When Ronald Reagan set out to bring down the Soviet Union, he built up America’s nuclear arsenal while deploying short-range nuclear warheads in Europe and undertaking a widely derided missile defense program. Reagan’s build-up took place over the massive worldwide opposition of the left, much of it orchestrated by the Soviet Union under the auspices of one or another of its “peace offensives.”
Reagan’s efforts induced a kind of mass hysteria. ABC brought us The Day After, the documentary-style film portraying a fictional nuclear war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalated into a full-scale exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. The film graphically displayed the effects of the war on Lawrence, Kansas. Nuclear war was a bitch, of course, and the film served as a timely warning against the nightmare toward which Reagan’s policies would deliver us.
in Useful Idiots Mona Charen also recalls that public television brought us Testament (1983), “a moving film about a family in Washington State slowly dying of radiation poisoning after a nuclear war.” Not to be outdone, Charen adds, NBC “broadcast its own scaremongering documentary called Facing Up To the Bomb (1982).”
In 1983 protesters formed a 14-mile anti-nuclear “human chain” in Berkshire, England. When Reagan visited London for an economic summit the following year, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament turned out somewhere between 80,000 (police count) and 200,000 (CND count) protesters marching from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square to greet him. Reagan modestly allowed that he didn’t “take credit for all of the demonstrators being there for me…”
Nowhere was the hysteria greater than on college campuses. It manifested itself in intense hostility to the military, to national defense and security, and to every aspect of the Reagan defense build-up. The college crowd hated Reagan’s opposition to Communism, wherever applied.
On July 5 the New York Times reported that in 1983, as a Columbia undergraduate, Barack Obama was among the useful idiots expressing high-minded disparagement of Reagan’s defense policies. That’s not exactly how the Times puts it, because reporters William Broad and David Sanger fail to supply the missing historical context that Charen’s book provides, and perhaps because the Times itself figures prominently among the useful idiots chronicled by Charen.
The Times article reports on Obama’s 1983 article “Breaking the war mentality.” The Times notes that in the article Obama railed against discussions of “first-versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.
The Times chooses to portray Obama’s 1983 article as the early expression of his continuing pursuit of “a nuclear free world.” While others may hope that Obama has outgrown his youthful radicalism, the Times suggests that he is fulfilling it. Unfortunately, that’s true too.
The death of Senator Kennedy last week elicited many eloquent tributes to Kennedy as the lion of liberalism and the soul of the Democratic Party. Where did Kennedy stand on Reagan’s efforts?
Former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson recalls that Senator Kennedy was something more than a useful idiot. In the heyday of the Soviet Union’s peace offensive, Senator Kennedy appears to have offered his collaboration with Soviet leadership in opposing Reagan’s efforts. Robinson writes:
Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”
Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”
See Robinson’s column for the rest of the story. I add only that the soul of liberalism appears to be immortal. At any rate, it survives Senator Kennedy’s death.
UPDATE: Investor’s Business Daily comments on Senator Kennedy’s proposed joint venture..