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Best Columns: The U.S.

The misplaced nostalgia for the Gipper; Europe

The misplaced

nostalgia for

the Gipper

Jonah Goldberg

National Review Online

“Ronald Reagan is dead, and he’s not coming back,” said Jonah

Goldberg. As conservatives struggle to find a suitable choice among the

Republican presidential candidates, they’re crankily comparing each

one to an idealized memory of the Gipper. But not even Reagan himself

could match up to the mythic icon conservatives currently venerate.

It’s now largely forgotten, but in the process of getting “half a loaf,”

Reagan often agreed to compromises that would horrify today’s purists.

Reagan approved an amnesty for illegal immigrants and signed

Democratic increases in the gas, payroll, and other taxes. As California

governor, he put his signature on a liberal abortion law. To be sure,

Reagan was the perfect conservative for his time, offering his sunny,

small-government optimism to a nation mired in pessimism and economic

chaos. But the country today has different problems and needs

different solutions—not a group of Republicans all insisting they’re

the next Reagan. That futile effort only makes them all look as silly

as Cinderella’s stepsisters, desperately trying to squeeze their feet into

Reagan’s glass slipper.

Europe’seconomicrenaissanceSteven HillThe Cincinnati PostRemember the “sick old man” of Europe? asked Steven Hill. Just a yearago, American pundits were heaping scorn on the supposedly scleroticeconomies of Western Europe, comparing them unfavorably to the freemarketvigor of the U.S., China, and India. But with the U.S. dollarplunging and doubts arising over our country’s future economic growth,Europe doesn’t look so bad at all. The European Union’s surging economynow represents a third of the global economy—more than the U.S.,with 27 percent. In sharp contrast to the U.S., the E.U. has a $3 billiontrade surplus, and it’s adding jobs at a faster rate. Europe’s “cradle-tograve”benefits haven’t hampered productivity any. In fact, Europe hasmanaged something considered impossible in the U.S.: It has harnessedeconomic growth “to create wealth that is broadly distributed,” withuniversal health care, free higher education, liberal vacations, and farless poverty. Instead of scorning the Europeans as yesterday’s news,maybe there’s something we can learn from them. How to wina campaignby losingDavid ShribmanPittsburgh Post-Gazette“You read it here first,” said David Shribman. Joe Biden isn’t goingto be the 44th president, and neither is Christopher Dodd, nor SamBrownback. Yet all three U.S. senators are traveling the nation, campaigningand making speeches, and pursuing their parties’ nominationsas if they actually had a chance. “Why are they wasting their time andother people’s money?” Simple: The presidency is perhaps the one jobyou can apply for, be rejected, and still gain status and influence. ForBiden, running for president serves as a way of establishing credibility,after years of being dismissed as a “hopeless windbag.” His viewson foreign policy are now being taken seriously enough that there istalk that Biden might be the next president’s secretary of state. Dodd,well known in Washington as a witty raconteur, is also hoping toamass some gravitas, so he might be considered for a Cabinet job in aDemocratic administration. As for Brownback, he’s hoping to emergeas the new leader of the Republican party’s religious conservatives, withan eye toward 2012. So when these long-shot candidates lose, as theyinevitably must, don’t feel sorry for them. Chances are they got exactlywhat they wanted. Jew-baitingfor funand profitTim RuttenLos Angeles TimesBy saying the most outrageous things she can think of, said Tim Rutten,Ann Coulter has sold a lot of books. That leads some to suggest thatthe media should react to her publicity stunts by ignoring them. But thatpresumes that what Coulter says is simply “dangerous fun.” Last week,the leggy right-wing zealot told a CNBC interviewer that in her idealAmerica, everyone would be a Christian. When the interviewer, who isJewish, objected, Coulter cheerfully explained that Christians like her“just want Jews to be perfected”—that is, to be turned into Christians.Jewish groups complained, but on some conservative and Christianradio shows and blogs, people angrily rose to her defense. This is morethan a little disturbing. For centuries, the idea that Jews are deficient andneed “perfecting” has provided the philosophical foundation for persecutionand pogroms. Indeed, “it is fair to say that the rails leading toAuschwitz were greased” by the exact view Coulter has espoused. Evenin a culture in which venomous hyperbole is now the norm, blithe talkabout “perfecting” Jews is dangerous—and not the least bit fun. 

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