Why Understanding The Greater Context Is Oh So Very Important


Up. Identified. Lase. Fire. On the way.

A number of folks are making a big deal out of a comment that recently came to light where in 1971 Reagan made a "uncomfortable" comment. As a result, many of these folks are claiming that Reagan was a racist (and by association, Republicans).

But context is king (or should be). I can't encourage readers enough to click over and read the entire article (from an accomplished Reagan biographer).

But here are a few snips....

The opening paragraph:
There’s a provocative article by NYU professor Tim Naftali in the Atlantic titled “Ronald Reagan’s Long-Hidden Racist Conversation With Richard Nixon.” It reports an insulting statement made by Gov. Ronald Reagan to President Richard Nixon in October 1971. Naftali lays out the context and the exchange...

The statement is bad. No question. As you can imagine, it’s getting a lot of traction among race-obsessed liberals who discern white-hooded “dog whistles” in endless remarks from Republicans but can’t find space within their mental-ideological makeup to even mention something as shameful as, oh, Margaret Sanger’s May 1926 speech to the Silverlake, New Jersey, women’s chapter of the KKK, or any number of racially offensive zingers from a President like Lyndon Johnson or Woodrow Wilson. Their hypocrisy never ceases to outrage.

Make no mistake: They will never let Ronald Reagan escape this one. This line will be hoisted on a progressive petard as an eternal symbol of his views on race. Liberals will apply it unforgivingly and uncharitably in a manner they’d never do with their Democrat pals.

That said, as a Reagan biographer and historian, one who has published eight books and countless articles on the man, I’ve been asked to respond. What to make of this? How to interpret it?

From near the end:
As for the author of the piece in the Atlantic, Tim Naftali, he deserves some criticism, not for reporting this remark from Reagan, but for how, in turn, he thus speaks conclusively of “Reagan’s racism” (a phrase he used twice), as if this one comment can allow us to judge Reagan as a whole and as a person. The fuller picture of the man shows the opposite. In fact, I would advise Naftali to be careful about constructing such a standard. Naftali, a biographer of John F. Kennedy, notes, “As I write a biography of JFK, I’ve found that this sort of racism did not animate President Kennedy.”

Naftali seems to have chosen his words carefully there, prompting me to ask him here: Has he encountered racially offensive remarks from JFK? Or other Kennedy family members?

Hey, I like JFK, too. Naftali better be careful, however. He may well come across something similar from the annals of the Kennedy clan that he doesn’t like — and far more than one example. Liberals create such standards to apply them mercilessly to Republicans, not realizing that such standards will come back to bite them when they find untidy skeletons among their progressive icons. This they learned with their black-face campaign. Beware the Democrat, dear progressive, who donned black-face.

[Reagan's remark is] a bad remark, but it’s far from the total picture. It’s like looking at Harry Truman’s offensive statements about Jews (more than one of those) and ignoring his wonderful work ensuring that America recognize the new nation of Israel, which Truman pursued against his entire cabinet. (For a genuinely ugly track record of statements and actions against Jews and a homeland for them in Palestine, see Franklin Roosevelt.)

To liberals, I say this: Don’t be hacks. Don’t smear a decent man and his long life of decency, including on race, because he’s a Republican and not one of your Democrat buddies. Have the decency to treat a decent man with decency.
I would add to this, MLK. What to do with a man so clearly right in his public life, but (apparently) so wrong in his personal.

--- End of line (MCP)
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