World Leader Reagan Tributes

Several stories linked on Drudge at the moment indicate something about Ronald Reagan’s legacy:

AP — Kerry Suspends Campaigning

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Sunday that he was suspending “overtly political” campaigning in the coming days in observance of former President Reagan’s death.

“Ronald Reagan and many of us disagreed on one issue or another, but he always disagreed with a smile, without partisanship,” Kerry told reporters after attending church.

“I think he had a sense of idealism and a sense of optimism of the possibilities about our country that define leadership,” Kerry said. “We will miss him, no matter what party, no matter what our beliefs. He was a leader, and we’ll miss him.”

Kerry was flying to Toledo, Ohio, Sunday to speak at the graduation ceremony for Bedford Senior High School. Although the school is in Temperance, Mich., the commencement is across the nearby state line in Ohio. Kerry’s aides said he would make a tribute to Reagan in the speech.

Kerry was returning to Washington after the graduation, canceling a trip to Denver where he was to have delivered a speech Monday morning.

“We’re going to suspend any sort of overtly political rallies, events like that,” Kerry said. He added that he would probably still have private meetings with advisers.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the campaign would determine later in the day how long Kerry would observe Reagan’s death and which activities he would cancel, but he would not pull his campaign advertising.

This is a classy thing for Kerry to do. That’s true even if it was scripted by advisors to provoke the reaction, “Gee, this is a classy thing for Kerry to do.” I’m a bit amused by the business about Reagan being totally non-partisan, which is of course absurd to any of us with a recollection of the era. I supported Reagan more passionately than any politician before or since (owing as much to my youth as his ideals and charisma) and he was certainly decent and affable in his approach, but he certainly never missed an opportunity to skewer Democrats and Liberals in general and Jimmy Carter in particular.

Speaking of the man from Plains, he has some kind words as well:

“This is a sad day for our country,” Carter said before teaching Sunday school at his church, Maranatha Baptist Church, in his hometown of Plains. “I probably know as well as anybody what a formidable communicator and campaigner that President Reagan was. It was because of him that I was retired from my last job.”

Carter normally issues statements through the Carter Center in Atlanta, but as of Sunday the Center had not released any response. Carter told a handful of reporters gathered at the church Sunday that he would make no formal comment or answer questions after the service.

But he told about 300 people gathered for his Sunday school class that he and his wife, Rosalynn, had been close to Reagan’s widow, Nancy, in recent years, while Nancy Reagan comforted her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband. He did not elaborate.

I didn’t realize that the Carter and Reagan families were in touch, although I shouldn’t be surprised. Terminal illnesses have the effect of putting things in perspective for people, and the Carters and Reagans are fundamentally decent folks. Plus, the presidency is a small fraternity, indeed. The photos of former presidents Bush and Clinton, bitter rivals, enjoying cameraderie at the WWII Memorial dedication demonstrates that amazingly well.

SwissInfo also has a round-up of world leader reaction:

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

“This is a sad hour in the life of America. A great American life has come to an end. Ronald Reagan won America’s respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness. He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save.

“During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self-doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny.”

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR

“At home his vision and leadership restored national self-confidence and brought some significant changes to U.S. politics, while abroad the negotiation of arms control agreements in his second term and his statesman-like pursuit of more stable relations with the Soviet Union helped bring about the end of the Cold War.”

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH

“Ronnie stayed with his principles, which is very important, and that proved to be a strong leader for what he believed. But secondly there was the human qualities of decency and kindness, a wonderful sense of humour. All of these things added up to the fact that even if he disagreed with a person, that person would not become a political enemy, he conducted himself in a very civil manner.”

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON AND SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, who called Reagan “a true American original”.

“Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere.”

FORMER PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER

“He will be missed, not only by those who knew him and not only by the nation that he served so proudly and loved so deeply, but also by millions of men and women who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued.

“Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty, and he did it without a shot being fired.”

FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

“I view Reagan as a great president,” said Gorbachev, adding that his dialogue with Reagan “kick-started the process which ultimately put an end to the Cold War”.

“I do not know how other statesmen would act in his place at the time. Reagan, who was considered ultra-conservative, dared those steps and that was his strength.”

POPE JOHN PAUL II

“The pope received the news of President Reagan’s death with sadness,” said Vatican chief spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

“Two days ago when he met President Bush at the Vatican, the pope sent a warm of message of best wishes to Mrs Reagan, knowing that her husband was very sick.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRAC

“A great statesman who through the strength of his convictions and his commitment to democracy will leave a deep mark in history.”

FORMER JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER YASUHIRO NAKASONE

“He was a great president who led the Cold War against communism to the victory of freedom and democracy. We attended five summits together and he guided them to success with his leadership and tactful jokes,” Nakasone told Kyodo news agency.

FORMER GERMAN CHANCELLOR HELMUT KOHL, who stood with Reagan as he made a historic Cold War appeal at the Berlin Wall.

“His consistent championing of freedom contributed decisively to overcoming the division of Europe and Germany. We Germans have much to thank Ronald Reagan for.”

ACTING AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER JOHN ANDERSON:

Anderson said former U.S. President Harry Truman created the framework for the overthrow of communism during the 1940s and Reagan completed the mission Truman began.

“They wrote Truman off as a little haberdasher from Missouri and they wrote Reagan off as a B-grade actor, but in reality both have done a huge amount to lock in the freedoms…(we) take for granted around the world.”

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN KERRY

“Ronald Reagan’s love of country was infectious. Even when he was breaking Democrats hearts, he did so with a smile and in the spirit of honest and open debate.”

LT. COL OLIVER NORTH, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL under Reagan

“Ronald Reagan was easily the greatest president of my lifetime — and he will be regarded as one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had. He brought down the Evil Empire and made the world safer for my children and theirs.”

MIGUEL D’ESCOTO, former foreign minister in Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government of the 1980s, when America was shipping money to the opposition, known as the Contras, called Reagan an “imperialist president”.

“There is not the least doubt that President Reagan did Nicaragua much harm, caused many deaths. He may not have had much time or inclination to regret the damage he did, but regardless of that we ask God to take pity on his soul.”

ADOLFO CALERO, former member of the U.S.-backed Contra rebel leadership

“After Vietnam, the United States was crestfallen, and he raised the spirits of the North Americans, he made them believe in their country, made them believe in themselves. For me his chief legacy is the tenacity with which he faced the world problem of communism, he beat it…and freed a great number of countries from the communist yoke.”

FORMER SOLIDARITY LEADER AND POLISH PRESIDENT LECH WALESA

“When I heard of President Reagan’s death, as a Christian I prayed for him. As a politician I recalled the important role he had played in the overthrow of world communism.

“Somewhere at the turn of the 1980s a number of politicians and others at different points on the globe began moving towards a single goal: the overthrow of the murderous communist system that had the blood of 200 million people on its hands. Reagan was one of the world leaders who made a major contribution to communism’s collapse.”

JAPAN’S PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI

“The foundation of the Japan-U.S. alliance that now serves as a driving force to solve international issues with other countries was built during President Reagan’s era.

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT ROH MOO-HYUN

“He made great efforts to overcome the Cold War. In particular, it will be highly evaluated that he made so many achievements for peace and stabilisation in the Korean peninsula and helped bolster the alliance between South Korea and the United States. South Koreans will remember that.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER PAUL MARTIN

“His wit, warmth and unique capacity to communicate helped to make him one of the most influential figures in the second half of the 20th century.”

As an aside, if anyone had told me ten years ago that President Reagan and Pope John Paul II would have still been alive Saturday, I’d have been shocked, and that JPII outlived Reagan is simply remarkable. Both were old men suffering with debilitating illnesses even then. And both took an assassin’s bullet when I was in high school. The two men, along with Lech Walesa and Margaret Thatcher, were instrumental in bringing down Soviet Communism. They didn’t do it alone, but it wouldn’t have happened nearly as quickly without their leadership.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

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