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Remembering Reagan’s inaugural address

Mark Meckler in The American Spectator: It doesn’t seem like it’s been thirty-four years.

But on January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States. The words of his inaugural address are full of timeless truth, and perhaps are even more powerful today than when they were first uttered.

Like today, the America of 1981 faced economic challenges including unemployment, inflation, a growing deficit, and challenges abroad. Reagan’s speech inspired the American people to believe — not in some vague notion of “hope.” Rather, he inspired us to believe that we could courageously face those problems and solve them. When he said the nation was not, as some claimed, “doomed to an inevitable decline,” it was as if that Carter-induced malaise lost some of its power.

Reagan wasn’t a sunny optimist without also being a stubborn realist. He knew we had real problems and warned of the dangers of “mortgaging our future and our children’s future” with out-of-control spending and deficits. And, in a counter-intuitive statement for a man who’d just taken the most prominent position in the federal government, he said the ballooning size of government was the number-one contributor to the nation’s problems.

Reagan was right about this: The hope for a brighter American future doesn’t lie in so-called government solutions, but in her people:

“Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. You meet heroes across a counter — and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity.”

Questions on racial profiling

Matt Welch in Reason: On Dec. 2, Attorney General Eric Holder, the top law enforcement official in the country, went to Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church to announce that the Justice Department would soon “institute rigorous new standards-and robust safeguards-to help end racial profiling, once and for all.”

Neither time nor place was accidental. Ebenezer was the home church of civil rights hero Rev. Martin Luther King. And Dec. 2 was one week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, opted to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Two days after the speech, a Staten Island grand jury would also decline to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner. In both cases, the cops were white, the victims black. Both decisions touched off nationwide protests that were largely about race, with demonstrators consistently making the basic point that “black lives matter.”

So in one sense Holder, the country’s first African-American attorney general, was simply responding to the Zeitgeist of the moment, much the same way President Barack Obama did a day earlier at a White House summit meeting announcing a new task force to improve the relationship between police and communities of color. “[We need] to begin a process in which we’re able to surface honest conversations with law enforcement, community activists, academics, elected officials, the faith community, and try to determine what the problems are and, most importantly, try to come up with concrete solutions that can move the ball forward,” the president said.

But by focusing on the role of race to the exclusion of other contributing factors in these cases, both the powerless in the streets and the powerful in the suites were letting an important culprit off the hook: power itself.

The GOP’s Agema problem

Betsy Woodruff in Slate: When the Republican National Committee assembles later this week in San Diego for its winter meeting, it’s hoping that Dave Agema doesn’t make the trip. That’s because Agema—the Republican National Committeeman for the state of Michigan—has become an embarrassment for much of the party. Specifically, he has a bad habit of posting racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic screeds on Facebook. He’s expected to attend the Winter Meeting in San Diego later this week, and some conservatives say the RNC isn’t doing enough to muscle him out.

Agema, formerly an Air Force fighter pilot, served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives—the maximum allowed by the state’s term limits—and then challenged Saul Anuzis for his spot as RNC committeeman at the 2012 Republican state convention. MLive reported that consultant John Yob, now the national political director of Sen. Rand Paul’s RANDPAC, “engineered Agema’s victory,” a win that capitalized on the state delegates’ Tea Party fervor. Paul Welday, the chairman of the Michigan GOP 14th district committee, said that contest was a proxy war between Yob and Anuzis, who have feuded in the past.

“Dave Agema proved to be the beneficiary as the result of that fight,” Welday said.

Before becoming committeeman, Agema had a controversial tenure in the Michigan statehouse. He has said that Muslims intend to implement Sharia in the state, energetically opposed same-sex marriage, and was known as one of the most far right members of the chamber.

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