Another day, another hit piece on Walker, this time from Philip Rucker of the Washington Post. (Link safe; goes to Hot Air; I’m not rewarding attack articles with extra traffic):
Walker responded by ticking through his recent itinerary of face time with foreign policy luminaries: a breakfast with Henry Kissinger, a huddle with George P. Shultz and tutorials at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution.
But then Walker suggested that didn’t much matter.
“I think foreign policy is something that’s not just about having a PhD or talking to PhD’s,” he said. “It’s about leadership.”
Walker contended that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was then-President Ronald Reagan’s move to bust a 1981 strike of air traffic controllers, firing some 11,000 of them.
“It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” Walker said. America’s allies and foes alike became convinced that Reagan was serious enough to take action and that “we weren’t to be messed with,” he said.
According to Politico, Rucker was the guy who whined, “What about your gaaaaaaaffffffes!!!!!!” to Mitt Romney in 2012; but what about Rucker’s gaffes, specifically, his lack of knowledge of history? Specifically, history that happened likely before the young Democrat operative with a byline was even born. Rucker’s article is headlined “Scott Walker calls Reagan’s bust of air traffic controller strike ‘most significant foreign policy decision,’” but that’s not a bad summation of how those events played out.
Return with us now to the early 1980s. In his 2009 book The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989, Steve Hayward of Power Line wrote:
Smashing the air traffic controllers union has loomed large in populist lore ever since as a “signal” to private sector management that it was now okay to squeeze unions, but this is too simple. (If Reagan had really wanted to send an anti-union message, he would have proposed privatizing air traffic control.) Generally polls showed that public esteem for organized labor was at an all-time low by the time of PATCO’s ill-considered gambit. Labor was getting the message. A Wall Street Journal headline a month later told the story: “Economic Gloom Cuts Labor Union Demands for Big 1982 Contracts.” Fed chairman Paul Volcker later said that Reagan’s firing of the PATCO strikers was the single most important anti-inflationary step Reagan took.
There was one unanticipated audience that paid close attention to Reagan’s manhandling of the strike: the Soviet Politburo. Since taking office the administration had been looking for an opportunity to demonstrate in some concrete ways its toughness toward the Soviet Union. As is often the case, the most effective opportunity came in an unexpected way and from an unlooked-for place. The White House realized it had gotten Moscow’s attention when the Soviet news agency TASS decried Reagan’s “brutal repression” of the air traffic controllers.
For the American news media, Reagan’s handling of the strike became the opening for a new line of criticism. During the budget fight, the dominant line of criticism was that while Reagan’s policies might be cruel and uncaring, he himself was a kindly man. Having wondered whether Reagan was too “nice,” Haynes Johnson now wrote: “A glimmer of a harsher Reagan emerges…. For the first time as president, he has displayed another, less attractive side. Firmness is fine in a president; indeed, it is desirable. But something else came through last week—a harsh, unyielding, almost vengeful and mean-spirited air of crushing opponents. It makes you wonder how he will respond if faced with a direct, and dangerous, foreign challenge, one requiring the most delicate and skillful combination of strength and diplomacy.”
Gee, ask Secretary Gorbachev how that worked out.
In her 2003 book about Reagan, Peggy Noonan quoted the Gipper’s Secretary of State George Schultz, who called it:
“One of the most fortuitous foreign relations moves he ever made”. It was in no way a popular move with the American public but it showed European heads of state and diplomatic personnel that he was tough and meant what he said.
Yesterday, Noonan added at the Wall Street Journal:
What Reagan did not speak about was an aspect of the story that had big foreign-policy implications.
Air traffic controllers in effect controlled the skies, and American AWACS planes were patrolling those skies every day. Drew Lewis: “The issue was not only that it was an illegal strike. . . . It was also that a strike had real national-security implications—the AWACS couldn’t have gone up.” It is likely that even though the public and the press didn’t fully know of this aspect of the strike’s effects, the heads of the union did. That’s why they thought Reagan would back down. “This hasn’t come up,” said Lewis, “but the Soviets and others in the world understood the implications of the strike.”
Foreign governments, from friends and allies to adversaries and competitors, saw that the new president could make tough decisions, pay the price, and win the battle. The Soviets watched like everybody else. They observed how the new president handled a national-security challenge. They saw that his rhetorical toughness would be echoed in tough actions. They hadn’t known that until this point. They knew it now.
However, I’m not at all surprised that the newspaper whose then-subsidiary magazine declared “We Are Socialists Now” upon Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009 would not be all that familiar with the history of the final years of the Cold War.
And speaking of Reagan:
The pile continues to grow.
Update: “Arrogant Media Elites Mock Middle America,” Salena Zito writes today at Real Clear Politics:
As consumers of news, most Americans want an honest look at the potential presidential candidates and where they stand on serious issues.
Reporters mock those news-consumers when they mock candidates who aren’t like the reporters themselves — but who are very much like normal Americans.
It is unforgivably arrogant for anyone in the media to think that the rest of the country thinks like they do.
“A reporter’s job is to report the news, not to drive it or to create it. A reporter’s audience is not just an echo chamber, not just D.C. friends, rivals, partisans and followers on social media. (Remember: Only 8 percent of Americans get their news through Twitter.),” Zito writes.
Don’t think of the DC media as reporters, as Glenn Reynolds recently noted:
The press sees itself first and foremost as political allies of Democrat-dominated institutions, which most emphatically includes universities, a major source of funding, foot-soldiers, and ideological suport for Democrats. When outsiders want information that might hurt Democrat-dominated institutions — see, e.g., ClimateGate — they are always portrayed by the press as partisans, malcontents, and evil. That is because the press today functions largely as a collection of Democratic operatives with bylines.
And the successful pushback against government unions by Walker — like Reagan before him — explains much of the subtext driving Rucker’s ahistoric ruckus.