Appointed by President Reagan to serve as a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution
Ronald Reagan’s three greatest accomplishments were winning the Cold War (without firing a shot, as Margaret Thatcher said), defining conservatism as the belief that big government is the problem not the solution, and convincing all of us that it’s morning in America.
Reagan’s campaign to win the Cold War began with his battle at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, where he and Senator Jesse Helms waged a Platform battle demanding a “morality in foreign policy” plank that directly attacked the Kissinger-Ford foreign policies. It criticized détente with the Soviet Union, unilateral concessions on nuclear testing, the signing of “secret agreements” to give away the Panama Canal, and Ford’s snub of Solzhenitsyn.
The 1976 Platform battle enabled an exciting new grassroots conservative movement to take shape. Reagan bought a half-hour of television time on March 31, 1976, raising what the media labeled “the Kissinger issue.” He quoted Henry Kissinger as telling Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, “The day of the United States is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union. My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available.” Reagan correctly identified Kissinger’s worldview as the policy of surrendering U.S. strategic superiority of the Soviet Union, missile by missile, bomber by bomber, submarine by submarine. Reagan and his followers rejected this as unacceptable.
Reagan narrowly lost the Republican nomination in 1976 to Gerald Ford, who then was defeated by Jimmy Carter. But the pro-American foreign policy which Reagan had articulated survived, and it motivated his followers to build their strength for the 1980 presidential nomination.
Of the many times I met with Ronald Reagan, I count as the most important my visit with him on March 28, 1980, in his Los Angeles office. I directly asked him, “You did promise, didn’t you, that you would not reappoint Henry Kissinger or give him any role in making our policy toward the Soviet Union?” Reagan replied, “That’s right; I did.”
Reagan kept his word to me and to America, both in the backroom negotiations during the 1980 Convention and throughout his two terms in the White House. Reagan reversed the Kissinger policy of accepting second-place to the Soviet Union and adopted the goal of victory over Soviet Communism.