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I must admit that the seven-year reign of Bush & Company makes me yearn for the years of Ronald Reagan, when the term “conservative” merely meant right wing, rather than full-tilt, bull-goose loopy.
Still, let’s not get our national memory so warped that we put “The Gipper” on a pedestal, as today’s far-right ideologues want to do. Bad enough that they keep trying to stick Reagan’s name on public facilities all across America (apparently oblivious to the irony of naming these things for the guy who claimed to hate government) – but now they’re pushing to put his mug on Mount Rushmore. I kid you not! One website even offers a retouched photo of Rushmore that superimposes Ronnie’s likeness onto the mountaintop, right alongside Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
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Even more hilarious is the scramble by this year’s GOP presidential contenders to one-up each other in their claim to be the New Reagan. This is a hoot, because if Reagan was running today, the ideologically-correct voters who control the Republican primary elections would savage him for his record on practically every hot-button issue.
Start with abortion. As governor of California in 1967, Reagan-the-Conservative-Icon signed a law allowing abortions six years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized them in the Roe v. Wade decision. How about taxes? Reagan signed a billion-dollar tax increase in California and later signed several tax hikes as president. And, ooooo, looky here: in 1986, Reagan signed a national law giving amnesty to illegal immigrants. With stands like these, the beloved Gipper would be running behind Duncan Hunter in today’s Republican race!
The real Reagan certainly doesn’t deserve the heights of Mount Rushmore, but neither did he fall to the depth of today’s extremist who’re trying to claim his image.
“Put Reagan On Rushmore in your home or office,” www.reaganrushomre.com, December 2007
“Reagan, Roosevelt, Rushmore,” www.adti.net, June 9, 2004
“Why the GOP icon couldn’t win today,” Austin American Statesman, December 9, 2007