A-mediocre-speech.jpg

Tear Down This Wall: “A Mediocre Speech and a Missed Opportunity”

In delivering his Berlin Wall address, President Reagan overruled the objections of the National Security Council and the State Department.  Here, a couple of documents from the Reagan library.  One, an NSC memorandum to Colin Powell, then Deputy National Security Advisor, calls the address “a mediocre speech and a missed opportunity.”  The other shows the NSC edits.  Note what the NSC deleted.

NSC-edits.jpgWhat Ronald Reagan was up against.

(For more detailed views, click here and here.)

  1. Valin
    AmishDude: It’s amazing how stupid that smart people are.

    Even more amazing how sure and insistent they are. · 4 hours ago

    There is a line from the greatest TV show ever, I speak of course of Babylon 5.

    Bad Guy #1

    “They Can’t Be That Stupid, Can They?”

    Bad Guy #2

    “Always Bet On Stupidity.”

    I have found this quote to be extremely useful, in my wanderings down the service road of life.

  2. Instugator
    Valin

    … the greatest TV show ever, I speak of course of Babylon 5.

    Concur

  3. iWc

    Thank you for sharing. Fascinating!

  4. Songwriter

    Peter, thanks for sharing this. It is further evidence that the wisdom of committees is often very flawed.

  5. EJHill

    Peggy Noonan’s highlight as a speech writer was the Challenger disaster. That speech, because of the quick turnaround, wasn’t as vetted by staff as usual. The one staffer that saw it wanted to change the line from “High Flight” from “…touch the face of God” to “reach out and touch someone.” From poetry to an AT&T ad!

  6. Bill McGurn
    C

    I think Peter would tell you that this kind of thing is not the exception, it’s the rule. Too often, alas, presidents go with these kind of recommendations. It was Reagan’s gift to rhetoric that he did not. 

    I’ve always believed that is in part what helped Ted Sorensen. He had had a relationship with Kennedy for a long time before JFK became president, and he had sufficient clout that he could ignore these kind of change requests from very senior people.

  7. Goldgeller

    Thanks for sharing Peter! I heard you mention once or twice before that some high-level people didn’t want the “tear down this wall” included.

    Funny enough, that line was one of the few things I knew about Ronald Reagan. Or rather, it was one of the few things I knew about Reagan that was true.

  8. dogsbody

    The hilarious irony is that the recommendations would truly have made for a missed opportunity.   It is the character of bureaucrats that they never want to disturb the status quo;  and the character of Ronald Reagan was very different.

    Thanks for writing that, Peter, and showing us what Rob Long would call “the notes”. 

  9. Tom Lindholtz

    Dogsbody nails one irony.  The other irony is that what was mediocre was not the speech….but the critics.

    God bless Peter and God bless Ronaldus Magnus for that speech and its results.  (And pity the others with the poor sense to criticize such eloquence in such a permanent form that their foolishness is a matter of historical record.)

  10. paulebe

    Is it too broad a brush to take this kind of small-mindedness to paint all the State Department, the bureaucracy that surrounds the DoD, and intelligence agencies as elitists that do MUCH more harm than good? I would assume so, but there are so many of these stories I can’t help but wonder.

  11. KC Mulville

    That’s gotta feel good. 

  12. Jimmy Carter

    A “mediocre speech” that sent shock waves the world over.

    Don’t forget Powell voted for Obama.

  13. James Delingpole
    C

    Gotta agree with Peter Rodman. It’s a lousy speech. Do we have any idea which loser wrote it?

  14. Johnny Dubya

    Presidential behavior and rhetoric have consequences.  Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers was subsequently cited by senior Kremlin officials as a sign that the president was not “all talk, no action”.  Here was a case where a domestic matter had international consequences, and we didn’t even appreciate it at the time.

    As far as the speech is concerned, its effect on dissidents and the communist populace as a whole should not be underestimated.  As Jay Nordlinger says, it is important to think how rhetoric might be received by “the boys in the camps”.  I would rather have our president speak meaningfully to them–those in the gulag and the laogai–than speak the diluted words of the cowards and pragmatists of State, the NSC, etc.

  15. Tom Lindholtz
    James Delingpole: Gotta agree with Peter Rodman. It’s a lousy speech. Do we have any idea which loser wrote it? · 1 minute ago

    Crass.

  16. Underground Conservative

    I do have to say that I appreciate the suggestion made in the NSC edit, i.e. “Even in the Communist world, the economic and moral bankruptcy of centralized state control is beginning to be understood.”

  17. Mel Foil

    It happens to every writer:

    Image94.jpg

  18. Peter Robinson
    C

    Mel Foil, you are a genius!

  19. AmishDude

    It’s amazing how stupid that smart people are.

    Even more amazing how sure and insistent they are.

  20. FeliciaB
    Tom Lindholtz

    James Delingpole: Gotta agree with Peter Rodman. It’s a lousy speech. Do we have any idea which loser wrote it? · 1 minute ago

    Crass. · 8 minutes ago

    Joke.

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