Listen, I loved Reagan. But time has a way of making people forget the bad and only remember the good. Reagan was a great President and will go down as one of the top five in my book, but he did do things that would have conservatives of today yelling and screaming.
Don’t tell that to Peggy Noonan tho, who today wrote a harsh piece against Bush (once again) basically saying that he destroyed the Republican party:
On the pundit civil wars, Rush Limbaugh declared on the radio this week, “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys [Mr. McCain or Mike Huckabee] get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party. It’s going to change it forever, be the end of it!”
This is absurd. George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.
Were there other causes? Yes, of course. But there was an immediate and essential cause.
And this needs saying, because if you don’t know what broke the elephant you can’t put it together again. The party cannot re-find itself if it can’t trace back the moment at which it became lost. It cannot heal an illness whose origin is kept obscure.
I don’t agree with some of the things Bush has done, but I have never, nor will I ever agree with any President on all the issues. It’s just not possible. There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, or President, because for that guy to be perfect to one person means he will be imperfect to someone else who holds different believes and experiences.
Reagan cut taxes, but the following year agreed to a large rollback of corporate tax cuts and a smaller rollback on individual tax cuts which undid about a third of his initial tax cut the year before. I would call that raising taxes.
He initially wanted to restructure Social Security and proposed some large cuts to the program. The Senate almost unanimously threw it out and in the midterms of 82 the GOP lost 26 seats. The next year he agreed to a 165 billion dollar bailout of Social Security which dramatically increased payroll taxes on both employees and employers, added new federal workers into the system, AND for the first time Social Security benefits were taxed.
As Governor he passed The Therapeutic Abortion Act which dramatically increased abortions, something for which he later greatly regretted and worked tirelessly to correct as President.
In 1977, during a radio address as Governor, he wondered about the:
“the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion, or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won’t do? One thing is certain in this hungry world: No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters.”
In 1980 he mused about a workers program for immigrants:
“I believe we must resolve the problem at our southern border with full regard to the problems and needs of Mexico. I have suggested legalizing the entry of Mexican labor into this country on much the same basis you proposed, although I have not put it into the sense of restoring the bracero program.”
And we all know what he did in 1986. He signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act which included a provision for legalizing immigrants already in the states. True amnesty. During the signing he said:
“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.”
Now its true that Reagan did a whole lot more good for the GOP then he did bad, but he did run counter to some basic conservative principals as leader of California and the nation. To say otherwise is just being dishonest. He was a practical man and politician who would bend when he needed to ensure that the more important aspects of his policies were enacted.
Reagan wasn’t perfect, neither is Bush. But to say that Bush has destroyed the Republican party is just absurd.