As the Ronald Reagan 100th birthday commemorations really get going, the Charlotte Observer notes the importance of North Carolina to his presidential aspirations, and reminds us how Latin America was the main connection. What is perhaps most remarkable to remember is that Reagan successfully generated outrage at something that was irrelevant.
He had failed in his early primary challenges against President Gerald Ford. But when he got to North Carolina, his campaign was taken over by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms and his sidekick, Raleigh attorney Tom Ellis. They made the Panama Canal the signature issue, as Reagan pulled off a historic upset, breathing new life into his presidential effort.
"We bought it, we paid for it, it's ours and we're going to keep it," Reagan said of the canal.
The transfer of the Panama Canal was ultimately smooth, untraumatic, and perfectly compatible with U.S. national security to boot. Even Henry Kissinger supported it, yet Reagan and Helms managed to get people riled up all the same. Happy 100th!