In 1976, I stood beside my father in Kansas City after he lost the Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford. I asked him why he wanted to be president of the United States.
His answer was a preview of the policies he would pursue when he finally won the presidency, recalling that for far too long he had watched American presidents inevitably cave in to the Soviets in every agreement reached with them. He said that he wanted to be the first president to say “NYET!” to their demands, loudly and clearly.
He got his chance in 1986 in Iceland, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he would only sign on to the original START agreement if my father would give up the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or, as the left-wing media called it, “Star Wars.”
My father’s answer was brief and to the point. He said “NYET!” and the rest is history.
I believe I was only person that knew what my father would say to Gorbachev, and I’ve never forgotten it.
At the time, the State Department and most of my father’s inner circle wanted him to go ahead and give in to Gorbachev and sign the agreement despite his misgivings, just as you hear from the striped-pants guys in Foggy Bottom today.
If my father had listened to the namby-pamby wing at State back in 1986, the chances are the Cold War would still be on and the Berlin Wall would still be standing.
A year ago, on Nov. 11, 2009, I was a guest of the Polish president as his proud nation celebrated 20 years of freedom, thanks largely to my father, Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
His chief of staff, one of the members of the Polish government later killed in a horrific plane crash, asked me why President Obama took away their missile defense. Later, I would be asked the same question by the Czech Ambassador to Poland.
Their only hope of continuing to be free and safe is the United States of America, but it appears that Barack Obama is once again throwing our friends under the bus simply to make nice with Russia and Putin by pushing a new START treaty.
My father stuck to his guns, often against the vigorous opposition from some members of his staff and the striped-pants crowd over at the Department of State.
He once famously said his rule in dealing with the Soviets was always to “trust but verify,” and he stuck to that policy, and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. But we then had the kind of real leadership sadly lacking today, and I don’t trust Obama or Putin or Medvedev.
You might also remember that State was against the speech my father gave at the Berlin Wall calling on Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
It had the Soviets quivering, and the people of East Germany hopeful that their long ordeal under the Soviets might soon be over.
The United States doesn’t need a new START.
(Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.)