His personal aid, Martin Anderson called him ‘warmly ruthless’, many of his children and friends often spoke how he maintained an aloofness that bordered the neurotic. Studying Reagan over the years I have come to admire Lord Acton’s saying that rarely if ever are great men good.
Robert McFarlane has, in my view, the best synoptic understanding of Reagan. Reagan embodied the finest American values: a deep sense of morality, tolerance for risk, respect for personal obligation and compassion for those less fortunate. Perhaps most of all Reagan had a combination of integrity and courage. You cannot accomplish much in life without disciple and courage. Reagan had them in spades.
Finally, perhaps his most significant interpersonal skill was his ability to inspire confidence and earn public support, especially over difficult issues. Reagan’s ability to wean American political institutions off MADD (mutually assured destruction) Doctrine and his deft handling of the Soviet negotiating team in Iceland is unrivaled.
So what did Reagan do that we continually fail to do today? He took his adversaries very seriously.
Reagan understood Lenin very well: “We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class and war. Everything is moral that is necesary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”
Do we understand the Mullah’s in Teheran, the naro-terrorists throughout South America or the Communists in Beijing? My guess is that we don’t.
The biggest misconception about Reagan is that he was inevitable. This is a lie.
What burned Gorbachev the most was to acknowledge how it felt to be outfoxed not by a clever man, but a good one.