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Remembering Marty Anderson

Marty Anderson and Reagan

Martin “Marty” Anderson, conservative thinker, scholar and advisor to President Ronald Reagan passed away on January 3, 2015. Marty was a member of the now fast-dwindling small group of original Reagan advisors who helped Ronald Reagan gain the White House in 1980.

Many of those who have memorialized Marty since his death have celebrated his scholarship and his groundbreaking work rebutting liberal myths, such as the benefits of so-called urban renewal, but I have a different reason for admiring Martin Anderson and commending his memory to those who read this column.

When I met Martin Anderson I met him in the context of Ronald Reagan.

Who you walk with tells me a lot about who you are, and Ronald Reagan and Martin Anderson walked together. When conservatives saw Reagan, and we saw him quite a lot during the late 1960s, through the 1970s and once he was elected President, we often saw Marty Anderson with him.

As a thinker, as a candidate and as Governor and President, Ronald Reagan surrounded himself with conservatives; and Marty Anderson was one of those whom we in the conservative movement saw regularly with Reagan. And Marty’s presence helped tell us that Reagan was one of us.

I raise this to drive home a point that seems completely lost on today’s crop of national politicians, especially those have announced (or all but announced) that they are running for the Republican nomination for President; grassroots conservative voters trusted Reagan because they saw him surrounded by other conservatives.

Wherever Ronald Reagan went he surrounded himself with recognized conservatives; men like Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt, Lyn Nofziger, Dick Allen, Ed Meese, Jeff Bell, Judge William Clark and Marty Anderson weren’t window dressing like Warren Buffet is to Barack Obama – they were who Ronald Reagan was.

Contrast those men to those with whom today’s establishment Republican Party “stars,” like Jeb Bush, surrounds himself  – faceless campaign operatives rented for the occasion who will make millions whether America rises or falls and Bush wins or loses.

And the closeness men like Marty Anderson had with Reagan had real policy consequences.

Anderson once vividly described Reagan’s 1979 visit to the NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain complex, and how troubled he was by the powerlessness of a system that could detect impending annihilation but could do nothing to stop it. Then-candidate Reagan soon asked Anderson to prepare a set of papers to help Reagan think through his position on strategic defense for the upcoming 1980 campaign.

One of these papers presented three major options — first, follow Jimmy Carter's early policy of hoping for Soviet good intentions ('dangerous folly' in Anderson's opinion); second, a massive American arms buildup (which Anderson felt was 'apt to frighten as many people as it consoles'); and third, to build a radically new, 'preventative' air intercept defense system, much like the Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars as it was popularly called, that Reagan eventually proposed and championed right through the last days of his presidency.

Later Marty Anderson would write “Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster” chronicling how, from his very first National Security Council meeting, Ronald Reagan planned to bring down the Soviet Union while at the same time he considered eliminating nuclear weapons his paramount objective, and that Reagan – not his subordinates – was the principal architect of the policies that ultimately brought the Soviets to the nuclear-arms negotiating table.

Marty Anderson was many things; a conservative thinker, scholar and academic, and an adviser to Presidents, but most of all he was a man who, when he walked with Ronald Reagan, helped tell me that the President would do his best to govern America according to conservative principles.

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