The editorial in TNR has a couple of insightful things to say about Reagan. It commends his obsession with communism, and says that, though he did not bring down communism, “he defied it into its final collapse” and “embarrassed his enemy into oblivion.” The most thoughtful comment is about Reagan’s personality:

“What was so startling, so subversive, about Ronald Reagan was his happiness. It was his standpoint on the entirety of existence. His country, his marriage, his career: All of it, the public and the private, could be adequately captured by a grin. A great philosopher once observed that the world of the happy man is different from the world of the unhappy man. It was understandable that most of America preferred to inhabit the happy man’s world, not least because his predecessor seemed most quickened by the unhappy man’s world. And in Reagan’s happiness there is a lesson for post-Reagan conservatism, too. For many of the conservatives who now call themselves his heirs show no understanding of the moral power of joy. They despise so many Americans of so many kinds that soon they appear to despise America, the actually existing America. They come to deny, but Reagan came to affirm. He loves the actually existing America. There was only one thing stronger in him than his ideology, and it was his geniality.” As they go on to point, that strength comes with attendant weakness, though I would differ with the editors of TNR about what Reagan’s weaknesses were.

And, finally, this, from a two-page spread of TNR comments on Reagan stretching from 1966-1991: Hendrik Hertzberg quotes Lou Cannon about Reagan’s belief “that the power of a person and an idea could change the outcome of something as terrible as Armageddon . . . . . He didn’t see himself as God, but he saw himself as a heroic figure on earth.” Hertzberg comments, “Not as God, but maybe as God’s sidekick.” No wonder he was happy.

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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