Two giants from the days of my political youth died this week.
Caspar Weinberger - Cap the Knife - was Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, and presided over the largest peacetime military buildup in history. It was much-needed after the detente of the Nixon administration, the paralysis of Ford, and the ineptitude of Carter. We tend to forget nowadays what things were like back then - the Cold War (in many ways a more real war than what we're experiencing today) burning hot, the Russian Bear a true theat to peace, and the United States in no way equipped to deal with the future.
To do what was necessary, Weinberger had to fight the Democratic House (and for two years the Democratic Senate) every step of the way. He had to fight those within his own party who feared rising budget deficits (David Stockman, anyone?) Ronald Reagan needed a fighter in the Pentagon, a man who represented Reagan's own beliefs, and the nation's best interests. Caspar Weinberger was that man.
By all accounts, Cap Weinberger was a true patriot, a true gentleman, a elegant presence in the Administration. I liked him, I'm sorry to hear of his passing, and I hope he's headed for a better place.
Lyn Nofziger was the kind of man who made politics fun. If there were more like him out there today, I might still be involved in the game. He took politics seriously, make no mistake about that; it's just that he didn't take himself that seriously, or his role in the whole thing. In other words, he didn't feel the need to inflate his importance, and that's a hard thing to find in politics today, whether it be Washington or anywhere else.
Many describe Nofziger as a true Reaganite, and it brings back the memories of the days when conservatives would say, "Let Reagan be Reagan." It does seem as we've always worried about the people our presidents surround themselves with, doesn't it? In truth, very few of them seem to have the knack of understanding both the president's best interests and the nation's. They're either "yes" men-lackeys who put the presidential cult of personality above all else, or they're total slaves to their departments, treating the president with distain. Nofziger was neither of those.
There's a series of excellent quotes from Nofziger himself, written over the last few months and put up today by Peter Robinson at NRO. There are two that are my favorites, ones that say what I often want to say, only much better. The first one could describe my own political state right now (with the exception that I'm not registered with any party):
I am a Republican because I believe that freedom is more important than government-provided security. Sometimes I wish I were a Democrat because Democrats seem to have more fun. At other times I wish I were a Libertarian because Republicans are too much like Democrats. What I actually am is a right-wing independent who is registered Republican because there isn't any place else to go.
And here is the one I'd like to leave you with, to ponder at your leisure:
One of the things I do to fill the waning hours of my life is write book reviews, mainly for the Washington Times. Recently I read and reviewed a book by National Review magazine’s white house reporter, Byron York, titled “The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.
I quote: “...many of the founders (of this nation) believed that the constitution does not grant us rights but rather safeguards those rights given us by a higher power.” Well, yes, and generally speaking, that “higher power” can be identified as God. York seems a little tentative about this, about the idea that our rights are God-given and that the constitution cannot give us our rights, but can only safeguard them. The important thing here, however, is that the Founding Fathers were not alone. Patriots through the years have shared that belief. One who did was a recent president named Ronald Reagan.
In many of his speeches and elsewhere Reagan made that point—that our rights are God-given. That, he insisted, is one of the great differences between the United States and other nations. In most other nations, he noted, rights are granted by government and therefore are at the mercy of government. In the United States, rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom to keep and bear arms, and many others enunciated in the first ten amendments, cannot be taken away by government…because they are not granted by government; they are the individual’s as a matter of God-given right…. [MH - this was a point often raised as well by Bishop Sheen.]
Interesting, isn’t it, that the rights of atheists, America-haters and rabble rousers are all protected because the Founding Fathers turned to God for guidance as they sought to give themselves and those who would follow after them a more perfect union?
Words that George Mason might agree with as well!
America is richer for having had these men, and poorer for not having them now. Requiescant in pace.