Opinions & Views

The Liberal Smoke Screen

William E, Leuchtenburg: In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan; Cornell University Press; Ithaca, NY.

John Kenneth Galbraith: The Anatomy of Power; Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston.

When Ronald Reagan assumed the Presidency, he was assailed by liberals for wanting both too much power and too little. Mr. Reagan had made it clear that he intended to restore the United States to the position of strength and world leadership it had formerly oc­cupied, and he also wanted to restore to the Presidency the pre-Carterian dignity of the office. At the same time, the President was determined to reduce the size and scope of the Federal govern­ment, and to delegate more responsibil­ity to his subordinates than his recent predecessors had done. Of course, his liberal critics would have none of these changes. They charged Mr. Reagan with wanting both an "imperial" and a "nine­-to-five" Presidency. They attacked him for seeking too much power in foreign affairs and not enough domestically. To them, he was trying to usurp power by asking for less of it.

This reaction to President Reagan highlights an interesting feature of contemporary liberalism: its apparent ambivalence toward power. On the one hand, liberals like to believe that power is a poor substitute for good will and thus unsavory. At the same time, however, they insist on the use of power,...

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