On August 11, 1984, President Ronald Reagan joked over a “hot” mic, “My fellows Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I have signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” It was a joke, but we all knew it masked a serious truth. Reagan had declared on more than one occasion that the Soviet Union was a grave threat to freedom and security—only the year before he had declared it the “evil empire.”
President’s Obama’s now-infamous “flexibility” gaffe ought to be seen in the same light. The President means what he says. The President’s commitments to missile defense have always been equivocal, a placebo to be traded away to placate the Russians rather than as a defense system to protect Americans from the world’s greatest danger: a nuclear-tipped missile.
A penchant to be brutally honest in unguarded moments is about all Reagan and Obama share. On protecting Americans, they are polar opposites. Reagan believed in peace through strength. Obama believes in safety by relying on the generosity of would-be adversaries.