Monday, June 07, 2004

"You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you'd better."
-Stephen Vincent Benet on the death of his friend Scott Fitzgerald. Quoted by Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan.

I feel I should say something about Ronald Reagan. After all, the very first vote I ever cast in any election was for him. (The second was for George Murphy for senator on the same ballot paper.) The year was 1970 and Reagan was running not for president but for his second term as governor of California. In 1966 when he first ran I was not yet 21, as you had to be in order to vote in those far off days. These days you can vote in California if you are 18. You may not be a citizen, legally here, or even alive (see Bob Dornan for further details) but you still have to be at least 18 years of age. By 1970 I could vote for Ronald Reagan and did.

I think he was probably the last living political hero that I have had. At least the last one to actually win anything. Politicians I can support with all my heart don’t come along that often and when they do they tend to be an acquired taste with a discrete following. But Ronnie swept all before him and more than made up for the Goldwater debacle and the Nixon kamikaze administration.

There is so much on the web on his life and career at all the usual news sites, and all the unusual ones too, that they don’t need repeating here.

The blogosphere is awash with tributes. There are some good ones here, here, here, and here. And one more here, in which you should especially note this: "We have missed his counsel in the past dozen years; had he lived, functionally, during the 1990's who knows whether things might not have gone differently; he understood more than most know."

And from Peggy Noonan, who together with Ronnie, put together some of the best political prose in the last century. And now he has left us. We will talk the next 10 days about who he was and what he did. It's not hard to imagine him now in a place where his powers have been returned to him and he's himself again--sweet-hearted, tough, funny, optimistic and very brave. You imagine him snapping one of those little salutes as he turns to say goodbye. Today I imagine saluting right back. Do you? We should do it the day he's buried, or when he lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda. We should say, "Good on you, Dutch." Thanks from a grateful country.

[Addendum: Just one more memorial site, this time from the Holy Whapping on the man who played Notre Dame's own "Gipper" in 1940.]