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McCainservatives Now Distorting Reagan’s Record to Support McCain

This is getting completely out of hand. McCain supporters need to stop this nonsense. John McCain is not a conservative. He is a liberal socialist Republican. Period. He would be wise to stop his lying and just own up to this fact.

Mark Levin at NRO The Corner is also getting tired of McCain supporters distorting Ronald Reagan’s record in order to make McCain seem more like Reagan. Mr. Levin has had enough of this (as have I). Revisionist history is a tactic of Liberals, Democrats and the Left. Now McCain supporters are using it.

Here’s a tip: using the tactics of the Left does not make me more willing to vote for your candidate. It makes me realize that you will do anything to win an election, even lie. And that puts you in the same category of lack of principle, lack of ethics and lack of integrity as the Left, in my eyes.

Reagan Challenged His Party from the Right. McCain Challenges His Party from the Left.

I don’t think most conservatives are interested in McCain’s class ranking at Annapolis or how many planes he was nearly killed in. There have been a few posts here mentioning it. And I appreciate all the references to Reagan’s efforts to advance his agenda, which did involve making compromises with a Democrat House and, throughout most of his presidency, a Democrat Congress. And if John McCain showed this kind of temperament and vision in his political career, I don’t think most who object to his candidacy during the primaries would be objecting to it today. I think we would be enthusiastically supporting him.

Painting Reagan as a tax-and-spend Republican, who basically went along with Washington and appointed a bunch of moderates to the Supreme Court, in an apparent attempt to build up McCain’s conservative and leadership credentials and mollify his critics, has the opposite effect mostly because it is inaccurate. It reminds me of Bill Clinton’s supporters using Thomas Jefferson’s alleged adultery to explain the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Reagan challenged his party from the Right. He sought the Republican nomination in 1968 against Richard Nixon and lost. He sought the nomination against Gerald Ford in 1976 and lost. He fought the Republican establishment in 1980 as well, including Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and George H. W. Bush, and won. McCain has challenged his party from the Left. I don’t know how many more times I and others have to lay out his record to prove the point. To put a fine point on it, when he had to, Reagan sought compromise from a different set of beliefs and principles than McCain. It does a great disservice to historical accuracy and the current debate to continue to urge otherwise.

Let me be more specific, rather than spar in generalities. Reagan would never have used the phrase “manage for profit” as a zinger to put down a Republican opponent. Reagan believed in managing for profit because he believed in free enterprise. That doesn’t mean he didn’t agree to certain tax increases (after fighting for and winning the most massive tax cuts in modern American history), which were incidentally to be accompanied by even greater spending cuts. McCain believes the oil companies are evil, and said it during one of the debates. Among his first acts as president, Reagan decontrolled the prices of natural gas and crude oil with the stroke of his pen because, as he understood, profit funds research and exploration. Reagan had a respect for and comprehension of private property rights and markets that McCain does not. There never would have been a Reagan-Lieberman bill, in which the federal government’s power over the private sector would have trumped the New Deal.

Reagan opposed limits on political speech. The Reagan administration ended the Fairness Doctrine and the media ownership rules, which helped create the alternative media that McCain despises. Reagan’s reverence for the Constitution would never have allowed him to support, let alone add his name to, something like McCain-Feingold.

As for Reagan’s Supreme Court appointments, it is wholly misleading to simply list those who turned out to be disappointing as evidence of Reagan’s willingness to compromise on judicial appointments or appoint moderates, or whatever the point was. In Sandra Day O’Connor’s case, he was assured by Barry Goldwater and Ken Starr that she was an originalist. While on the Court, she started out on fairly sound footing, and then lurched toward the Left, something Reagan could not foresee or control. Yes, Reagan appointed Anthony Kennedy to the Court, but only after: 1. first nominating Bob Bork; 2. then nominating Doug Ginsburg; and 3. again receiving assurances that Kennedy was solid. And, again, Kennedy started out as a fairly reliable originalist, but has “evolved” over the years in ways that no president can prevent. But Reagan also appointed Antonin Scalia and promoted William Rehnquist to chief justice, and he appointed scores of outstanding judges at the district court and appellate levels — the significance of which attorneys like me, who study this issue, fully comprehend and appreciate. (As an aside, as I spent some time at the White House working on judicial selection, Reagan refused to allow the Senate to dictate which judges he would ultimately nominate to the circuit courts.)

Reagan sought to abolish all kinds of federal programs and agencies — from the Department of Education to the Action Agency/VISTA — and the list goes on and on. I imagine it wouldn’t be too difficult for someone with the time and inclination, such as a think-tank scholar, to go back and examine the early budgets that Reagan sent to Congress. Am I the only one who remembers all the horror stories in the media portraying Reagan’s budgets as setting back the New Deal and Great Society, creating armies of homeless, cutting ketchup from the Food Stamp program, and so forth? But Reagan couldn’t get a lot of the cuts he wanted past congressional Democrats. However, he did shutdown the government several times to try to limit spending. Does anyone remember the media stories about Social Security recipients going without checks?

The one area Reagan drastically increased spending was defense. And while McCain is said to be among the most capable of hawks, he used little of his political capital and media savvy to oppose the Clinton cuts — or to warn the nation about the rising threat from al-Qaeda, for that matter. He did not call for the resignation of his good friend Bill Cohen, who was a terrible defense secretary. McCain was not alone, of course. But a more fulsome examination of McCain’s senatorial record relating to defense, intelligence, and law enforcement is met mostly with silence or admonitions to avert our eyes.

Reagan would not have led efforts to grant the enemy constitutional and international rights, as McCain has. I believe he would have sided with President Bush. After all, as president, Reagan rejected efforts to expand the Geneva Conventions to cover terrorists. This is a key area of departure for McCain not only from Bush but most national security advocates. But, alas, we must avert our eyes, again.

As for the 1986 Reagan amnesty for illegal aliens, we’ve been down this road time and again. The bill was carefully reviewed within the Reagan administration, including at the Justice Department (at the time, the INS reported to the attorney general). Reagan agreed that amnesty would be conferred on 2-3 million illegal aliens as a one-time event in exchange for adequate funding for border security. The bill passed in 1987. The border security part of the deal was never enforced. To say that Reagan supported amnesty and no more is to rewrite history. There would have been no Reagan-Kennedy bill, written largely by LULAC and LaRaza.

But we must rewrite history if we are to make the case that McCain is no different from Reagan, Reagan is no different from his predecessors, and Reagan’s speeches weren’t all that revolutionary. And if we object to such characterizations, then the argument shifts to — well, stop making comparisons to Reagan, Reagan wasn’t perfect, the Reagan era is dead, these are different times, etc. Then, if we criticize McCain’s record we are told the tone is troubling, we’re going to help elect Hillary Clinton if we don’t unite behind McCain now (at the beginning of the primaries, no less!), the surge is the only issue that matters, etc.

Look, I do not believe that McCain is a principled conservative. I believe he is a populist hawk in the tradition of a Scoop Jackson. This isn’t a perfect comparison, of course, but nothing is ever perfect, is it? In my view, this is why the hawks will support McCain regardless of his record in virtually every other respect. Moreover, they see McCain as the only Republican who has the will or ability or whatever to fight terrorism. I don’t. But please, can we at least agree, on National Review’s website of all places, to stop dumbing down or dismissing the Reagan record. If you are going to use it, at least be accurate about it. It isn’t perfect, but it is far superior to the backhand it received earlier.

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February 3, 2008 , 3:28PM - Posted by | 2008 Presidential Election, Conservatism, John McCain, Ronald Reagan

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