Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Tending the Flame

November 27, 1987

President Reagan is eager for Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to see just how great and open this nation is, by roaming the aisles of a supermarket and chatting with ordinary citizens, for instance, or visiting an American ranch such as the President's own in the Santa Barbara mountains.

But the supra-keepers of their private version of the American flame--such as Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) and former White House aide Patrick Buchanan--turned absolutely livid at the very thought of Gorbachev's dictatorial shoes treading the floors of the U.S. Congress.

The idea seems moot now because communications between the White House and Congress and Moscow about a possible Gorbachev speech to a joint session of Congress were bungled. Concede that it would not be appropriate to grant Gorbachev such a forum unless the Soviets were willing to reciprocate for the President if and when he goes to Moscow.

The details were not important to Dornan, Buchanan and other self-appointed keepers of the flame, though. Just the thought of the Soviet leader despoiling this sacred temple of liberty, the Capitol, was beyond the contemplation of their cramped minds.

A visit by Gorbachev would not exactly be precedent-shattering, although no Soviet leader has appeared before Congress before. It has been common since World War II for foreign politicians to address joint sessions or meetings of Congress, including some who may have seemed to have been our friends at the time but turned out to be rather unsavory characters. Examples include President Sukarno of Indonesia, the Shah of Iran and President Marcos of the Philippines.

What were the patriotic zealots afraid Gorbachev would do? Propose the further easing of tensions between East and West? Subvert the minds of Congress? Challenge assumptions? Talk about ideas? Hmmmph. Dangerous and scary notions indeed.

The flame of liberty is not maintained and nourished by hiding it away in hushed temples of ultra-patriotism where only the right-minded can feel its warmth. The flame burns brightest out where it can be tested every day against the best, or the worst, that the nation's adversaries can bring to the debate. That is a challenge to relish, not to fear.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|