Jon Meachem: Ronnie's Friend Maggie

tags: Ronald Reagan, FDR, Winston Churchill, Time Magazine, Margaret Thatcher, special relationship, Jon Meachem



Jon Meachem is the author of "Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."

The phrase, inevitably, is Winston Churchill's. Long an advocate of Anglo-American alliance, the wartime British Prime Minister often spoke of what he called the "ties of blood and history" between the two nations. For Churchill, a "special relationship" with the U.S. had been a matter not of choice or convenience but of life and death. Faced with Nazi Germany's blitzkrieg across Western Europe in 1940, the new Prime Minister had no doubt about which way salvation lay. No lover, Churchill later remarked, had ever studied the whims of his mistress as he did those of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was "the New World, with all its power and might," Churchill declared in the wake of Dunkirk in 1940, that one day would come "to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

The special relationship returned to mind in the wake of the death of Margaret Thatcher at 87. Among the British, reaction was mixed; they are often much more frank about the vices of the dead than Americans tend to be in the hours after the passing of a public figure. Obituary writers attacked Thatcher for being too tough on, and wrong about, the Irish, miners, the poor, Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, and Argentina, which she fought in the Falklands war in the early 1980s. The Daily Mirror called her "the woman who divided a nation."

For many others, though, her death recalled epic days, not so far distant, when both economic stagnation and the Soviet bloc were overwhelming facts of life. Journalist and biographer Nicholas Wapshott, writing in the New York Times, recalled sharing Champagne with Thatcher on a flight home from Japan. "It was Mrs. Thatcher's charisma that those who thought of her as merely a hectoring bossy-boots did not grasp," wrote Wapshott. "And it was that sense of subdued danger and not-quite-erotic excitement that inspired the most important Anglo-American alliance since that of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt."...


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