Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
The cover story by Karen Tumulty for Time magazine for March 26, 2007 is entitled: “How the Right Went Wrong: What Would Ronnie Do? And why the Republican candidates need to reclaim the Reagan legacy.” The cover photo is of a benign-looking, somewhat sad-faced Ronald Reagan, with a tear gently coursing down his right cheek. Yes indeed, the Republicans do have some problems in this regard. Let’s take a look at their leading candidates.
Early on, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was anointed as the candidate of the Republican political Far Right: the Fox “News” Channel started touting him right after the 2006 elections. (The Republicans have Rightists, political Far-Rightists, religious Far-Rightists, and nothing else, it should be noted.) Romney is an interesting man. He chose to announce his candidacy in front of the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, MI. Henry Ford was the pre-eminent American anti-Semite in the pre-World War II period. He began a close ideological, publishing, and funding association with Hitler in the 1920s. In 1938, Hitler awarded him “The Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle,” also given to Mussolini earlier that year. It is interesting to note that during the 1930s, Ford provided major assistance to the Soviet Union in starting up their automobile industry. For this, the 20th century’s other great dictator, Stalin, made him a “Hero of the Soviet Union.” I doubt that there is anyone else in history who has the distinction of holding those two “honors.” A strange choice of venue, indeed. Nevertheless, particularly because he has picked up many Jeb Bush political operatives, Romney seems to be the fair-haired boy of the political Right-Wing.
That’s too bad for John McCain, who is just as far-right on policy as Romney, if not further to the right. But over the past several years, he made the mistake of trying to appear to be a “moderate,” with a sense of humor too. MSNBC’s Don Imus, who is totally against the Iraq War and voted for Kerry in 2004, has already announced that he will be voting for McCain in 2008, because he is a “moderate” and “likable.” So even though he is now being as much of a pander-bear to the far-Right as he can be, McCain appears to have lost it with them, apparently for such sins as opposing Bush on torture and calling for even more troops to be sent to Iraq than Bush is sending (Congress or no).
As for Rudy Giuliani, he is trying to join up with the pander-bear too, regardless of his personal beliefs and his previous appearances as a public cross-dresser. Then, waiting in the wings is the ultimate Republican hypocrite, Newt Gingrich, who has a new book out about “God and American History.” He recently revealed that while he was leading the charge against Clinton for having an affair with a consenting adult and falling into a perjury trap, he himself was having an affair with a consenting adult. And it was this man who told one of his former wives that he was leaving her just as she was coming out from anesthesia following a cancer operation. That even the Republican House forced Gingrich to resign under a cloud during the whole Clinton Impeachment circus is never mentioned. Then there is Sen. Sam Brownback, who had announced that he will be the candidate of the American Christian Nation Party in his battle for the Republican nomination. He is currently invisible in the polls, and virtually invisible in the Time story. But hey, you never know. For the Republican Religious Right, boy does he have the Right credentials.
So who is the ideal Republican candidate, then? Well, if you look at that Time cover, and listen to Sean Hannity, it’s none other than a Resurrected Ronald Reagan. If only he could Rise Again, boy, Sean tells us, would he fill the bill. And indeed, as I noted in my TPJ column of June 10, 2004, does he have the credentials. Let’s just consider them:
1. He firmly established racism as the center of the modern Republican electoral strategy, confirming that the Nixon “Southern Strategy” of 1968 would be permanently ensconced there. This initiative was symbolized exquisitely when he began his 1980 Presidential campaign at Philadelphia, MI, the site of the Cheney-Goodman-Schwerner civil rights murders of 1964. Reagan, the master of the “wink and the nod” means of communicating, did not have to say anything more.
2. Reagan firmly established anti-choice as the Republican position of choice in the matter of belief as to when life begins. This was something new for mainstream Republicans who up until then had made much about keeping government out of private matters to the extent possible. In fact, Reagan’s choice for Vice-President, George H.W. Bush and his wife (the parents, it might be noted, of the current strongly anti-choice White House incumbent) had been long-time members of the Board of Directors of the Texas branch of Planned Parenthood. Of course, that highly principled mainstream Republican, and his wife, quickly resigned their positions to take an openly anti-choice stance during the 1980 election, thus setting a terrific example of the importance of personal morality and ethics for their son(s).
3. The Reaganites introduced a historicity into American politics for good. The Right-Wing has made much hay out of this trend over the years, by frequently referring to the period of “American decline since the 60s,” tracing it back to the “outbreak” of feminism and the anti-Vietnam War movement. They of course do not note that for all except 12 years since that time, the President has been a Republican.
4. “Reaganomics” created the myth that tax-cuts for the rich can lead to prosperity and reduced Federal deficits. Quite the opposite in fact, as is well known. Bush has just done the same thing on a much grander scale.
5. Related to “4,” Reaganite electoral strategy built upon the success of the anti-tax Proposition 13 in California in 1978. That strategy succeeded in changing the political discussions from what government should be doing with tax revenues, in other words about government programs, to the amounts of the revenues themselves without reference to what the money was paying for. The Democrats still have not come up with an effective means of dealing with that one.
6. Related to “5,” he established the modern Republican approach to Federal spending: cutting it on everything they possibly can except the military, prisons, and favors for wealthy contributors, while reducing tax revenues to the greatest extent possible with tax cuts for the rich.
7. He created the first initiative for the totally wasteful weapons system “Star-Wars.” Back in the days of the Cold War, it was designed as a first-strike weapon, of course. Now it, along with a bunch of other “advanced weapons” programs (for which there are no known enemies) created by Rumsfeld, are just designed as profit-makers for Georgite supporters in the aerospace industry.
8. Reagan established mean-ness, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, as an acceptable attribute. The Georgites have just taken it to a higher level (see their response to Katrina).
9. With Iran/Contra, Reagan established the precedent that (Republican) Presidents can break Federal law and they will get away with it. No further comment is needed on this one (since I have commented on it in so many other TPJ columns).
10. One of Reagan’s first acts when he became President was to cancel, to the extent he could, all Federal government contracts for the development of energy sources alternative to fossil fuels. Thus the United States is now about 25 years behind where it could have been if this top extractive industry policy matter were not at the top of Reagan’s action list. Did anybody say Cheney’s “energy task force,” and Senator “let’s just make fun of Al Gore while the planet burns” Inhofe?
11. As to personal attributes, Reagan showed that a not-very-smart, mildly educated, and generally ignorant man can become an Acting President if he is: a Right-Winger who commands big campaign contributions from corporate special interests, telegenic, speaks well from cue cards, and has the right agents, managers, and promoters. He also showed that a man with a serious mental illness can be maintained in the Presidency if he is a Republican and has the right agents, managers, and promoters.
What a record! What a man! What a perfect modern Republican candidate. But, alas, The Republicans have blocked stem cell research, so, at least for now; a Ronnie Resurrection is not feasible. Sorry Sean! You will have to look elsewhere. Right now, I think that it will be (shock, gasp) none other than Rudy. All he needs is that plaza in front of the Vittorio Emmanuel II monument in Rome, with the requisite balcony. They will go wild. But more on that one anon.
Author’s note: This column is based in part on the above-mentioned earlier TPJ column of mine on Reagan and “Dr. J.’s Short Shot: Tim Hardaway and Mitt Romney,” published on BuzzFlash on 02/16/2007.
Author’s note: I originally published this column on The Political Junkies.net on March 28, 2007. It is Column No. 143 in my TPJ series.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a TPJ Contributing Author. He is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author of over twenty-five books. Dr. Jonas is also: a Columnist for the webmagazine BuzzFlash (http://www.buzzflash.com/); a Contributing Editor for the Moving Planet Blog (http://www.planetarymovement.org/); a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC (http://www.oldamericancentury.org/); a regular contributor to the weblog Thomas Paine’s Corner (http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/); and a regular contributor to the weblog The Daily Scare (http://www.dailyscare.com/). He has his own website for short pieces entitled “Dr. J.’s Short Shots, II” (http://drjsshortshots.wordpress.com/).