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Bush vs. Reagan

Given that

  1. I adored Ronald Reagan, and
  2. my enthusiasm for our current president has been "tempered," to say the least,

I am as prone to nostalgia for our 40th president as anyone else.

That being said, I want to take issue with an increasingly popular sentiment that I'm hearing with some regularity from Democrats and anti-Bush Republicans alike. There are several variants to it, but the gist of it goes something like this:

"I supported Ronald Reagan (or not, depending on the affiliation of the speaker), but the Republican Party has come so dangerously far since the days of Reagan that no sane voter could now support it." If pressed for specific examples, the person will usually cite some combination or permutation of

  1. The domination of the party by the religious right
  2. Reckless tax cuts for the rich
  3. America's haughty, go-it-alone unilateralism on the world stage

All right, let's take these one by one, okay?

First, I think the religious right's influence on the GOP is pernicious and destructive, and regular readers of this blog know that I view it as the GOP's biggest current problem, bar none. It is also often exaggerated.

And let's not pretend that it's altogether new, either. I'm not given to political activism these days, but back when I was actively involved in politics, in the mid-to-late 80s, we were having exactly the same argument; only the names were different: "Reagan's party is no longer the party of Goldwater. It has been hijacked by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed, blah blah blah..."

I opposed the fundies' influence on the party even then, but other than the names, not much has really changed. Some will no doubt argue with me on this. Reagan, they will say, would pay lip service to religious conservatives in order to get their votes, but with a wink and a nod to the rest of us, he never actually followed through on much of it.

Well, yeah, that's no doubt true, but again, there's very little new under the sun. Tell me, how much have you heard about the gay marriage amendment after the November 2004 elections?

The second point is even more ludicrous. If "tax cuts for the rich" punches your buttons, Bush is a piker (a piker, I say!) compared to Saint Ronnie. During Reagan's tenure, the top personal income tax rate was slashed from 70% down to 28%. That's 42% by my calculations. By contrast, Bush trimmed the top rate from 39.6% all the way down to... 35%, a difference of 4.6%.

That makes Bush's "tax cut for the rich" an entire order of magnitude smaller than Reagan's, not to mention the fact that the top tax rate is still 7% higher than it was after Reagan left office.

Finally, there is the matter of foreign policy. The stereotype of the clueless American "cowboy" president, galloping across the world stage like a bull in a china shop, was invented for Ronald Reagan, and only transferred to Bush decades later. From the deployment of nuclear missiles to Western Europe, to the bombing of Libya, to the SDI initiative, to his constant red-baiting ("I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."), I'd say there are many Bush critics who have a very short memory when they lapse into misty-eyed nostalgia for Reagan's foreign policy.

The bottom line is this: If you dislike Bush, then dislike him. But don't try to glorify Reagan in the process, in a feeble attempt to lend a veneer of legitimacy to your Bush-bashing. That just makes you look silly.


Sorry Barry, but there is still a clear difference: Reagan was trying to do what he thought was best for all of America, and Bush is a lying criminal piece of shit Frat Boy out to line the pockets of his friends.

I voted for Reagan twice and was happy both times.

Bush is a traitor.

agreed. Reagan and Bush....not in the same league by any stretch, be it politically, personally or whatever.

Reagan's cut from 70 to 28 per cent can be expressed as either: 42 percentage points OR 60%, as you take 42 away from the 70.


Well, I have no problem with your take on this: I don't like Bush, and I didn't like Reagan, either. Different levels of dislike, but they're both there.

I disliked Reagans economic policies, I thought they favored the rich too heavily. The man himself I thought came across as compassionate, and caring, though.

So, your declaration was you can't like either if you don't like Bush, I find myslef agreeing with you 100%.

Barry the problem with any reasonable comparion of the two is that i bet 3/4 of your readers (icl me) were very young when Reagan was actually in office and probably weren't really UP on things.

Mostly i remember being scared Reagan was too 'out of it' by the end of his term to know WTF was going on.

Reagan has charisma and was a true leader. Bush is a lying little weasel. Try to imagine Ronald Reagan running away and hiding for days after America was attacked. Rudy Guliani is much more like Reagan than spoiled stupid Dubya. He stepped up, like a leader.

Dubya only came out of his rat hole after they were sure everything was safe, and that was only because he was all excited to start a war that would further his (and Halliburton's) long-term goals in Iraq.

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