Reagan and O’Neil – A Beautiful Political Friendship

Ronald Reagan and Tip O'NeilRonald Reagan and Tip O'Neil share a thought. They had a wonderful friendship that transcended their political differences.
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I was thinking about Reagan’s “11th commandment” today. It was a concept put out by a Republican party official in 1964 that Reagan adopted and advocated for the rest of his career.

It reads- “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

It was not to mean you couldn’t disagree with them, but personal attacks were off limits.

Reagan seemed to practice this with Democrats as well. He sharply criticized liberalism, but never personally attacked a liberal. In fact he had a wonderful personal rapport with Democratic leaders and they frequently complimented each other.

The powerful Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neil once said of Reagan- “He’s a beautiful man, but I’m sorry he doesn’t agree with my political philosophy.”

They enjoyed each other’s company and had lunch often and always on St. Patrick’s day (they were both from Irish families.) These lunches were filled with laughter and stories and often went long, sometimes till 3pm.

Reagan and O’ Neil once said they were only working against each other until 6pm. After that, they were friends.

In 1982 the economy took a dip and some Republicans began to doubt Reagan’s economic policies. Here’s what Reagan wrote in his diary-

“Tip O’Neill made a speech to Republicans telling them why they should support me. It seemed strange – both of us on the same side.”

When Reagan was shot, O’Neil was the first to see him when Reagan’s family left the room. A witness reports-

The speaker went to Reagan’s bedside, took hold of both his hands and knelt.

“Thanks for coming, Tip,” he heard the president whisper.

The two recited together the 23rd Psalm. Tip rose, kissed Reagan on the forehead and said he didn’t want to keep him from his rest.

And when O’ Neil left office, Reagan had this to say about him. “Mr. Speaker, I’m grateful you have permitted me in the past and I hope in the future that singular honor – the honor of calling you my friend.”

I offer these thoughts for those who say people with opposing views cannot possibly disagree agreeably.

We can and we should.



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