By Jim Bowman
Dec. 17 at a state Republican fund-raiser in Merchandise Mart Plaza, Congr. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL, Ottawa) played the Reagan card to good effect, invoking RR's "shining city on a hill" motif.
"A dark cloud" hung over the nation in November, 1979 (when Reagan used the phrase announcing his candidacy for president), Kinzinger said, acknowledging that he was two years old at the time. He cited the troubled aftermath of the Viet Nam War, inflation, and rising gas prices — though not Pres. Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech of earlier that year.
(I listened to that speech on a tiny TV in the back yard, myself without steady work but hustling pay checks with some modest success. I could swear I heard Carter say "malaise," and I know I rejected his pessimism, having voted for him, by the way. But transcripts such as this do not have the word.)
Kinzinger's talk came in the middle of a meet-and-greet in a room at Nick's Fishmarket. Gemütlichkeit abounded.
Ten years later, Kinzinger continued, Reagan revisited the concept in his farewell address, reiterating his "positive vision" for the country. Kinzinger fleshed that out in the present context, as in reference to the growing national debt. Last year's interest, he said, equaled the cost of "five Afghan wars."
To Republicans of this day, Kinzinger called for working toward the "self-actualizing of inner-city youth" and "going to the disenfranchised." In that he evoked another Reagan-era Republican, longtime congressman and then HUD secretary under Reagan, Jack Kemp — unless I am unduly influenced by my daily dose of the exemplary Larry Kudlow on CNBC.
The nation's foreign policy, said Kinzinger, who is on the House foreign relations committee, is "in the toilet." The GOP is "the last best hope for us in the world."
Very serious stuff for Nick's Fishmarket. He's a serious guy. At 35 he still flies, for the Air National Guard. He met us at the room entrance, shook hands. I must say, a friendly, likable guy.
He commended the "17- and 18-year-olds signing on" in the military,putting their lives on the line, "not knowing what they are fighting for" — "Why don't they?" a man asked — but Kinzinger kept on with his (larger) point, about having a sense of history and of what's at stake for the nation.
The young men put their lives on the line, elected officials have only their careers to lose, he said, speaking up for a foreign policy that leaves "enemies that know never to touch us and our allies," he said. "I envision a renewed America."
It was a serious, short talk that gave a taste of how he would go over from the stump. He is one of those young men who signed up, for one thing. He's a John F. Kennedy type, it looks from here.