Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Question I Would Have Asked

 

Last night I had the good fortune to be invited to an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute in Simi Valley, CA entitled “A Nation Engaged: Power and The Presidency” hosted by NPR News and featuring our beloved patron and founder @peterrobinson and noted Reagan historian Craig Shirley. The discussion that flowed from this pairing of Reagan aficionados was not quite what I expected (although given the participants and the venue not entirely surprising) but, as always with these kinds of things, very enlightening.

The evening began with the audience being lead through the Pledge of Allegiance, and as an immigrant I must say that these small slices of American ritual really do provide a sense of community and shared identity. While my libertarian lizard brain rebels at the idea of pledging allegiance to any government or flag, my sense of American-ness was moved.

Initially, the conversation delved into the life, history, and philosophy of Ronald Reagan and having just finished Peter’s book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. I found this part of the discussion the be the most interesting. Craig Shirley discussed how, despite having chosen to follow his mother’s protestant faith, Reagan grew up with a very Catholic understanding of community and shared values. This greatly impacted how Reagan communicated with the public — always speaking in community terms of we, and our, a stark contrast with our previous or current President.

Peter spoke more about Reagan the man — offering insight into Reagan as the consummate writer and thinker, but more importantly Reagan as a human being. The most moving moment was a story Peter told about an elderly woman who had donated to Reagan’s reelection and through a series of amusing circumstances and miscommunication showed up at the White House for the inauguration. When President Reagan heard the stories floating around the West Wing he instructed his Secret Service to find the woman and bring her to the Oval Office where he spent 20 minutes with her. The story almost brought Peter to tears.

There were many other threads of conversation touching on various subjects such as comparing Ronald Reagan to President Trump in both positive and negative lights, the impact of various policies and appointments, and an extensive Q&A session. Unfortunately, I found the Q&A to be disappointing (and not solely because they didn’t pick the most handsome and intelligent audience member to ask a question), but because the questions did not seem to be vetted beforehand and rarely touched on the subject the panel was there to present. Most of the questions touched on current politics such as immigration, and only a handful dealt with Presidential power such as executive orders or war powers. Some of the questions were nigh incoherent — such is peril of not vetting and NPR should have done more to serve such two distinguished scholars.

I began the night full of libertarian vinegar, ready to ask a whole raft of questions related to the reining in the imperial presidency on executive orders and illegal wars in Syria, but as is often the case when listening to learned men, my question changed dramatically as the night wore on. As I alluded, I never did get to ask my question, but the wonderful thing about Ricochet is that I get a second bite at the apple. So here goes:

@PeterRobinson, It is quite apparent that the public’s skepticism of presidential power shifts with whatever party happens to hold the White House. As a man with intimate knowledge of the Presidency and more importantly the character of a President, what kind of man will it take to actually begin the devolution of power back to the people and the several states?

P.S.: Many thanks to @BlueYeti for the opportunity to attend this wonderful event. Any Ricochetti who make their way to California would be well served by a trip to the Reagan Library. Not only are the grounds spectacularly beautiful, showcasing what makes California one of the greatest places to live in the world, but the museum itself is well curated and insightful — I learn something new every time I go.

There are 30 comments.

  1. Stina Inactive

    Jamie Lockett: @PeterRobinson It is quite apparent that the public’s skepticism of presidential power shifts with whatever party happens to hold the White House. As a man with intimate knowledge of the Presidency and more importantly the character of a President, what kind of man will it take to actually begin the devolution of power back to the people and the several States?

    Good question. I’m interested in his response.

    My gut reaction (based on my theological leanings) is that kind of man does not exist.

    When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. 1 Samuel 8:18

    But that isn’t useful.

    I think you will need a man charismatic enough to win, humble enough to not consider himself the solution, strong enough to sell himself AS the only answer, and self-less enough to destroy that institution.

    • #1
    • April 21, 2017, at 8:42 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  2. Guruforhire Member

    Jamie Lockett: @PeterRobinson, It is quite apparent that the public’s skepticism of presidential power shifts with whatever party happens to hold the White House. As a man with intimate knowledge of the Presidency and more importantly the character of a President, what kind of man will it take to actually begin the devolution of power back to the people and the several states?

    I don’t think anybody can change the fundamental trust problems. There is literally nobody in the world credible enough to resolve underlying problems.

    • #2
    • April 21, 2017, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I’m starting to believe that this kind of person wouldn’t be running for President, or couldn’t get elected. We say that we want a person of principle and character, but that’s not the person we’ll elect. I think that was the kind of man George Washington was–a man of great aspirations and seeking power, but also wanting to return to Mt. Vernon when his time was up. Perhaps Reagan was like that, but Peter would know better. And thanks for reminding me that I need to check out the Reagan library on my next trip to CA.

    • #3
    • April 21, 2017, at 8:50 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  4. Profile Photo Member

    Jamie Lockett: As a man with intimate knowledge of the Presidency and more importantly the character of a President, what kind of man will it take to actually begin the devolution of power back to the people and the several States?

    Someone who can convince people that they want it. I think there is less audience for it than people on the Right believe. It’s the sort of thing that makes a nice talking point, but most people really don’t want.

    • #4
    • April 21, 2017, at 8:51 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. Larry3435 Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And thanks for reminding me that I need to check out the Reagan library on my next trip to CA.

    You will find that to be a trip well worth it.

    • #5
    • April 21, 2017, at 8:53 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Hammer, The Member

    Jamie Lockett: The evening began with the audience being lead through the Pledge of Allegiance, and as an immigrant I must say that these small slices of American ritual really do provide a sense of community and shared identity. While my libertarian lizard brain rebels at the idea of pledging allegiance to any government or flag, my sense of American-ness was moved.

    Great post, Jamie. I think this paragraph is pretty important – it does illustrate the difference between forming a sort of cult around an object like a flag or a symbol, and a legitimate national pride that arises from shared values. Those shared values attract the sorts of immigrants we want, but they also help to remind our entire country of its common ground.

    • #6
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:01 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  7. Profile Photo Member

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And thanks for reminding me that I need to check out the Reagan library on my next trip to CA.

    You will find that to be a trip well worth it.

    I second that. I did the trip about a decade ago. Had a great time.

    • #7
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett Post author

    Ryan M(cPherson) (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett: The evening began with the audience being lead through the Pledge of Allegiance, and as an immigrant I must say that these small slices of American ritual really do provide a sense of community and shared identity. While my libertarian lizard brain rebels at the idea of pledging allegiance to any government or flag, my sense of American-ness was moved.

    Great post, Jamie. I think this paragraph is pretty important – it does illustrate the difference between forming a sort of cult around an object like a flag or a symbol, and a legitimate national pride that arises from shared values. Those shared values attract the sorts of immigrants we want, but they also help to remind our entire country of its common ground.

    I was pretty surprised by my reaction, it somehow felt different for adults to be engaging in this ritual than for the children in school. There it feels like indoctrination, here it felt like a shared expression of national pride. Maybe I was indoctrinated in my youth, or maybe I just understand the value as an adult.

    • #8
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:16 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Lois Lane Coolidge

    I love that library. I did a ton of research there when I was in graduate school, and I was also able to attend a few presentations, one that included Craig Shirley.

    I am sorry that some of the questions were off topic and even incoherent (!!!), but I am glad that they aren’t vetted in general.

    Why?

    I like that anyone can stand up and ask what’s on his or her mind. Vetted questions are a little stunting in that they aren’t very democratic.

    It’s up to the panel to dispense with bad questions quickly or redirect them to something more relevant.

    It’s a more honest back and forth in my mind.

    Glad you had a great event! I’m jealous!

    • #9
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:26 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  10. Trink Coolidge

    Jamie Lockett: my sense of American-ness was moved

    And I was moved by this interesting and lovely post. Thank you.

    • #10
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:34 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. TempTime Member

    Thanks Jamie, a post definitely worth reading. Good insight provided. I’m also interested in Peter Robinson’s response.

    • #11
    • April 21, 2017, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. KC Mulville Inactive

    Great post, as usual. And while I’d love to hear Peter’s response, let me add a comment of my own.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The same usually holds true for power. In fact our government was theoretically designed to use the competition for power as the means of keeping it in balance. And the more I think about it, I don’t want a president who voluntarily cedes power. I want a competitor in that office.

    But what it will take to balance that competition is for Congress (primarily) and states to start fighting for their own place. It isn’t the character of the president that will restore balance but the collective character of Congress. You’d presume that Congressional leaders would zealously guard their own power, but in my opinion, political parties have helped turn Congress into the Igor to any presidential Frankenstein. Just as Steve Bannon demanded that Congress obey the president, politics now treats Congress as subordinate and obedient to presidential power. Maybe the recent rejection of that theory of “loyalty” by the Freedom Caucus will be the start of something good.

    • #12
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:19 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. Songwriter Member

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And thanks for reminding me that I need to check out the Reagan library on my next trip to CA.

    You will find that to be a trip well worth it.

    Amen. We went last fall. It is terrific.

    • #13
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:26 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Quake Voter Inactive

    Jamie Lockett: The most moving moment was a story Peter told about an elderly woman who had donated to Reagan’s reelection and through a series of amusing circumstances and miscommunication showed up at the White House for the inauguration. When President Reagan heard the stories floating around the West Wing he instructed his Secret Service to find the woman and bring her to the Oval Office where he spent 20 minutes with her. The story almost brought Peter to tears.

    Thanks for another lively, honest post, Jamie. This story is another dog that doesn’t bark in our leftist pop culture. Wouldn’t this make a touching, low budget independent film with broad appeal? An American “Walking The Dogs”.

    • #14
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:29 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Sorry to have missed this and meeting you both. Is there a recording of the discussion up yet?

    RL is a must-visit, no matter your politics.

    • #15
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:30 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  16. Quake Voter Inactive

    Sad to say, but I don’t think any great man or men are going to revive real federalism (“great man” federalism is not as clear a contradiction as many suppose). Nor do I feel a groundswell of localism in politics will emerge. It is more likely, in my opinion, that the deepening cultural, religious and political conflicts between leftist and broadly conservative states will create the space for a more federal union.

    A “separate bedrooms” attempt to maintain the union.

    • #16
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:34 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. TempTime Member

    KC Mulville (View Comment):
    Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The same usually holds true for power. In fact our government was theoretically designed to use the competition for power as the means of keeping it in balance. And the more I think about it, I don’t want a president who voluntarily cedes power. I want a competitor in that office.

    Good words to ponder. It’s shaping up to be another great day all around Ricochet today; nice lead into the weekend.

    • #17
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:40 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett Post author

    Quake Voter (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett: The most moving moment was a story Peter told about an elderly woman who had donated to Reagan’s reelection and through a series of amusing circumstances and miscommunication showed up at the White House for the inauguration. When President Reagan heard the stories floating around the West Wing he instructed his Secret Service to find the woman and bring her to the Oval Office where he spent 20 minutes with her. The story almost brought Peter to tears.

    Thanks for another lively, honest post, Jamie. This story is another dog that doesn’t bark in our leftist pop culture. Wouldn’t this make a touching, low budget independent film with broad appeal? An American “Walking The Dogs”.

    You know you’re right, if only we had a writer with touching and comedic sensibilities around these parts who could bring such a story to the screen a la “The Butler” *cough*@roblong*cough*

    • #18
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:46 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  19. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett Post author

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):
    Sorry to have missed this and meeting you both. Is there a recording of the discussion up yet?

    RL is a must-visit, no matter your politics.

    Yes there is over at the Reagan Library website.

    • #19
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:46 AM PST
    • Like
  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett Post author

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Sad to say, but I don’t think any great man or men are going to revive real federalism (“great man” federalism is not as clear a contradiction as many suppose). Nor do I feel a groundswell of localism in politics will emerge. It is more likely, in my opinion, that the deepening cultural, religious and political conflicts between leftist and broadly conservative states will create the space for a more federal union.

    A “separate bedrooms” attempt to maintain the union.

    One only has to look at Washington to know that “great man” federalism is achievable.

    • #20
    • April 21, 2017, at 10:48 AM PST
    • Like
  21. Hoyacon Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Sad to say, but I don’t think any great man or men are going to revive real federalism (“great man” federalism is not as clear a contradiction as many suppose). Nor do I feel a groundswell of localism in politics will emerge. It is more likely, in my opinion, that the deepening cultural, religious and political conflicts between leftist and broadly conservative states will create the space for a more federal union.

    A “separate bedrooms” attempt to maintain the union.

    One only has to look at Washington to know that “great man” federalism is achievable.

    I’d rephrase that. One only has to look at Washington to know it was achievable 220 years ago.

    • #21
    • April 21, 2017, at 12:53 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  22. Stina Inactive

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I’d rephrase that. One only has to look at Washington to know it was achievable 220 years ago.

    Also, the only people who were voting at that time were likely the same people who served under him in battle.

    Only men, of a certain age, who owned land…

    • #22
    • April 21, 2017, at 12:56 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Thanks, found the video. Peter’s remarks about the national media and his answer to the audience member’s immigration question were spot-on. The discussion about federalism and executive orders was good. Loved Peters comments on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster and the constitutionality of using force against Syria.

    Jamie, considering this was at RL it appeared somewhat sterilized. Did it feel that way in person? NPR asked the audience to sit on their hands (actually using the words ‘safe-space’) or did it just translate badly to video?

    Starts at 48m

    • #23
    • April 21, 2017, at 1:00 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett Post author

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):
    Thanks, found the video. Peter’s remarks about the national media and his answer to the audience member’s immigration question were spot-on. The discussion about federalism and executive orders was good. Loved Peters comments on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster and the constitutionality of using force against Syria.

    Jamie, considering this was at RL it appeared somewhat sterilized. Did it feel that way in person? NPR asked the audience to sit on their hands (actually using the words ‘safe-space’) or did it just translate badly to video?

    Starts at 48m

    Peter’s responses in general were the best of the night (my wife thought so too), and while incredibly knowledgeable we felt Shirley got a bit too defensive at times and really cut Peter off at moments. The safe space moment was like nails on the chalkboard to me although there were a lot of murmurs and guffaws from the audience at certain things the panelists said that my wife and I both found rude and unhelpful and at the time this was what he was addressing.

    One thing I noticed, and this may be me reading more into things than I should or being miffed I didn’t get to ask my question (I’m special damnit!), but the reporter picking audience members went out of his way to choose “diverse” members. So of course the immigration question was asked by a latina, etc. Also the moderator, while generally stellar, got a bit more confrontational towards the end and instead of facilitating knowledge started to challenge the panelists in ways I thought were unhelpful for the audience.

    • #24
    • April 21, 2017, at 1:31 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Quake Voter Inactive

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    Sad to say, but I don’t think any great man or men are going to revive real federalism (“great man” federalism is not as clear a contradiction as many suppose). Nor do I feel a groundswell of localism in politics will emerge. It is more likely, in my opinion, that the deepening cultural, religious and political conflicts between leftist and broadly conservative states will create the space for a more federal union.

    A “separate bedrooms” attempt to maintain the union.

    One only has to look at Washington to know that “great man” federalism is achievable.

    I’d rephrase that. One only has to look at Washington to know it was achievable 220 years ago.

    Washington’s federalism is often contrasted negatively against the re-invented post-Federalist Madison and the pre-embargo Jefferson.

    Compared to the personal centralized power available to him in 1783, his role in creating our republic is astonishing. George III’s verdict was correct.

    I share Hoyacon’s skepticism, but given how shallow, flabby, incoherent and unsuccessful modern centralized politics and centralized political thought have become, I also share Jamie’s hope.

    • #25
    • April 21, 2017, at 2:09 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. I. M. Fine Lincoln

    Songwriter (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And thanks for reminding me that I need to check out the Reagan library on my next trip to CA.

    You will find that to be a trip well worth it.

    Amen. We went last fall. It is terrific.

    I think all Presidential libraries are terrific – they hold such a wealth of primary source materials and are designed chronologically so that the story of the administration is told. I live in Kansas City and make a point of visiting the Truman Library (in Independence, a suburb) at least once a year. I reserve an entire day each time. I always learn something (actually, many things) new with each visit.

    • #26
    • April 21, 2017, at 3:38 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Randy Webster Member

    Stina (View Comment):
    I think you will need a man charismatic enough to win, humble enough to not consider himself the solution, strong enough to sell himself AS the only answer, and self-less enough to destroy that institution.

    Washington may have been the last of them.

    • #27
    • April 21, 2017, at 11:19 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Front Seat Cat Member

    Great post. I was surprised to learn this past winter that my ultra-liberal Mas friends who only vaca in CA it seems, took time to visit the Reagan Library. I have a book on Reagan and his faith. It said his dad was a traveling salesman and alcoholic. It described as a young boy, waking his dad who passed out in the snow, and bringing him into the house. They had little money and he became the man of the house. I think God uses people like that, in certain times in history, raising up the most unexpected person when needed. He was devoutly spiritual and that drove his fight to bring down communism, fearless, yet kind hearted.

    • #28
    • April 22, 2017, at 7:00 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. ST Inactive
    ST

    Nice post.

    • #29
    • April 22, 2017, at 10:47 AM PST
    • Like
  30. ST Inactive
    ST

    Double post Like.

    • #30
    • April 22, 2017, at 10:48 AM PST
    • Like