Compare Obama To Reagan? Yeah, Let's!
July 18, 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'm not sure -- but 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.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog.

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