One of the big storylines out of the Republican debate was how everyone (and I do mean everyone) was trying to stake a claim to Reagan’s legacy.
Ten Republican presidential candidates wanting to replace
President Bush embraced a more popular president, conservative icon
Ronald Reagan, at every turn in their first debate of the 2008 race.
“Ronald Reagan was a president of strength,” Mitt Romney intoned. “Ronald Reagan used to say, we spend money like a drunken sailor,” said John McCain. And Rudy Giuliani praised “that Ronald Reagan optimism.”
One by one, [the ten candidates] invoked Reagan 19 times. In contrast, Bush’s name was barely uttered; the president’s job approval rating languishes in the 30s.
“They went out of the their way on multiple occasions, no matter the question, to associate themselves with Reagan,” said Mitchell McKinney, a political communication professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “They tried their best to not be explicitly bashing or attacking Bush. Most of them tried, in some way, to take a pass on that.”
However, it’s impossible to talk about Reagan’s legacy without mentioning George W. Bush for one reason and one reason only: Dubya is Reagan’s legacy. If not for Reagan, Dubya could never have made it to the Presidency. Their beliefs, policies, and goals are wildly similar. Supporters of both think they are the greatest Presidents ever to hold the office, while the truth of the matter is they are nowhere close – and in fact Bush II may be one of the worst.
Both men were anti-science.
The field split on another issue, with Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo raising their hands when asked who did not believe in evolution.
Of course, we all know Bush doesn’t believe in evolution, and regularly claims scientific theories are “just a theory”. Guess what? So did Reagan:
during the 1980 Presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan told an audience, concerning evolution, ?Well, it?s a theory?it is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it was once believed.? (cited in Berra 1990, p. 123, Wills 1990 p. 120, and Eldredge 1982 p. 28)
This accusation demonstrates a basic ignorance of the methods and principles of science. The scientific method holds as a matter of course that all conclusions are tentative, and that nothing can ever be absolutely proven to a certainty. Every conclusion reached by any scientist must always include, even if it is only assumed, the unspoken preface that ?This is true only to the best of our current knowledge?. Science does not deal with absolute truths; it deals with hypotheses, theories and models.
Then there is McCain’s earlier statement about “spending like a drunken sailor”. Why is it that conservatives seem to fail to notice that in the 8 years Reagan was President our national debt soared to 250% of what it was when he entered office? That’s just barely shy of the 252% the debt expanded in the 30 years before he entered office. In comparison, Bush is on track to grow the debt by a relatively paltry 70% during his 8 years – which is still nearly twice the rate of Clinton, and still would have outstripped Jimmy Carter, had he served 8 years. In fact, Dubya has grown the national debt at the third highest rate post-WWII, behind Reagan and – you guessed it – Nixon/Ford. In comparison, the New Deal – recovering from the greatest economic disaster in the history of our country – barely grew the debt more than Bush II has. WWI and WWII are the only events that outstrip Reagan’s disastrous fiscal policy.
And do we even need to go into the similarities of Reagan and Bush II when it comes to scandal and creeping Christofascism? I could, but I’d prefer not to get tedious.
No, George W. Bush is the legacy of Ronald Reagan, who was not nearly the great President wingnuts imagine him to have been. And while he wasn’t quite the disaster Dubya has been, without Reagan’s ascension to power, Dubya never would have gotten anywhere close to the White House.
I don’t this is a legacy Republicans should be chasing after.