Today marks the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. At the time, interest rates and inflation were in double digits, the hostages in Iran had been held for 444 days, the previous president had been unable to understand America's "irrational" fear of communism, the country was shackled with a legacy in the previous 12+ years of political assassinations (MLK, RFK), disastrous economic policies, defeatism, abandonment of an ally (S. Vietnam), weakness in the face of terror (Iran) and the all-too-prevalent view that the only option America had was coexistence with the USSR, not defeating it.
Reagan changed all that. From setting in motion the process that would within 10 years result in the USSR's disintegration and within 8.5 years the fall of the Berlin Wall, to reinvigorating a moribund economy through lower tax rates that not only recharged the private sector but resulted in HIGHER tax revenue to the government, to reasserting both America's greatness and America's strength. Whereas Pope John Paul II acted as the moral voice against the evils of communism, President Reagan acted as both a moral voice and the sword-arm of freedom.
The WSJ (link in title) salutes Reagan's inauguration anniversary by concentrating on his economic legacy; there is no question that his policies turned around the American economy in the 1980s nor that his legacy of regulation cutting and cost cutting has been abandoned or ignored by Republicans today.
But Reagan should be saluted for one thing above all, as Mark Steyn noted in his written eulogy to the President:
Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is footnotes.