|From: Glenn Petersen||6/1/2005 7:41:55 PM|
By Douglas Brinkley
On June 6, 1984, President Ronald Reagan visited France to mark the 40th anniversary of D-Day. The speech he delivered at the windswept Normandy promontory looking out over the English Channel--known now in history as the Boys of Pointe du Hoc address--was the opening salvo to a new American indebtedness to World War II veterans. By honoring the daring action of the 2nd Ranger Battalion--225 young Army volunteers whose mission was to climb the treacherous 100-foot-high Pointe du Hoc cliff while being shot at by entrenched German soldiers--he was paying tribute to an entire generation. (Out of those 225 "boys," only 99 survived the Battle of Normandy.)
By the 1980s, these youths were aging gray hairs. "If I have one enduring memory of Reagan, it's the way he crisply saluted World War II veterans that afternoon," Ken Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff, recalled. "These were his guys . . . . As president, Ronald Reagan delivered three unforgettable speeches: Pointe du Hoc, the Challenger disaster, and the Berlin tear-down-this-wall number. But it was the first of these--Pointe du Hoc--that set the tone for the others."
If it hadn't been for Reagan's two elegiac June 6, 1984, homilies--written by Peggy Noonan (Pointe du Hoc) and Anthony Dolan (Omaha Beach)--there may never have been Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers, Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, or the many memorials built to exalt the citizen-soldiers who liberated Europe.
With Reagan as president, the time had come for the World War II generation to speak out. By 1984, the stars were aligned for thousands of these stoic war heroes to finally offer eyewitness testimonials for posterity's sake. It was, in essence, a generational reckoning. At Pointe du Hoc, President Reagan became the self-appointed spokesperson of the "greatest generation." Although he never fought in the war, Reagan had served in the Army Air Corps, eventually becoming a captain. The hundreds of propaganda movies he made then were, in essence, a dress rehearsal for Pointe du Hoc.
But it wasn't just about World War II. With the timing of a maestro, Reagan galvanized that generation into performing one last task: reminding a nation cynical after Vietnam and Watergate that America truly was still the shining city on the hill. What Reagan understood was that compared with the testimony of an Army Ranger who, climbing the Pointe du Hoc cliffs, had been forced to watch a buddy drown in the English Channel or a young officer get his legs blown off by a Nazi mine, 1970s slogans like "Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion" were political throwaway lines of a decadent and largely self-indulgent recent past.
What Reagan was trying to engineer--using the World War II generation and the American flag as his platform--was the creation of a combustible patriotism, one that would spread like wildfire: an extension of his 1980 presidential campaign's embrace of increased military spending and upgrading the armed forces. He essentially wanted to turn the clock back to an unambiguous black-and-white era when, as Ambrose said in Citizen Soldiers, the sight of a GI meant joyous cheers from communities that had been occupied by fascist troops. The way Reagan saw it, too many young people knew about the atrocities at My Lai and not enough about the raw gallantry of D-Day.
Behind the Speech
A relative newcomer to the White House, speechwriter Peggy Noonan had impressed her boss Dick Darman with her early work and, to the chagrin of some others, was handed the task of preparing Reagan's words at Normandy. How Noonan went about writing the Pointe du Hoc speech can now be fully discerned by reading the files archived at the Reagan Presidential Library (and also from a wonderful memoir Noonan wrote titled What I Saw at the Revolution ). As in all speechwriting, the first step in Noonan's laborious process consisted of gathering usable data about D-Day. The 34-year-old speechwriter devoted to elegant New Yorker- style prose cast a wide net, searching for inspired ideas from all corners. She received input from various foreign-policy fiefdoms. The State Department weighed in with a bland memo and a "country report" on France, cold and factual.
Reagan's 10-day visit to Ireland, Great Britain, and France would be more than a drawn-out D-Day remembrance, Noonan knew. As the itinerary dictated, after three nights in Ireland, Reagan would fly to London. The idea was for Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to spend June 5 together showcasing Anglo-American unity before crossing the Channel for the Normandy ceremony. On June 6, they would visit three spots in France: Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, and Utah Beach. "Normandy symbolizes the U.S. commitment to Europe, which led directly to the Atlantic Alliance," National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane wrote in a briefing paper for the president. "The President will make brief (10-15 minutes) remarks at the Point [sic] du Hoc ceremony to about 5,000 people, including veteran groups. This should be emotional, stirring, and personal. The themes include reconciliation of former adversaries, how postwar cooperation has kept the peace for the longest period in modern European history, Alliance solidarity, and the strength of the American commitment to Europe."
What McFarlane worried about was Reagan's not alienating West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had been banned from the Normandy ceremonies. In order that Kohl not feel too "bruised," McFarlane wanted the Reagan speech to focus on reconciliation. Given that, Noonan, who was then unaware that so many D-Day veterans would be in attendance, was somewhat hamstrung. An astute student of Reagan, she knew, however, that he was at his best when he told heartfelt stories about real people. Her boss was instinctive, blessed with a genuine showbiz gift for lively narrative and fabulist history. She didn't want to grind his address down just to please the men at State and the NSC.
As Noonan read Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day, John Keegan's Six Armies in Normandy, and Jean Compagnon's The Normandy Landings, she realized anew just how unbelievably dramatic the D-Day invasion was. Somehow, she would have to cut through the bureaucratic thicket and find a way for Reagan to talk emotionally about the heroism of these men with the same uplifting conviction of an FDR. It wasn't a difficult task. Susceptible as he was to theatrics and imbued with a lifelong enthusiasm for symbolism, Reagan would choke up, Noonan knew, at all the perfect white crosses and Stars of David in the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery. What she didn't know was that the story of the brave 2nd Ranger Battalion survivors--dozens of whom would be in attendance--would choke the Gipper up even more.
When Noonan was assigned to write the Pointe du Hoc speech, she was not dispatched to make an on-site inspection of the hallowed place. She had not, in fact, even met Ronald Reagan. "I can't write well," she complained once, "without hearing the person I'm writing for talk in conversation." A former CBS News writer for Dan Rather, Noonan was somehow expected to pen an "impressionistic" speech for a president she did not know about a place she had never seen.
The place itself, though, was spectacular. No matter what the day or hour or tide, standing on top of the craggy hundred-foot-high promontory is an awesome experience. This was it, the exact spot where the Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion made its fearless attack. Some of the German bunkers and blockhouses were still intact, having survived both the Allied bombing and nature's wrath. Rusted barbed-wire fencing was also still evident after 40 years. The Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument--a dagger-shaped granite pylon--was going to be unveiled the afternoon of Reagan's speech, overlooking the Channel. It had been erected by the French to honor Col. Earl Rudder of Texas and his 2nd Rangers; Rudder's Rangers they were called. Michael Deaver, the Reagan aide who orchestrated the Pointe du Hoc ceremony, seized on the simple beauty of the monument, already seeing the president's address there as part of the Reagan bio film to be shown at the Republican National Convention, in August. "I knew it would be our backdrop for the year," Deaver recalled. "Reagan's love of America and pride in World War II was just so real. He pined for that time, for those days that were gone. He'd say, 'You know, it used to be that if our country was in trouble, if a crisis was at hand, you just pinned a little American flag on your lapel and nobody harmed you. Nobody touched you.'"
Deaver was aware--as Noonan wasn't--that some 60 Pointe du Hoc veterans would be attending the Reagan speech (62 actually showed up). Deaver, however, had one hurdle to overcome if he wanted Reagan's speech to be delivered at 1:20 p.m. at the site of the Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument: the French government. President François Mitterrand, the host of the D-Day ceremonies, insisted that Reagan meet for a photo op before he spoke at the Pointe. He wanted the ceremonies to take place later in the afternoon. But Deaver knew if he capitulated to Mitterrand's preferences, his boss wouldn't be on the all-important U.S. morning TV shows. According to the Washington Post 's Lou Cannon, Deaver pressed the French ambassador to the United States, Bernard Vernier-Palliez, to not make waves and to approve the 1:20 p.m. time slot. The scheduling change, eventually, was made.
Following a mid-May press briefing at the Pentagon, Noonan had a eureka moment--many of the surviving 2nd Ranger Battalion members would be sitting in the front rows when Reagan spoke at Pointe du Hoc. They wouldn't be scattered haphazardly around the audience; they would be crunched together like choirboys in New England pews. Not only that, she learned, the new memorial at Pointe du Hoc would also be unveiled. Noonan scrapped her early drafts of the speech and started over. "There were some ways in which the Reagan speechwriting department was a little dysfunctional," Noonan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , shortly after Reagan died last year. "One of the things they did wrong was send researchers, 20-year-old kids, to the location of future speeches, along with the advance staff. The speechwriters were not sent . . . . I didn't know until shortly before the president left for Europe that the boys of Pointe du Hoc--the old men who were the U.S. Rangers who took the cliffs of Normandy--would be there, in the first few rows, as RR spoke. I was indignant: How could you not tell me? RR will want to talk to them, not just talk over their heads! And thus, in the last days, 'These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc' was born."
Noonan finished a preliminary draft of the Pointe du Hoc speech and handed it in to her boss, Ben Elliott, at 1:30 p.m. on May 21. He marked it up and returned it to Noonan. Subsequent drafts were circulated over the next few days to others for input. As Noonan kept on reading and talking to the young officials who had done the advance work in Normandy, she realized that Pointe du Hoc was going to be an ultradramatic spot for Reagan to speak. It wouldn't be his Gettysburg Address--as some foolish, history-deficient White House hands were already boasting--but it could be a defining moment for Reagan's re-election campaign. Noonan started studying up on the surviving Rangers--and fast. American news organizations were already promoting the 40th anniversary of D-Day--and it was still May. What gave Reagan's upcoming trip a real boon was Time magazine, whose May 28 cover story was "D-Day: Forty Years After the Great Crusade." Veteran journalist Lance Morrow did most of the analytical writing for the Time package, which was accompanied by a stunning Robert Capa photograph printed from his 11 surviving negatives of Omaha Beach. Morrow began his article with a quote from Shakespeare's Henry V: "From this day to the ending of the world . . . we in it shall be remembered . . . we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
Eight years later, Stephen Ambrose would title his book about E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Band of Brothers , borrowing from Morrow, who had borrowed from Shakespeare. Ambrose also decided to use the dramatic Capa photograph of an American soldier wading ashore with the first wave of troops on Omaha Beach, water up to his neck, determination on his face, as the jacket photo for the book. The packaging and repackaging of D-Day as a cottage industry had begun.
Clearly, Noonan had read the Time article. An underlined copy of it can be found in her Normandy files at the Reagan library. And in her speech she quoted--as Time had done--Gen. Matthew Ridgway lying on his cot, remembering God's promise to Joshua: "I will not fail thee or forsake thee." But what is even more significant about Morrow's piece is his trenchant analysis of why, in 1984, D-Day was about to become the election-year symbol of the Reagan administration's New Patriotism. "The ceremonies in Normandy will celebrate the victory and mourn the dead," Morrow wrote. "They will also mourn the moral clarity that has been lost, a sense of common purpose that has all but evaporated."
Moral clarity. That was the ticket Reagan would push to get re-elected. What voter could argue that Adolf Hitler wasn't a villain worse than Idi Amin or Muammar Qadhafi? Who wasn't proud of the job America's armed forces had done in 1944-1945? According to the Reaganites' view, NATO now faced an equally horrific threat from the Soviet Union. Munich-style appeasement was wrong in 1938, they believed, and it was wrong in 1984. But it was Morrow's understanding of how the D-Day story had spellbinding, redemptive qualities that Reagan could sell to Cold War America that really hit the mark.
What the Reagan administration understood was that the American people craved something grander in their history and national memory than Gerald Ford's evacuation of Saigon or Jimmy Carter's malaise speech. Reporters used to write during 1979-1980, when 53 Americans were held for ransom by the Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, that it was as if "America was being held hostage." By sharp contrast, the D-Day story was about America as ferocious liberators, not backroom barterers. Even though Reaganites tried to pretend for political purposes that the Vietnam War was a morally justified crusade, in their heads and hearts they knew better. Millions of Americans, and virtually every honest historian, recognized that the prolonged intervention in Southeast Asia was so rife with tragic political blunders that it was indeed an American failure. Wisely, Reaganites understood there was no winning way to build a consensus New Patriotism by reopening the controversial Vietnam wound. The United States had wanted to be D-Day-like liberators again in Vietnam, but that time around, for numerous murky geopolitical reasons, U.S. forces had become largely unwelcome invaders. That is why Reagan went all the way back to World War II--and Normandy in particular--to promote his New Patriotism during an election year. It was too hard to sell Vietnam triumphalism. But D-Day? That was a different story entirely.
What was most noticeable about the pre-D-Day clips that Noonan collected as research were stories about the throngs of veterans returning to commemorate the 40th anniversary. Because the Vietnam War had torn Americans apart for a decade, World War II veterans had been either marginalized or forgotten. There were, of course, in all 50 states, granite memorials and reflecting pools honoring their sacrifice. But somehow the media had not focused on the uncommon valor of World War II fighting men since the tumultuous days when Ernie Pyle was firing off urgent dispatches from the trenches and Edward R. Murrow was boldly reporting on the radio from a bomb-besieged London. The American people had honored Gen. Douglas MacArthur with a tickertape parade and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower with a two-term presidency. But Reagan's election in 1980 had ushered in a new climate ripe for World War II remembrance. The New Patriotism was not just in the air; it was part of Ronald Reagan's DNA.
Because Pointe du Hoc had been chosen as the location for the first of the two principal D-Day commemorative speeches, Reagan approved the idea that the assault of the U.S. Army Rangers' 2nd Battalion be a central part of his address. With the right camera cutaways to teary-eyed survivors, Reagan could link his New Patriotism with the entire World War II generation. As a longtime ardent admirer of the Rangers--and everything they stood for--Reagan wanted them to enter the national psyche as all-season heroes. The ball was now in Noonan's court to provide the linguistic magic--he was more than ready to step to the Pointe du Hoc podium and offer up a flawless performance.
Talking to the Boys
The 2nd Ranger Battalion veterans assembled at Pointe du Hoc that afternoon came from all over America. There was Thomas Ryan, who was a policeman in Chicago, and Thomas Rugiero, captain of the fire department in Plymouth, Mass. Ralph Goranson was head of a sales company, and Harvey Koehning was an electrical worker on oil wells. Some of the Rangers President Reagan would be addressing had taken advantage of the GI Bill. Frank South, for example, was a professor of physiology at the University of Delaware because of the bill. A man Reagan had heard quite a lot about, William Petty, was running a camp for underprivileged children in upstate New York but nevertheless made the trans-Atlantic journey. Colonel Rudder's widow and daughter were at the Pointe, honored to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the amphibious attack with the president of the United States.
Among the many other Ranger families who later made the pilgrimage to the Pointe, the Wintzes of Nebraska may serve as an exemplar. Kathie Wintz Abts brought her nine children to collectively say the Lord's Prayer in memory of U.S. Army Ranger Richard Wintz. A second lieutenant who had climbed the treacherous cliffs, Wintz always talked of bringing his wife and children to the knife-shaped promontory at Pointe du Hoc but never got around to it. A member of what author Robert Putnam calls "the long civic generation," Wintz eventually succumbed to cancer in 1981, surrounded by his family. "Dick had never talked much about his experiences, but during the last days of his life, his family convinced him to tell his story, and they recorded it," Joan Burney of the Omaha World-Herald reported in 1994. "They were overwhelmed. Kathie hadn't planned to go to France this year. But when the anniversary of D-Day approached, and stories of it dominated the newspapers and the broadcast media, she said 'I was just a basket case. One of the problems was I realized how naive I was.'" Like so many children of World War II veterans, she had been sheltered by her dad, who didn't want his children to know the horrors he had seen at Normandy.
Usually speeches of any kind are forgettable. This was not the case with Ronald Reagan on this particular morning. With all those graying Rangers in front of him--not to mention D-Day families who had lost somebody dear to them 40 years earlier--and a finely written Noonan speech in his pocket and on the teleprompter, he strode to the podium like a man with a mission. There was nothing boring, hokey, or mundane about his demeanor. When he saluted the flag it was done with such conviction that it made you want to stand up straight yourself, to embrace the fact that you too were part of the great American pageant. He was the American statesman about to remind the American people--with the English Channel and the Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument at his back--what true patriotism was all about.
The entire Rangers-climbing-the-cliff story, in fact, served Reagan's worldview as a metaphor for life. Like Job, you start your ascent up the dangerous mountainside with great fortitude. But you never know what will knock you down, or when it will cripple your ascent. Life was precious. The important thing was stoically trying, one foot at a time, with God as your guide, to succeed, always heading upward to the sky. Determination and faith were what mattered. Complaints never accomplished a thing. When you fell, you picked yourself back up and tried again.
With these thoughts in mind, and because of a combination of luck and design, the stage was set at Pointe du Hoc for Reagan to deliver the most remembered speech of his first term. The words Noonan had written for him that afternoon were a distillation of his anti-Communist thinking of almost four decades. Looking the part of a world statesman, Reagan, dressed in a handsome dark suit, cleared his throat, looked directly at the wife of Colonel Rudder, and began. "At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs," he intoned, making direct eye contact with the returning Ranger veterans. "Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance."
Reagan's voice, as usual, was strong, his delivery confident. "The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers," he continued, "the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe."
Everybody in the crowd was overwhelmed by the speech. Famed CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, by no means a pro-Reagan reporter, was visibly shaken by the oration. Michael Deaver, who accompanied the president to Normandy, deemed it nothing less than "a home run." A decade later he called it, along with the "Challenger Disaster" eulogy, "the best speech of his presidency." White House Chief of Staff James Baker noted that his boss that day was pitch-perfect, as if, for a few minutes, he actually personified the World War II generation. "I remember sitting in the audience, shaking my head, thinking, 'Boy oh boy, this is a dynamite moment,' " Baker recalled in an interview. "With Reagan, what you saw is what you got. And the tears in his eyes that afternoon, believe me, they were real."
As the TV cameras flashed to the 62 Rangers in attendance, tears filling their eyes, it was, as Baker maintained, impossible not to be moved. These "boys" Reagan was evoking weren't just men now; they were grandparents (many had brought their grandchildren along). The power of Reagan's oration was that he spoke directly to these Rangers; in addition, he was unafraid to make eye contact with them. The message was clear: These men had fought for freedom against Nazism, so don't we now have an obligation to fight against Soviet-style communism?
After his speech Reagan and his wife, Nancy, went and hugged all the Rangers. They then headed for Omaha Beach.
ABOUT "THE BOYS"
Excerpted from The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion by Douglas Brinkley. Copyright 2005 by Douglas Brinkley. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc. All rights reserved.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: calgal who wrote (235)||6/1/2005 7:52:01 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|But will you compare him to Reagan?|
Historians will always link Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul. Both were giants of the late 20th century.
The post that precedes this post is an excerpt from a new book by Douglas Brinkley entitled The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion. The excerpt deals with the speech that Reagan gave at Pointe du Hoc on June 6, 1984. It was written by Peggy Noonan. The article references Peggy's book What I Saw at the Revolution, her informal account of the years she spent in the White House. If you get some free time, you might want to read it. It is wonderful.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|From: Glenn Petersen||8/5/2005 9:10:39 AM|
|With Starr, Roberts Pushed Reagan Agenda |
By David G. Savage Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — For many years, the solicitor general was known as the "10th justice," a trusted figure who advised the Supreme Court on the law and whose client was the United States.
But midway through the Reagan administration, the office took on a new role. The solicitor general became not just the government's chief lawyer before the high court, but the point man for a conservative transformation in the law.
When John G. Roberts Jr., then 34, joined Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr as his top deputy in fall 1989, they were determined to make the Reagan Revolution a legal reality.
Roberts "was in that position as the principal political deputy to the solicitor general because he was simpatico with the administration," said Washington lawyer Charles J. Cooper, a longtime friend of the Supreme Court nominee. "He agreed with the thrust of what the administration was doing."
Together, Starr and Roberts pressed a strongly conservative legal agenda for 3 1/2 years.
They argued for limiting the scope of civil rights laws, ending race-based affirmative action, restoring some prayers to public schools and overruling Roe vs. Wade, the case that established a woman's right to abortion.
They sought to make it harder for environmentalists to challenge the government in court. They intervened on the side of Operation Rescue to shield abortion protesters from being sued. And they joined Texas state lawyers in arguing that new evidence of a death row inmate's "actual innocence" did not entitle him to reopen his case in federal court.
In the first right-to-die case to reach the Supreme Court, they intervened on the side of then-Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft to argue that state officials may keep a comatose woman alive over the objections of her family.
"Ken Starr and John Roberts are genuine conservatives," said Christopher J. Wright, a lawyer who worked under them at the solicitor general's office. "They're highly professional and excellent lawyers. But I'm a Democrat, and I can't say I always agreed with them."
Because it opens the clearest window on his legal views, Roberts' record at the solicitor general's office under President George H.W. Bush has become the focus of attention for Senate Democrats. They have been studying 81 Supreme Court briefs signed by Roberts between 1989 and 1993, and have asked the White House to disclose the memos he wrote in 16 of those cases.
But the White House has refused to provide the memos and other supporting documentation, claiming a lawyer-client privilege. As a result, Roberts' legal philosophy during that highly politicized period can only be gleaned from the public files.
They suggest a strongly, though not uniformly, conservative approach to issues.
Unlike his position as an assistant to Atty. Gen. William French Smith in 1981 and 1982, Roberts' later post in the solicitor general's office gave him the chance to try to reshape the law at the Supreme Court. And when teamed with Starr, he was not shy about pressing sharply ideological positions in the court.
The duty and role of the solicitor general was a subject of debate in the 1980s. Reagan's first solicitor general, Rex Lee, quit in frustration, saying he was reluctant to "press the administration's policies at every turn …. I'm the solicitor general, not the pamphleteer general."
The solicitors who followed Lee, including Charles Fried and Starr, were more willing to advocate the ideological views of the administration.
And in the Reagan and Bush administrations, that meant urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
In 1991, for example, when the court took up a free-speech challenge to an abortion regulation, Starr and Roberts filed a brief saying, "We continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled." The regulation at issue prohibited doctors and nurses at federally funded family planning clinics from discussing abortion with their patients. The court later upheld the regulation in a 5-4 decision, but without discussing the validity of Roe vs. Wade.
The next year, Starr's office intervened in a Pennsylvania dispute to urge the court again to overrule Roe. "The protection of human life — in and out of the womb — is certainly the most compelling interest that a state can advance," Starr said. But the high court rejected the advice and, in a 5-4 ruling, said women could opt for an abortion during the first six months of a pregnancy.
The challenging of Roe — and the view at the solicitor general's office of its proper role — is defended by Columbia University law professor Thomas Merrill, who worked under Starr and Roberts.
"The president [George H.W. Bush] had campaigned for overruling Roe vs. Wade," he said. "We in the office knew the administration's position. It was only a question of how to go about achieving that objective."
In 1991, Roberts personally argued a case along with lawyers for Operation Rescue. The protesters had been sued in Virginia over their abortion clinic blockades. The women who sued relied on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which made it illegal for a group to conspire to deprive individuals of their rights.
Roberts began by saying that he was not defending the actions of the protesters. Rather, he argued, the 19th century civil rights law did not apply to their conduct. The law only applied when people were singled out for discrimination, as blacks were by the Klan, Roberts said.
"Opposition to abortion is [not] the same as discrimination on the basis of gender," he said, adding that it was "wrong as a matter of law and logic" to make such a claim. In a 6-3 decision, the court agreed with his argument in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
The lawyer who represented the women said the Bush administration lawyers should have stayed out of the case.
"We were greatly bothered that the federal government was in this case on the side of Operation Rescue," Deborah Ellis, a New York University law professor, said recently. "There is a right to abortion, and whether you agree with it or not, it is objectionable that women could be deprived of this right by force."
(The Supreme Court is set to hear a similar case this fall involving blockades at abortion clinics. Lawyers for the National Organization for Women won a suit against leaders of Operation Rescue for using violence and threats against doctors and patients. The court will hear an appeal from the antiabortion advocates, who say a federal extortion law does not apply to such protests.)
Shortly after Roberts arrived in Starr's office, the federal government also intervened in a Missouri right-to-die case.
Nancy Cruzan had been badly injured in an auto accident. She never regained consciousness, and her family petitioned a court to remove her surgically implanted feeding tube.
"The question is whether the state is going to decide this, or the person's family is going to make the decision," William Colby, a lawyer for the Cruzans, told the court.
Missouri's lawyers said they were defending the "right to life" protected by their state constitution, and Starr argued that the states deserved "wide latitude" to set their own rules.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, ruled for the state.
Starr and Roberts also upset women's rights advocates in 1991 when they intervened on the side of a Georgia school district in a major test of Title IX, the law that bars sex discrimination in schools and colleges.
Christine Franklin, a student, said she had been sexually harassed and abused by a popular coach, who was later dismissed. She sued the school district.
Starr and Roberts urged the court to rule that the law did not give victims of sex discrimination a right to sue. The justices unanimously rejected that view.
During their time together in the solicitor general's office, Starr and Roberts helped win rulings that had a broad effect across the nation. They joined a Nebraska case in which the court ruled that student-led Bible clubs had a right to meet at public schools. They joined a Minnesota case in which the court upheld state law requiring a parent to be notified before an underage girl had an abortion. And they joined an Oklahoma City case in which the court set the stage for ending school busing programs.
But Roberts was not always on the government's side.
He intervened in a Louisiana case to argue on behalf of an inmate, Keith Hudson, who had been beaten by two prison guards while he was shackled and handcuffed.
He later sued the guards for violating his constitutional rights and won $800 in damages. But the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans threw out the verdict and ruled that prisoners' rights were not violated by abusive treatment that did not cause a significant and permanent injury.
Roberts spotted the case and said he was troubled by the lower court's ruling. Though "frivolous" suits from prisoners were a problem, this was not a frivolous case, he said. Nor, he told the court, should the law condone the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" on prisoners.
The high court agreed in a 7-2 ruling written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Justices Clarence Thomas and Scalia dissented.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings on Roberts' nomination to the high court, have demanded to see the memos he wrote in several of the cases from his time in Starr's office. They say they want to see how Roberts analyzed the law, and whether the administration's position was also his.
His friend Cooper, who was also a veteran of the Reagan administration, said it was fair to conclude that Roberts agreed in essence with the legal arguments he made on behalf of the first Bush administration — though "it would be wrong to conclude he agreed with every line in those briefs."
Within the Justice Department, Roberts was admired for his intelligence and modesty.
"My most distinct memory is that he played his cards close to the vest," Merrill said. "I briefed him for his first two days there, and he nodded and smiled. He didn't talk much. John never kicked back and philosophized about his view of the law."
Roberts also won plaudits as an advocate before the high court. He was especially adept at calmly answering rapid-fire questions from the justices.
Ted Cruz, now the Texas solicitor general, was a clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in the mid-1990s. "We asked the chief one day who is the best lawyer before the court," he recalled. "He didn't hesitate. He said he was confident a majority of his colleagues would say John Roberts is the best."
But some in the Justice Department were put off by Roberts' strongly conservative views.
"He had very strong ideological views about the law, and he saw his mission in life as bringing these conservative views to bear on civil rights and anti-discrimination laws," said Susan Carle, then a lawyer in the department's civil rights division and now a professor at American University's law school.
In Starr's and Roberts' final year in the solicitor general's office, the Reagan Revolution ran aground at the high court.
They had focused on two goals that were dear to conservatives since Reagan's election: restoring prayers to public schools and overturning the right to choose abortion.
They intervened in a Rhode Island case that tested whether school officials could invite a cleric to give an invocation at graduation. The Bush administration lawyers argued that a ceremonial prayer did not amount to an "establishment of religion" and therefore should be upheld.
They also intervened in the Pennsylvania case to argue that states could make all abortions a crime.
The term ended in June 1992 with a pair of setbacks for conservatives. By 5-4 votes, the court ruled that school-sponsored prayers were unconstitutional, even at ceremonies, and upheld the right of pregnant women to choose abortion.
A few months later, the Bush team was swept out of office when President Clinton won the White House.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: J.B.C.||8/11/2005 4:08:51 PM|
|On this day in history,|
In 1984, President Reagan joked during a voice test for a paid political radio address that he had "signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
The kind of stuff that gave him a landslide election in 1984...along with his retort about the question of age in the debates:
"I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: J.B.C. who wrote (245)||8/19/2005 11:32:42 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Reagan Files Paint Court Nominee as a Watchdog |
By David G. Savage, Richard Simon and Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writers
Fri Aug 19, 7:55 AM ET
WASHINGTON — As a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration, John G. Roberts Jr. did not spend all of his time analyzing the great legal issues of the day. Instead, judging from the thousands of pages of his files that were released Thursday, the Supreme Court nominee spent much of his time acting as a gatekeeper and editor for the president.
He repeatedly tried to keep President Reagan's friends from taking advantage of his office. He sought to keep the president from lending his name or office to promoting commercial interests. Sometimes, he intervened to keep Reagan from saying things he might regret.
When actor Jimmy Stewart wrote to Reagan in 1983 to ask him to serve on an advisory board for his son's prep school in Arizona, for instance, Roberts wrote a stern memo advising that the president "should not accept Stewart's invitation." The school planned to use Reagan's name to raise money. It would be "demeaning to the [president's] office, using it as a huckster's ploy," Roberts wrote.
When some wealthy Republicans from Dallas invited the Reagans to a gala dinner, Roberts advised against attending on the grounds that sponsors were using the event as part of the grand opening of a shopping mall.
In December of 1985, Jerry Weintraub, chief executive of United Artists, offered to have actor Sylvester Stallone personally give Reagan the boxing gloves and robe he wore in the newly released "Rocky IV." The gifts were to end up in the Smithsonian Institution, Weintraub said.
Roberts said the president should decline the offer. It "is a rather transparent publicity stunt to promote the film," he said in a memo to his boss, White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding.
And when a publicist for Michael Jackson proposed in 1984 that Reagan thank the pop star for giving tickets to needy youngsters so they could attend a Washington concert, Roberts demurred. "I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson's records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend we do not approve this letter," he wrote.
He gave the same advice even when the cause was dear to Reagan's heart.
In January of 1985, the president was asked to speak to a group of corporate executives who had shown a willingness to support Nicaraguan refugees. "I recommend stopping any White House involvement in this effort," Roberts wrote, adding that the president should not participate in private fundraising.
Comments reflecting Roberts' political views were rare in the more than 38,000 pages of files that were released Thursday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley and by the National Archives in Washington. With the papers released Monday, the files contain all of the material from the Reagan Library that was written by or compiled in the office where Roberts worked from 1982 to 1986.
Instead of providing insight into his beliefs or reinforcing the conservative ideology found in some papers released earlier, the documents offered a glimpse into Roberts' personality — his wry sense of humor, his efforts to steer Reagan clear of controversy, and his attention to detail — even punctuation.
And they shed light on the often dry, tedious work of a young White House lawyer who, in addition to dispensing advice on complex legal issues and congressional legislation, responded to mail sent to the White House from citizens. He even issued a memo about a Christmas party invitation: "The only change I am considering is a more festive color."
Roberts also said "thanks, but no thanks" was the right response to an $8-billion crime-fighting strategy proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) (R-Pa.). The proposals "are the epitome of the 'throw money at the problem' approach" to crime fighting, Roberts wrote. His blunt rejection of Specter's idea may not sit well with the Pennsylvania senator, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is to begin confirmation hearings on Roberts' nomination in September.
Sometimes, Roberts objected to words and phrases in Reagan's speeches.
In October of 1984, the president was set to conclude a campaign speech in South Carolina with the rousing line that the United States was "the greatest nation God ever created."
Roberts said he had no legal objection to the president's prepared remarks. He added, however, that the final line struck him as "ill-advised and, particularly in the light of the focus on the religion and politics issue, a likely candidate for the 'Reaganism of the Week.' "
"According to Genesis, God creates things like the heavens and the earth, and the birds and fishes, but not nations," Roberts wrote.
His commitment to Reagan was clear: In his April 1986 letter of resignation, Roberts wrote to the president: "My years in your service will always be very special to me. The inspiration you have given me will burn brightly in my heart long after I have left the lights of the White House behind."
Some of the boxes of records opened to public scrutiny Thursday were filled with memos in which Roberts recommended that the White House deny requests for the president to be photographed while — among other things — reading the Washington Times, working out in Nike apparel or riding in a Jeep, or requests for presidential messages commemorating the anniversary of Disneyland or the opening of a shopping mall in Arizona.
Roberts routinely said the White House should strictly adhere to the policy of "not permitting use of the president's name, likeness or photograph in any manner that suggests or could be construed as an endorsement by the president of a commercial product or enterprise."
After a car accident, Roberts sounded a bit like others who believed they had unjustly received traffic tickets when he wrote, in a 1984 memo to Fielding, his boss, that he had to leave work to fight a ticket he had received.
"I was cited for 'failure to devote full time and attention' — a laughable catch-all charge that the prosecution will be hard-pressed to prove.
"The ticket was for a mere $25," he added, "but having never been cited for a moving violation in my entire 15 years of driving, and feeling confident I was not at fault in this instance (and of course fearful of an increase in my insurance rates), I have decided to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."
Savage and Simon reported from Washington and Weinstein from Simi Valley.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: Bill who wrote (247)||9/4/2005 12:57:28 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|The more I read about Roberts, the more I like him. He is a literate, principled, intelligent man with a sense of humor. He also has enough real world experience to understand the difference between theoretical concepts and the realities of life. He has the temperament to make a good Chief Justice. I’m sure that the Bush people are giving that possibility some thought today.|
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: Bill who wrote (249)||1/21/2006 5:00:21 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Reagan's legacy at crossroads|
25 years after oath, his agenda endures. But is the GOP adrift?
By William Neikirk
Tribune senior correspondent
Published January 21, 2006
WASHINGTON -- On a warm Jan. 20 morning precisely 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in an inaugural ceremony that served as the catalyst for the conservative movement that now dominates each branch of the federal government.
Whether it's tax cuts, deregulation, a strong defense or judicial and cultural conservatism, Reagan policies have become firmly embedded throughout American society. "Reagan is more powerful today than when he was president," said Martin Anderson, one of his White House advisers.
There is fresh evidence throughout the capital. Two young lawyers who worked for Reagan--Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito--are expected to have a major impact on the nation's legal system for many years, as a result of being named to the court by President Bush. Conservative Republicans hold leadership posts in the House and Senate. And Bush's politics seem much more closely tied to Reagan than to those of Bush's father, who was Reagan's vice president.
But that movement is now at a juncture nearly as important as Reagan's election, with the continued power of "Reaganism" called into question. The blunt force of Bush's defense policy in Iraq is being challenged. And rising government expenditures and political corruption in Congress have combined to vex Republicans with midterm elections rapidly approaching.
Some conservatives are worried.
"We're at the biggest crossroads since Reagan won the nomination in 1980," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a fervent Reagan disciple, said in an interview. "We face very large challenges and we have no absolute proof yet that we are going to take the right position in meeting those challenges."
Part of the problem is a fracturing from within. Business-oriented pragmatists, deficit hawks, cultural conservatives, Christian activists, libertarians, neoconservatives -- all have different agendas, and all claim the mantle of Reagan, sometimes in the name of things he never accomplished, such as balancing the budget.
"The Reagan legacy is very vulnerable because George W. Bush has embraced it so wholeheartedly," said Michael Genovese, political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. "Bush is the model, not the father, of the legacy. So much of the Reagan legacy is dependent on the Bush legacy."
Even more than his own father, who followed Reagan in the White House, the president has adopted Reagan's ideas, cutting taxes, building up the military because of a terrorist threat and embracing a conservative social and cultural agenda. He also has pushed to enhance the power of the presidency, as Reagan did during his two terms.
Yet to conservatives such as Gingrich and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), the GOP has strayed too far from the Reagan agenda.
"It is the abandonment of Reagan's policies that has gotten us in trouble," said Feeney, who is sharply critical of spending increases in recent years with the GOP in charge of government.
"Reagan was an ideologue," said Mallory Factor, a New York businessman who heads a political group that contributes to conservatives. "He had a simple message and simple programs. We have lost that in our society." He blamed GOP leaders in Congress who have "drunk the water out of the Potomac" River and, he added, lost touch with Reagan's ideas.
"If we're not the party of reform and we try to run as the party of pork, we'll lose," Gingrich said. "Reagan was about reform. He was not about pork."
Legacy in judiciary
Within the federal judiciary, the Reagan influence has enormous reach, culminating with the selection of Roberts as chief justice and Alito's expected confirmation.
Herman Schwartz, a law professor at American University, said the federal judiciary is increasingly taking a right-leaning direction with more conservative nominations over the years.
Edwin Meese, Reagan's attorney general, said he believes the GOP will survive the current challenges and that Reaganism will continue as a powerful influence in American politics. So did Ralph Reed, a Republican operative and former head of the Christian Coalition who is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Meese said the scandals over influence-peddling in Congress are bipartisan and that the GOP will be able to weather criticism over the Iraq war in this year's elections.
Historian Robert Dallek said both Reagan and John Kennedy "remain inspirational voices" long after their presidencies.
"But when you go through the scandals we have seen, the doubts that have been raised about Bush and the Iraq war, the recriminations [over spying] by the National Security Agency, Reagan and Kennedy become all the more appealing," he added.
Reed said Reagan gave the Christian evangelical movement a boost by embracing its agenda after his nomination in 1980, although Reed conceded that the former president did not push some of the movement's causes actively during his two terms. Even so, evangelicals still hold Reagan in high esteem, said William Martin, a Rice University sociology professor and an author of books on the Christian right.
"He was the first president to say he favored restricting abortion on demand," Reed said. "That was a critical moment."
As Democrats criticize Republicans for fostering a "culture of corruption" in Washington, Reed said if the GOP is able to enact lobbying reforms as promised it can overcome the scandals. He said Democrats failed in the 1990s to make internal reforms when several scandals erupted in the House.
Reed has been caught up in the corruption scandal because of his business dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His public relations and lobbying companies received at least $4.2 million through Abramoff's firm to mobilize voters against Indian casino gambling.
But Reed said he did nothing wrong. "I was assured by the law firm at the onset that funds contributed to my effort would not derive from gambling activity," he said, adding that "if I had known what I know now, I would not have done that work."
Scandals such as Iran-contra also hounded the Reagan administration. The large deficits that he ran up also bring criticism. But 25 years later, his philosophy still drives GOP politics even as a major test looms for Republicans in 2006 elections.
Nostalgia for Reagan remains high in the GOP. Anne Davis Burns, a public relations official for a trade association, helped with the inaugural ticket operation on Jan. 20, 1981, and had a front-row seat for the swearing-in. She remembers clearly when Reagan appeared on stage.
"He was kind of larger than life," she said. And to many Republicans, he still is.
- - -
Still an inspiration
Voices of ideological disciples of the Reagan Revolution:
-- Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, ran Youth for Reagan in Virginia in the 1976 primaries. He called Reagan "my modern-day philosophical hero," adding, "Reagan is the man who inspired me to enter into politics while I was a law student at the University of Virginia."
-- Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a conservative and deficit hawk: "While Reagan was deeply committed to traditional values and a strong defense, to understand him was to realize he was a man committed to limited government. This meant things like local control of schools and reforming our government, and not creating new entitlements. He's the reason I became a Republican."
-- Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition founder and now a GOP candidate in Georgia, recalled how Reagan won over evangelical Christians in 1980. "Reagan said, `I know you can't endorse me, but I want you to know I endorse you.' That formal embrace by the Republican Party and by its presidential nominee, who went on to become the president, gave an imprimatur and a seal of approval."
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spent the last six years of Reagan's presidency in the Air Force. "My first impression of Ronald Reagan was, I really liked this guy. . . . I thought he was a cool dude, I thought he had a great sense of humor, he made conservatism not only acceptable but cool, and he brought a dignity but a personal touch to office that it needed."
-- William Neikirk and Tribune news services
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|