Monday, April 8, 2013

The Iron Lady Dies

"She was a tigress surrounded by hamsters."

John Biffen
The Observer December 1990

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Great Britain, died earlier today after a stroke. She was 87.

They called her "The Iron Lady." They called her a lot of things — "Attila the Hen," for example.

The names reflected the fact that, as I said to my father only a few weeks ago, she was a tough old bird. And she found a philosophical soulmate in Ronald Reagan, who was also a tough old bird.

As the Washington Post's "Five moments that show why Margaret Thatcher mattered in American politics" demonstrates, they were frequently of the same mind — although Thatcher, as I recall, did not agree with Reagan's decision to invade Grenada 30 years ago.

Many people have credited Reagan with the toppling of the Soviet Union, but I've always felt that Thatcher played an important role in that as well. It was the vice–like grip of Reagan and Thatcher policies on both sides of the Atlantic that crushed the Soviet Union. That, I think, is Thatcher's true legacy to the world.

In the wake of her death, tributes have been pouring in from around the world.

Barack Obama focused on her contribution as a role model. "[S]he stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered," Obama said in a statement released through the Office of the Press Secretary.

There was more to her than that, though.

She had certain principles by which she lived, and they weren't for everyone — but she did express the way most people feel (or, at least, felt at the time) when she said, "You know, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing!"

Not everyone agreed with her when she said, "Socialists cry 'Power to the people,' and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean — power over people, power to the state."

Or when she said, "A world without nuclear weapons may be a dream but you cannot base a sure defense on dreams. Without far greater trust and confidence between East and West than exists at present, a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us."

But such positions stemmed from the principles upon which she was raised.

"My policies are based not on some economics theory," she said in 1981, "but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day's work for an honest day's pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police."

She will be missed.

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