Sunday, October 30, 2005

Vision of the Anointed

The title of this post is the same as a book that I am currently reading by one of my favorite authors. The author's name is Thomas Sowell, a brilliant economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University.

Today I read a selection that I was inspired to share, first because of how succinctly it states one of the major themes of the book, and second because of how poignantly it relates to the issue of realigning the Supreme Court with strict originalists. From page 114:

"In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but the total direct knowledge brought to bear through social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group. Moreover, the existing generation's traditions and values distill the experiences of other millions in times past. Yet the anointed seem to conceive the issue as one of the syllogistic reasoning of the past versus the syllogistic reasoning of the present, preferring to believe that improvements in knowledge and reason permit the former to be dismissed."

This disregard for not just the traditions of past, but the actual text and long history of interpretation and enforcement of the text of the US Constitution, in favor of an infinitely malleable application of meaning by a self-anointed intellectual aristocracy is at the heart of the cultural/philosophical/political battle in which the American conservative movement is engaged. And, as evidenced by the recent controversy over President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court Justice, nowhere is this battle more intensely waged than in our judicial system. For in the face of a Republican controlled elected federal government, a non-elected handful of judges have handed a minority radical left in this country victories of their ideological agenda they could never have hoped to achieve in the electoral process for perhaps another generation.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Home schooling

Over the Memorial Day holiday my wife and I visited my oldest friend who pastors a church in Medford, Oregon. I met Steve when I was 13, traveling through his home town of Ashland, Oregon with my evangelist father. Steve and I spent a lot of time together as we were growing up, but lost contact for many years after we each got married and started our families. My sons are grown and live on their own now, but Steve's and Kim's 4 children still live at home with them. Along with the joy of spending time with my dear old friend, it was enlightening to meet his children, all of whom were, or still are home schooled by Steve's wife, Kim.

At 20 Jake is Steve's oldest. He's the music minister and worship leader at the church, plays keyboards and writes all the music for the church's worship services, as well for his own Christian rock band in which he is joined on guitar by his 17 year old sister, Natalie. Steve told me the story of how Jake was recruited by Southern Oregon University just as he turned 15, having just finished high school at 14. He now has his bachelor of arts degree, and is seriously contemplating soon returning to school to study for a master's. Natalie, a fine rock guitarist, is in her second year at the Bible college Steve runs at his church. Geno and John, Steve's younger sons, still study with their mother.

As I was driving back to Portland my wife told me how impressed she was with Steve's children, and how it made her regret not having home schooled our own sons. I couldn't be more proud of my sons, but thinking back on their school experiences--especially that of my oldest son who shares the moodier aspects of my personality--I couldn't help but agree.
My sons' first bad experience began all the way back in first grade and kindergarten. The music teacher at their school, Bryant Elementary in Lake Oswego, was so incompetent and made their music classes so unpleasant, I'm convinced she put off my sons from the study of music at that formative stage in their lives--a particularly bitter pill for me as music is such a meaningful part of my life. They both did exceptionally well with their grades, and never dabbled in self-destructive behavor, but I can't help wondering if we could have spared them from much of the spirit-crushing institutionalized tedium, mediocrity, and politically-correct, witless indoctrination that has become the American public school system.

One of the most striking impressions that both my wife and myself received from Steve's children was that they were completely devoid of the attitude of sullen hostility that seems the default attitude of so many youth. I've read of the impressive statistics about the academic achievements of home schooled children, and Dennis Prager often extolls their virtues on his radio talk show, but the superlative example of Jake, Natalie, Geno, and John are the finest endorsement I've ever encountered.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ownership society

I just finished reading "The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation" by Fox News reporter, Major Garrett. In it he makes a powerful case for how the Republican Congressional members' Contract With America--despite its apparent failure when 4 years later Newt Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House--drastically altered the US political landscape, and in ways that have persisted to the present day. By way of illustrating this, he starts the book by describing John Kerry's appearance in Davenport, Iowa in January of 2004 to kick off his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President by outlining his plan to protect tax cuts for the middle class, one of the touchstones of the Contract With America.

The book offers a fascinating backstage look at Congressional politics and maneuvering, and a compelling catalogue of the transformation in government and society wrought by the "Contract", perhaps the most notable being Welfare reform.

Toward the end of the book he deals with an event that some have seen as the final corruption of the "Republican Revolution": the 2003 passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill. This bill was seen by many conservatives, then and now, as a betrayal of the principles of conservatism, an unnecessary entitlement that swelled an already grossly bloated Medicare budget. The machinations that went into getting this bill passed make for interesting reading, but my point in bringing it up here has to do with a discussion I had about it at the recent meeting of our group.

In the meeting I repeated something told to me by Jeff Grossman, former chairman of the Washington county Republican party of Oregon; namely that the prescription drug bill needed to be explained to the rank and file of the Republican party, many of whom were angry about it. He explained to me that within this entitlement were planted the seeds of the destruction of Medicare. The secret to this is the inclusion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Garrett, in "The Enduring Revolution", explains that the HSAs were not part of the original Senate bill, and that when they were included, Democrats fought it, and finally pulled support for the bill when they couldn't get them removed. As Jeff Grossman explained to me, when people find over time that their best option, the one that gets them the most return for their money, is to start their own Health Savings Account, rather than the myriad of entitlement card plans that are the alternative, they will go with the HSAs in ever greater numbers, and eventually the entitlements will wither from lack of participation.

This theory was challenged in the discussion at the meetup with the assertion that there was "no evidence" that it would work, but in "The Enduring Revolution", Grover Norquist, interviewed concerning the Medicare bill, makes a convincing argument that the HSAs will have the same effect as 401Ks and mutual fund IRAs have had on American society. Those tax shielded investment devices, over the space of a couple of decades since their inception in the late 1970s, have welcomed tens of millions of middle and lower-middle class Americans into inclusion of what had once been disparagingly called the "investment class".

Perhaps the most persuasive argument for the potential success of this strategy, however, is the way Ted Kennedy fought the Medicare bill over the single issue of the HSAs. And this is also most likely why the Democratic party is so intractably opposed to President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security: they recognize that within this design is the likelihood of the eventual death of Social Security. This is a specter  of unspeakable horor to the Dems; it threatens not only their political control over the American populace, but repudiates their vision of a human utopia achieved through government and impugns the high point of their historical influence--the "New Deal". 

The dream of the "Ownership Society" proposed by the Republican Party, embodied in mechanisms such as HSAs, 401Ks, mutual fund IRAs, and privatization of Social Security is removing citizens from the patronage of government oblige and restoring to their own hands the determination of their health care and retirement.  It's why these issues are so hard fought, for it goes to the philosophical heart  of the two parties, the core beliefs that define each group.  Can human reality be redefined through the largesse of government, and the rigid control of the economy; or should government be limited and act only as a facilitator for us to determine our own destiny? I vote for the latter.

Sunday, May 08, 2005 meetup

I am the organizer for a group of readers of, a website that reprints conservative commentary online. We had our meetup for the month of May last evening, and had a guest speaker, Kevin Starrett, the director of Oregon Firearms Federation, a political action committee that lobies for gun owner's rights. Tom Cox, Libertarian cadidate for the Oregon Legislature last election also attended. Both Kevin and Tom spoke to us about political activist techniques, the workings of the legislature, and certain realities of state and national politics. They gave us some invaluable information, for which I am very grateful.

One item that Kevin spoke about I found particularly enlightening. Ever wonder why you never see two lawyers running against each other for a judge's position; why every time you vote for a judge it's just a rubber stamp for an incumbent's re-election? Kevin explained it. First, judges almost always retire 6 months from the end of their term. This requires the state governor to appoint his replacement. When that replacement runs at the end of the former judge's term, it's as an incumbent. No lawyer will run against that incumbent for fear that if he were to lose, he would some day have to face that judge in court. Get the picture? We never really get to vote for a judge. We're only endorsing one someone else has chosen; and we're almost always making that endorsement without the slightest knowledge of the kind of legal or political philosophy or temperment that judge brings to his or her court.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cultural Competence

I attended the May meeting of the Executive Club last night and heard Oregon State Representative Linda Flores speak on Oregon Senate bill 50, dubbed the "Cultural Competency" bill because of its 3rd clause in section 1 that states: "...the commission shall establish standards for cultural competency and require an applicant for a teaching license to meet those standards." The $64,000 question, of course, is what in the world is cultural competency?

To answer that question let's first go back to see what spurred the creation of this bill. One year ago the Oregon Department of Education, Teacher Standards and Practices commission, Oregon University System, the Eugene School district LEAD Project, and the Oregon State Action for Education Leadership, with a $600,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation of New York, convened the Invitational Summit on Cultural Competency. The summit produced its definition of cultural competency in a 50+ page report, and its 5-year work plan for its infusion in Oregon's education system. According to this report "cultural competency" requires that individuals and organizations: A) Have a defined set of values and principles, demonstrated behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures that enable them to work effectively in a cross-cultural manner. B) Demonstrate the capacity to 1) value diversity, 2) engage in self-reflection, 3) facilitate effectively (manage) the dynamics of difference, 4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, 5) adapt to the diversity and cultural contexts of the students, families, and communities they serve, 6) support actions which foster equity of opportunity and services. C) Institutionalize, incorporate, evaluate, and advocate the above in all aspects of leadership, policy-making, administration, practice, and service delivery while systematically inolving staff, students, families, key stakeholders, and communities.

Upon reading this, it's obvious that the ideological impetus at work here is multiculturalism, a noxious theory that has already been thorougly inculcated in the public school curriculum and popular orthodox liberal thought. Embedded in the report, however, are political ideas far more toxic. On page 3 of the report it says, "...cultural competence entails actively challenging the status quo and advocating for equity and social justice." The term *social jusice* has become a shibboleth of the left, and I recommend to all that they read Thomas Sowell's "The Quest for Cosmic Justice" for a full explaination of how fatuous and empty the term really is. Despite its poverty of meaning, the term's affinity with leftist and socialist ideas is well known, and this is no exception. On page 8 more of the true intent of the writers is revealed in a list of what cultural competency means for teachers:

A culturally competent teacher advocates for social justice.

A culturally competent teacher understands the ways schools reproduce inequallity.

The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission will revise rules, after review, to achieve high cultural competency standards including possible REVOCATION OF LICENSURE for culturally incompetent behavior.

The Teacher Standards and Practices Commission will require cultural competence for license renewal.

A culturally competent teacher must apply cultural competencies and BELIEVE IT.
(emphasis added)

Multiculturalism is a poisonous doctrine that his been carefully infused in almost every aspect of not only American public education, but popular media as well. With this legislation, however, the true believers within the Oregon educational system have an opportunity to establish an ideological "purity" test with which they can purge their ranks from all of questionable faith. Not only will their definition of competence become the criteria for hiring new teachers, but they will be able to revisit the employment of teachers of long standing. All who do not share their vision of a radically egalitarian society of "social justice" and "equity" (read redistribution of wealth here), will be labeled "culturally incompetent" and shown the door.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Give me a break!

I've just finished reading John Stossel's book, "Give Me a Break". Stossel is the correspondent on ABC's 20/20 who does the "Give me a break" segments in which he often ridicules political correctness, government excess and American cultural stupidities. In this book he first describes how he moved from being a consumer advocate reporter, criticizing business and bad or dangerous products, to a critic of government incompetence and excess, and a defender of free market capitalism. This shift has knocked him from his once-held perch as a celebrated media elite, the winner of 18 Emmys, to being a pariah of television news culture, loathed and vilified by his colleagues and the orthodox liberal rank and file.

Stossel's easy conversational style makes this book a joy to read and yet he manages to pack it full of astonishing statistics that illustrate the benefits of free markets and limited government, and the damaging unintended consequences of government intervention. One of the most amusing of these statistics is the "death list" he and his assistant made up from research data about the causes of death in the United States. The event that spurred this was when one of his producers burst into his office and urged him to do a story about how BIC lighters were exploding in people's pockets and killing them. His research concluded that at the top of the "death list" was heart disease, responsible for 710,760 deaths that year. Then cancer--553,091. 320 people drowned in their bathtubs, and 4 in their toilets. At the bottom of the list with (maybe) 1 person a year was BIC lighters exploding.

He also illustrates how these distortions of risk affect government spending. President Reagan, for instance, was excoriated for not spending enough on AIDS research. Clinton certainly didn't make that mistake. In 1997 he bragged at a campaign dinner that his administration was spending 10 times as much per fatality on people with AIDS as those with breast cancer or prostate cancer (and 25 times as much, it turns out, as those with Parkinson's disease). The question of course is since heart disease, cancer, and even Parkinson's disease kill many more people than AIDS, why are we spending more on AIDS?

There are many more examples such as this. His comparison of the good done to mankind by Mother Theresa and the junk bond king Michael Milkin, and his examination of the incredible damage to the economy by lawyers sueing over asbestos are 2 standouts to me.

I'll just finish by saying that this book is a fun and amusing way of gaining ammunition in the conservative war of ideas with the left.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

liberal contempt

I'm currently reading "Last Car to Elysian Fields" a Dave Robicheaux novel by James Lee Burke, whom I consider to be one of the finest and most lyrical crime fiction writers in the United States. Burke combines great story telling ability with the finest traditions of Southern American literary fiction, such as the wealth of sensory detail found in the work of such authors as William Faulkner, Harper Lee, and Flannery O'Conner. I have enjoyed almost everything I have ever read by Burke, and am enjoying this book as well...until I came to this passage on page 165 describing a man of old money in Louisiana by the name of Castille LeJeune who is sitting in the dressing room of a health club, sipping icewater after his game of racquetball, when black and white bluecollar workers suddenly flood the room as they prepare to exercise after their shift:
"There were great differences in the room, but not between the races. The black and white working men spoke the same regional dialect and shared the same political atitudes, all of which had been taught them by others. They denigrated liberals, unions, and the media, considered the local Wal-Mart store a blessing, and regularly gave their money to the Powerball lottery and casinos that had the architectural charm of a sewer works. They were frightened by the larger world and found comfort in the rhetoric of politicians who assured them the problem was the world's, not theirs. And most heartening of all was the affirmation lent them by a genteel person like Castille LeJeune, a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient who, unlike many memebers of his class, showed no fear or lack of confidence in their midst, which told them of his respect for their humanity."

It is subtle and skillfully done, but this paragraph demonstrates an astonishing measure of condescension and contempt for the people he is describing. Notice the message here; it is one you will find repeated ad infinitum by the popular media, including the press, pundits, artists, and of course leftist politicians: conservative views held by the business class is attributable to their vile motivations--greed, pitilessness, and selfishness--conservative views held by the working class is attributable to their stupidity.

Friday, April 22, 2005


I have wanted to start a blog for some time; a place where I could publish my political thoughts and opinions. So this, finally, is the result.

First, a word about the title of the blog. Webfoot is slang for an Oregonian. Though I was born in Yuma, Arizona, and by that fact am probably more deserving of the moniker "Arizona desert rat" (as my father used to call me), I have lived most of my life here in Oregon, both of my grown sons are native Oregonians, and, most importantly, I consider myself an Oregonian. The conservative part is my political ideology, a characteristic of which I am unappologetic, and proudly affirm. The fact that I am a conservative Oregonian, especially here in the Portland area (one of the most politically leftist areas in the United States), is what gives the title of this blog its antithetical contrast.

Next, a few words about me. My father was a stanch Republican, so when I came of voting age, and having much love and respect for my father, I registered as a Republican too. And I pretty much voted Republican as well. But not out of real endorsement of Republican policy or ideals. It was more that I found Republican candidates somewhat less reprehensible than Democratic and Independent candidates. I was a faithful watcher of Saturday Night Live, and standup comedians, and I dutifully bought into their characterizations of Ronald Regan at the time, as well as the press and scientific community who advocated Nuclear freeze and ridiculed the Strategic Defense Initiative (Reagan's missile defense shield). And so, even though I voted for Ronald Reagan--both terms--I despised him. The fall of the Soviet Union almost brought me to my senses, but then the press started hammering away at the Iran/Contra scandal, and I forgot all about the greatest achievment by a president in the 20th century. By the 2000 election I also acceded to the popular media's characterization of George W. Bush, believing that he was a dimwitted puppet controlled and managed by Dick Cheney, and voted for him only because I saw Al Gore as a thoroughly spineless and unprincipled political whore. Prior to the 9-11 tragedy, I had become so cynical and disgusted with all things politcal I was on the verge of giving up voting entirely.

But 9-11 changed everything for me. I had considered myself to be a skeptic, a "complex" person, and one to roll my eyes at my father's generation's reverence for the flag. Yet days after 9-11, as I drove through town on errands, upon noticing that all the flags were flying at half-mast I suddenly found myself in tears and at that moment finally understood my father's deep feeling for our flag, he who had fought and had been severely wounded in World War II. I have always been a reader, but before the attack it had all been fiction; after the attack I began to read almost exclusively nonfiction: history, philosophy, Christian apologetics, political theory, biographies and current events. The last three and a half years have been transforming for me, kindling a political and patriotic awakening in me, and rekindling my religeous faith.

To start this blog off I'd like to post a letter I wrote in response to an acquaintance's question about Ronald Reagan soon after the former President's death. He had been a child at the time of Reagan's presidency and wanted to know what I remembered of that time, having lived through that administration as an adult. The following is my response.

I voted for Reagan both times, and yet it's easy to forget as I had done until I read Dinesh D'Souza's book, Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. Both times I voted for Reagan it was much the same as when I voted for George W Bush in 2000: I couldn't stomach voting for the other guy. Concerning both men I bought into the unrelenting propaganda from the popular media about their mental inferiority and the idea that they were being "run" by others around them. 9-11 and President Bush's response to it changed my mind completely about him and turned me into an ardent supporter; the fall of the Berlin wall was what finally changed my mind about President Reagan--but only to a limited degree. It wasn't until I read D'Souza's book and his recitation of those events that I had lived through, that I realized that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the 20th century (or the 21st, for that matter) and how thoroughly I had been deceived by the popular media about him.

Consider first the country that Pres. Reagan took over--the Carter years: 18-21% interest rates, high unemployment, double-digit inflation (the misery index, a concept which Carter himself developed that was the sum of inflation and unemployment to illustrate economic hardship, had risen from 13% under Ford to over 20% under Carter). Carter believed the US was immoral in supporting a dictator such as the Shaw of Iran, pulled all US military and economic aid from his regime, and thus insured the ascendancy of a regime a million times worse: the mullacrocy that has reigned since; and to thank him for his help, the Ayatollah had our entire embassy taken hostage and held for over a year while every night we were treated to the sights of American flags being burned and throngs of Iranians screaming "death to America!" From '74 to '80, while America seemed to trust John Kerry's assertion that "...we have nothing to fear from Communism," 9 counties fell to communist regimes and Soviet influence: South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Angola, Grenada, and Nicaragua. And in '79, at the hight of Carter's tearful eloquence about detent, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. And Carter's response to all this? On 15 July 79 he addressed the nation and said that Americans were suffering a national malaise and had taken it for granted that we would live better than our parents and that America would always be a world leader, but we should modify those expectations, we would have to learn to live with less. The new era would be an era of limits.

Under Pres. Reagan's administration the "misery index" fell to less than 10%. Immediately upon taking office he set about to put his economic policies into action. His plan consisted of: drastically cutting taxes, abolishing much of federal regulation of certain businesses and government enforced monopolies, cutting congressional spending. He was much more successful at the first two, than the third, but that was enough; we are still reaping the benefits of the economic revolution his policies caused.

But to me his greatest legacy is his courage and brilliance as a cold warrior. Contrary to the left-sported myth that Reagan was being "handled" by his inner circle of staff, many of them were horrified by his posture on world communism and the Soviets in particular. Remember that detent was the accepted best hope for American/Soviet relations by both political parties at the time. Budget Director, David Stockman, senior White House aide, and chief of staff Donald Regan have all been highly critical of the President in their memiors. Talking with Secretary of State George Shultz, his national security adviser, Robert McFarlane expressed his mystification at how Reagan knew so little and yet accomplished so much. Former President Nixon wrote books in the 1980s warning that "the Soviet system will not collapse" and "the most we can do is learn to live with our differences" through a policy of "hard headed detent." Richard Perle, then assistant secretary of defense once told President Reagan at a dinner party that the majority of the people in the defense department disagreed with his policies for dealing with the Soviet Union and were actively working to undermine them. At Reagan's first press conference in the Old Executive Office Building, he said that the signed agreements with the Soviets meant nothing because they had "openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat." There was an audible gasp from those in attendance and Secretary of State Alexander Haig, standing in the corner of the room, conspicuously rolled his eyes. As for the other side of the political isle, the vituperation of his policies was rabid and unrelenting. The nuclear freeze movement--a kind of collective hysteria mixed with willful stupidity--swept through not just the United States, supported even by Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, but through the entire free world. A 1982 poll stated that more than 70% of Americans supported the nuclear freeze concept. In October of 1983 more than 2 million people demonstrated in London, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna, Paris and other European cities against proposed Pershing and cruise missile deployments in Europe in response to recently deployed Soviet SS-20s targeting Western Europe. And while comedians mocked him, the intelligensia fulminated him, political rivals fought him, and many of the middle class masses (like me) were mystified or alarmed at dangers the media decried, he continued to raise the military budget, strengthen our defenses, pressure the Soviets, not only with equivalent strategic arms to their build-ups, but the portent of new American scientific miracles such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (which the press mockingly dubbed "Star Wars").

On 23 March 1983 Pres. Reagan gave his speech to the American people announcing his plan for SDI. Ultimately this proved to be the coup de grace to the arms race. George Shultz has said that SDI was entirely Reagan's idea. Shultz was skeptical, Eagleburger was aghast at the idea, senior officials at the Defense Department were opposed, and anticipating those reactions, Reagan had kept its development from them and utilized only the internal White House staff in its preparation. Upon his announcement, Robert McNamara called it "pie in the sky", the New York Times called it a "pipe dream, a projection of fantasy into policy," General Secretary Andropov said it was "insane" and "a bid to disarm the Soviet Union." But while Western pundits and scientists scoffed, and the Soviets publicly denounced, they were secretly terrified. They had seen American scientists perform herculean, seemingly impossible feats before: the Manhattan Project, the moon landings. It all had just the effect that Reagan predicted: it forced them back to the negotiating table (they had broken off arms limitation talks after the Pershing missile deployments). In October of 1986, Reykjavik it all came to a head. Gorbachev offered to cut the Soviet nuclear arsenal by 50% under one condition that only revealed at the end of the summit: a US promise not to deploy missile defense. Reagan, going against all advice, refused and terminated the summit. The next day Gorbachev, still reeling, said to Reagan, "I don't know what else I could have done." "You could have said yes," replied Reagan icily. On the flight back to the US, all the President's aides were in a panic; how could they explain to the American people that the President had turned down a 50% reduction in nuclear arms? As they fretted Reagan sat writing on a yellow legal pad; the surviving original testifies that the speech he gave the day after returning from Iceland was almost word for word what he wrote on the plane back: "There was no way I could tell our people their government would not protect them against nuclear destruction...I went to Reykjavik determined that everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future." Despite being savaged in the press, his resolve won out and in December of 87 Gorbachev relented on SDI and signed the INF Treaty in which both the US and the USSR abolished their intermediate-ranged nuclear missiles. Between May 88 and early 89 Gorbachev agreed to substantial unilateral cuts in Soviet armed forces stationed on the Western European border, and pulled troops out of Afghanistan. Soviet advisers left Ethiopia. With Gorbachev's approval, Cuban troops left Angola. And shortly after Reagan left office, the Berlin wall came down.

The first 34 years of my life were spent under the specter of nuclear annihilation. But my sons can now live their lives free of that threat. Certainly they have their own threats to contend with: a terrorist could someday smuggle a nuclear bomb onto American soil, or even build one here in secret. That's a horrible thought, but nothing compared to the destruction of human civilization we faced before the Soviet Union was dismantled. To what greater accomplishment can any American president of our age lay claim? To whom do we, the American people, owe a greater debt of gratitude and respect?