A recent Atlantic article seeks to finally prove what liberals have tried and failed to do for decades. In the private recordings of President Richard Nixon, a former Nixon Library director has discovered then-California Governor Ronald Reagan having a “racist conversation,” with Nixon.
The audio recording is available online and people have every right to come to their own conclusion.
“Reagan’s racism appears to be documented only once on the Nixon tapes, and never in his own diaries,” That’s an odd statement by Atlantic contributor Tim Naftali.
Naftali is not asking if Reagan is a racist, instead, he is attempting to gauge how extensive Reagan's racism was. He’s already decided that Reagan was a racist. Now, the question is, in Naftali’s mind, just how much of a dirty racist Reagan really was.
Yet he is conceding (begrudgingly) that this is the only documented example of Reagan ever making a racist statement in private. Trust us, if he had another example, in public or private, it’d be in writing, but he doesn’t. Instead, he throws in the usual slanderous and untrue liberal talking points that have been invoked so often against Reagan that the lies are treated is an irrefutable fact.
So instead of taking one conversation and shoehorning it into a pre-established conclusion based on far-left hate and bias, let look at it objectively and take the full measure of this man, Reagan.
This phone call in question takes place immediately following the UN decision to recognize communist China and, later, remove Taiwan entirely from the international body. This move was a humiliating defeat for the West against the forces of communism. Instead of recognizing the democratic government, our longstanding ally who served alongside us to defeat Imperial Japan in World War II, the UN would instead recognize a brutalist regime, not that far removed from implementing their latest communist purge known as the cultural revolution, led by genocidal maniacs who saw the wholesale slaughter, suffering, and death of, literally, millions of their citizens as simply the cost of doing collectivism.
According to a report in United Press International (UPI) of that evening:
“Inside the great assembly hall of the united nations the normally staid body erupted into the closest thing to pandemonium since premier Nikita Khruschev pounded a table with his shoe during a boisterous 1960 session… Tanzanian Ambassador Salim Ahmed Salim, wearing a black tunic buttoned to the throat, leaped to his feet and did a victory dance. Across the hall, U.S. Ambassador George Bush sat glumly, the United States’ 21 year fight to prevent the seating of red China at an end… a 'moment of infamy,' Bush called it.”
While there were many factions that were responsible for the decision, to many, the most wounding was the loss of a majority of African nations. While we supplied millions in foreign aid and support to many of these countries over the years, the Communist Chinese government plotted, bribed, and cajoled their way into their favor as well. This was a well-documented, planned strategy by the Chinese government.
In addition, due to the legacy of mainly French and British colonies, many of these countries saw China as a liberating ally. Little did they know the brutality executed by their “liberating” partners. When the vote came down and China was admitted into the UN, then-California Governor Reagan was incensed.
Reagan, like millions of anti-communists, took the decision as a slap in the face to the West by these countries whom the U.S. had invested so much and helped so much. After attempting to call President Nixon that night, he got ahold of him the next day. The normally affable and disarming Reagan was audibly furious. He even suggested, half-heartedly, that the U.S. should withdraw, a proposition he knew was unrealistic. In this state he said something awful. He made an unfortunate statement, possibly about the Tanzanian ambassador who was reportedly dancing on the floor of the UN after the vote.
This brings us to an important question. If a man says something nasty in anger, should the totality of his life be defined by that statement? Liberals, like Naftali, will tell you that most conservatives, Republicans, moderates, and anyone to the right of themselves are closeted racists. Though they often have zero evidence of this racism, they assert this is because conservatives and their ilk never show their hand. They instead operate through “dog whistles” and circuitous implications. However when something like what Reagan says comes out, they point to it and say “AH-HA!” The idea is that they’ve let slip a glimpse into their evil, dirty, racist soul and they are now branded for life. Of course when one of their own does something similar, it’s dismissed as a “slip-up” or a “bad moment.”
But who among us has not at some point uttered intemperate remarks that were not appropriate for public discussion and never meant for public consumption? Great men and women of history, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are complicated and nuanced human beings. Perfection is reserved for the divine or for carefully scrubbed bios of totalitarians as recounted by their politically correct enablers.
Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson all had “bad racial moments.” Democrats all. But the liberals who write much of history have scrubbed away their racial offenses.
We propose an alternative: How about we look at the man and what he did. We wish we could say what is written below is new scholarship, but our fellow conservatives and we have had to defend this man’s legacy so many times that it becomes tiresome.
“One cold evening in Dixon, Ill., in the early 1930s, a young man known as Dutch Reagan brought home two African American teammates from his Eureka College football team. The team was on the road, and the local hotels had refused the two black players. So Reagan invited them to spend the night and have breakfast with his family.”
In November 1952, in one of his final meetings as president of Hollywood’s Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan called upon the entertainment industry to provide greater employment for black actors. His stand went against the times and received national media attention.
As president, in a March 1983 speech in which he called the Soviet regime an “evil empire,” Reagan decried “the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice” in America. And at a reception for the National Council of Negro Women in July of that year, Reagan declared: “I’ve lived a long time, but I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t believe that prejudice and bigotry were the worst of sins.”
And there are thousands other examples of his generosity of spirit and non-judgmental attitudes.
Can we also recall that Reagan was president of these United States for eight years, and while his conservative policies were plenty controversial, only far left progressives have ever accused him of being anything other than even handed in his approach to justice. In that regard, he supported and signed a ten year extension of the voting rights act in 1982. In addition he signed legislation establishing the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday. Finally, he was arguably the most pro-immigration president in our recent history, speaking forcefully and often on behalf of individuals who sought to come to our country to share the American dream.
Now let’s be clear, what Reagan said on that call was wrong. Unambiguously. If you could ask the man today, we’d stake our careers that he would agree. But to hold it up as the silver bullet, golden goose, McGuffin that damns Reagan to wear a Scarlet Letter for the rest of time is absolute lunacy.
The strange thing is, Naftali spends very little time focusing on the actual history that he, the former director of a presidential library, should be extolling above all else. Instead he uses the call to contrive an invisible bridge to today’s GOP. To make the case that the racism he sees in Republicans is not novel, but at the core of every American who believes in individualism and self-determination above central planning and systems of control. This is why our nation is so divided. Instead of finding a fact and using it as the basis for understanding, discourse, or nuance, it’s just another cudgel. Another weapon to be used against the other side. For as long as people like Naftali use our history in this way, that’s all that history will be another tool, another talking point, another weapon. Right out of Saul Alinsky. Destroy is not an option.
For a true look into the man’s character, we present this quote from one of Reagan's final public speeches to the Republican National Convention in 1992:
"And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope that it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not our worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps, and opportunity’s arm steadying your way."
These — and through many other words and deeds — are what make Reagan one of the most popular — and successful — presidents in American history.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His books include, “Reagan’s Revolution, The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started it All,” “Rendezvous with Destiny, Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years," and “ Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and his new 2019 book, “Mary Ball Washington,” a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Shirley lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. He has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater and will teach a class this fall at the University of Virginia on Reagan. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
Frank Donatelli was political director in the Reagan White House, worked on the 1976, 1980, and 1984 Reagan campaigns, and is the chairman of the Reagan Ranch.
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