Wednesday, October 13, 2004
On this day:

Happy Birthday Maggie

Maggie, via Wikipedia

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was born on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. The daughter of a grocer, she went on to become Britain's first female prime minister in 1979. The Soviets had dubbed her the "Iron Lady" for her fierce opposition to communism, and the nickname stuck. Her steadfast defense of liberty and democracy earned her the respect and admiration of a generation, and her legacy lives on as a beacon of hope to those whose longing for freedom has yet to be realized.

Mrs. Thatcher was President Ronald Reagan's friend and one of his closest confidantes. It isn't surprising that he spoke of her so kindly in his memoirs, Ronald Reagan, An American Life.

Reagan wrote of his first meeting with Margaret Thatcher while he was Governor of California:

I'd planned on spending only a few minutes with Margaret Thatcher but we ended up talking for almost two hours. I liked her immediately - she was warm, feminine, gracious, and intelligent - and it was evident from our first words that we were soul mates when it came to reducing government and expanding economic freedom. At a reception that evening, an Englishman who had heard about our meeting asked me "What do you think of our Mrs. Thatcher?"

I said I'd been deeply impressed, "I think she'd make a magnificent prime minister."

He looked at me out of the corners of his eyes with a kind of mocking disdain that seemed to suggest the idea was unthinkable. "My dear fellow, a woman prime minister?"

"England once had a queen named Victoria who did rather well," I said.

"By jove," he said, "I'd forgotten all about that."

Of course, it never occurred to me that before many years would pass, Margaret and I would be sitting across from each other as the heads of our respective governments.

Maggie and Ronnie, via MSNBC

Thatcher realized the importance of cutting taxes to stimulate the economy, as Reagan was doing in the U.S. In President Reagan's words:

No one did more in this regard than Margaret Thatcher. But I don't claim credit for convincing her of the merits of free enterprise and downsizing government. She was at least as determined as I was to get government out of the pocketbooks and off the backs of the people. From our first meeting, we'd been on the same wavelength. Whenever we saw each other, she usually told me her ability to point to the success of our policies in the United States had made it easier for her to convince Britons the policies had merit. As everyone knows now, her policies touched off a boom that brought great prosperity to the British people. In many ways she accomplished more than we did in returning government-run enterprises to where they belonged - the private sector - and created a model that has since been copied by other countries. I wish we could have done as well on this as she did.

Like today, disputes between allies weren't uncommon in the 1980's. Reagan writes of Thatcher's reaction to some of the more disagreeable moments at the G7 economic summit in London in 1984:

...Pierre (Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister) bitterly lit into Margaret, the chairman of the meeting, and told her she was being heavy-handed and undemocratic in dealing with their (French President Mitterand's and PM Trudeau's) objections. I was horrified by his rudeness and the insulting way that he spoke to her; but she ignored him, kept her cool, and never skipped a beat. When the session was over, I caught up with her in the hall and said, "Margaret, he had no business talking to you like that, he was way out of line." But she just said very quietly: "Oh, women know when men are being childish."

Mrs. Thatcher also wrote fondly of President Reagan and his strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Together, they led the free world to victory over the specter of communism. For her loyal friendship to President Reagan and to our country, all Americans owe Lady Thatcher a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Reagan and Thatcher at Camp David
Again, Reagan's words say it best: "Margaret Thatcher — this great lady has not only served her country well, she has served the free world well. She is truly a great statesman. So much so that I'll correct what I just said: She is a great stateswoman holding her own among all the statesmen of the world."

Thank you, Maggie.