Reagan Skips Taxes, Stumps for ‘Freedom Fighters’ on Flag Day

Times Staff Writer

President Reagan rejected an opportunity here Friday to stump for his tax plan against the historic backdrop of Ft. McHenry and instead focused on strong patriotic themes in his Flag Day speech at the site of a crucial War of 1812 victory that inspired the national anthem.

However, the President, fresh from a political victory on Capitol Hill in which U.S. aid to Nicaraguan rebels was approved by the House of Representatives, took advantage of the setting to equate the goals of rebels--whom he called “freedom fighters"--in Nicaragua and some other countries to those of the colonists who led the American Revolution.

Separately, State Department officials dismissed the significance of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s announcement Thursday, in response to congressional approval of humanitarian aid to the rebels, that he would end a self-imposed pause on seeking new arms from abroad.

Uninterrupted Arms


Spokesman Bernard Kalb told reporters that all Ortega had promised last February was a moratorium on acquiring new types of weapons systems. Nicaragua has never stopped receiving arms and Soviet deliveries have continued to flow without interruption, Kalb said.

The original text of Reagan’s speech that was distributed to the press had stressed tax reform, a cause for which the President has campaigned in more than a half dozen speeches across the nation over the last few weeks. However, an aide said that Reagan had reviewed the speech and decided at the last minute to omit all reference to tax reform “because he wanted to focus more on Flag Day.”

The wind whipped a 30-by-42-foot flag above Reagan as he spoke at a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first Flag Day ceremony, and the crowd included hundreds of squealing schoolchildren who were furiously waving miniature flags.

Describing at length the 1814 battle with the British that had prompted Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner,” Reagan said: “Our forefathers were motivated by something bigger than themselves. . . . Those patriot soldiers were sustained by the ideal of human freedom.”


‘Fight for Freedom’

He added: “Today’s freedom story is still being written. In those countries around the world where tyrants still hold sway, new resistance movements are gaining momentum,” he said. " . . . In Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan and Cambodia, the freedom fighters fight for their freedom and human rights . . . the same ideals that inspired our forefathers, though the tyrants they battle are incomparably more ruthless.”

Reagan also cited a letter he had received from 10 women in a Soviet labor camp. Written on a tiny slip of paper and smuggled from the camp, the letter, according to the President, said that “we in the United States represented to them the hope that one day there would be freedom throughout the world.” He added: “I’m going to keep that letter for as long as I live.”