Taking Reagan’s name in vain

In today’s WSJ, there’s an op-ed from Dianne Feinstein, urging Obama, when president, to shut down America’s nuclear arsenal.  To make her point, she opens with an anecdote about Ronald Reagan:

When Barack Obama becomes America’s 44th president on Jan. 20, he should embrace the vision of a predecessor who declared: “We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

That president was Ronald Reagan, and he expressed this ambitious vision in his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, 1985. It was a remarkable statement from a president who had deployed tactical nuclear missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet Union’s fearsome SS-20 missile fleet.

What’s so funny (and, I must say, offensived), about the above quoted passage is that Feinstein finds Reagan’s remarks and his actions incongruous, rather than completely coherent and logical.

In fact, Reagan understood completely that Isaiah’s vision of a world in which swords are beaten into plowshares, so that none shall know war anymore (Isaiah 2:4), is a world in which good (which, in Biblical terms, means ethical justice) first defeats evil, making weapons unnecessary.  Neither Reagan nor Isaiah contemplated a world in which idiots emblazoned with peace symbols roll over on their backs, like dogs exposing their bellies to jackals, in the vain hope that the jackals won’t attack.

To emphasize this incredibly important point — which is that peace follows moral (not brutal) strength, it does not precede it — let me quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible, which I finished yesterday, after several days of extremely enjoyable and enlightening reading:

Isaiah’s hopes for a peaceful world do not reflect, as is commonly assumed, a pacifistic worldview.  Unlike the twentieth-century Mahatma Gandhi, whose pacifism motivated him to advise the British army and people to stop fighting the Nazis [and I'll quote below Gandhi's insane words, which Telushkin includes in a footnote here], Isaiah was much too obsessed with stopping injustice to believe that it was preferable for evil people to triumph without armed resistance.  What the prophet hoped for was a world in which good itself triumphed, so that there would be no Hitlers, Nazis, or others who wished to destroy good people.  (p. 286, hardbook edition.)

It really doesn’t take a genius or prophet like Isaiah to understand that, when good people put down their arms in the face of evil, all you end up with is a whole bunch of dead good people.  Gandhi, interestingly, understood that this was precisely what would happen, but was okay with it.  Thus, in the footnote referenced above, Telushkin has this to say about Gandhi’s world view:

At a time when Nazi Germany seemed poised to invade England, Gandhi offered the British the following advice:  “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity.  You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. . . .   If these gentlement [a word Gandhi apparently used without irony] choose to occupy your homes you will vacate them.  If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them”  (Non-Violence in Peace and War.)

Some call Gandhi great.  If that’s an example of his thinking, I can only say that I disagree with them strongly.  That type of thinking is idiotic.  Only a man lacking in any moral principles or decency whatsoever would advocate that approach.  (And somehow I just can’t make myself consider separate from this manifest stupidity the fact that Gandhi was deeply opposed to the creation of Israel.)

And yet here we have Dianne Feinstein — who is now, in the Pelosi/Obama era, a very, very powerful Senator — espousing precisely the same type of advice:  We should disarm ourselves so that those who have vowed to kill us can pursue their agenda.  She seems to believe, in the fatuous way typical of “peaceniks,” that if we lead by example the bad guys will just smile sweetly, lay down their arms too, and retreat to their own borders.  Gandhi at least had the decency to acknowledge that his ideas about disarmament and nonresistance brought nothing but the stench of death in their wake.  Feinstein is either too dim or too dishonest to articulate the logical result of her ideas.

So I say again that Feinstein took Reagan’s name in vain when she purported to advance him as a proponent of unilateral nuclear disarmament.  In fact, Reagan was anything but.  He fully understood that disarmament happens after justice triumphs, not before.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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Comments

  1. says

    Ronald Wilson Reagan was a wise and thoughtful man who had read and spoken and discussed widely, with people from all points of the political compass. He spent many years with all sorts of folks; trying out various ideas, educating himself, and honing his political philosophy. He operated from principles that he had developed and solidified over time, and this explains his ability to cheerfully stand firm in the face of fierce political opposition.

    Dianne Feinstein has done nothing similar; she appears to be operating from a base of her feelings about this or that subject – if it makes her feel good, or (perhaps more importantly) makes her constituents feel good, then she’s for (or against) it. She does not appear to consult the nation’s best interests, or the Constitution, or anything other than her own personal (pecuniary, emotional, or electoral) well-being, when she makes decisions.

    She is unfit to serve as Senator, and unfit to shine Reagan’s shoes!

    G-d, I miss that man……

  2. Tiresias says

    Some call Gandhi great – I never did. (And haven’t in the past right here a couple of times. I’m pleased you elucidated why.)

    Feinstein’s been a jackass her entire adult life – except when she’s been busy being an out-and-out crook and steering government busines to her husband’s companies. I have often wondered why California continues to inflict her on the rest of us. Thanks, guys!

    It doesn’t take a genius or a prophet to understand Isaiah’s point, but whatever it does take apparently remains above Feinstein’s pay grade.

  3. Charles Martel says

    Gandhi was a self-regarding little asshole, the perfect example of what happens to a savior who isn’t divine — he starts taking his press seriously.

  4. Ellen says

    Read Ronald Reagan’s diaries. I’ve just finished them and now I admire him more than ever. He was a very thoughtful man and his opinions were formed by what he knew, not just by his feeeeeelings.

    I agree, Diane Feinstein can be irritating, but she is wise as a solon compared to Barbara Boxer. God help us all.

  5. pst314 says

    “Gandhi was a self-regarding little asshole, the perfect example of what happens to a savior who isn’t divine — he starts taking his press seriously.”

    No argument from me. And yet when I was in grade school, back in the early 60′s, we were taught to regard him as virtually a divine source of morality. I think that was one element in a large constellation of ways in which my generation was indoctrinated to believe foolish and harmful things.

  6. Danny Lemieux says

    Wow – David Foster – what a link! Should be required reading in all K-through-12 schools.

    The big battle developing in Congress may be between the idealist California and the pragmatist (“where’s mine?”) Illinois wings of the Democrat Party. We will get a replay of either the Clinton era or the Carter era. Either way, I believe that we are in deep, deep doo-doo.

    However, we conservatives lose people when we keep referring back to Reagan. Sadly, for most voters, Reagan is ancient history hearkening to different times (I disagree with this, of course). We need to focus our energies on finding and electing the next Reagan before it is too late.

  7. Ymarsakar says

    And yet when I was in grade school, back in the early 60’s, we were taught to regard him as virtually a divine source of morality.

    You have to give peace a chance, Pst. If only because it makes for good print when the party line says to oppose a certain war every once in awhile.

    except when she’s been busy being an out-and-out crook and steering government busines to her husband’s companies. I have often wondered why California continues to inflict her on the rest of us.

    The fact that she siphons funds to nurture her power base and to acquire more influence is exactly why California continues to re-elect her. 1. because their votes have been bought and 2. because her power is too far reaching for her to be toppled by competitors.

  8. Ymarsakar says

    The resulting savings in taxes would be used to benefit the poor and needy.

    It is what is known as the “Peace Dividend”.

    David Weber’s novel “War of Honor” clearly spells out just exactly how this Peace Dividend business works.

  9. Ymarsakar says

    People like Dianne Feinstein, because of her own personal success with political compromise and domestic politics, tends to see foreign matters in the same light. She believes that if someone like her can craft deals and make it successful here in America, then how hard would it be to craft deals with Amanie in Iran? Not hard at all, given the power of the US, or so thinks Feinstein. And there are many people who think exactly like her: Who think that because of their own personal charisma, power base, and successful political run in America (or Chicago) demonstrates that they will be equally adept and skilled talking and making deals with foreign leaders. If they could so accurately predict political trends and analyze personalities in America, surely they could translate this skillset to dictators and serious problems on the international stage. All it would take is more talk and more diplomacy, run by their own specially chosen representatives, of course.

    Because of this same consideration (or tunnel vision), people like Feinstein will never truly appreciate the differences on the world stage as compared to pure domestic matters here in the US. The rules aren’t the same and even if they were, Feinstein would be too concerned with the domestic impact of her policies to see the true foreign policy consequences. And even if she did see the potential impact, she wouldn’t care about them, for the domestic front would be far more important to her power base.

    As one example, try to guess one very critical criteria that went into convincing Congress members to vote to cut off funding for South Vietnam. It wasn’t concern for lives lost. It wasn’t concern for the best use of tax payer money. It wasn’t an appreciable attempt to manipulate foreign policy dynamics to better benefit a certain platform or nation or even the importance of Communist ideology. No, it was the fact that the funds being “wasted” on South Vietnam could be better used for domestic American factions in order to fund vote buying schemes and to pad the pork barrel projects of Congressional allies in the Democrat Party: utilizing funds that could be better utilized for the good of their loyalists.

    That was what people died for and the Democrats see nothing inappropriate in that exchange. They sleep perfectly well at night.

    It really doesn’t take a genius or prophet like Isaiah to understand that, when good people put down their arms in the face of evil, all you end up with is a whole bunch of dead good people.

    So long as the dead bodies aren’t anybody Feinstein cares about, Book, she has more important things to consider. The greater good and all that. You know, Book.

  10. Ymarsakar says

    The vote against Iowa by the San Francisco city supervisors wasn’t even close: 8 to 3. “If I was going to commit any kind of money in recognition of war, then it should be toward peace, given what our war is in Iraq right now,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

    You know that the correct and accurate translation of “toward peace” simply means “towards my pork barrel projects that will be able to buy me enough votes so that I can be perpetually re-elected”.

    Thus, what the “war… in Iraq right now” is doing is drawing funds away from Ross Mirkarimi’s pot. Ross needs a Peace Dividend. Everybody should know what a Peace Dividend is.

  11. Gringo says

    It is amusing to have Feinstein invoke Ronald Reagan, because I doubt that as a San Francisco Democrat she had a single good word to say about Reagan in the 20+ years he was in the political arena.

  12. Ymarsakar says

    It is amusing to have Feinstein invoke Ronald Reagan, because I doubt that as a San Francisco Democrat she had a single good word to say about Reagan in the 20+ years he was in the political arena.

    But if the death of your political rival and his good reputation allows you to butter up your own political power base, why not use it? It would be a delicious irony, no.

  13. Ymarsakar says

    on December 23rd Hamas legislators voted to introduce Sharia — Islamic law — to the Palestinian Territories, including crucifixion.

    While I think crucifixion is an appropriate punishment for Palestinians, because I know the exact details of crucifixion as well as some of its more unique artistic modifications, I don’t think the Palestinians have either the imagination or the historical framework to put crucifixion back into modern day punishment as it deserves.

    You can count on the Arabs to pock up anything, of course, but they were only ever really good at torture and pain because the Soviets taught them everything they knew. What they can come up on their own… is not something I’d place much faith in.

    I just don’t believe mothers want their children to grow up to be suicide bombers. I think the mothers want their children to grow up to go to university.

    Given that many suicide bombers are university graduates, those are not incompatible goals you know.

  14. pacificus says

    Kudos, Book, on wading into Isaiah, whose vision of the world to come is always worth keeping in sight.

    It’s worth asking how the ancient Hebrews would have been dealing with an enemy like Hamas. Oh wait–that question answers itself out of the text of the Bible; there is no lying down with the lion, leapard, or wolf until, as you point out, the necessity for war is no more. Liberals are always wanting us to lie down first, supine and belly up. The modern day Israelis have drunk too deeply from this well, and their current predicament is the result. I am hoping this iteration of the “cycle of violence” (idiotic term, no?) will have a different outcome, one harking back to when Israel knew how to be victorious and tell the Euro weenies to shove it.

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