The LuLac Edition #1462, Feb. 6th, 2011
REAGAN AT 100
Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday is today. When Reagan was elected President in 1980 I remember telling my mother that Reagan would be the last part of the 20th century’s John Kennedy. He was charismatic, riveting, idolized beyond belief and his name was one every member of his party would forever want to be associated with.
When Reagan was born in 1911 life was tough in America. 90 % of the doctors in America had no college education, most homes lacked indoor plumbing and the arts forms that made Reagan famous, film, radio and TV were not even invented yet.
Reagan was the classic American success story. He had talent, used it and set a course of success for himself that was both simplistic and ambitious.
Much has been written about Reagan’s move career. His political career was one of constant underestimation by his foes. He wanted to do a few things in his role as President and got them all accomplished. Reagan who is deified by conservatives was anything but in terms of his political governance. Te man was flexible. The partisan inflexibility of a Mitch McConnell would have Reagan shaking his head in wonderment. If Donald Trump was famous for the “Art of the Deal”, Reagan was king at “The Art of the Political Deal”.
He was pro life in his campaigns but virtually ignored the zealots after he was elected.
When he came into office in 1980 he said he was going to cut entitlements. Said it over and over again. Did it, then restored some of the cuts.
Reagan is known as the patron saint of tax cuts but in reality he raised them too.
Reagan famously did cut taxes, sharply, in his first year in office. But as former Senator Alan Simpson, who co-chaired the fiscal commission, was quick to remind current tax crazies that's only half the story.
Former Senator ALAN SIMPSON (Republican, Wyoming): Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration. I was here. I was here. I knew him. Better than anybody in this room. He was a dear friend and a total realist as to politics.
Simpson's recollection is spot on, says historian Douglas Brinkley, the editor of Reagan's diaries.
Professor DOUGLAS BRINKLEY (Rice University): Ronald Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes. He knew that it was necessary at times. And so there's a false mythology out there about Reagan as this conservative president who came in and just cut taxes and trimmed federal spending in a dramatic way. It didn't happen that way. It's false.
Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, explains the 1981 tax cut blew a much bigger hole in the federal budget than expected. So over the next few years, Reagan agreed to raise taxes again and again, ultimately undoing about half the savings of the '81 cut.
Mr. DAVID STOCKMAN (Former Director, Office Management and Budget): He wasn't very happy about it. He did it reluctantly. But at the end of the day, the math was overwhelming.
That's because Reagan was never able to match his 1981 tax cuts with a comparable cut in federal spending. A modest reduction in domestic spending was dwarfed by Reagan's big buildup in the Pentagon budget. And, Stockman says, Reagan never made a serious effort to challenge middle class entitlement programs, after an early proposal to curtail Social Security benefits was shot down.
And without big spending cuts, Reagan faced a choice between raising taxes and an even bigger federal debt. He chose the tax hikes. Today the federal debt's bigger than ever, and policymakers are again staring at painful choices. President Obama's fiscal commission says both deep spending cuts and tax increases will be needed to bring the budget under control. But ever since Reagan, presidents who've tried to raise taxes are confronted with the myth of their tax-cutting predecessor.
What puzzles historian Brinkley is how Reagan, who also raised taxes, avoided paying a political price.
Prof. BRINKLEY: He seemed to get away with both. He seemed to really be kind of a centrist, big government deficit spender, but also be seen as a budget cutter. And it's because his persona was so great.
Source: National Public Radio
He knew how to seize a moment. Firing the Air Traffic Controllers was a thing that the unions never expected but cheered mightily. When he went to Russia for his first meeting with Gorbachev, he shooed out the diplomats and foreign policy flunkies and talked one on one with the Soviet leader. He never groveled, walked away in anger once (I can’t help but think that was the acting kicking in) but made the deal his way. There were moments of national tragedy where he shone eloquently as well as some embarrassing moments too like napping in an audience with John Paul II.
Reagan had something besides charisma going for him. He knew his own mind. That should have become abundantly clear when at the GOP convention in Detroit there was talk of a Reagan/Ford (former President Ford) ticket. Reagan was game because “The Gipper” wanted to win. But when Walter Cronkite interviewed Jerry Ford on CBS and started talking about a co-Presidency with Reagan, the nominee (Reagan) told his inner circle that would never stand constitutionally, politically or personally. Within minutes George Herbert Walker Bush was Reagan’s Veep.
The Republican Party since his death has been looking for the next Reagan. That will never happen until one of the future GOP contenders does the following:
1. Chart their own course.
2. Have one set of beliefs and accomplishments that are part of his or her core belief system.
3. Be yourself.
Only then will the party of Lincoln find their next Reagan. But the true test of their search will be if he or she is known as for their own persona. Only then a true successor to Reagan will be found and recognized.