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John McCain has a list of books for Memorial Day reading at OpinionJournal.
As George Bush's popularity ratings plummet, I am reminded that in a democracy sometimes strong leadership is necessary to save the people from themselves.

For reasons that I will explain later, I recently read Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism, 2nd edition, by Jules Tygiel, edited by Mark C. Carnes for the LIBRARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY series, Pearson Longman, 2006.

The following passage struck me.

Detailing Reagan's woes during his first two years in office, Tygiel wrote:

Meanwhile, a grass roots Nuclear Freeze Movement, calling for an end to the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons, had taken shape in Europe and the United States. Despite Reagan warnings that a freeze posed a threat to national security, 70 percent of Americans supported the concept.

For the Record: Tygiel omits "unilateral" in his description of the Nuclear Freeze Movement. Remember, the movement asked that the Americans shut down a crucial element of our nuclear deterrent on the assumption that this sign of good faith would convince the Soviets that we meant them no harm and they would, in turn, reciprocate with love and good will.

70 Percent? I am not clear how Tygiel obtained that particular number; it sounds high, but I imagine that there was actually some poll on some day from some organization during the height of the frenzy that reflected that sentiment.

Regardless, it is a fact that the vast majority of Democratic politicians back in the early 1980s, sensing (expecting, hoping for) a popular wave of skepticism toward Reagan's hawkish posture, embraced the movement as a cudgel with which to beat the administration. Morton Kondracke (and other pundits) have offered this analogy already, warning Democrats not to repeat the "nuclear freeze" mistake: "Democrats vied with each other to claim first authorship of the...idea...which was utterly discredited when then-President Ronald Reagan succeeded in winning a Soviet stand-down..." ( the Kondracke piece in its entirety here).

My real point: Perhaps as much as 70 percent of America, in a frenzy of confusion, partisanship and unfriendly media coverage, were willing to throw in the towel on the Cold War, after 35 years of effort, even as we were literally on the verge of one of the most magnificently noble victories in the history of our nation.

Tygiel again: Yet, Reagan, ever the optimist, seemed unfazed. He retained faith in what, to many people, increasingly seemed yet another failed presidency. All will turn out well, he urged Americans, if we simply "stay the course."

The lesson: 28-percent approval be damned. Do the right thing!

We are told that the President takes great solace in the experiences of Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln. Add Reagan to your list, Mr. President.

Housekeeping note: I am working on a longer review (for this blog) of the brief Reagan biography, as a way of addressing a few of the broader questions and contradictions concerning Reagan, the press and the academy.
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Groups all over this nation have and will gather to offer prayers for our nation. In out town we had a prayer breakfast this morning in a church basement, and will have a prayer gathering in a park at noon.

Lot's of claims will be made today that America is (or was) a Christian nation. My own view (brag alert, informed by PhD studies and scholarship) is that the situation is complicated. Was America founded as a Christian Nation? To answer with a simple yes, or a simple no, is to be wrong, I think.

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