A week-long Mexican riviera cruise in honor of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary gave me a chance to re-connect not only with my extended family but also with two of my favorite political leaders — Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan — as I was able to read Paul Johnson’s short new biography “Churchill” and Craig Shirley’s much longer account of the 1980 presidential election: “Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America.”
Paul Johnson is an outstanding historian and has done an excellent job sketching Churchill’s life in a readable presentation that is especially instructive for young adults. His summary of lessons that can be drawn from Churchill’s life is tremendous. Here is my summary of his summary: — (1) aim high, (2) work hard, (3) don’t be discouraged by adversity or failure or mistakes, (4) don’t get caught up in petty pursuits like blame-shifting or revenge, and (5) laugh a lot and have fun along the way.
Having lived through the Age of Reagan and read many Reagan biographies — (a high school senior, the 1980 campaign is the first campaign I followed closely) — I still learned a bunch, and was reminded again of how politics don’t change much and that history often repeats itself.
While Reagan clearly believed it was his destiny to occupy the Oval Office and come to America’s rescue, the blow-by-blow account of the ups and downs of the 1980 campaign makes it clear that the outcome of that election was not pre-ordained. Although it turned into a blowout, President Carter still led in most polls until the final week of the campaign.
The parallels between our current Republican wilderness period and the late 1970s wilderness are hard to miss. Having taken disappointment with Republican failures as a liberal mandate, Democrats are overreaching in the same way they did in the late 1970s. Once again, they are reminding the American people that big government not only can’t solve our problems, it often IS the problem. The cost of that big government is once again devastating our economy and running up huge deficits. At the same time, the Obama impotence in responding to belligerence from Al Qaeda, North Korea, Russia and Iran is eerily reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s pathetic response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s taking of American hostages.
Once again, the American people are being reminded of their skepticism about big government and their optimism about their own ability to work hard, create jobs and grow the economy.
At the same time, the American people are remembering that peace comes through military strength and a willingness to confront the enemies of liberty and the bullies and tyrants of the world.
The way is being prepared for a return to leadership for those who unapologetically advance common sense conservative principles.

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