Newt is no Reagan, and Reagan was no Reagan
Throughout the GOP primaries Newt Gingrich has mentioned the name of Reagan 3.2 times per debate. He continues to invoke his name trying to piggyback on his popularity and drive association with The Gipper. The other candidates have not exhausted this approach to the level of the previous Speaker, which is ironic given Mr. Gingrich constantly disagreed with President Reagan’s politics. To Mr. Gingrich I say, you are no Reagan...and for that matter, Reagan was no Reagan.
The conservative movement holds up President Reagan as a beacon of light, an example to all Republicans. The Tea Party themselves use Reagan's name as a synonym for deity. Certain forgotten (or ignored) facts about our 40th president make this name jockeying borderline laughable. Reagan was not a small government Republican, nor would he be a friend to the Tea Party today. Reagan’s mix of compromise on positions and issues changed with experience, and would drive today’s Republican Party crazy. Many have forgotten that Reagan began his political career as a liberal Democrat. His conversion to the conservative movement came upon marrying his second wife, Nancy, and through the presidencies of Eisenhower, Nixon, and influence of Goldwater. Although Reagan campaigned on conservative principles, he did raise taxes both as Governor and President to balance the budget. Adjusted for inflation those tax increases were the largest the country had ever seen.
Reagan’s social platforms would disqualify him from today's Republican Party. Ronald Reagan was borderline religious and there is very little record of him attending church before, during, or after his presidency. Reagan saw the Christian faith as a buffer to communism and used religion as a weapon. One of the first bills Reagan signed as Governor of California was the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” which led to two million abortions in the state. Reagan signed the first “no fault” divorce legislation and is still the only divorced President that has led this nation. Reagan was also vocal in opposing a California initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools. Reagan signed an amnesty bill that provided citizenship to three million illegal immigrants understanding the labor impact to our Nation’s economy. It is difficult to believe that Reagan would be supportive of building walls around our borders, while working to tear down walls in Eastern Europe.
To be fair, Reagan campaigned on values aligning with the conservative movement including smaller government, strong defense, less welfare, lower taxes, and less government in people’s personal lives (Patriot Act would have been DOA). On several of these principles he was true to his core. Unions weakened under Reagan, taxes were lowered, and defense spending flourished. Perhaps the most notable anti-Union action came with the firing of 12,000 governmental air traffic controllers who went on strike, which empowered the private sector to overcome their fear of unions. Many have called Reagan an economic mind, but there is no substantial evidence to back such a claim. His embracing of supply-side economics demonstrates his weakness in this area and the real economic genius of the period was Paul Volcker (today, Mr. Volcker serves on President Obama’s economic policy board, and has been written off by the same conservatives who embraced his policies in the 1980’s). Reagan did understand the conceptual idea of the Laffer Curve which drove Reagan’s desire to lower taxes. Reagan also froze the minimum wage, a move that is supported by free market theory.
Reagan’s popularity was based on the same reason Newt Gingrich loathed the man, his ability to compromise and to respect his political opponents. It is not a secret that President Reagan’s biggest political opponent was Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. Nor was it a secret that when working hours were over the President would have opposing Democrats over for a beer. One time after a feud President Reagan called O’Neil up for a truce in which the Speaker replied, “Old buddy, that's politics--after 6 o'clock we can be friends; but before 6, its politics.” O’Neil passed Reagan’s tax cuts and Reagan signed O’Neil’s social programs. Although partisanship was starting to build in Washington it was Newt’s frustration with the compromising hand of Reagan that led him to construct “The New Deal”. Newt was no Reagan Republican, opposing President Clinton at every turn, even to the point of shutting down government. The rise of extreme partisanship was beginning and Newt was the architect. Reagan’s reelection was a monstrous landslide in 1984, and his popularity was driven through his ability to unite both parties.
Reagan’s management of the cold war is also a stark difference to how Newt and Republicans think today. At the near conclusion of the Cold War President Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of communist Russia. This infuriated Newt and others from Reagan’s own party. Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to disarm and worked together to remove nuclear arsenal across the globe. Reagan and Gorbachev surprised both of their countries with the agreement and compromise was the pinnacle of Reagan’s success. Given the tone and rhetoric from the right today, it is safe to say Reagan would have been portrayed as weak and an enemy to the United States.
For Newt and other Republicans who use Reagan’s name as a political weapon I would say, stop. Reagan would not be your friend today. The Republican Party would not embrace his compromising spirit, economic and tax policy, and perceived weak positions on social issues. In the 2008 primaries, Obama and Clinton argued about who could come to the middle. Today, the Republican Party members are arguing about who can move furthest to the right. There is little question which of these positions Reagan would support.
(This week marks President Reagan’s 101st birthday).
Let's Tone it Down Several Notches
So far, it appears that the person who targeted Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona for assassination, in Saturday's shooting rampage that left 6 people dead and many others seriously wounded, was not directly inspired by the virulent and violent political rhetoric that has been dominating the public discourse over the past 2 years and beyond. And in this post, I am not trying to assign blame for the shooting rampage to anyone aside from the deranged, homicidal gunman, Jared Lee Loughner. But this national tragedy has provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the type of political conversation we engage in both in public and in private. Last March, I posted about some of the recent violence and violent rhetoric. In the aftermath of the passage of the health care reform bill, many prominent opponents of the bill used inappropriate and irresponsible rhetoric that included implicit violent and hateful messages.Read more
Seven Percent of Republicans Are Not Completely Out of Their Minds
A recent nationwide survey found that a majority of Republicans believe that Obama "sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world."
According to the poll, 14 percent of Republicans said that from what they knew of Obama, they thought such allegations were "definitely true"; 38 percent thought the allegations were "probably true." Meanwhile, 33 percent of Republicans thought they were "probably not true" and 7 percent thought they were "definitely not true."
Pregnant Rape Victims Should Turn Lemons into Lemonade- Sharron Angle
Tea Party extraordinaire and Nevada Republican candidate for US Senate Sharron Angle recently told a reporter that she thinks teenage rape victims should make "a lemon situation into lemonade" by carrying their pregnancies to term. This radical does not think that there should be a legal abortion exception for rape or incest. Instead, she thinks these situations should be left solely to Divine Providence.
Questioner: What do you say then to a young girl... when a young girl is raped by her father, let's say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?Read more
Angle: I think that two wrongs don't make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.
A Renewed Call for Civility from LDS Church Leadership
During the most recent LDS General Conference, we heard yet another call for civility in our public dialogue. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated, “many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. Violence and vandalism are not the answer to our disagreements.”Read more
"The Rage is Not About Health Care"
Frank Rich stated what I was trying to point out in my previous post, "Right-Wing Terrorism," in a much more eloquent and straightforward fashion than I did. (That's probably why he's a NYT columnist and I'm not.) Here are some of the best parts:
In fact, the current surge of anger — and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism — predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “traitor” and “off with his head” at Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have spiraled ever since — from Gov. Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Tea Party rally in Texas to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies last summer to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot... If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory.
...As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas. Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.
Glenn Beck Called Out By Mormon Leaders
Glenn Beck, who recently demonized churches that preach social and economic justice as communist and fascist, caused some LDS church leaders to become so uncomfortable that they personally apologized to a reverend whom Beck had attacked. More specifically, Glenn Beck said, "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" He went on to compare organizations that practice social and economic justice with communism and fascism.Read more
The news over the past few days has demonstrated that elements of the Tea Party and others on the far right have resorted to blatant bigotry and threats of violence in the run up to and in the aftermath of Sunday's House vote on the landmark heath care reform bill. As some Democratic lawmakers were making their way up to Capital Hill on Sunday, Tea Party protesters hurled racial and other epithets, like ni***r and fa***t to a few black congressman and one gay congressman. One black congressman was even spat upon.Read more
The Conservatives' Waterloo
David Frum, President George W. Bush's former speechwriter and a conservative political pundit posted the following on his website yesterday. I highly recommend the entire article, but here are some key points:Read more