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What if...
Reagan had won in '76?

___Millions of words and thousands of images have filled newspapers and television screens since the passing of Ronald Reagan on Saturday.
___ Friends, colleagues, politicians and scholars have discussed every facet of his remarkable life: How he started out poor, became a Holly-wood star, found a second career on television, then a third as a corporate spokesman, and yet another, more spectacular career as a politician.
___ His life has been thoroughly examined this week, but one crucial period and its consequences are virtually overlooked: His losing out to President Ford for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1976, which, it could be argued, helped the Soviets stay in power for several more years.
___ Put another way: Would the Soviet empire have collapsed sooner if Ronald Reagan had been elected president four years earlier? Would he have worn down the old comrades in the Kremlin sooner, perhaps accelerating Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power and ending communism and the Cold War in the mid-1980s?
___ Soviet dissidents had predicted back in the early 1970s that the Soviet Union would not last past 1984, which sounded too fanciful back then, but Reagan must have heard the same rumors and pushed for victory over Moscow.
But the so-called realists in the Republican Party - including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, future Secretary of State James Baker, future Vice President Dick Cheney and future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, among others - were Ford loyalists who stayed the course on détente and denied the nomination to Reagan.
Ford, of course, lost to Jimmy Carter, who did not go to Berlin and ask Gorbachev to ³tear down this wall.²
But the Berlin War did fall a couple of years after Reagan left office. It almost certainly would have come down sooner if the Republican convention had nominated him in 1976.
Reagan's admirers in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have often expressed their gratitude to the late president for liberating them from tyranny.
The Soviet empire went broke essentially because its military became overextended in places like Afghanistan (is there a warning here for the U.S.?) and it could not keep up with Reagan's military buildup, eventually forcing Gorbachev to throw in the towel. That didn't happen sooner because the wrong Republican candidate ran in 1976.
People can argue about Ronald Reagan's legacy - was he the greatest president of the 20th Century, or just a washed-up actor who talked a good game? - but give him credit for winning the Cold War.
Better late than never.

--- Past Articles

These Vets couldn't go to unveiling
___Uncle Albert Jonikas couldn't make it to the dedication of the World War II memorial over the weekend.
___He's an 84-year-old veteran of the Second World War who saw action in the Pacific - Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa, which was near where the Japanese surrendered - but he doesn't get around much anymore. [FULL STORY]