech are intended to set the stage for his main point: caring about other people, speaking up for them, even praying for them, may bring some good juju to one and all. Reagan said he and his wife were grateful for the copious amounts of prayer and good wishes sent their way, and, more than that, they're better for it.

So imagine what could happening if everyone, like he and you and all of America, sent some of that good juju to fight back against the Evil Empire?

What's Up With the Closing Lines?

Yes, change your world. One of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, said, "We have it within our power to begin the world over again." We can do it, doing together what no one church can do by itself. (169-171)

At the time, Reagan's speech was controversial for a number of different reasons, including how often he mentioned prayer and church, which was usually a no-no for politicians.

But, just for fun, let's replace the word church with the word voice.

When Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, he talked about the working class banding together as a group to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Banding together&mdashas in, creating a community of people all working toward the same thing.

The last few lines of Reagan's speech are actually rather similar to what Marx was saying. Ronnie wholeheartedly believed communism was a horrible phase in human history and no one person could fix it. Everyone had to hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and agree to start over. Whether it happened in a church, a conference room, or Walt Disney World didn't really matter, so long as it happened.


(6) Tree Line

At first glance, Reagan's address seems rather straightforward&mdashhe doesn't use crazy $15 words, and there are probably only a couple of historical figures and terms that'll be unfamiliar to you.

What makes the speech challenging is all the underlying meaning. Reagan isn't in the business of making things easy for you, so there'll be moments when he quotes Scripture, or shares a couple of anecdotes, where you'll have to figure out how they're significant to the argument he's trying to make. Prepare to do a little spelunking.


In-Text References

Literary and Philosophical References

Marxist-Leninists (112)
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (151)
Charles Dickens (148)
Whittaker Chambers (161)

Historical and Political References

Abraham Lincoln (11)
William Penn (26)
Thomas Jefferson (27)
George Washington (28)
Alexis de Tocqueville (29)
First Amendment (60)
Declaration of Independence (63)
Little Pencil v. Lubbock Independent School District (70)
Senator Jeremiah Denton (72)
Senator Mark Hatfield (72)
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (83)
Representative Henry Hyde (86)
Soviets (112)
Appeasement (153)
Hiss-Chambers Case (161)
Thomas Paine (170)

Biblical and Religious References

National Association of Evangelicals (3)
St. Peter (15)
Amos 5:24 (96)
Garden of Eden (162)
Isaiah 40:29 (168)

References to This Text

Historical and Political References

Donald Trump, The 2016 Campaign Trail, CNN.
Fordham University, Modern History Sourcebook: Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire Speech
Harrison E. Salisbury, "A Reagan Antecedent in Revolution," The New York Times

Pop Culture References


Reagan can make a joke&mdasheven if it sounds more like gallows humor. (Source)

Ronnie played a villain in what was supposed to be the first made-for-TV movie, but he was just sooo good at being all violent, The Killers had to be released theatrically. This was also his last movie role. (Source)

Ol' Ronnie was once a. Democrat. We imagine the switch was something akin to a Yankee fan pahking his cah in Hahvahd Yahd on the way to a Red Sox game. (Source)

There's an entire Buzzfeed page attributed to Reagan and his YOLO moments. (Source)

Rebel Reagan was not only the first POTUS to be divorced (scandal) but his second wife, Nancy Davis, was almost blacklisted as a Communist, but her future hubby helped her prove the case of mistaken identity. (Source)

Reagan refers to U.S.S.R. as “evil empire” again - HISTORY

This speech by President Ronald Reagan to the people of West Berlin contains one of the most memorable lines spoken during his presidency. The Berlin Wall, referred to by the President, was built by Communists in August 1961 to keep Germans from escaping Communist-dominated East Berlin into Democratic West Berlin. The twelve-foot concrete wall extended for a hundred miles, surrounding West Berlin, and included electrified fences and guard posts. The wall stood as a stark symbol of the decades-old Cold War between the United States and Soviet Russia in which the two politically opposed superpowers continually wrestled for dominance, stopping just short of actual warfare.

Chancellor Kohl, Governing Mayor Diepgen, ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin, speaking to the people of this city and the world at the City Hall. Well, since then two other presidents have come, each in his turn, to Berlin. And today I, myself, make my second visit to your city.

We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it's our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we're drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten most of all, by your courage and determination. Perhaps the composer Paul Lincke understood something about American presidents. You see, like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. [I still have a suitcase in Berlin.]

Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same--still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

President von Weizsacker has said, "The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed." Today I say: As long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph.

In this season of spring in 1945, the people of Berlin emerged from their air-raid shelters to find devastation. Thousands of miles away, the people of the United States reached out to help. And in 1947 Secretary of State--as you've been told--George Marshall announced the creation of what would become known as the Marshall Plan. Speaking precisely 40 years ago this month, he said: "Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."

In the Reichstag a few moments ago, I saw a display commemorating this 40th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. I was struck by the sign on a burnt-out, gutted structure that was being rebuilt. I understand that Berliners of my own generation can remember seeing signs like it dotted throughout the western sectors of the city. The sign read simply: "The Marshall Plan is helping here to strengthen the free world." A strong, free world in the West, that dream became real. Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium--virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth the European Community was founded.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty--that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany--busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of parkland. Where a city's culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters, and museums. Where there was want, today there's abundance--food, clothing, automobiles--the wonderful goods of the Ku'damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn't count on--Berliner Herz, Berliner Humor, ja, und Berliner Schnauze. [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner Schnauze.]

In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind--too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.

Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent-- and I pledge to you my country's efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides.

Beginning 10 years ago, the Soviets challenged the Western alliance with a grave new threat, hundreds of new and more deadly SS-20 nuclear missiles, capable of striking every capital in Europe. The Western alliance responded by committing itself to a counter-deployment unless the Soviets agreed to negotiate a better solution namely, the elimination of such weapons on both sides. For many months, the Soviets refused to bargain in earnestness. As the alliance, in turn, prepared to go forward with its counter-deployment, there were difficult days--days of protests like those during my 1982 visit to this city--and the Soviets later walked away from the table.

But through it all, the alliance held firm. And I invite those who protested then-- I invite those who protest today--to mark this fact: Because we remained strong, the Soviets came back to the table. And because we remained strong, today we have within reach the possibility, not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

As I speak, NATO ministers are meeting in Iceland to review the progress of our proposals for eliminating these weapons. At the talks in Geneva, we have also proposed deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons. And the Western allies have likewise made far-reaching proposals to reduce the danger of conventional war and to place a total ban on chemical weapons.

While we pursue these arms reductions, I pledge to you that we will maintain the capacity to deter Soviet aggression at any level at which it might occur. And in cooperation with many of our allies, the United States is pursuing the Strategic Defense Initiative--research to base deterrence not on the threat of offensive retaliation, but on defenses that truly defend on systems, in short, that will not target populations, but shield them. By these means we seek to increase the safety of Europe and all the world. But we must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed we are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about liberty. When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming the globe.

In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth. Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic growth. In the industrialized nations, a technological revolution is taking place--a revolution marked by rapid, dramatic advances in computers and telecommunications.

In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of freedom. Yet in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation, the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete.

Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safe, freer world. And surely there is no better place than Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. Free people of Berlin: Today, as in the past, the United States stands for the strict observance and full implementation of all parts of the Four Power Agreement of 1971. Let us use this occasion, the 750th anniversary of this city, to usher in a new era, to seek a still fuller, richer life for the Berlin of the future. Together, let us maintain and develop the ties between the Federal Republic and the Western sectors of Berlin, which is permitted by the 1971 agreement.

And I invite Mr. Gorbachev: Let us work to bring the Eastern and Western parts of the city closer together, so that all the inhabitants of all Berlin can enjoy the benefits that come with life in one of the great cities of the world.

To open Berlin still further to all Europe, East and West, let us expand the vital air access to this city, finding ways of making commercial air service to Berlin more convenient, more comfortable, and more economical. We look to the day when West Berlin can become one of the chief aviation hubs in all central Europe.

With our French and British partners, the United States is prepared to help bring international meetings to Berlin. It would be only fitting for Berlin to serve as the site of United Nations meetings, or world conferences on human rights and arms control or other issues that call for international cooperation.

There is no better way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds, and we would be honored to sponsor summer youth exchanges, cultural events, and other programs for young Berliners from the East. Our French and British friends, I'm certain, will do the same. And it's my hope that an authority can be found in East Berlin to sponsor visits from young people of the Western sectors.

One final proposal, one close to my heart: Sport represents a source of enjoyment and ennoblement, and you may have noted that the Republic of Korea--South Korea--has offered to permit certain events of the 1988 Olympics to take place in the North. International sports competitions of all kinds could take place in both parts of this city. And what better way to demonstrate to the world the openness of this city than to offer in some future year to hold the Olympic games here in Berlin, East and West? In these four decades, as I have said, you Berliners have built a great city. You've done so in spite of threats--the Soviet attempts to impose the East-mark, the blockade. Today the city thrives in spite of the challenges implicit in the very presence of this wall. What keeps you here? Certainly there's a great deal to be said for your fortitude, for your defiant courage. But I believe there's something deeper, something that involves Berlin's whole look and feel and way of life--not mere sentiment. No one could live long in Berlin without being completely disabused of illusions. Something instead, that has seen the difficulties of life in Berlin but chose to accept them, that continues to build this good and proud city in contrast to a surrounding totalitarian presence that refuses to release human energies or aspirations. Something that speaks with a powerful voice of affirmation, that says yes to this city, yes to the future, yes to freedom. In a word, I would submit that what keeps you in Berlin is love--love both profound and abiding.

Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere--that sphere that towers over all Berlin--the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: "This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

And I would like, before I close, to say one word. I have read, and I have been questioned since I've been here about certain demonstrations against my coming. And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so. I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they're doing again.

Thank you and God bless you all.

President Ronald Reagan - June 12, 1987

Post-note: Two years later, in November 1989, East Germans issued a decree for the wall to be opened, allowing people to travel freely into West Berlin. In some cases, families that had been separated for decades were finally reunited. The wall was torn down altogether by the end of 1990 upon the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and in Soviet Russia itself, marking the end of the Cold War era.

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The Optimism of Ronald Reagan

While many across the political spectrum would like to discover the secret of Ronald Reagan’s success, some conservatives, believing the fortieth president a high priest of the American civil religion, have dismissed him as a barely closeted progressive who blithely saw the good in all. After all, it is always morning in America…

While one might readily prove Reagan an optimist, even a Pollyanna, optimism does not equate to progressivism. Rather, it would be fair to label Reagan a grand proponent of the ingenuity and potential of each individual person. Despite his faith in the individual, however, Reagan did not have the same faith in history itself. History is merely the culmination of billions of decisions made by billions of persons. But just as the actions of each creative person would prove unpredictable—hence, human creativity—so too would the sum of their decisions and experiences. In ignorance of what is to come, one has to possess faith in the individuals of the world to have faith in the future of the world. This is not the same thing as progressivism, which demands a confidence in the very direction of history toward some inevitable and purposeful end. Reagan had faith, but his understanding of time and history and the future also demanded a proper ignorance and humility.

It should and must be noted that Reagan read constantly. As Dick Allen noted, Reagan “read everything.” Certainly no conservative, journalist David Gergen remembered:

Working for him, I saw he was no dullard, as his critics claimed. From his eight years as governor and his many other years of writing and speaking out, he had thought his way through most domestic issues and knew how to make a complex governmental structure work in his favor. In the first year of his presidency, I also saw him dive into the details of the federal revenue code and become an authority as he negotiated with Congress. When he wanted to focus, he had keen powers of concentration and could digest large bodies of information. He was also one of the most disciplined men I have seen in the presidency (much more so than Clinton, for example), so that he worked straight through the day, reading papers and checking off meetings on his list. At day’s end, headed off for a workout and would plow through more papers in the evening in the upstairs residence. He made the presidency look easy in part by keeping a strict regimen. He also had a retentive mind. After years of memorizing scripts in Hollywood, he would recall verbatim a lot of what he had read. He recited Robert Service poems as well as he did jokes. [Gergen, Eyewitness to Power, 197]

Martin Anderson remembered something quite similar:

Working for him, one of the first things that struck me about him was his high intelligence. I can recall many times sitting or traveling with him, introducing an idea or essay or memorandum. He would grasp its essence almost immediately then, sometimes weeks or months later, he would interpret it and weave the relevant material into a speech or statement of his own. [Martin Anderson in Hannaford, ed., Recollections of Reagan, 11]

Russell Kirk, though, argued that Ronald Reagan’s sharp intelligence was not enough to make him the leader he was. Honing his intellect, Reagan added a profound confidence, “audacity, and again audacity, and always audacity.” [Kirk, Reclaiming a Patrimony, 115]

One vital contemporary of Reagan was Whittaker Chambers. Well-known in conservative and libertarian circles, Chambers renounced communism not because Marxism was doomed to failure, but because it was morally and ethically wrong. Even after leaving the foul ideology behind, Chambers continued to believe and fear he had chosen the losing side. While we know that Chambers’ book Witness fundamentally affected and shaped Ronald Reagan, we do not know to what degree. Still, we can state with some confidence that Reagan’s vision of history and his essential faith in the future came from a rejection of Chambers’ philosophy, even an inversion of it.

At the University of Notre Dame, on the seventeenth of May, 1981, Ronald Reagan offered his clearest statement of the imminent Soviet collapse:

The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization. The West won’t contain communism, it will transcend communism. It won’t bother to denounce it, it will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.

Yet, President Ronald Reagan’s belief that the Soviets were doomed had nothing to do with the laws of history of progress or of regress. There were no “forces” at work in history in Reagan’s understanding. Instead, the Soviets ignored an essential fact about humans: their individual and unpredictable creativity. The Soviets, therefore, had doomed themselves, whatever fates or gods or forces might rule.

In 1968, in a book all-too-easily forgotten by friend and foe alike, Reagan outlined his very Burkean and Smithian vision of spontaneous order. The book, The Creative Society, a somewhat obvious jab at and humorous take on Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, published by the relatively obscure firm of Devin-Adair, sold relatively well. With it, Reagan brought together the contemporary work of Robert Nisbet, Friedrich Hayek, and Russell Kirk, arguing not just for allowing the creative energies of the individual to flourish, but of the individual within community. While governmental laws served only to diminish the good of the whole, a government of laws allowed society to grow exponentially, as it turned over the most important functions to individuals and communities.

The Creative Society, in other words, is simply a return to the people of the privilege of self-government, as well as a pledge for more efficient representative government—citizens of proven ability in their fields, serving where their experience qualifies them, proposing common sense answers for California’s problems, reviewing governmental structure itself and bringing it into line with the most advanced, modern business practices. Those who talk of complex problems, requiring more government planning and more control, in reality are taking us back in time to the acceptance of rule of the many by the few. Time to look to the future. We’ve had enough talk—disruptive talk—in America of left and right, dividing us down the center. There is really no such choice facing us. The only choice we have is up or down—up, to the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down, to the deadly dullness of totalitarianism.

If Ronald Reagan’s vision of a Creative Society is progressive, it is no more so than Edmund Burke’s, Alexis de Tocqueville’s, or Russell Kirk’s. In other words, it is not progressive in the least. It is a vision of a decentralized society, a society of associations, a society of charity, and a society of entrepreneurship. Like the man himself, Reagan’s vision was, at once, humane as well as humble.

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Ronald Reagan actually used this San Francisco astrologist to make presidential decisions

Astrologer Joan Quigley with a group of charts she uses in her work, at her residence in Nob Hill, San Francisco, March 15, 1990. Quigley was the White House astrologer during the Reagan administration. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

R onald Reagan nearly got through his presidency without his secret adviser exposed.

But Donald Regan, Reagan’s chief of staff until he was ousted amid the Iran-Contra scandal, spilled in his 1988 book, For The Record, what he viewed as “the most closely guarded domestic secret of the Reagan White House.” He wrote that “Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.”

Before long, the astrologer who was advising the White House was identified as Joan Quigley.

The New York Post ran a story with the headline, “Astrologer Runs The White House” and the disclosure became fodder for jokes in Washington. On Capitol Hill, Representative Tony Coelho, the Democratic whip from California, blamed astrology for Republicans backing out of a revised trade bill. “Maybe an astrologer is telling them to object today.” Speaker of the House Jim Wright shot back, “It’s all right with me. I’m glad he consults somebody.”

Even White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater opened his daily briefing by saying, “I’ll take your first question at exactly 12:33 and a half.”

An exasperated Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor and eventual Democratic presidential nominee, struck a more serious tone during a news conference in Boston, saying, “I hope the nation’s destiny beginning in January, 1989, will be based on something other than horoscopes.”

Nancy Reagan, who attempted to conceal her relationship with Quigley by making payments through a third party, was highly embarrassed by the revelation. She wrote in her 1989 book, My Turn, “While astrology was a factor in determining Ronnie’s schedule, it was never the only one, and no political decision was ever based on it.”

But Quigley took exception to Reagan’s diminished depiction, telling The Los Angeles Times, “I would participate in a more intimate way than the publicly recognized insiders of greatest importance.”

In her 1990 book, What Does Joan Say?: My Seven Years As White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan, she wrote, “I was responsible for timing all press conferences, most speeches, the State of the Union addresses, the takeoffs and landings of Air Force One. I picked the time of Ronald Reagan’s debate with [Jimmy] Carter and the two debates with Walter Mondale all extended trips abroad as well as the shorter trips and one-day excursions.”

Quigley even boasted of having a role in easing Reagan’s stance toward the “evil empire,” telling The Los Angeles Times in 1990, “Nancy knew what she had in me. I don’t think she ever wanted to admit it. I think she would have preferred for me never to be heard from again.”

Nancy Reagan later wrote that it was a matter of keeping the president safe any way she could. “Very few people can understand what it’s like to have your husband shot at and almost die, and then have him exposed all the time to enormous crowds, tens of thousands of people, any one of whom might be a lunatic with a gun,” she wrote in her memoir. “I was doing everything I could think of to protect my husband and keep him alive.”

Quigley said that in her charts, she could see almost everything. Reagan would not win the Republican nomination in 1976, because Saturn was adverse. Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972 was doomed to failure because of a detrimental two-year configuration of Uranus. And she also told Nancy Reagan that she could have predicted John Hinckley’s assassination attempt in March 1981, if she had drawn up his charts.

“I could have predicted it — it was very obvious,” Quigley said in an interview, lamenting that she “was doing other things.”

F rom that point, the president was strictly kept to a color-coded calendar that matched a traffic light. Each day was given a color: green for days Reagan was in the clear, yellow to exercise caution and red for bad days. Nancy offered additional notes: “March 10–14 no outside activity!…April 3 careful.”

While some schedules were set by law, Quigley altered them to improve matters. For example, while Reagan’s second swearing in ceremony was scheduled for midday, Quigley dictated it for 11:56:50 in an attempt to make the best of an inauspicious day, according to his charts.

Quigley also noted that Reagan was such a successful president because his sun was in Aquarius, which meant he was both balanced and visionary. And his Jupiter was in Scorpio, giving him strength and vitality. Because she knew how to play those strengths to Reagan’s presidential advantage, she claimed she was the one providing “the Teflon for the Teflon presidency.”

However, Quigley was not the first astrologist the Reagans consulted. Their interest in astrology traced back to early 1950’s that went well beyond searching for the last pages in a newspaper. When Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis were first making their way in Hollywood, astrologers were not storefront scams. They sought out Carroll Righter, the Philadelphia lawyer who had become the “gregarious Aquarius” astrologer advising Cary Grant and Princess Grace, among others. At the time time of his death, which he predicted, Righter had an astrology column that was syndicated in 166 newspapers across the country.

In his autobiography, Reagan refers to Righter as “one of our good friends.” He also advised Reagan throughout his acting and political career. As an astrologist, Righter was a stickler for exact timing. So much so that in 1967, when Reagan took office as governor of California, he insisted that he would take the oath of office at 12:10 am on January 2, even though his term officially began at 12:01 a.m.

“You have to remember where and how that part of their life started,” an old friend of the Reagans told The New York Times. “In Hollywood during the 30’s and 40’s, astrologers were social equals and friends, they weren’t weirdos.”

Even so, the Reagans wanted it kept secret and so did Quigley. “I said to Nancy, ‘I hope this doesn’t get out,’” Quigley later recalled in an interview. “I wanted secrecy more than Nancy.” But once it was out, she swore off helping presidents in the future, saying, “After the end of this year…I will never do anything connected with any U.S. President…again.”

Quigley largely stayed out of the public eye until her death in 2014, save for one attempt to attract investors in Silicon Valley for an online astrology business venture.

Cold War nostalgia? MSNBC plays clip from Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech in warning to Trump

Co-host Willie Geist introduced the clip as a warning to US President Donald Trump whose cordial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday set off a wave of hysteria and horrified indignation across US mainstream media.

An excerpt from President Reagan's 1983 Evil Empire speech

&mdash Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) July 17, 2018

Clearly nostalgic for the days of the Cold War, Geist cut to the clip explaining that Reagan had told Americans &ldquohow to treat a leader like we see now in Putin and those who might appease him.&rdquo In the excerpt, Reagan bemoans those who would have the US &ldquoaccept [Soviet leaders] at their word&rdquo and accommodate their &ldquoaggressive impulses&rdquo.

&ldquoIf history teaches anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly,&rdquo Reagan said in the speech.

unsettling to see my tl remains in a state of shrieking nationalistic fervor, it's weird to watch the putative left slinging around quotations from reagan's "evil empire" speech & acting like they're ready to execute the rosenbergs all over again

&mdash JSA Lowe (@jsalowe) July 17, 2018

Reagan also warned Americans not to place the US in a position of &ldquomoral inferiority&rdquo &mdash something which Trump critics at MSNBC and elsewhere accused him of when he admitted that the US also does &ldquoplenty of killing&rdquo when asked to denounce Putin&rsquos actions domestically and abroad.

The 1983 speech was the first time Reagan used the term &ldquoevil empire&rdquo to refer to the Soviet Union and it is regarded as a rhetorical escalation in the Cold War &mdash but it looks like MSNBC missed the memo that the Soviet Union collapsed more than 25 years ago and no longer exists.

It&rsquos particularly interesting that MSNBC chose to hold up the Reagan speech as a model of good foreign policy, given how much liberals criticized that speech at the time it was given, as National Review columnist John Fund pointed out on Twitter. &ldquoI'm old enough to remember how much liberals attacked the &lsquoevil empire&rsquo speech,&rdquo Fund wrote.

This is pretty rich. I'm old enough to remember how much liberals attacked the "evil empire" speech. NY Times, 1983: "The greater danger lies in Reagan's vision of the superpower relationship as Good versus Evil, and his near-proclamation of holy war against 'an evil empire.'''

&mdash John Fund (@johnfund) July 17, 2018

Fund also quoted a piece from the New York Times in 1983 which argued that the &ldquogreater danger&rdquo lay in Reagan&rsquos vision of the superpower relationship as &ldquoGood versus Evil&rdquo and his &ldquonear-proclamation of a holy war&rdquo against the Soviet Union.

Still, it looks like MSNBC would prefer Trump to take the US-Russia relationship back 35 years rather than move on and forge a positive relationship for the future.

Watch the video: How Did the Cold War End?