Reagan’s Eyes

Giuliani has a new ad running in New Hampshire in which he tells one of his favorite anecdotes. When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, Iranian mullahs had been holding American hostages for 444 days. “The one hour in which they released them was the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office as president of the United States,” Giuliani says in the spot. The story makes regular appearances in Rudy’s stump speeches. But there’s one line that didn’t make it into the ad.

“They looked in Ronald Reagan’s eyes and in two minutes they released the hostages,” Rudy said at a GOP debate in May. “They obviously saw something different in the eyes of Ronald Reagan than in the eyes of Jimmy Carter,” he told a New Hampshire audience in October.

It always struck me as one of Rudy’s cheesier lines, but it’s also a big part of his pitch: The difference between a leader and a slacker is ineffable. Either you are one or you aren’t. It wasn’t the death of the Shah in July 1980 that led to the hostages’ release. It wasn’t the invasion of Iran by Iraq that fall, which made the prospect of ticking off the United States less appealing. Nor was it the Algerian-brokered hostage negotiations , arranged before Reagan took office, that solved the crisis. It was the look in Reagan’s eyes.

Because it’s not about diplomatic skills or military prowess. It’s about who can beat Bin-Laden in a stare-down.