During the past week I've read a lot of "analysis" about the life and career of Ronald Reagan. Much of it done in the name of "demythologizing" the man: looking for the "true" Reagan, as it were. Most of it having to do with his actual record on taxes and the size of government (something that he was famously on record for wanting to dramatically reduce).
Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect. I don't know of any President that was (even George Washington gets demerits in my book for how he handled the Whiskey Rebellion). But, there is one thing, if nothing else, that will always make me consider Reagan to be the greatest President during my lifetime...
President Ronald Reagan destroyed the Soviet Union without firing a single shot or losing one life in combat on either side of the Cold War.
It didn't see fruition until the year after he left office. But it was the policies that Reagan began during his term that led to Russian communism bankrupting itself to the point that it could no longer be sustainable. Communism was going to fail regardless (it'll always look good on paper but in practice, well...). But its slow descent into ruin would have on its own most likely given the Soviet government enough desperation to conquer more territory... at terrible cost.
What happened to accelerate the Soviet Union's collapse? Three words: Strategic Defense Initiative. Yeah, the so-called "Star Wars" scheme. I'll never believe that Reagan seriously thought it was ever going to work. But the sheer idea of SDI was enough to drive the Soviet economy - already stretched thin 'cuz of its overwhelming military budget - to even worse levels of fiscal stress.
That might be the greatest stroke of statesmanship genius in any living memory. Certainly one of the finest in American history.
And if I need any more reason to think so highly of Reagan, it is this: sitting on a shelf just above my computer monitor, is a sizable chunk of the Berlin Wall. The wall that was going to last forever. The most tangible symbol of the Cold War. I'm looking at that stone-sized fragment of the wall even now: smeared in green and blue graffiti.
"Tear down this wall!", indeed.
So on this day, The Knight Shift raises a toast in memory of Ronald Reagan: All American.