How John Paul II, Reagan and Thatcher Changed the World

VATICAN CITY — A prominent journalist has argued recently that international political, economic and social breakdown were largely averted during the 1980's due to the personal and political alignments between Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  In his recently-released book, The Pope, The President, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World, National Review Editor-at-Large and Hudson Institute Fellow John O'Sullivan offers new research illuminating the three "hopeful" and "confident" personalities, and the way they forged relationships of mutual trust through their alliances and disagreements in a period of international upheaval and personal trial.

Crediting Reagan and Thatcher for reversing the economic "malaise," stagflation, and defeatism in the American and British collective psyche, O'Sullivan chronicles the political risks both Thatcher and Reagan took to transform the world economy into a post-industrial, information-age economy that today has achieved "eighteen years of high growth with stable prices, scarcely interrupted by two mild and shallow recessions." 

Spanning the decade of the late 1970's to the late 1980's, the narrative draws clear connections between the complex crises of martial law in Poland, Marxist regimes in Latin America, wars in Grenada and the Falkland Islands, and standoffs over nuclear weapons. O'Sullivan makes accessible to the layman the thinking behind the Christian "personalism" of John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the pontiff's support for human rights and women's equality, and the way disobedience among some radical bishops on issues from "liberation theology" to artificial contraception sowed the seeds of today's disputes over international social policy.

Extensive interviews and archival material show the way today's anti-Americanism and radical international social agenda in Western Europe and American academia sprang from the pro-communist sentiments and the "peace" movements beginning in 1968. A declassified Top Secret KGB letter describes a pre-presidential election visit by Senator Edward Kennedy to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Kennedy requested the audience, "in the interest of world peace … to counteract the militaristic policies of Ronald Reagan." The book also shows that Western Europe was the only part of the world that became increasingly leftist during the period.

Comparing the way all three leaders escaped assassination attempts, O'Sullivan argues that they were seemingly destined to rise from terminal middle management positions to top leadership positions simultaneously and were then "spared for a greater purpose." He shows how each leader answered the question, "Did God guide the bullet?" and how the narrow escapes affected each leader's spiritual life and political future.

Pointing to their legacies, O'Sullivan writes, "John Paul's sermons and speeches in Poland were injunctions to people not to despair in the face of overwhelming force, but instead to hope in God and trust their fellow man. Reagan preached confidently of a coming age of liberty that would bring about the end of Communism. Thatcher believed in "vigorous virtues" that, once liberated from the shackles of socialism, would enable the British and people everywhere to improve their own lives. In very different styles, all were enthusiasts for liberty."

O'Sullivan is uniquely qualified to have written this book. He had a front seat to much of this action as a speech writer for Margaret Thatcher and an influential political pundit in the United States.

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  • Guest

    Our Holy Father is in a whole different league than Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. I would be hard pressed to think of a contemporary public figure that equals his greatness, other than Mother Theresa and Mother Angelica.

  • Guest

    Ronald Reagan opened the door to greed-based extreme capitalism, breaking the backs of organized labor, encouraging huge bonuses for CEO’s who inflated projected bottom lines through lay-offs, increasing the gap between rich and poor (average household income was only maintained because more women went out to work – so helping to destroy the “family values” Reagan said he supported), eliminating federal student scholarships programs, encouraging destruction of the environment through deregulation and the laughable “self-regulation”, never seriously doing anything about abortion except putting more women and children on the poverty rolls, increasing federal spending (opposite of what he pledged), friendly policy toward Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, and I could go on and on.

    He is quintessentially the kind of person Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7,21: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

    Reagan’s mouthed the words of virtues and freedom, but he waged war on the poor domestically and abroad. He made wealth a virtue. Please do not equate him with our saintly John Paul II. The Church has written encyclicals about unbridled capitalism, and this is what Reagan was all about.

  • Guest

    Father Groeschel has spoken about the shameful increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, as evidenced between the increased salary gaps between CEOS and the employees of their companies (although he didn’t mention Reagan specifically). Whether one likes Reagan or not, it is ridiculous to put him in the same category as our Holy Father.

  • Guest

    CITE, inLove, from evidence – as I am certain that John O’Sullivan does – because he can – in his book. Mr. O’Sullivan (and Dr. Yoshihara, by inference) are not the first nor will be the last to tie these three giants together, for and about freedom, dignity, etc., for all humanity. Their disagreements wither in contrast with their unity.

    Both of you, Claire, inLove, sound rather dim (partisan?) on Reagan’s presidency, for sure. His policies – still in great effect, as economic statistics bear out – have made not merely for ‘more and better jobs’ – a thing that hardly ‘holds the poor down – but the sense indeed that we are all in this together – hardly a call to capitalist greed, if it could be interpreted as a token to vastly-more-common materialist greed.

    Neither of you bemoan Ted Kennedy’s outrageous (and bordering on unconstitutional; and, perhaps, greedy) efforts with communist leaders to stop Reagan. Could there be a . . . umm . . . reason for that?

    G.K.Chesterton bewailed greed in all its forms – personal, capitalist, socialist, communist, mercantilist, monarchist, imperial, etc. He noted the sin of greed celebrates a life longer than that of the Judeao-Christian sects; only a touch shorter than the sin of pride. He also noted that it seems that just about any of us – e.g., you and me – surrender to greed if given the opportunity. The lack in most persons’ perceptions and of their attitudes and sensibilities seems rather more to be of opportunity to greed than access to dignity and life.

    Of John Paul the Great – that he is ‘the Great’ separates him from every other one of us – as Mother Teresa (O, great saint! pray for us), Mother Angelica and Father Groeschel, among many others, would attest. However, oue beloved Holy Father forged working relationships with Reagan and Thatcher based on common desires for freedom and dignity. You will not note any denial of that among the liberal potentates due to all that history and the simple numbers demonstrate.

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    We didn’t comment on Kennedy because this article was not about Kennedy. That’s the “umm, reason for that”. By bringing up Kennedy, who is not the topic of this article, you yourself are being partisan. I did not say anything critical about Reagan; I merely pointed out that Pope John Paul is in a league of his own, which he is. He has forged working relationships with many politicians; that does not mean that they come close to sharing his degree of greatness, which, by the way, Mother Theresa certainly does.
    I’m very happy to see that this time you chose to voice your disagreement in a civil manner, unlike the last time when you handled your disagreement with me by responding in a hostile and un-Christian manner. This time you sound a little more like a servant of God.

  • Guest

    Kennedy was mentioned, and precisely in the faux pas to which I referred.

    I reserve the right to decide on my ‘civility’. But I also don’t care for commending the Pope as means of indirect side-swipe at a person about whom the very Pope would probably disagree with you. The collapse of Polish communism spurred by John Paul’s Church leadership came in part due to general Soviet collapse on Reagan’s leadership watch as President.

    To me, it is clear that in the mention made of Kennedy that he was quite prepared to more tolerate ongoing Soviet communist tyranny than a fellow American’s political leadership.

    If you want a bit of partisanship on my part – I cannot figure for the life of me why Massachuetts citizens have not relegated Teddy to his preferred role as spirits tester.

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

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