reagan

Was Ronald Reagan Like Donald Trump?

Arguing against the idea that Ronald Reagan was like Donald Trump, Peggy Noonan misses some obvious commonalities.

My main difficulty reading Peggy Noonan’s piece on how Reagan was not like Donald Trump is that I can’t help but be reminded that the Noonan who wrote her first book seems nothing like the Noonan who has a column in the Wall Street Journal. She writes,

Look, Mr. Trump is not Ronald Reagan, I said. Reagan served two full terms as the governor of a state so vast that if it were a country it would have been one of the important economies in the world. He was a union president who served seven terms during the most fraught time in Hollywood’s history and emerged respected by all sides. He was no novice.

He was the leader of an entire political movement (however nascent) for more than a decade before taking the White House. Yes he had been an entertainer, an actor, and had loved it and seen himself as an artist. And it is true that he was looked down on by liberal elites. But it is not true that nobody respected him. The people elected him in landslides.

She moved her mouth in the way people do when they’re reminding themselves it isn’t polite to bite people in restaurants.

I wish she had made her case without feeling she had to insult someone anonymously.

Far more interesting was Anthony Salvia’s reply. He worked for Reagan as did Noonan:

As a four-time supporter of Ronald Reagan (1968, 1976, 1980 and 1984) and veteran of his two administrations (Departments of Defense and State), I must respectfully disagree with my friend and esteemed colleague, Peggy.

He points out something I had forgotten: that while Reagan had the Evangelical vote, he wasn’t one. And his conservative record before 1980 had some flaws too.

Both were media personalities.  Reagan was an entertainer who became a corporate spokesman (for General Electric); Trump is a businessman who became an entertainer (appearing for years on a program for NBC, which, when it first aired, was a subsidiary of General Electric.)

Reagan, like Trump, divorced and re-married (Reagan once, Trump twice).  He was the first divorcee to occupy the White House.  He made much of religion and its role in public life but rarely went to church (his tomb at Simi Valley is devoid of any Christian symbols).  Nevertheless, he won lots of Evangelical votes, just as Trump did in the primary.  As Governor of California, he signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation, although later embraced the cause of life.  He campaigned actively for John F. Kennedy in 1960 only to ardently support Barry Goldwater in 1964.  Trump’s views on social issues and politics have also evolved in similar kinds of ways.

This was significant in 1980 because Jimmy Carter did identify as a born-again believer.

He also points out that both Reagan and Trump were vindicated by events against their liberal despisers.

The moral and intellectual case for Ronald Reagan’s worldview (doubted by many when he announced his candidacy in November 1979) was made one month later by a momentous, unforeseen overseas event – the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Overnight, President Carter’s efforts to brand Reagan a dangerous neophyte, ill-informed, detached, and too radical in his anti-Soviet rhetoric to be entrusted with the nation’s safety, went up in smoke.

Brexit provided Trump with just such a Reaganesque moment. It revealed him to be on the right side of history, a catalyst of a movement for global change, undermining, at a stroke, Hillary’s constant grouse that Trump has zero foreign policy experience (indeed it was she who came across as clueless and irrelevant).

So too his views on Moslem immigration, which the Orlando atrocity seemed to validate.  Also, his controversial (but entirely correct) questioning of the relevance and utility of NATO, only to have no less an eminence than the German foreign minister denounce that organization’s incessant “warmongering” and “sabre rattling.”

Both editorials contain much more of substance. You will have to read them and decide who wins. Obviously, there are differences between Reagan and Trump, but are they more significant than the similarities?

Was Ronald Reagan like Donald Trump? Both are far preferable to Hillary Clinton!

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Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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