There are some classic Ronald Reagan moments. The most memorable is probably his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” from his speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. But his most succinct comment was in San Diego, November 3, 1980: “Aw shut up.”
Reagan would be considered a radical today by his own party that believes you can play nice with the Democrats and make conservative political progress. Reagan knew you needed to confront the opposition directly even if it wasn’t politically polite.
Here’s the important part of the “tear down this wall” story. Even Reagan’s administration officials wanted him to cut the line from his speech because they believed it to be an “outright affront to the Soviet leadership.” Here’s what Peter Robinson, Reagan’s speech writer, says happened:
“[T]he speech was circulated to the State Department and the National Security Council. Both attempted to squelch it. The assistant secretary of state for Eastern European affairs challenged the speech by telephone. A senior member of the National Security Council staff protested the speech in memoranda. The ranking American diplomat in Berlin objected to the speech by cable. The draft was naive, it would raise false hopes. It was clumsy, it was needlessly provocative. State and the NSC submitted their own alternate drafts — my journal records that there were no fewer than seven, including one written by the diplomat in Berlin. In each, the call to tear down the wall was missing.
Compare Reagan to John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham, and you’ll see one of the main reasons the Republican Party is in so much trouble.