Mondale as Debater

Fri Aug 20, 2010

I am intermittently working my way through the archives of the London Review of Books and have now reached late 1984. An article by Alan Brinkley about the Mondale-Reagan presidential race mentioned one of their debates, and I remembered that I might have actually watched that when it happened. Thanks to the miracle of the Reagan Presidential Library, a handsome copy is available on Youtube for all to see, and I was just browsing around in it.

In one segment, young firebrand Morton Kondracke asks Reagan a tough-seeming question about his policy in Lebanon, and Reagan tells the audience that you can’t just put your finger on a terrorist group like you can a government. Furthermore, he adds, if you indiscriminately target terrorists, you might endanger innocent civilian populations, leading to spiraling problems. Now, knowing the actual policies of the Reagan administration up to this point and subsequently, combined with the remainder of post-Reagan U.S. policy on this issue, leaves the viewer dizzy—if not briny—with irony. (Reagan mentioned Brighton as the site of the latest terrorist attack.)

There’s lots of good stuff in the LRB, needless to say. I delight in the prose style of Edward Luttwak, and his pieces on mild populist economics and Pablo Escobar are wonderful. (Escobar had beauty contestants race in the nude for the chance to win a Ferrari for instance, and, for Luttwak, such an Atalantean aesthete couldn’t have been all bad for U. S. interests.)