Pete Wehner has a simultaneously amusing and disturbing post up about a strange exchange between Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Chris Matthews on Matthews' show last Friday:

"Thomas, commenting on Obama's Cairo speech, said, 'I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world, he's sort of God.' And when Thomas was asked by Matthews, "Reagan and World War II and the sense of us as the good guys in the world, how are we doing?" Thomas replied, "Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn't felt that way in recent years."

On the matter of whether Obama is "sort of God," I would only say that this kind of thinking is one reason it's useful to believe in the One God, as a way of checking human hubris. On the other question, of whether Thomas was correct in saying that "we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way," Nexis tells a slightly different story about whether Thomas himself felt "that way" in the mid-1980s. Then with Time Magazine, he wrote the following in January, 1985:

"Viewed broadly, Reagan's agenda seems hamstrung by internal contradictions. It is difficult to imagine, for example, how he can spend more for defense, refuse to raise taxes or cut Social Security, and still chop the annual deficit in half. He almost certainly cannot expect the Soviets to reduce their arsenal of heavy land-based missiles while the U.S. plunges ahead with the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Reagan seems so dreamily unconcerned with these realities that even some of his own backers fear he may lose control of future policy struggles. Incredibly, only two months after Reagan won back the White House by a landslide, and before he had even been sworn in for a second term, many in Washington regard him as little more than a lame duck...."

Then there's this story, from October, 1984, concerning reports that Reagan's CIA was secretly teaching the contras how to torture their enemies:

"The 89-page booklet entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare is a primer on insurgency, a how-to book in the struggle for hearts and minds. Some of the "techniques of persuasion" are benign: helping the peasants harvest crops, learn to read, improve hygiene. Others are decidedly brutal: assassination, kidnapping, blackmail, mob violence. It could be a manual for the Viet Cong or the Cuban-backed rebels in El Salvador. If it were, the Administration would likely be waving it as proof of its thesis about the sources of insidious world terrorism. In fact, however, it is a publication of the CIA, written for Nicaraguan contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista regime. Its disclosure last week came as a political embarrassment to the Administration and a major moral one for the U.S. It stirred memories of CIA abuses that were supposedly outlawed a decade ago and gave Democrats a potentially hot new campaign issue."

And this, from September, 1985, about negotiations with the Soviets:

"The Administration's hold-fast position may be a sound negotiating tactic, but it gives the Soviets an edge in the war of words. The rhetoric level will increase this week as both Shevardnadze and Shultz give major speeches to the U.N. General Assembly at the opening of its 40th session. The Soviets continue to build up the summit as a "window of opportunity" for a major breakthrough in arms control that may not arise again "for a very, very long time." The U.S. just as resolutely tries to play down such talk as "wishful thinking." At his press conference, Reagan said the summit should be viewed as "a beginning point for better relations, a starting point for progress." A critical question is how public opinion will respond in Western Europe. If the U.S. is ultimately viewed as an obstacle to nuclear sanity, the result could be disarray in the alliance and strong pressure to make concessions. The Administration is trying to keep the Allies in line by dangling lucrative defense contracts for SDI research. Last week the U.S. appeared to be close to signing agreements with the British and West Germans to clear the way for such research."

Memories grow hazy, of course, but it's worth noting that most of the mainstream press in the 1980s thought that Reagan was a dimwit and a lunatic, and that the Soviet Union was immortal.

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