A new book looks at the pivotal roles played by three world leaders in defeating Soviet communism.
But what can we learn from them today, and who are their contemporary equivalents?
Last week, I put these and other questions to John O’Sullivan, a former Thatcher advisor and author of the bestseller, “The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister” — a book that argues the case for their role in ending the Cold War.
In Rome to launch the Italian edition of his book, he said one of their most important characteristics was that they were “messengers of hope.” More than just optimistic, he said Mrs. Thatcher was someone “who recognized that an element in hope is effort” and it was necessary to embark on projects in a hopeful way. “Of course you rely on the grace of God,” he said, “but you have to do something, and I think all three of them were in that frame of mind.”
The alliance between Lady Thatcher, then a pro-choice Methodist, and John Paul II was by no means a foregone conclusion. President Reagan, O’Sullivan said, was responsible for bringing them together. But he added that the former British Prime Minister’s views on abortion never caused her problems in her dealings with John Paul II because “she wasn’t claiming to hold these views in good conscience as a Catholic.” The Vatican, he said, was also “on her side” concerning other policies.
On abortion, he said she never fully accepted the pro-life argument, but rather had “conventional, middle class, Anglican views.” She thought it “a bad thing but might be necessary in certain circumstances” and “didn’t really like it as an issue in politics,” he said.
A practicing Catholic, O’Sullivan remembered that he and others tried to maker her change her stance, telling her she could have survived easily by taking a stronger position. “But then of course she would have had to have thought seriously about this, which I don’t think she ever really did until later,” he said. He lamented that today “very few” European politicians will strongly defend the unborn. “It’s an extraordinary thing,” he said.
Fascinating observations O’Sullivan makes in his book are the role of providence and how much the three leaders held in common: No one imagined, for instance, they could reach the top yet they went on to collaborate to end the Cold War, each after surviving assassination attempts. It’s well known those close encounters gave impetus to John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, who believed they’d been saved for a great purpose.
But did Margaret Thatcher feel the same way? O’Sullivan once asked her that question, to which she replied “no.” “I asked her why and she said: ‘Well, five people died that night, why would I be singled out? They were friends of mine,’” O’Sullivan recounted. “That was a nice human response”
“She went on to say it would be very inglorious of her to think that God was stepping in to do her a favor,” he added, and attributed that attitude to her Methodist background. “But that of course is the wrong way of thinking about it — she might have been being saved for some great trial.”
There’s much more, so continue at the link.