Reflections on the Debate (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)- No. 5
I have been unfairly ridiculing John McCain as "Saint McCain." As we all knew even before the 1/10/08 Repub Presidential debate, among fiscal, cultural, or foreign policy, conservatives, there is only one true saint. Read the candidates' own words of reverence about this individual for whom they have undying devotion.
Rudolph Giuliani: " I would do that the way I did as mayor of New York City, the way Ronald Reagan did it as president of the United States."
John McCain: "I'm proud to have been a member of the Reagan revolution, a foot soldier."
Mike Huckabee: "Well, I'm not sure anybody said we're not running for a Reagan term.... All of those things were a part of that Reagan coalition. I was a part of it in 1979 and a lot of the evangelicals who became a part of helping Ronald Reagan to be elected."
John McCain (again): "the Reagan revolution that brought about a new dawn of a new day in America and helped us immeasurably in bringing down the iron curtain."
But let me come back to your other question about Ronald Reagan. Look, the only way we're going to win the White House is by appealing to the coalition that brought together the great strength that Ronald Reagan brought to America.
What's happened in America is that Washington has moved away from the Reagan coalition. The Re-publican Party, in some cases, has moved away from the Reagan principles.
But the principles that Ronald Reagan espoused are what will allow us not only to win the White House, but to keep America strong. Ronald Reagan was the ultimate optimist. He was a person who had confi-dence in America and brought back that spirit that we rely upon to be the strongest nation on Earth.
Ronald Reagan said we're going to have such a strong military, we'll out-compete the Soviets, and he did. He said we're going to have such strong families that the values of Americans will shine as an example of a shining city on a hill for the entire world to see, and he did that.
Fred Thompson: "On the one hand, you have the Reagan revolution. You have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security.... (But Huckabee's platform is) .... not the model of the Reagan coalition, that's the model of the Democratic Party."
Rudolph Giuliani (again): "I'm a conservative because I believe in a strong national defense, the way Ronald Reagan did. I think peace through strength that Ronald Reagan proposed to deal with the Cold War is similar to what we have to do now in dealing with this terrorist war against us."
Ron Paul: (didn't get the memo).
And here is the funny thing. All these guys assume Ronald Reagan was a conservative Republican while they are posing, accurately or otherwise, as authentic conservatives. But as Jonathan Chait notes in "The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics," Reagan was a moderate Republican by today's party standards. Sure, Reagan ran up the federal deficit and attacked the labor movement (such as by firing air traffic controllers), heady, exciting stuff for a middle class- hating Republican. But he also signed an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1987; appointed Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy (who have turned out to be swing voters) to the Supreme Court; enacted the largest tax increase in American history in 1982 and raised income taxes again in 1983; and in 1986 signed the Tax Reform Act, which Chait concludes "raised the proportion of taxes paid by the rich and reduced the proportion paid by the poor."
Still, the Repubs must comfort themselves by maintaining the fiction that Ronald Reagan was a true conservative and that George W. Bush is somehow a heretic. And besides- Christianity has Jesus Christ and Islam has Muhammad. We should allow Republicanism to have Ronald Wilson Reagan.
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