Revisiting Jean Kirkpatrick’s “Blame America First Democrats” Speech

Andrew’s two posts (here, here) about Senator Jack Reed’s recent foreign policy speech made me recall former U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jean Kirkpatrick’s speech at the 1984 Republican Convention:

This is the first Republican Convention I have ever attended.
I am grateful that you should invite me, a lifelong Democrat…
I want to begin tonight by quoting the speech of the president whom I very greatly admire, Harry Truman, who once said to the Congress:

The United States has become great because we, as a people, have been able to work together for great objectives even while differing about details.

He continued:

The elements of our strength are many. They include our democratic government, our economic system, our great natural resources. But, the basic source of our strength is spiritual. We believe in the dignity of man.

That’s the way Democratic presidents and presidential candidates used to talk about America.
These were the men who developed NATO, who developed the Marshall Plan, who devised the Alliance for Progress.
They were not afraid to be resolute nor ashamed to speak of America as a great nation. They didn’t doubt that we must be strong enough to protect ourselves and to help others.
They didn’t imagine that America should depend for its very survival on the promises of its adversaries.
They happily assumed the responsibilities of freedom.
I am not alone in noticing that the San Francisco Democrats took a very different approach.
A recent article in The New York Times noted that “the foreign policy line that emerged from the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco is a distinct shift from the policies of such [Democratic] presidents as Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.”
I agree…
When the San Francisco Democrats treat foreign affairs as an afterthought, as they did, they behaved less like a dove or a hawk than like an ostrich – convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand.
Today, foreign policy is central to the security, to the freedom, to the prosperity, even to the survival of the United States.
And our strength, for which we make many sacrifices, is essential to the independence and freedom of our allies and our friends…
The United States cannot remain an open, democratic society if we are left alone – a garrison state in a hostile world.
We need independent nations with whom to trade, to consult and cooperate.
We need friends and allies with whom to share the pleasures and the protection of our civilization.
We cannot, therefore, be indifferent to the subversion of others’ independence or to the development of new weapons by our adversaries or of new vulnerabilities by our friends…
The inauguration of President Reagan signaled a reaffirmation of historic American ideals.
Ronald Reagan brought to the presidency confidence in the American experience.
Confidence in the legitimacy and success of American institutions.
Confidence in the decency of the American people.
And confidence in the relevance of our experience to the rest of the world.
That confidence has proved contagious.
Our nation’s subsequent recovery in domestic and foreign affairs, the restoration of military and economic strength has silenced the talk of inevitable American decline and reminded the world of the advantages of freedom.
President Reagan faced a stunning challenge and he met it.
In the 3 1/2 years since his inauguration, the United States has grown stronger, safer, more confident, and we are at peace…
And at each step of the way, the same people who were responsible for America’s decline have insisted that the president’s policies would fail…
They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do – they didn’t blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians – they blamed the United States instead.
But then, somehow, they always blame America first.
When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the “blame America first crowd” didn’t blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.
But then, they always blame America first.
When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn’t blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.
But then, they always blame America first.
When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don’t blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.
But then, they always blame America first.
The American people know better.
They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn’t cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.
The American people know that it’s dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.
They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.
He wrote: “Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”…

Jean Kirkpatrick reminds us of the days when Democrats stood for something noble and strong on foreign policy. Our country would be so much better off if today’s Democratic party offered a viable and vigorous alternative to the policies of President Bush. Instead, we get speeches that trigger memories of this 22-year-old speech – a speech that shows both how weak-kneed Democratic policies have become and how nothing has changed for the better in that party over the last 30+ years. With many empirical history lessons to the contrary in recent years, Democrats should know better.

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Ivan the elder
Ivan the elder
15 years ago

This is tremendous work, Sir. I am sickened by how the Democrats and this new Chafee character have lost their soul and the real meaning of the USA. They are Einbube erleidendurch (losers). So beseigen (overwhelmed) they are by the problems they see that they can’t see the obvious–back America. The Democrats and Chafee the younger are trying to loshen (destroy) this great country. What good does it do for Chafee to tell everyone that the President is a liar. He sounds Trunken, like his Campaign Manager.
Keep this up sir. you are a good man.

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
15 years ago

Everyone: Let’s return to English language comments which discuss the relevant posting. Thanks.

warbucks
warbucks
15 years ago

Spielverderberin!
: )
Ok, Ok. Back to the englischsprachig!
Amb. Kirkpatrick’s words still ring true. Liberals are so devoid of ideas, they can only be against things, including their own country

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