For the past few months, the Republicans have been climbing all over each other trying to prove that each is the closest one to Ronald Reagan that the Party has. Now that John McCain is virtually assured of the nomination, and needs to consolidate his conservative base, you can be sure that his attempts at this charade will only intensify. While the Republican Party has virtually deified the former President, they have forgotten what his presidency was really like, or, more than likely, they don’t care. The Democrats should not make the same mistake and should take this opportunity to point out what four years of a Reagan like presidency might be like.
On the economic and fiscal front, Reagan’s eight years included:
· Two recessions
· A percentage increase in the National Debt of more than 260%, from less than 1 trillion dollars to more than 2.6 trillion, which went over 3 trillion before George H. W. Bush could make it even worse.
(Of course these numbers pale in comparison to what George W. will have accomplished by the time he leaves office. He will have raised the debt from 5.5 trillion dollars to about 10 trillion, a remarkable fete.)
· A reduction in Federal taxes, but a substantial cut in Federal services
· A massive build up in defense spending, part of which was for a useless missile defense system (Star Wars), the expenditures for which are still going on today at the rate of 12 billion dollars per year.
In foreign affairs:
· He negotiated several treaties with the Soviet Union, of evil Empire fame. (Does that imply that McCain would have to negotiate with Iran?) The Soviet Union did collapse toward the end of Reagan’s term and disintegrated shortly afterward. Although President Reagan’s policies have been credited for that collapse, it would be more appropriate to blame their terrible economic system, which was rotten to the core, and the cost of their war in Afghanistan.
· He waged a mini-war in Granada
· He saw 241 American servicemen die in Beirut, Lebanon as a result of the bombing of their barracks.
· His Administration waged a war, by proxy, in Nicaragua, via the Contras, that included the illegal Iran-Contra affair, whereby we sold arms to Iran, in defiance of our embargo, in order to raise money to finance the Contras, who were the right wing rebels in Nicaragua.
· We made arrangements with Saddam Hussein to provide him with chemical weapons to be used against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. (I assume you’ve all seen the pictures of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.)
In other domestic affairs, Reagan fired all the Air Traffic Controllers when they went on strike, resulting in the privatization of the Air Traffic Control System. This may in part be responsible for the continued use of antiquated equipment in the Air Traffic Control System, while near misses are rising at an alarming rate.
And finally, he was responsible for giving amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants. In this respect, John McCain is close to Reagan, but this is an issue on which he has been most criticized by the right wing base of his party.
When President Reagan left office in 1989, he was 78 years old and already showing signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. If John McCain should win the election and serve two terms, he would be almost 80 years old when he left office. There may be some parallels here. But in any event, the Republican Party, in looking to find a Reagan-like candidate seems to be showing those signs, even today.
Speaking of forgetting, I almost forgot that John McCain was one of the five individuals involved in Keating 5 Savings and Loan scandal. It took place during the Reagan presidency and was the result of the reduced regulation espoused by that administration.