Tom Finneran: The Gipper and Barack, Like Father, Like Son
Friday, March 22, 2013
Do you remember “Star Wars”? That was the phrase that captured Reagan’s proposal to shoot down incoming enemy missiles while they were in flight toward our shores. Despite the scorn of the Globe, the New York Times, and of course anti-war activists everywhere, Reagan continued to push the idea forward, seeking funding and testing, thus earning a hatred that always puzzled me.
I can understand the skepticism of scientists. After all, scientists must be skeptical until hypotheses are tested and outcomes are validated. But for elected officials, particularly for those who bear the responsibility of national security and national defense, imagination is as important as skepticism. And Reagan’s imagination was that scientists, particularly American scientists, had the ingenuity and the means to begin to build a body of knowledge that would someday lead to our ability to shoot offensive enemy missiles out of the sky. And, on this point, he was such an idealist that he even offered to share that knowledge with the old Soviet Union, our principal enemy and in Reagan’s own words, “the evil empire”, in order to render these horrific weapons obsolete. Reagan was a dreamer on some things.
Barack Obama is a dreamer too and that’s not at all a bad thing. As mentioned, creative imagination is a good thing, even, perhaps especially in government. But who could have ever predicted that President Obama would almost gleefully grasp at Reagan’s “folly” of Star Wars as part of an official Obama response to current events. In fact, I’ll hazard a guess that if Barack Obama as a candidate for the Illinois State Senate, for Congress, and for the U.S. Senate was ever asked about Reagan’s “Star Wars”, that he was predictably critical of the idea itself, as well as the funding of the idea. I’m not aware of any specific quote he may have made, but I’m comfortable with my conclusion. As mentioned, overt and vocal hostility to all things Reagan, and particularly to Star Wars, was an article of faith among Democratic activists.
Current events, and the immense responsibility of the Presidency, now intrude upon Barack Obama’s thoughts. Witness his response to the saber rattling of North Korea, as he takes a page out of President Reagan’s playbook . In reaction to the real world threat of nuclear missiles being launched by North Korea, accompanied by utterances of their determination to strike the United States, President Obama has outlined plans to expand our missile interceptor capacity! The Gipper lives on, in the heart and mind and soul of Barack! Strange bedfellows indeed.
Observers of the daily dance of policy and politics understand what is at play here. It’s called the real world. It’s not a faculty lounge. It’s not an undergraduate seminar. It’s the real world, unpredictable at best, and dangerously irrational at times. Thus Barack, our current President, must consider the lunatic leadership of North Korea, not only dancing with Dennis Rodman, but more frighteningly, playing with rocket launches and nuclear missiles while uttering specific threats against South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. It’s really scary when Dennis Rodman is the rational being in the room.
Back to Barack. He is now in Israel, tending to a strained and frayed relationship with an important ally. One of his first official stops was an Iron Dome missile battery, which is Israel’s version of President Reagan’s Star Wars. As has been the case with drones, with Guantanomo, with the Patriot Act, and other post-9/11 policies, President Obama is only the latest political leader to learn that campaigning is easy, almost too easy for him and that governing is considerably more challenging. Campaign rhetoric aside, hard realities trump wishful thinking. Welcome to the land of political leadership, otherwise known as the land of lousy choices. Somewhere out there, the Gipper is smiling and he’s wondering what the editorials are going to say about Barack. Strange bedfellows and all that.
Like father, like son.
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