Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Real Ronald Reagan

An old friend put up the simple words of  "Ronald Reagan" in his Facebook timeline the other day.  When someone asked him why, my friend put up the words we need someone like him.  It got me to thinking.  In the past few months Ronald Reagan's name has been bandied about as if he was the ultraconservative that the ultraconservative wing of the GOP remember.  He is the patron saint, but was he really the ultimate conservative, tax cutting, morality fighting, super hero that they believe he was.  His own son, Ronald Reagan Jr. has stated that his father would not have made the cut of the current GOP, but is he right?

Ronald Reagan, was often called the "Great Communicator."  He was an actor, after all.  His speaking skills should be pretty good, at least I would think they would be.  He was an actor, a governor of California, and president of the Screen Actor's Guild.  He had made his reputation on westerns in the 1950's and a series of bad movie comedies involving a monkey named Bonzo.  He also was well known for his portrayal of football  star earning him the nickname, The Gipper.  All in all, he made over 50 films and was actually fairly famous.  He was also a Democrat until the 1960's.

While a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, he also supported background checks, the 7 day waiting period, assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill after leaving office.  As governor he signed a bill which banned the carrying of guns on your person, vehicle or any public place and also required a 15 day waiting period.  In 1991 he said "With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases. And it's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns." He also supported the fire arms owner protection act which repealed parts of the 1968 gun bill which many experts had deemed unconstitutional and at the same time he banned fully automatic weapons.  His gun stance may have changed though because of the attempted assassination of him which left his press secretary Jim Brady wounded and disabled.

In 1980, he ran for President against Jimmy Carter, the incumbent.  He ran for a second term winning against Walter Mondale.  He was though above all a pragmatist.  He did what needed to be done and if that meant making deals, he did.  He was willing to make compromises and in fact did.  His compromises would be heresies by today's Republican standards.

 Stuart Spencer, a Reagan adviser who was there from the beginning says "He had a strong set of core values and operated off of those, but when push came to shove, he did various things he didn't like doing, because he knew it was in the best interests of the state or country at the time." He continues in an article in the LA Times about today's conservatives, "A lot of those people running out there don't really understand what he did. It's just a matter of attaching themselves to a winner."

Reagan did a number of things like raised the nation's self-confidence, and his strong stance and understanding that Gorbachev was not the typical Soviet president of the past, helped to tear down the Berlin wall which lead ultimately to the end of the USSR and the Cold War.  As today, Reagan's first term was marked by recession, high interest rates, a soaring budget deficit, and strong anti-American feelings in the Middle East.

That all said, Reagan also held the belief that compromise was good policy.  He believed that government needed to invest in things during the tough times.  He was unafraid to raise taxes and did so for seven of the eight years he was in office.  He raised taxes eleven times in total.  He gave amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants.  He increased the size of government.  He tripled the national debt.  He did try to cut taxes on the rich and adding to the tax burden of the middle class and poor causing a rise in unemployment.   Oh and did I mention that one of his cuts, school lunches had ketchup declared as a vegetable? 

By Tea Party standard on fiscal policy and never compromise  he would most likely be labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The Reagan of the Tea Party is a carefully constructed myth.  When Reagan left office, the Republicans enjoyed a 63 percent approval rating.  Today, the Republican lead house has a less than 25 percent approval rating.  The Reagan who had failings and successes was a solid president.  The ultra conservative a myth. Next up...The Real JFK.