As Reagan weakened the Soviet Union with his words of encouragement to communism's captives, many Americans worried that Reagan was too boorish and too aggressive. Yet, suddenly, when the Soviet Union imploded on the wings of his inspirational critique, those same Reagan detractors said they had seen it coming all along.
A monday morning quarterback is someone who, the day after Sunday's football game, either says he knew his team was going to win all along, or that he has the solutions which, if his team had applied them, they would certainly have won. The sudden U.S. victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War is likely the most monday-morning-quarterbacked event in American history.
During the Cold War, Americans began to use the term "Mutually Assured Destruction" to highlight the probably correct belief that if America and the Soviets got into a nuclear war, both countries would be annihilated. This prompted many Americans to chant the slogan "Better Red than Dead". If it meant a chance to go on living, more and more Americans were willing to concede their liberties for a place at the barren table of communism.
Such defeatism was stock in trade for the United States government. In 1959, for example, Joseph E. Johnson, a planner in the U.S. State Department stated that
From now on, every decision facing the United States in this field must be taken in the light of the fact that a good part of this country could be destroyed ...We must be prepared to fight limited wars, limited as to weapons and as to goals, to stabilize the situation temporarily, tide things over. But victory is no longer possible.
In 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was erected, the New York Times advocated complete capitulation to Communism by the United States
We must seek to discourage anti-communist revolts in order to avert bloodshed and war. We must, under our principles, livev with evil, even if by doing so we help to stabilize tottering Communist regimes, as in East Germany, and perhaps even expose the citadels of freedom, like West Berlin, to slow death by strangulation.
It was perhaps for this reason that American social progressives were incensed when President Ronald Reagan, in off-handed comments, referred to the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" early in his presidency. After all, the Kremlin's recent occupation and rape of Afghanistan was proceeding very successfully, and the Communist menace was gathering strength in the Western Hemisphere. Americans seemed to have every right to be afraid of the Communist juggernaut.
In 1987, President Reagan had the audacity to further buck the conventional wisdom expressed by the New York Times, when, standing in front of the same wall that the Times considered eternally impregnable, he asked the Communists to tear it down. Just a few short years later, as the wall indeed came down under the crushing weight of liberty, the New York Times' dream of capitulating to communism had been dashed by a man who did what many thought (or perhaps hoped) was impossible.
Yet as soon as Reagan committed the dastardly deed of helping liberty to triumph over slavery, the monday morning quarterbacks emerged from every fissure of the woodwork in protest, their documented fears of yesteryear having been hastily discarded down the memory hole. Suddenly, for those who wished for their pre-conceived notions of Ronald Reagan as a criminal mastermind to remain intact, what once was thought impossible was, in retrospect, considered to have been inevitable.
Isn't it astonishing how, in such a short period of time, a group of proven-wrong naysayers could so successfully adopt a completely new and opposite way of saying nay? Isn't it even more astonishing that the very things that the naysayers claimed could never be overcome--the very same things whose defeat Ronald Reagan presided over--are the very same issues that are now returning to plague the United States of America?
Sadly, if we allow these naked naysayers to foist their plans of climate change control, health care subjugation, military empire, and economic patronage upon us, we may yet indeed succumb to the very death that the New York Times prognosticated nearly a half century ago.