How many times have we heard Republican candidates for elective office invoke Ronald Reagan as their hero, inspiration and justification for a policy that Reagan never backed, would not have supported, or clearly had opposed?
The Gipper’s defining multi-front cold war with Soviet Russia is obviously the most germane and current contrast – with a president who wonders out loud “why would” Russia have interfered in our 2016 election and mocks his intelligence agencies while playfully wagging his finger at Putin and crooning “Don’t meddle in the election please.”
The Reagan versus current GOP contrast is apparent in many other areas, including regulation of handguns, like the one wielded by John Hinckley Jr. on March 30, 1981, or his position on assuring the safety of therapeutic abortions while Governor of California and before the SCOTUS ruling in Roe v. Wade. NAFTA, according to Trump, was the “worst trade deal the U.S. ever signed,” It was conceived and advanced by Ronald Reagan.
As he left office, Reagan called the national debt of $2.7 trillion “the greatest disappointment of my presidency.” But Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan husbanded a tax cut that will increase the debt by more than $2 trillion on top of the $2 trillion already added in the 30 months of Trump. The president and Moscow Mitch have just agreed to suspend the debt ceiling for two years while increasing yearly spending by $324 billion.
These are but a few facts about Reagan’s terms as governor and president that should but haven’t rendered him persona non grata in the Republican mainstream – to say nothing of its ruling lunatic wing. Yesterday’s revelation that Reagan complained to President Nixon that Tanzanian delegates to the United Nations were “monkeys” and “cannibals” might actually increase Reagan’s stature with a president who refers to African nations as “shitholes”.
Barack Obama is steadily becoming an analogous figure for Democrats, who embrace him and his legacy but attack policies and positions he advanced when they are offered by others. This dynamic has been on display in both rounds of the Democratic presidential candidate debates.
As candidates from the left associated themselves with and carefully avoided any discouraging words about Obama, they attacked Joe Biden and other moderates on the stage for espousing positions identical, or similar to, our last president’s. This dynamic was most obvious in the withering attacks from the left on proposals to augment Obamacare’s maintenance of private healthcare insurance with a “public option.” Obama believed that Americans should be able to buy an improved package of private insurance but did not even insist upon, let alone include, a public option in his signature law when he had both houses of Congress under Democratic control.
Obama, the “deporter-in-chief,” the president who ordered the extra-judicial execution of an American citizen and a man who HL once told a Whitehouse interviewer that he “would clean the latrines for” (and still would) is a classic liberal taking positions very similar to those advanced by the man he chose to be his vice-president.
As silly and easily exposed as the embrace of Reagan by current Republican officeholders is – these hypocrites and liars benefit from a voiceless Reagan incapable of contradicting them. And due to dementia, this has been true since well over a decade before Reagan’s death in 2004.
The Democrats who laud and associate themselves with Obama will have no such luxuries. In their near future the giant, who now appears to be asleep, may awake and make his views known. And this time, unlike last, he possibly will back a candidate who can thump Donald Trump and one who supports positions similar to his, and who served him so faithfully and well.
PS: No readers, this is not an endorsement of Joe Biden’s candidacy and especially not in relation to those of candidates Sanders and Warren. They really kicked ass the other night. Their policy disagreements with Biden are long-standing and principled. Not sniveling and opportunistic like, Kamala Harris’, Cory Bookers’ and especially unlike the two zeros, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio. The HL endorsement won’t be rendered until every candidate has an opportunity to visit with and make its case before the HL editorial board.