Palin quotes Reagan: What’s that about?

Sarah Palin ended her debate presentation with this:

“It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.”

It’s true, Reagan did say pretty much that, although the quote blends some Palin with some Reagan.


Something Palin didn’t mention is that Reagan said it in a recorded message, sent around the country by the American Medical Association in 1961 as part of its advocacy against the creation of the Medicare program. The threat to freedom that Reagan referenced was represented by the creation of Medicare.

Jonathan Chait of the New Republic pointed out the connection in a post of the TNR blog, “The Plank.”

Chait links to a long article by Larry DeWitt describing Reagan’s role in opposing the creation of Medicare. At the end of the record album, titled “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine,” Reagan encourages listeners to and write letters urging the defeat of Medicare:

“Write those letters now. Call your friends, and tell them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day . . . we will awake to find that we have so¬cialism. And if you don’t do this, and if I don’t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/03/2008 - 04:39 pm.

    On the other hand, our Sarah may have been fully aware of Reagan’s purpose in saying what he did.

    This morning, I spent some time re-reading a William Greider article called “The Right’s Grand Ambition: Rolling Back the 20th Century” (The Nation, 05/12/2003).

    He spells out the steps people like Grover Norquist felt would be necessary to return America to the good old days of William McKinley. The days when everyone was responsible for his/her own health care, retirement and education; when corporations ruled supreme until brave souls led workers to organize for their own protection and Teddy Roosevelt ushered in the Progressive Era.

    We have seen the Right’s efforts in the privatized Medicare drug plan (which economist Dean Baker estimates costs us $80 billion per year more in excess taxpayer funds and seniors’ premiums, co-pays, and doughnut-hole purchases than adding drugs to Medicare would); school vouchers designed to transfer public school money to private religious schools; the elimination of tax on capital and transfer of the entire burden to the poor and middle classes, the push for privatized accounts that would replace all or part of young workers’ contributions to Social Security, ET CETERA.

    The only good thing that might come from today’s $700 billion gift/bailout to corporate America is that citizens wake up to what is really going on. Sarah, however, may think the Bush/McCain/Norquist/Rove et al. direction is the one in which we should continue traveling. America should recoil in fear.

  2. Submitted by Craig Westover on 10/06/2008 - 01:34 pm.

    Sorry, Eric. I don’t see the implied “bad” here by putting the Reagan quote in the Medicare context. He was right.

    Just curious — Where in the Constitution is authority granted to the U.S. Congress to establish the Medicare program?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/12/2008 - 11:36 pm.

    Author Editor Craig Westover says:

    “Just curious — Where in the Constitution is authority granted to the U.S. Congress to establish the Medicare program?”

    The flip answer is: the same place that it grants the President the authority to declare war.

    More seriously, the Constitution (have you read it?) is a short document.
    Very little of our governmental apparatus is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, which is more concerned with setting limits on the various branches of the Federal government.

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