Republican Lincoln Day luncheon

“We are living in an age of miracles,” he said. “We’ve put a man on the moon; the Berlin Wall has come down; and we’ve seen Chuck Schumer cry. It just keeps getting better.”

The speaker was Friday Harbor resident Herb Meyer, at last week’s Republican Lincoln Day luncheon. Meyer served in the CIA during the Reagan administration. He’s been widely credited as the first senior U.S. government official to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, and was rewarded with the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. Meyer has written several books, as well as essays published in The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, The American Thinker and Ricochet, and has served as associate editor for Fortune magazine.

Master of Ceremonies Rick Boucher began the luncheon with a prayer for God to “restore our republic.” After the pledge of allegiance, Janis Ghazel performed the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless the USA.”

Then Meyer led attendees on a walk down memory lane through the decades of the Cold War, laying out a modern metaphor for political changes: upgrades to the operating system.

He said humans have been trying, as long as we have walked the earth, to work out politics, effectively the relationship between the individual and the state. We’ve tried empires, dictatorships, different types of republics and more. Each new system, he said, was like a new operating system. And when the United States was formed, it was “a new operating system the world had never seen: run by the people, and the government worked for us. It was the most revolutionary idea in the history of the world.” He said slavery, “America’s birth defect,” was addressed by the civil war, which re-established the operating system; “the New Deal was version 2.0; and Lyndon B. Johnson was version 2.1.”

“As you go through U.S. history, no one has wanted to change the operating system, until now.”

But now there are those who propose a new operating system for the United States, he said, in which “we work for them, like peasants in Rome.” “We will tell you what to do,” he said. “Shut up; send revenue; you’re lucky to be ruled by us.”

Meyer continued on to speak about the “titanic struggle” that occurred between two opposing “operating systems” during the Cold War: communist totalitarianism vs. a free-market society. He remembered numerous “dicey moments,” when the country hit DEFCON 4 more times than the populace was aware of.

Meyer described how the Kremlin thought “they had it in the bag” during those years, right up until a 1983 top secret Kremlin memo revealed them as dumbstruck with the realization that they were going to lose. He credited the “statistically impossible” power trifecta of the first ever Polish pope, John Paul II; British prime minister Margaret Thatcher; and “our amiable idiot,” U.S. president Ronald Reagan – all of whom survived assassination attempts – with the turning of the tide.

He concluded by saying that “efforts to replace American operating system” became widespread during the 1970s and continue in force today.

“Obama’s objective was to push this across the finish line, to make it impossible to go back,” said Meyer. “It’s the difference between untying a knot vs. unscrambling the egg – it’s impossible to untangle the damn thing… [the Affordable Healthcare Act] was specifically written so you can’t go back to the way it was.”

But just as for 1983 Kremlin, he said, “suddenly everything went wrong.” He pointed to the stunning event of Brexit and the unexpected upset that installed president Trump in the White House.

“They thought they were on cruise control toward changing the operating system of our country,” he said. “After 4 to 8 years of Hillary Clinton, it’ll be over. You’ll never be able to get it back.”

But “their revolution was stopped dead in its tracks,” he said. While acknowledging that many listeners might detest Trump, he called Trump’s victory “a shock to the other side they never saw coming.”

What we are seeing today, Meyer continued, “isn’t normal politics. Normal nasty politics is not the same as a civil war.” He said the current struggle, which he called “the second civil war,” will determine whether the government is in charge of our country – “a progressive, totalitarian mindset” – or whether the people are in charge. “I think we’re sleepwalking into a civil war,” he said.

Meyer concluded with an analogy about how Abraham Lincoln approached the American civil war. “Abe Lincoln understood what most in the South did not,” he said. Lincoln knew that the North had a higher population, which meant more young men who could go to war, and that if the Union just kept fighting, they could win.

Turning to the attendees, Meyer said, “There are more of us than there are of them, though you wouldn’t know it here on Orcas island, or in Friday Harbor. Living out here in the San Juans, we’re the minority. We are on the winning side if we hang in there, if we keep our good cheer, if we treat the other side with respect and dignity.” Queried about the 3 million popular votes won by Hillary Clinton beyond Trump’s numbers, Meyer dismissed California’s votes on the premise of rampant voter fraud.

In the Q&A session following his talk, Meyer added, “The Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House. If we can’t do it now, we’re never gonna do it. We had better elect Republicans who are competent.” And competence is not “agreeing with us,” he said; it’s “really knowing what they’re doing.” “If you put the House in charge of getting us lunch today,” he said, “we’d still be waiting. They’d be forming a committee to study political lunches, a subcommittee on relishes.” Meyer said he’d rather vote for a political leader who is a competent Democrat than an incompetent Republican, saying, “When you see someone who’s competent, they’re never too far to the left, never too far to the right.”