So I was lunching at Clyde’s in Alexandria last weekend, and ended up talking with one of the managers about politics. (As Dick Morris has said, “the hardest thing in politics is to be an insider and think like an outsider” — so I always like to talk politics with people who don’t work in politics.)
The restaurant manager (whom I know pretty well) described himself to me as “not a Republican, but a conservative.”
When the subject turned to the current state of affairs he said, “Reagan, now he made people feel good. This guy now, he makes people feel like (fill in the blank).”
Which made me think: Is this revisionism, or is it legit?
Here’s why I ask: Sociologists have found that people tend to have selective memories. For example, I’ve heard that in the 1940s, more people said they voted for FDR than actually cast ballots for him. I’m willing to bet that more people today claim they voted for Reagan in 1980 than actually did.
I’m a huge Ronald Reagan fan, so I am probably as guilty of this as anybody. But it is important to actually base our opinions and commentary on true history…
The truth is: There was a time when Reagan was on the ropes. I remember Iran-Contra…and Robert Bork…and the liberal’s protests over nuclear proliferation. I remember when he made a joke about bombing the Soviet Union — and when he fired the air traffic controllers. And I remember the jokes about his “Star Wars” plan (which actually may have won the Cold War).
The liberals used to heap animadversion on the Gipper every chance they got. They hated him as much as they hate George W. Bush — maybe more!
…They called him old. They called him stupid. They said he created homelessness and AIDS. None of it was true, of course. But it didn’t stop them from saying it.
Luckily time has vindicated him, as he knew it would.
But let’s be frank: Just as there will never be another George Washington or Abe Lincoln — no modern Republican (including Bush) will be able to compare to Reagan — and it’s not even fair to use him as the standard. To paraphrase Jack Bentsen, it’s as if every Republican president must be told: “I knew Ronald Reagan — and you’re no Ronald Reagan.”
But let’s not kid ourselves. In 1987, they wanted to impeach Reagan. And last night, I flew into Reagan National Airport. Bush can still turn this around.