In his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket, Barack Obama famously praised Ronald Reagan. He said Reagan was a transformational president in a way that Nixon and Clinton never were. That remark, predictably, provoked cold fury from the Clinton camp. It was intended to. Obama was seeking the support of those Reagan Democrats who had bolted the party of FDR for the magnetic appeal of the Gipper.
No small part of Ronald Reagan’s appeal was his movie career. Far from being a political minus, it was all plus. Reagan had been a star of the “B” movies. High brows looked down their noses at “B” movies. They were not the kind of “film” likely to be shown in college courses or in art house theaters. But they were popular. Millions of Americans trooped out to the movies weekly in the 1930s, 40s and 50s to see these movies that affirmed basic American values.
One of Ronald Reagan’s most popular movies was “Brother Rat.” The formula was simple; First-year students at the famed Virginia Military Institute were called “rats.” And the movie was about the inevitable clashes and close bonds formed among those “Brother Rats.” Now, even Ronald Reagan wasn’t overwhelmed by the deeper meaning of his movies. “They don’t want it good,” he would joke, “they want it Thursday.”
Ronald Reagan would even tell the hapless Jimmy Carter, on their way to the Inauguration of 1981, that he learned to negotiate by locking horns with Jack Warner. Warner was the legendary tough guy who headed up Warner Brothers Studios in the days when the movie moguls ruled Hollywood. Carter, who had just been “beaten like a drum” by Reagan, was bewildered. “Who’s Jack Warner,” he later asked an associate.
So, when Barack Obama wrote another of his autobiographical books, he knew he was on solid ground in associating himself with a winner like Reagan. Here’s what Obama said about Reagan in “The Audacity of Hope.”
“Pride in our country, respect for our armed services, a healthy appreciation for the dangers beyond our borders, and insistence that there was no easy equivalence between East and West - I all this I had no quarrel with Reagan,” Obama wrote. “And when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, I had to give the old man his due, even if I never gave him my vote.”
Nor did he give Reagan’s world view a serious thought. Obama seems never to have thought about what it was in those countries trapped on the other side of the Berlin Wall that made Ronald Reagan so determined to prevail over Communism. Obama acknowledged that when he was a student, he sought out the Marxist professors. And we know his earliest mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, a lifelong Communist. Young Barack was unlikely to learn from these committed Leftists what made the Evil Empire evil.
You can get a taste today of the “empire built on bones” that was the USSR by watching “The Way Home” or “Katyn.” These are two serious foreign films that give a taste of life under the red tsars.
You can also sense the soul-deadening suspicion of everyone by everyone that was life in East Germany under the never-blinking eye of the Stasi by watching “The Lives of Others” (Parental notice: There’s a dispiriting sex scene with a prostitute in this important movie. Warning: In East Germany, socialism ruined everything, including sex.).
If foreign movies are not your thing, however, you might just visit the U.S. Air Force Academy.
In Colorado Springs, we have a new version of “Brother Rat” being played out in living color. The Air Force brass is not satisfied with dropping “So help me God” from the cadet oath. They have taken to recruiting cadets to rat on each other. They say this is a useful way to solve crimes and root out harassment. And doubtless they will use these new rats to determine who among the Corps of Cadets is “homophobic” or inclined still to think of America as “one nation under God.” Clearly, these last would be a threat to the new model Obama military.
We all cheered when the Berlin Wall came down. But we failed to learn the lesson that should have been taught at that time. There was a why to that ugly, brutal Wall. The people of East Germany lost their liberty long before the Wall went up. They lost their freedom when they traded constitutional government for a full dinner pail.
We need to stand up to the Air Force Academy brass and their Stasi-style snooping. We need to call a halt to this odious form of betrayal. “Unit cohesion” is the cold and technical term for what Shakespeare taught in “Henry V.” Our all-volunteer ranks should be warm-hearted and filled with trust. They should be “a band of brothers.” And, yes, of sisters, too. And among such honorable young officers, there is no place for a spy, an informer, a brother rat.
Robert Morrison is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.