Posted by Wordsmith on 17 January, 2008 at 11:24 am. 8 comments already!


Barack Obama listens as he is introduced at a book signing event in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire December 10, 2006. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Every candidate seems to be doing it: Wrapping themselves in the Reagan legacy, trying to be more Reagan than Reagan was Reagan. Ron Paul’s been doing it; Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John McCain- pretty much everyone.I guess Reagan’s the “Great Communicator” even from beyond the grave. His name is invoked, his Republic come, his will be done, carried out faithfully by each candidate, posing the self-challenge: “What would Reagan do?”Even Senator Barack Obama is draping the Reagan mantle over his shoulders:

“I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what is different is the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Robert Schmuhl, a professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, also noted the similarities exactly a year ago from Senator Obama’s self-comparison:

“In terms of political philosophy, professional background and racial heritage, Obama and Reagan are distinctly different, one a figure of the new century and the other a representative of the previous one,” Schmuhl wrote in an essay published Jan. 14 in the Chicago Tribune. “Look more closely, however, and you see a number of striking parallels between the young senator contemplating a White House campaign and the late, Illinois-born two-term president.”

Among the similarities is the dominance of their mothers in their formative years, early careers outside of politics, humbling election losses,

Well, that comparison was substantive, wasn’t it? I guess with this kind of thinking, there’s a little Reagan in all of us.

and, perhaps most notably, “the mysterious yet magical quality of charisma that attracts and inspires others.”

Schmuhl adds: “Their ready smiles, rhetorical eloquence and rock-star magnetism transcend day-to-day politics, and citizens respond emotionally as well as intellectually. At a time when so much political oratory sounds processed by an anonymous speech writer, Reagan and Obama’s words have the ring of authenticity.”

To be sure, Schmuhl emphasizes, there are plenty of differences between Reagan and Obama, including the former’s far greater governmental experience.

“But the intriguing similarities reveal two political figures possessing common traits, including vivid personalities with rare skill in connecting with the public,” he says. “Both, in their ways, speak American, the distinctive dialect of the nation’s ideals and yearnings. Reassuring smiles and welcome wit or self-deprecating humor notwithstanding, electoral ambition is an animating drive for each.”

As IR Editor writes, “Schmuhl’s analysis is just a little too sappy for me, and smacks of more media infatuation with Illinois junior senator”. On substance, on policy issues where it matters, Senator Obama: You are no Ron Reagan.

Barack Obama listens to the testimony of U.S. Army General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 11, 2007. REUTERS/Molly Riley

Also blogging on Reagan-Channeling:
Pondering Penguin

The Use and Abuse of Reagan by Victor Davis Hanson

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