Feature

Republicans

Debating in Reagan’s shadow.

The Republican presidential debate last week 'œmay have been forgettable,' said Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard, but clearly the same cannot be said for Ronald Reagan. The venue chosen for the event was Reagan's presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., with Reagan's widow, Nancy, seated prominently in the front row. The candidates quickly proceeded to twist themselves into rhetorical pretzels trying to present themselves as Reagan's natural heir, mentioning his name 19 times in the 90-minute debate while barely mentioning President Bush at all. Each of these 'œReagan wannabes' latched onto a different aspect of the Gipper, said Newsday in an editorial. Rudy Giuliani repeatedly evoked Reagan's optimism. John McCain cornered the market in Reaganesque tough talk on foreign policy, vowing to personally hunt down Osama bin Laden 'œto the gates of hell.' But for sheer uncanniness of resemblance, nobody could touch Mitt Romney's 'œperfect head of hair and silky speaking manner.'

This is getting ridiculous, said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. As a former speechwriter for our 40th president, I can tell you that 'œReagan was Reagan' and there will never be another. And why would we want one? Reagan's presidency was such a success because he was 'œa particular man at a particular point in history.' Obviously, the world has changed since then. 'œWhat is to be desired now is a new greatness,' not a Reagan impersonator. You'd think we would have already learned that lesson, said Michael Scherer in Salon.com. Eight years ago, Republicans were also on a mission to find Reagan II, and they thought they picked one: another folksy, charming 'œcowboy' of unwavering moral conviction by the name of George W. Bush. We know how that turned out.

Robert Borosage

Chicago Tribune

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