DEARLY BELOVED, we are gathered here in the Motor City to nominate Ronald Reagon for the No. 1 spot on the Republican ticket, which will be, alas and alack and excluding the passing fancy of John Anderson, one-half of the entire choice available to the American voter. The other will be Jimmy Carter. Lord, have mercy on our souls.
Outside and down the street and somewhere around the corner of this city, the automobile industry is gurgling the awful sounds of death. Up the block and down some other street, men and women are lining up to get their unemployment checks. Around the corner and down the block, no one dares walk at night. For all these problems, we get Ronald Reagan as the remedy.
Oh, pardon my sarcasm. Pardon my cynicism, but I have been listening. Ever since the campaign began (when you and I were young, Maggie) I have been reading three, sometimes four newspapers a day. And teh news magazines, and watching Walter and Frank and even the slow-talking John. I talk to the pols themselves and to my colleagues and I am, in actual fact, better informed than all-but-maybe 0.1 percent of the American people. I have yet to hear an original idea from Ronald Reagan.
Forgive me if I am wrong. Where is his plan for Detroit, where unemployment is something like 18 percent? Pardon me if I have lost it. Where are his proposals to save the auto industry, where just last week the Japanese became the world's largest producers of cars? Forgive me if I have mislaid it. Where are his ideas for getting the cities to look like cities once again, to get the country moving, to beat the energy crisis -- to save us from the mess we are in?
Oh, I know he has talked about cutting taxes 30 percent and I know he has talked about getting the government off the backs of industry. But it is not the government that told American auto companies to mass-produce cars that no one wanted. The government's not the reason that every piece of hi-fi equipment I own was made in Japan. The reason is that Japan makes better hi-fi equipment.
The country's probelms are complicated. They don't lend themselves to somple solutions, to government by slogan. The energy crisis will not and cannot be solved by unleasing the oil companies. Decontrol has not produced more oil, and the management of what is left will take more, not less, government planning.
The energy crisis, in short, will take the kind of government planning that would turn Ronald Reagan green, that would make him sick and cause his hands to tremble. It will take the sort of package of both government and private actions that only the government could coordinate. This is what has to be done. This is probably not what will be done.
Instead Ronald Reagan harks back to a day of a simpler America. It was a lovely place, that America. I am old enough to have known it -- to have known 30-cent gas and how a dollar could keep you cruising all night. I remember when the Japanese made toys and crude imitations of American goods, and how when you went to Europe you went with your pockets stuffed with the almighty dollar. God, you could buy things and the people treated you with respect. Now, in Germany, the people give American soldiers their version of CARE packages. They do it mostly to be nice, but they cannot help gloating.
So, backward we will go. And backward Ronald Reagan will take us. He seems like a nice man, a decent man, a never-harm-a-fly man. He believes in America, which is nice, but he believes too much in myths, in what individuals can do.
He once credited the end of radical segregation in the armed forces to a black, Navy cook, who during World War II came up from his galley, cradled a machine gun in his strong, black arms and gunned down the threatening Japanese Zeros. That this incident probably never ocurred and that racial segregation ended after the war and only after blacks yelled bloody murder, is something Reagan did not mention. Maybe he did not know it. Maybe his version just made a better story.
His way would be wonderful. He would cut taxes and rev up the economy and give the Ruskies what-for and private enterprise would flourish. Kate Smith would sing and Irving Berlin would write the song and George Murphy would do a soft shoe. The whole thing is a dream -- a soft, wonderful dream, familiar as a small-town picnic, but a dream nonetheless.
For the nightmare, we will shift later this month to the Democrats in New York.