In 2009 the star attraction at the conservative gabfest CPAC was Rush Limbaugh, and in 2010 it was Glenn Beck. This year’s scene-stealer couldn’t make it in person. That would be Ronald Reagan:
Tim Pawlenty said that “Barack Obama is not behaving like Ronald Reagan, he’s behaving like Jimmy Carter.” (Must be the pending solar panels on the White House roof.) “I hate to tell this to our friends at MSNBC: Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan,” Newt Gingrich told CPAC. Two weeks earlier, Mitt Romney wrote in a USA Today op-ed: “Reagan’s legacy is very much alive. Only amiable dunces cannot see that.”
OK, then. The message from the GOP is pretty clear, that America will not move forward unless the Republican Party comes to its senses and nominates a 21st-Century clone of Reagan. A couple of years ago there was a failed push for an ideological litmus test for GOP candidates — which perhaps fell short because of some evidence that Reagan himself might not have passed it.
Since I spent a good bit of time recently researching the Gipper’s actual record for my book — “Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy” — I decided to help by preparing this simple, 10-question litmus test for the GOP’s Reagan 2.0 — one that Reagan himself would have definitely scored 100 percent on. Anyone today who scores 10 out of 10 can pass the White House and proceed directly to Mount Rushmore.
1. Will you pledge to create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants now in the country?
Because that’s what Ronald Reagan did. The 40th president signed the Immigration Reform and Control act in 1986. His former attorney general Edwin Meese said later: “President Reagan called this what it was: amnesty.” Ultimately, the law provided a pathway to citizenship and the American middle class for at least 2.7 million workers who were already in the United States.
2. Will you support the concept that accused terrorists should be tried in American criminal courts and not military tribunals?
Because that’s what Ronald Reagan did. In 1987, Reagan administration official Paul Bremer, later to be our grand poobah in Iraq, told the Council on Foreign Relations (PDF file) that “”a major element of our strategy has been to delegitimize terrorists, to get society to see them for what they are — criminals — and to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against them.”
3. If the federal deficit continues to grow, would you be willing to consider raising taxes to address the problem?
Because that’s what Ronald Reagan did. As is widely known among progressives (but among conservatives, not so much), Reagan signed a series of tax hikes as president, including several aimed at undoing the deficit damage caused after his 1981 tax cut, which delivered its major dollar savings to the wealthiest Americans. Even the Business Roundtable urged Reagan to sign the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which at the time was the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history.
4. Will you support legislation to end the scourge of assault rifles in America?
Becauae that’s what Ronald Reagan did — albeit after leaving the White House. In 1994, in one of last public acts before disclosing his Alzheimer’s disease, Reagan joined ex-presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in pleading with Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons (which they did…for ten years). The letter stated: “”We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.”
5. Will you promise to oppose the use of torture — no matter what the circumstance?
Because that’s what Ronald Reagan did.
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