One for the Ages

Everything you need to know about the establishment’s view of Ronald Reagan can be found on Page 624 of “Dutch,” Edmund Morris’ weird postmodern biography. The place is Berlin, the time June 12, 1987:

” ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ declaims Dutch, trying hard to look infuriated, but succeeding only in an expression of mild petulance. … One braces for a flash of prompt lights to either side of him: Applause.

“What a rhetorical opportunity missed. He could have read Robert Frost’s poem on the subject, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,’ to simple and shattering effect. Or even Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lines, which he surely holds in memory.

Only now for the first time I see

This wall is actually a wall, a thing

Come up between us, shutting me away

From you … I do not know you any more.

“Tear down this wall!” is now a classic piece of rhetoric, booming Shakespearean thunder in its pure expression of righteous outrage. It is one of the very few quotes of the modern era that may survive the test of time. It inspired one of the great moments of human liberty. But what is all that compared with the opportunity to quote a poet named Edna?