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Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland and most famously the leader of Solidarity, an underground movement that helped free Poland, eulogizes Ronald Reagan in today's OpinionJournal.com. While his essay highlights the best of Ronald Reagan's fight for freedom, Walesa makes a stunning point in the middle of the article that describes not only Reagan in the 1980s but highlights a crucial difference in today's politics:
I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They're convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.
Politicians who fall into the second category become known as statesmen for an outlook that goes beyond their personal gain. Abraham Lincoln had a vision for America, and even though he could have compromised with the Southern states (and tried to do so within that vision), he ultimately chose the most difficult course instead for the sake of liberty and what America could one day become. George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, and others could have maintained their private fortunes and simply compromised with the British, and in fact that was what they wanted at first. Instead, they risked their lives and their security to gain freedom. FDR led the nation out of its worst and longest economic crisis by defying conventional wisdom and acting creatively. While some may disagree with his solutions now, at the time he walked a careful tightrope between the forces of fascism and communism, both of which appeared ascendant at the time, to preserve American liberty.
I agree with Walesa that Reagan also embodied this same style of leadership -- a man who stood for freedom and fought against tyranny with subtlety and craft, instead of taking the more politically expedient course of focusing on domestic handouts. But what strikes me is that we again are faced with the same choice this election. Do we choose the man who risked his office by fighting for freedom, in this case both Iraqi and Afghani liberty from tyranny as well as our freedom from Islamofascist terror, or do we choose the man who fits Walesa's first description of the politician who fights only for his own tactical gain?
I suspect that I know Walesa's choice. I hope that I guess correctly about the American people's choice.Sphere It View blog reactions
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