Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The GOP'S Reykjavik Moment

By Jeffrey Lord on 7.26.11 @ 6:09AM

"It's the laboratory -- or goodbye."

Mikhail Gorbachev barked out the words, his eyes cold, temper flaring.

Ronald Reagan sat directly across the table from the Soviet leader, staring calmly.

In the wake of President Obama's speech to the nation last night, shamelessly quoting Reagan out-of-context to give the impression Reagan would have approved of Obama's spend-thrift ways, another particular Reagan moment is worth summoning.

It was October 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two were engaged in the final day of a hastily called summit conference. This night they sat directly across from each other in Hofdi House, a stark, white-washed wooden building on the perimeter of the Icelandic capital overlooking the frigid North Atlantic.

Outside in the cold Icelandic darkness, the international media was gathered, hundreds of cameras and microphones poised and ready. Breaking the agreed-upon press embargo, the Soviets had already leaked to the reporters outside that the two leaders were nearing a historic agreement on Reagan's demands for deep cuts in strategic weapons and a "zero-zero" agreement (the latter eventually zeroing-out certain nuclear weapons systems based in Western Europe and the Soviet Union). Now the media was set up, the pressure ratcheting upward with the President himself aware that if this negotiation failed -- it would be cleverly portrayed as his fault. The price for this agreement? He would have to restrict SDI to laboratory testing -- which both he and Gorbachev knew would effectively kill the idea of an American nuclear shield completely.

For a moment, time seemed to stop. Outside -- just as in today's debt-ceiling battle -- was the press. Waiting. Waiting.

Inside, with a historic agreement to slash record numbers of nuclear weapons hanging in the balance, and a potential of banning them completely, the President of the United States considered the words he had just heard from the man who sat in Lenin and Stalin's chair.

"It's the laboratory -- or good-bye."

Either Reagan did what he, Gorbachev, wanted -- or the Reykjavik summit would come to an abrupt, immediate end. Right now. Right this minute. With Reagan portrayed as the bad guy. The man who failed the cause of world peace.

"The laboratory -- or goodbye." The words echoed.

Reagan scribbled a note to his Secretary of State, George Shultz. "Am I wrong?" Shultz leaned in to the President's ear. "No," whispered Shultz, "you are right."

And with that, with Gorbachev's cold eyes fixed on him, with the television lights just outside the door and the world watching, Ronald Reagan delivered his answer.

Without saying a word he stood up. And he gathered his papers.

Gorbachev, startled, stood. He hastily grabbed for his own notes. He looked at Reagan and blurted "please pass on my regards to Nancy."

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