Thursday, July 17, 2014


Hot Air's Noah Rothman and other conservatives (see, e.g., Fox News) are looking at President Obama's response to the shootdown of the Malaysian airliner and finding it lacking -- specifically, they think it falls short of Ronald Reagan's reaction to Russia's shootdown of a Korean passenger jet in 1983.

"Obviously, the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border," [President Obama] said. "It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy."

The president added that he had directed his national security team to "stay in close contact" with the government in Ukraine, and his government was working to determine whether a report that 23 American citizens were on board that flight was accurate. He offered his prayers for the families of those who lost loved ones. And that was it.

38 seconds. Obama then proceeded to deliver a canned speech....
This, we're told, is in contrast with Reagan:
... 31 years ago, at a time with far less reliable technology or communications capabilities, President Ronald Reagan immediately addressed an eerily similar situation – when Soviet forces shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the Kamchatka Peninsula.

On the day of the attack, calling it an "appalling and wanton misdeed," the president ordered American flags to fly at half-staff at all federal and military installations.

Three days later, Reagan delivered an address to the nation from the Oval Office....
Yes, Reagan delivered a really tough address -- you can watch it at the Rothman link -- but, as Rothman says, that was three days later. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, Reagan didn't call the shootdown an "appalling and wanton misdeed" -- if you look at the link Rothman provides, you'll see that that was a statement the White House issued, and it was read by presidential spokesman Larry Speakes.

I would like to point out that Reagan slept through the shootdown -- and was not awakened.

That was reported in Tip O'Neill's 1987 memoir:
I'll never forget that summer day in 1983 when Flight 007, the Korean airliner, was shot down by the Soviets. I was on Cape Cod, where Secretary of State George Shultz called me at 7 in the morning. After telling me what had happened, he said he was sending down a plane to bring me to Washington for an emergency meeting at the White House.

"I'll be ready," I said. "But what does the President think about this?"

"He's still asleep," said Shultz. "He doesn't know about it yet."

"You've got to be kidding," I said. "You mean you`re calling me before you've even notified the President?"

"We'll tell him when he wakes up," said Shultz.
Larry Speakes, in his memoir, acknowledged that that was true, but said it was a cheap shot because Reagan was vacationing in California, where it was 4:00 A.M. (I guess the notion of a president taking a "3:00 A.M. phone call" didn't apply to Reagan.)

However, Reagan's personal response didn't get much more forceful in the hours after dawn broke. As Paul Slansky noted in his book on the Reagan era, The Clothes Have No Emperor,
Only after CBS shows President Reagan on horseback at his ranch as the crisis unfolds does he reluctantly return to Washington.
And that's true. Watch the clip:

CBS REPORTER DEBORAH POTTER: At the time, officials said, there were no plans for the president to cut short his vacation, and he went for his regular horseback ride on his mountaintop ranch. Aides said that anything he could do at the White House he could do there.
Potter went on to report that Reagan returned to D.C. because "officials here began to worry that, given the circumstances, it wouldn't have looked right for the president to stay on his ranch." So there's your so-called real president, right-wingers.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.)


Victor said...

Don't confuse Christian conservatives with objective and proven reality-reality!

They have their OWN reality.

Reagan is their Jesus - perfect, and without sin.

Mustang Bobby said...

But of course they couldn't disturb Mr. Reagan when he was sleeping. He was dreaming of the shining city on the hill, and waking him up would have ruined it for everybody.

Unknown said...

Another Reagan fact....That day when US Navy fighters shot down two Lybian fighters 30 years ago, I heard the news on the radio before 6:00 AM (eastern), and immediately wondered how Reagan would react...Five or six hours later, I learned that Reagan had just then been waked up (he was in CA at the time)and given the news, and was thinking things over.

Roger said...

Rothman is stupid even by Malkin monkey standards.

He's got his sights set on Jim Hoft's stupidest man on the internet crown.

Glennis said...

In general, it is kind of stupid to criticize a president for carrying out regular business while a crisis is going on in another country between other countries, but since the Republicans can't resist going there, this is one to throw in their teeth.

Unsalted Sinner said...

To paraphrase Philip Larkin:

"History began on January 20, 2009.
Which was rather late for me..."

I suppose these people would be incredulous if you told them that the US military once shot down an Iranian airliner. But they probably would approve of how Reagan and his VP handled that minor oopsie:

"Despite an impassioned speech by its Foreign Minister, Iran failed to win Security Council support today for a resolution condemning the United States for the downing of an Iranian airliner. Diplomats said Teheran would have to settle for a less harshly worded statement.

Vice President Bush defended the downing of the Iranian Airbus by an American warship, asserting that the real problem in the Persian Gulf was Iran's refusal to stop its war with Iraq in accordance with a Security Council resolution.


Aides to Mr. Bush were sensitive to the appearance that the Vice President was seeking political gain from his speech, although they conceded that the visit should not hurt the Republican political nominee. ''I do not believe it will be harmful politically,'' said Craig L. Fuller, the Vice President's chief of staff.

By making the appearance, Mr. Bush re-emphasized his foreign policy credentials and emphasized that he strongly supported the action of the American ship, his aides said.

Some aides to Mr. Bush have said privately that the Vice President was surprised by the strong positive reaction when he defended the American captain for shooting down the plane, during campaign stops in the Midwest on July 4, a day after the incident. One aide said Mr. Bush himself had decided to make the United Nations visit and that President Reagan had gone along with the suggestion."

Watch and learn, Putin!