New York Times:
"I would not have mismanaged the war," Mr. McCain said. "And I would have vetoed spending bill after spending bill after pork-barrel project after pork-barrel project, in the tradition of President Reagan."
John McCain's been a little late in being a critic of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq. He's been a big cheerleader for the administration all along and the only real alternative he's offered so far is that he would've done the big surge earlier.
But it was a dead man who dominated the debate. That wasn't really surprising, since they held it at the Gipper's Sacred Tomb. And, as McCain demonstrated, it was an idealized, revisionist version of Reagan who haunted the Temple of Ronnie -- it was the Reagan who was tight with tax dollars, not the Reagan of the first trillion dollar budget and the hundred dollar sheet metal screw. It was the president Reagan pretended to be, not the president he was.
Rudy Giuliani said that Iran had "looked in Ronald Reagan's eyes and in two minutes they released the hostages." There were other hostages, held for years, during the Reagan era -- they don't count, I guess. The Iran hostages were released because of an arms for hostages deal, as people who prefer their history unscrewed with will remember. Reagan ransomed those hostages to get elected. He didn't frighten Iran into releasing them with his mere existence, as Guiliani implied. Ronald Reagan's 'tough on terrorism' reputation is totally unearned -- not only because of Iran/Contra, but because 300 Marines in Beirut were blown up and Reagan's response was to pull out of Lebanon. I'd bet every one of those debaters on the stage would've called both 'appeasement' if a Democrat did it. Because Reagan did it, it's been scratched out of the Republican history book.
And they keep turning to Reagan as if his economic policies actually worked. Supply-side has never worked -- Ronald Reagan, that great tax-cutter, raised taxes repeatedly. In fact, according to Paul Krugman, "[N]o peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people."
New York Times:
The first Reagan tax increase came in 1982. By then it was clear that the budget projections used to justify the 1981 tax cut were wildly optimistic. In response, Mr. Reagan agreed to a sharp rollback of corporate tax cuts, and a smaller rollback of individual income tax cuts. Over all, the 1982 tax increase undid about a third of the 1981 cut; as a share of G.D.P., the increase was substantially larger than Mr. Clinton's 1993 tax increase.
Of course, these weren't called 'tax increases' -- and again, if it had been a Democrat, they would've been -- these were 'revenue enhancers.' Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of supply-side economics (it was called 'Reaganomics' at the time), could never get it to actually work.
What bothers me about all of this is that it demonstrates just how dependent the Republican party has become on propaganda and revisionist history. They use Reagan as a precedent, but it's a Reagan they've made up. And by using fabricated past successes to justify policies, they pretty much set themselves up for future failures. As Santayana said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." It's just as true of those who refuse to learn from history.
And that's what the Republican candidates -- all ten of them -- proved to the nation with their debate beside Reagan's grave; they are all people who refuse to learn from history. They made a solemn promise to repeat the same mistakes over and over until reality finally submits and conforms to ideology.
They're committed to something that can't possibly happen.
Technorati tags: politics; taxes; terrorism; war; elections; propaganda; 2008; A 'Reagan Republican' has come to mean someone who refuses to learn from history and only seeks to rewrite it