By Brad Friedman
I recall back during the 2000 campaign when things didn't
look very good for George W. Bush I had told a couple of folks
that the only way he could pull out a victory at that point
was if Ronald Reagan died prior to the election and the country
found itself swept by a temporary nostalgia for the golden
days when there really was a vast sense of unity - for the
most part - in America.
Compared to the divisive years of reprehensible - yes -
Republican partisanship, disgraceful and baseless attacks
on a sitting President, unending trumped-up investigations
and an eventually discredited impeachment, it seemed to me
that America might just latch onto Dubya's rising star as
he inevitably would have sought to capitalize on Reagan-mania
by casting himself in The Gipper's warm after-glow.
Such a comparison at the time, had it played out that way,
as morbidly opportunistic as it might have been, could have
caught the imagination of a nation starved for optimistic
days of unity and propelled George W. Bush to the front of
the race. It seemed, back then, Bush's only hope as I saw
Little did I imagine, of course, that they'd end up stealing
the election to seal the deal. And of course, Reagan suprisingly
held on for another four years, only to "slip the surly bonds
of earth to touch the face of God" at a time that may as well
be 100 political years later than the year 2000.
Now, instead, it seems that Reagan's passing occurs at a
rather unfortunate moment for George W. Bush. Aside from occuring
on a weekend during which Team Bush had otherwise hoped to
benefit from the now routinely "decad-annual" D-Day Bump in
Presidential esteem, his death at this time succeeds only
in pointing up how Bush so desperately pales by direct comparison
to a real American leader.
Oh, darn the luck.
Undoubtedly the desperate Right will twist history any way
they can to draw some kind of inevitable tortured positive
comparison. (Be sure to listen for it as it undoubtely happens
live this week on both Rush's and Sean's shows). But I think
the trick is now unlikely to gain much traction. The vast
differences between the real McCoy and the boy Pretender are
now simply all too clear.
The endless retrospectives via every imaginable media outlet
only serves to shore up the vast differences between the two
men. Reagan actually was, it seems to me, someone with true
core beliefs gained by decades of real life experience on
both sides of the political aisle; the bold ideas of his strongly
held Liberal FDR New Deal roots were applied to a time-earned
move to the Right as experience not opportunistic political
idealogy - as with our boy who would be king - seemed to govern
his core beliefs. Like him or hate him, Ronald Reagan, at
least, was the real thing.
Former Reagan Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State James
Baker related on This Week that Reagan "would rather get 80%
of what he wanted then go over the cliff with his flag flying."
It was a life-lesson learned which Dubya, apparently, hasn't
the body of knowledge or intellectual curiosity to even contemplate.
That, as he makes his Wile E. Coyote-like descent to disappear
in a tiny poof at the bottom of the cliff.
Reagan was so successful in politics because he allowed
for pragmatism to win out over rigid conservative hopes. As
Governor, he raised taxes to help balance the budget, he signed
the country's most liberal abortion rights legislation at
the time, and imposed strict environmental regulation on industry
in places like Lake Tahoe ensuring that - to this day - there
are still clear blue waters visible for 70 feet below the
op/ed in Sunday's LA Times speaks of the many paradoxes
of Ronald Reagan, outlining changing and/or nuanced beliefs
that the transparently disingenuous GOP of today would have
described as little more than "flip-flops" - assuming, of
course, that they applied to a candidate they opposed instead
Of note also, on a personal and local level, is that Reagan
was first an actor from "liberal elitist" Hollywood, who was
wise enough to acknowledge on many occassions that "I don't
know how you do this job without being an actor."
Meanwhile, for political expediency, today's GOP are the
first to denigrate an American with an opinion on the basis
that they are "an actor from Hollywood." Pusillanimously reserving,
in the meantime, a convenient and hypocritical blind-eye for
the Reagans, Schwarzeneggers, Eastwoods, Bonos, Thompsons
and Gibsons that carry their water.
Reagan also displayed the strength of character necessesary
to take real responsibility, at least occassionally, when
things went horribly wrong.
As the ever sharp (and delightfully acerbic) BradBlog commenter
out, after 241 US marines were killed by terrorists in
Beirut and America subsequently withdrew, Reagan bravely told
the country "If there is to be blame it rests here and with
Contrast that courageous admission to Bush's hemming and
hawing, inability to recall a single mistake in his policies,
continuous avoidance of any responsibility for anything from
9/11 up to the present day Iraqi morass where over 800 soldiers
are now dead and thousands more wounded for a cause that was
tenuous at best, and completely discredited now at worse.
The stark difference between these two men couldn't be clearer.
Only the despicably blood-sucking Paul Wolfowitz (someone
please explain to me why this man still has a job on the United
States payroll) was debased enough to attempt to usurp the
nation's love for a true leader before the body was even cold.
Just an hour or so after the news broke, while most thoughtful
commentators had the reason to focus on Ronald Reagan and
avoid comparison in the short term to George W. Bush, there
was Wolfowitz on Fox (where else?) attempting to tell America
how Ronald Reagan would have supported Bush's current policies
in Iraq. How reprehensible. Not to mention, more than likely
Unlike George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan actually was a uniter,
not a divider. Or as close to it, in any case, as anybody
can come to such a thing in national politics today anyway.
Mr. Wolfowitz, I grew up during Ronald Reagan's presidency.
I voted for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Wolfowitz, George W. Bush is
no Ronald Reagan.
Brad Friedman is a freelance writer and software designer.
He is also a proud "Liberal Hollywood Elitist" sharing all
of the great esteem and many rewards that come with it. His
blog can be read at http://www.BradFriedman.com/BradBlog.