From generation to  generation, pseudo-patriotic right-wingers are usually pretty much the same. They almost always prefer brinksmanship, if not outright war, to the negotiation of treaties with America’s foes.  Talk is for sissies in striped pants, they say.  The tough-guy approach is for real men, they say.


As I write these words, right-wing pundits and politicians are calculating their angry responses to the deal reached today regarding nuclear policies in Iran. They’ll accuse President Obama and his foreign-policy team of selling out American interests, and they’ll call the president the worst man ever to hold that office.


The rhetoric will be similar, if less heated and accusatory, to what it was when Ronald Reagan was inspired by an antiwar movie to reach a deal with the Soviet Union on what was called the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the 1980s.


Here’s an account of that matter I wrote a few years ago:


Among his political aides, Reagan was known as an anecdotal thinker, a man of Hollywood who preferred the narrative arc of movies or homespun stories to the arcane prose of briefing books and analytical reports. Accordingly, key officials in Reagan’s presidential administration routinely prepared visual presentations to fill him in on complicated issues.


As National Security Adviser William Clark once put it, “It was far more interesting [to Reagan] to see a movie on Indira Gandhi, covering her life, than sitting down with the usual tome the agency [the CIA] would produce. And that would spark questions from the president that I could fire back to the agency. I knew from Sacramento days [when Reagan was governor of California] that he liked celluloid. After all, it was his profession.”


Therefore, when ABC aired  “The Day After,” a controversial movie about the effects of nuclear war on ordinary Americans in the city of Lawrence, Kan., Reagan was more receptive to the film’s emotional message than perhaps a more coldly analytical president would have been.


When “The Day After” was broadcast on Nov. 20, 1983, it attracted an audience of 100 million people, still a record for a TV movie, and a number that no doubt was boosted by massive advance publicity and controversy. Some conservative critics argued, even without benefit of having seen the film, that it was part of a sinister plot to disarm America in preparation for a takeover by the Soviet Union.


Ironically, by the time the right-wing campaign against the movie reached its fevered height in the weeks just before it aired, Reagan already had seen it in a private screening at the White House on Oct. 10 — and its impact on him was considerable, perhaps even profound.


Reagan wrote this about the movie in his diary: “It is powerfully done, all $7 million worth. It’s very effective and left me greatly depressed. Whether it will be of help to ‘anti-nukes’ or not, I can’t say. My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent & to see there is never a nuclear war.”


Author Will Bunch has written that “in the second half of his administration, Reagan may have worked harder than any president before or since in trying to convert his imaginative vision that he personally could save the world from a nuclear Armageddon into a reality.”


Three months after having seen “The Day After,” Reagan said in a nationally televised speech that “my dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.”


In July 1985, nine months after “The Day After” aired, a piece in the Washington Post was headlined: “What Happened to Reagan the Gunslinger? Now His Problem Is Convincing Skeptics He Isn’t a Pussycat.”


The story quoted conservative critics who were upset that Reagan seemed to have shied away from his 1981 pledge of “swift and effective retribution” in cases of terrorism.


The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal took to calling the president “Jimmy Reagan,” an uncomplimentary likening of him to his predecessor, Jimmy Carter.


Looking back on Reagan’s presidency, it’s clear that he preferred the use of regional surrogates to the commitment of American combat forces in trouble spots. The only time he deployed a sizable U.S. contingent in a combat situation was in  a relatively tiny skirmish in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada.


When Reagan got together with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 to sign the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, his conservative critics were furious:


The Boston Globe reported at the time:


Congressional conservatives and right-wing activists angrily criticized President Reagan yesterday for saying that opposition to an arms control treaty is based on a belief that war with the Soviet Union is “inevitable.” Some critics accused Reagan of abandoning the conservative movement. Reagan’s summit with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, begins on Tuesday. The conservatives criticized the treaty to be signed by the two men…


And The New York Times observed:


Conservatives were stunned by these “dangerous illusions,” wrote Human Events, the conservative weekly, and ever since, a long list of prominent conservatives have been hurling brickbats at the President. But to what effect? “The consternation is keeping some conservatives from supporting the I.N.F. treaty,” a senior White House aide said. “They’re afraid that because of all his new rhetoric, there must be something wrong with the treaty.” But this official and many others interviewed say they believe the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe is so well-liked by the American people that it will almost certainly be ratified, no matter how many conservatives inveigh against it. Asked how the conservatives’ anger could hurt the Republican Party or the Administration, a White House official who counts himself a new-right conservative thought a long moment. “It may make it more likely that our convention may be bitter,” he said at last.


Edwin J. Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation, also paused and finally said, “Whoever Reagan’s successor is will have a hard time mobilizing these people because Ronald Reagan walked away from them in the end.”


But, for his part, when Reagan signed the INF treaty, he sent a remarkable telegram to Nicholas Meyer, the director of “The Day After.”


The wire said:  “Don’t think your movie didn’t have any part of this, because it did.”


That was four long years after Reagan had seen the film.


 


 


 


 

From generation to  generation, pseudo-patriotic right-wingers are usually pretty much the same. They almost always prefer brinksmanship, if not outright war, to the negotiation of treaties with America’s foes.  Talk is for sissies in striped pants, they say.  The tough-guy approach is for real men, they say.

As I write these words, right-wing pundits and politicians are calculating their angry responses to the deal reached today regarding nuclear policies in Iran. They’ll accuse President Obama and his foreign-policy team of selling out American interests, and they’ll call the president the worst man ever to hold that office.

The rhetoric will be similar, if less heated and accusatory, to what it was when Ronald Reagan was inspired by an antiwar movie to reach a deal with the Soviet Union on what was called the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the 1980s.

Here’s an account of that matter I wrote a few years ago:

Among his political aides, Reagan was known as an anecdotal thinker, a man of Hollywood who preferred the narrative arc of movies or homespun stories to the arcane prose of briefing books and analytical reports. Accordingly, key officials in Reagan’s presidential administration routinely prepared visual presentations to fill him in on complicated issues.

As National Security Adviser William Clark once put it, “It was far more interesting [to Reagan] to see a movie on Indira Gandhi, covering her life, than sitting down with the usual tome the agency [the CIA] would produce. And that would spark questions from the president that I could fire back to the agency. I knew from Sacramento days [when Reagan was governor of California] that he liked celluloid. After all, it was his profession.”

Therefore, when ABC aired  “The Day After,” a controversial movie about the effects of nuclear war on ordinary Americans in the city of Lawrence, Kan., Reagan was more receptive to the film’s emotional message than perhaps a more coldly analytical president would have been.

When “The Day After” was broadcast on Nov. 20, 1983, it attracted an audience of 100 million people, still a record for a TV movie, and a number that no doubt was boosted by massive advance publicity and controversy. Some conservative critics argued, even without benefit of having seen the film, that it was part of a sinister plot to disarm America in preparation for a takeover by the Soviet Union.

Ironically, by the time the right-wing campaign against the movie reached its fevered height in the weeks just before it aired, Reagan already had seen it in a private screening at the White House on Oct. 10 — and its impact on him was considerable, perhaps even profound.

Reagan wrote this about the movie in his diary: “It is powerfully done, all $7 million worth. It’s very effective and left me greatly depressed. Whether it will be of help to ‘anti-nukes’ or not, I can’t say. My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent & to see there is never a nuclear war.”

Author Will Bunch has written that “in the second half of his administration, Reagan may have worked harder than any president before or since in trying to convert his imaginative vision that he personally could save the world from a nuclear Armageddon into a reality.”

Three months after having seen “The Day After,” Reagan said in a nationally televised speech that “my dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.”

In July 1985, nine months after “The Day After” aired, a piece in the Washington Post was headlined: “What Happened to Reagan the Gunslinger? Now His Problem Is Convincing Skeptics He Isn’t a Pussycat.”

The story quoted conservative critics who were upset that Reagan seemed to have shied away from his 1981 pledge of “swift and effective retribution” in cases of terrorism.

The right-wing editorial page of the Wall Street Journal took to calling the president “Jimmy Reagan,” an uncomplimentary likening of him to his predecessor, Jimmy Carter.

Looking back on Reagan’s presidency, it’s clear that he preferred the use of regional surrogates to the commitment of American combat forces in trouble spots. The only time he deployed a sizable U.S. contingent in a combat situation was in  a relatively tiny skirmish in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada.

When Reagan got together with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 to sign the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, his conservative critics were furious:

The Boston Globe reported at the time:

Congressional conservatives and right-wing activists angrily criticized President Reagan yesterday for saying that opposition to an arms control treaty is based on a belief that war with the Soviet Union is “inevitable.” Some critics accused Reagan of abandoning the conservative movement. Reagan’s summit with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, begins on Tuesday. The conservatives criticized the treaty to be signed by the two men…

And The New York Times observed:

Conservatives were stunned by these “dangerous illusions,” wrote Human Events, the conservative weekly, and ever since, a long list of prominent conservatives have been hurling brickbats at the President. But to what effect? “The consternation is keeping some conservatives from supporting the I.N.F. treaty,” a senior White House aide said. “They’re afraid that because of all his new rhetoric, there must be something wrong with the treaty.” But this official and many others interviewed say they believe the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe is so well-liked by the American people that it will almost certainly be ratified, no matter how many conservatives inveigh against it. Asked how the conservatives’ anger could hurt the Republican Party or the Administration, a White House official who counts himself a new-right conservative thought a long moment. “It may make it more likely that our convention may be bitter,” he said at last.

Edwin J. Feulner Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation, also paused and finally said, “Whoever Reagan’s successor is will have a hard time mobilizing these people because Ronald Reagan walked away from them in the end.”

But, for his part, when Reagan signed the INF treaty, he sent a remarkable telegram to Nicholas Meyer, the director of “The Day After.”

The wire said:  “Don’t think your movie didn’t have any part of this, because it did.”

That was four long years after Reagan had seen the film.