UPDATED: A great lady will be missed.
Margaret Thatcher, the middle class daughter of a grocer, rose through the male-dominated political world in the U.K. to become the first — and only woman — Prime Minister in the history of Great Britain. By the force of her will and the conviction of her deeply-held principles about the virtue of freedom and liberty, Thatcher emerged as one of the most important and influential world leaders of the 20th century.
Like Churchill, Thatcher understood the nature and threat of evil and bravely led the British people during times of great peril. The U.S.-British alliance was at its peak strength and impact when Reagan and Thatcher led the Free World to bring down the Evil Empire of the Soviet Union.
Thatcher was the first serving British premier to visit Israel. This was no insignificant decision given that the fact that the British empire controlled Palestine during the “Mandate” period and the British Foreign Office was deeply committed to the Arab side and quite hostile to the Jews who wanted to return to and reestablish their Biblical homeland after the Holocaust.
“Margaret Thatcher who died of a stroke at 87 on Monday, was the first serving British prime minister ever to visit Israel,” reported the Israeli daily, Haaretz, today. “During her landmark visit in 1986, she was asked why Queen Elizabeth has never found the time to tour the Holy Land, to which she answered, ‘but I’m here.’ Of course, when one reviews the ‘firsts’ and other achievements by Thatcher over her long career, the fact that she was the first British prime minister to stare down the Arabists of the Foreign Office and visit Jerusalem is way down on the list.”
Her list of accomplishments is long and sweeping and while she made many allies and fans — winning three terms as PM — she also had many critics and detractors.
My wife, Lynn, and I had the honor of attending a black tie dinner for Lady Thatcher that was organized by The Heritage Foundation in September 1991, when I worked for Heritage. We had long been admirers of the “Iron Lady” but this was the first time we had every seen her and heard her speak in person. We were deeply impressed by her passion for setting people free from the tyranny of oppressive, suffocating government taxation and regulation. [To read her speech, please click here.]
A few years later, when I was working as a senior advisor for Steve Forbes, I had the opportunity to learn even more about the woman who saved Great Britain from socialism, at least for a season. Steve was close to Thatcher. They spoke frequently on key policy issues. Their families vacationed together. Thatcher even appeared with Steve in Iowa at a political fund-raiser. She didn’t exactly endorse Steve’s campaign for the presidency, but she came as close as she felt comfortable as a retired foreign leader. They were, after all, kindred spirits on the virtues of cutting taxes and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Thatcher knew the deadweight on the economy of excessive taxation,” Steve noted in a column about her today. “She cut the top income tax rate from 98% to 40%. She cut the corporate income tax rate from 52% to 35%.”
“Along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher was a giant of our era and, indeed, of history,” Steve wrote. “These three leaders brought about the fall of Soviet communism and the resurgence of political and economic liberty around the world. Like Reagan, Thatcher was one of those rare individuals who was both a movement leader and an effective political leader. It is one thing to have firm ideas, quite another to have the skills to bring them into being and for them to endure after you leave office. The current economic crisis has put Margaret Thatcher’s ideas and ideals under siege even though this disaster resulted from ignoring her and Reagan’s fundamental free market principles.”
WHAT THE WORLD IS SAYING: