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Book Review: The Pope, the President and the Prime Minister Who Changed the World

Susan Yoshihara

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A prominent journalist has argued recently that international political, economic and social breakdown were largely averted during the 1980's due to the personal and political alignments between Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In his recently-released book, The Pope, The President, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World, National Review Editor-at-Large and Hudson Institute Fellow John O'Sullivan offers new research illuminating the three "hopeful" and "confident" personalities, and the way they forged relationships of mutual trust through their alliances and disagreements in a period of international upheaval and personal trial.

Crediting Reagan and Thatcher for reversing the economic "malaise," stagflation, and defeatism in the American and British collective psyche, O'Sullivan chronicles the political risks both Thatcher and Reagan took to transform the world economy into a post-industrial, information-age economy that today has achieved "eighteen years of high growth with stable prices, scarcely interrupted by two mild and shallow recessions."

Spanning the decade of the late 1970's to the late 1980's, the narrative draws clear connections between the complex crises of martial law in Poland, Marxist regimes in Latin America, wars in Grenada and the Falkland Islands, and standoffs over nuclear weapons. O'Sullivan makes accessible to the layman the thinking behind the Christian "personalism" of John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the pontiff's support for human rights and women's equality, and the way disobedience among some radical bishops on issues from "liberation theology" to artificial contraception sowed the seeds of today's disputes over international social policy.

Extensive interviews and archival material show the way today's anti-Americanism and radical international social agenda in Western Europe and American academia sprang from the pro-communist sentiments and the "peace" movements beginning in 1968. A declassified Top Secret KGB letter describes a pre-presidential election visit by Senator Edward Kennedy to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Kennedy requested the audience, "in the interest of world peace ... to counteract the militaristic policies of Ronald Reagan." The book also shows that Western Europe was the only part of the world that became increasingly leftist during the period.

Comparing the way all three leaders escaped assassination attempts, O'Sullivan argues that they were seemingly destined to rise from terminal middle management positions to top leadership positions simultaneously and were then "spared for a greater purpose." He shows how each leader answered the question, "Did God guide the bullet?" and how the narrow escapes affected each leader's spiritual life and political future.

Pointing to their legacies, O'Sullivan writes, "John Paul's sermons and speeches in Poland were injunctions to people not to despair in the face of overwhelming force, but instead to hope in God and trust their fellow man. Reagan preached confidently of a coming age of liberty that would bring about the end of Communism. Thatcher believed in "vigorous virtues" that, once liberated from the shackles of socialism, would enable the British and people everywhere to improve their own lives. In very different styles, all were enthusiasts for liberty."

O'Sullivan is uniquely qualified to have written this book. He had a front seat to much of this action as a speech writer for Margaret Thatcher and an influential political pundit in the United States.

Copyright 2006 - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

Read the entire article on the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute website (new window will open).

Posted: 31-Dec-06



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