Lessons From Ronald Reagan

Weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

We spent all week thinking about Ronald Reagan, and that was a good thing. He was our president for eight years. He helped restore our national confidence when it was fading. When he left Washington, we didn't understand that the Soviet Union was so near collapse. Now we can see how the policy he put in place helped to bring down an enemy that for nearly half a century had the means to destroy us and all civilization. Reason enough to remember him.

But there is one more thing to think about. This week of tribute to Ronald Reagan was a refreshing respite in a presidential campaign that began too soon and has grown increasingly bitter when the country is already more polarized than ever. What Reagan showed us, what today's politicians would do well to remember, is that it is possible to have differences without hating those on the other side; that winning an argument does not have to mean destroying your opponent. Somehow that's been lost in today's mean politics. Years of negative campaigns conducted almost exclusively by 30-second television ads have gridlocked our political process and made the compromises necessary to govern all but impossible. Worse, it has soured our politics to the point that too many people no longer want anything to do with it.

The lesson from Ronald Reagan is that his way did work. If our politicians would remember only that about him, the level of our political dialogue would rise and campaigns would again become interesting, perhaps even relevant to solving the problems of our times.

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