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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Is Reagan Too Perfect For Comparison?

Here's the Nonsense:  We need a candidate like Ronald Reagan.  If a candidate doesn't measure up to his standard, we cannot support him.

Here's the Horse Sense:  If we're going to hold Reagan up as the standard, we better make sure we know what that standard really is.  

No president in modern history has been revered as highly as Ronald Reagan.  For many he is put on a pedestal that sees him as the almost perfect role model for candidates to aspire to.  In recent months we've seen articles talking about how Reagan, when he ran for president, was called everything from a clown to a joke that shouldn't be taken seriously.  Yet in spite of all that he got elected and has gone down in history with high regard.  But when we look at his life, his character, his job performance, and even his conservatism do we find him to be a rare individual who was too perfect for use as a comparison to candidates today?

Regan's political record doesn't just include what he did as governor of California and president of the U.S.  It includes a number of areas.  

We don't have record of his political donations, but we do know what some of his endorsements were.  


  • He endorsed Democrat Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.
  • He endorsed Democrat Harry Truman in his run against Republican Thomas Dewey.
  • He endorsed Democrat Hubert Humphrey in his 1948 Senate run.
  • In 1987 he supported Walter Reuther, who was a labor union leader.  Reuther made the United Auto Workers union a major force in the auto industry and the Democrat Party.  During the 1960s he was a supporter of the civil rights movement. 


But, in 1962 Reagan moved from the Democrat Party to the Republican Party.  And, we have to remember that the endorsements he made in the 1940s were made while he was still an actor, not while he was a politician.

While he was in political office, Reagan's record isn't all gold. The Mises Institute published an article by Sheldon L. Richman looking at Reagan's record while in political office:

As governor of California:


  • He raised taxes in 7 of the 8 years he was in office.  
  • He signed the Mulford Act that prohibited carrying firearms in public buildings and on the street and also in vehicles.


As president


  • During a five year period, he raised corporate taxes $120 billion and closed tax loopholes for an additional $300 billion during that timeframe.  (after adjusting for inflation, that $120 billion would be $285 billion today and $300 billion would be $714 billion today)
  • He put through $3.3 billion in gas and fuel taxes.  (after adjusting for inflation, today that $3.3 billion would be $7.85 billion)
  • Social Security tax increased $165 billion during his presidency. (after adjusting for inflation, today that $165 billion would be $376.5 billion)
  • Increased foreign aid from $10 billion to $22 billion. (after adjusting for inflation, today that $10 - $22 billion would be $22 - $48 billion)
  • Increased IMF (International Monetary Fund) contribution by $8.4 billion.  (after adjusting for inflation, today that $8.4 billion would be $18.5 billion)
  • He granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants and did so by bypassing Congress.
  • He grew the national debt from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. (after adjusting for inflation, today that $900 billion to $2.7 trillion would be $1.98 trillion to $5.95 trillion)
  • Entitlements grew from $197.1 billion to $477 billion between 1981 and 1987. (after adjusting for inflation, today that $197.1 billion to $477 billion would be $434 billion to $1.05 trillion)
But those aren't the only issues we need to remember.  On social issues Reagan was not always the ideal for conservatives either.

As governor of California:


  • In 1967 he signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act.  Abortions grew from 518 per year to over 100,000 per year.  Later he became pro-life and regretted signing it.
  • He signed the first no-fault divorce law in the nation in 1969.  No-fault divorce laws have been shown to be extremely destructive to families.


In his personal life, Reagan is often seen as a family man who was very committed.  This is reflected in the relationship he had with Nancy Reagan.  Watching almost every picture or video we have available of the two of them shows the deep respect and love they had for each other.  Clearly they had found their soulmates in each other.  But is this a picture of who Ronald Reagan was earlier in his life?

Just over a year ago the book Love Triangle was published revealing a different Ronald Reagan than we all think of when it comes to his private life.  It tells the reader that when Reagan was in Hollywood he was known as quite a womanizer and had promiscuous relationships with 50 women including such actresses as Betty Grable, Susan Hayworth, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, and Doris Day.  

The stories it tells and things it exposes are far too indelicate for me to be willing to write, but it can be said that until he met Nancy Davis, who eventually became his wife and was said to have fallen in love with her at first sight, his life was more like that of many celebrities or even John F. Kennedy that we've all heard about over the years.  It appears that Nancy was able to tame the tiger resulting in him being loyal and committed.

So, it seems that when it comes to his personal life when he was young, Reagan's love life certainly wasn't what we saw later when he was with Nancy for 52 years of loyal, committed marriage.  It was far from what conservatives would expect of a man who would be their choice for president.

Reagan was married twice.  His first marriage was to actress Jane Wyman from 1940-49 (filed for divorce in 1948, finalized in 1949) and suffered from affairs on the part of each of them.  His second marriage was to Nancy Davis from 1952 until his death in 2004.  

He was the first divorced president America ever elected. And it's interesting that while it was controversial at the time, America still elected him.  He was never held to accountability for having failed in his first marriage.  My guess is that America loved him enough and were impressed enough by his relationship with Nancy that they chose to forget about his first marriage.

Today, while most Americans live like pagans, they put on a phony mask of religiosity and still have a desire that their president be religious, and be culturally Christian in particular.  (I believe the reason they prefer people who claim to be Christian is because America was originally a land where Christians who were persecuted came for religious freedom.  That is the foundation stone of this nation and it goes deep into the DNA of Americans, even if they personally don't live out a true Christian faith but only call themselves Christian for cultural reasons.)

But even though Americans want religious, even culturally Christian presidents, the majority don't tend to embrace candidates who wear their religion on their sleeves.  They want leaders who respect and believe in religion, but they don't want ones who want to ram their beliefs down the throats of the citizenry.

Ronald Reagan certainly didn't push his religion on others, but he did believe in defending religious freedom.  He was raised by his mother in the Disciples of Christ church in Illinois.  His mother worked hard to help people visiting inmates and hospital patients.  She worked as a salesclerk and seamstress.  There is no record of Ronald participating in regular church attendance as an adult after he left his home in Illinois.  However, when his presidency ended in 1988 he joined Los Angeles' Bel-Air Presbyterian Church and was a member until his death.



So, with all the wonderful memories of Ronald Reagan, we do find that he certainly wasn't perfect. Not as a governor, president, leader, family man, or even as a moral man.  But somehow we get past all of those shortcomings and view him today as highly successful and a role model.

And yet today we see the frontrunner for the Republican nomination continually assailed for his past. 

Donald Trump is attacked as having given contributions to Democrats as a businessman.  For those who think you can live do business in a Democrat stronghold and not donate to them, you've never lived it.  I have and I refused to partake in the political donation game and it dramatically limited how much business I could do.  In fact, it eventually caused me to leave that community.  I'm not defending Trump's choices, but I do understand them and see them as a non-issue. 

It's often forgotten, or not discussed, that Trump did support McCain and Romney in their election bids, so it's not as though he was a staunch Democrat yesterday and just decided to change parties to get elected like many candidates such as Charlie Christ of Florida did or Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania did.

Trump's political positions on most issues have been very conservative for years.  If you read his 2011 book, Time to Get Tough, you can see that.  In fact, recently it was brought out that he did an interview with Playboy magazine in 1990 that showed his positions on most issues back then were the same as they are today.  The New York Times looked at the 1990 interview in light of his positions today.

Many conservatives throw unsubstantiated claims about Trump's morality around as if they are privy to the innermost parts of his life.  While he certainly has led a life that some would call colorful, it has had its faults.  And, it would be foolish to try to argue that he is not being held to a higher standard than the other Republican candidates.  No other GOP candidate in this election cycle has had the attacks about their past that Trump has.  That's not so say that his life shouldn't be open to scrutiny.  The question is whether our scrutiny of him is the same as it is for others.

Ronald Reagan was married twice, with affairs during his first marriage.  Donald Trump is in his third marriage with accusations of an affair during his first marriage. (Both Donald and Marla Maples claim that they did not get involved until after he left his first wife.  We can claim to know the truth, but it's actually never been proven either way.  We do know that after his first marriage Marla got pregnant and Donald married her.)  

What we don't hear much of is that Donald accepts full responsibility for the failures of his marriages. And, while people might want to claim that those failures are due to an affair, we really don't have proof what caused them. Marriages fail for more reasons than affairs.  And Reagan is never remembered for the affairs he had while married to Jane Wyman.

The criticism that Donald is on his third marriage is rather ridiculous since Reagan was on his second and who decides how many is acceptable?

Once again, I'm not defending his life, but I think it's hypocritical of people who judge him so much more severely than other candidates to claim the higher moral ground. Contrary to what many want to believe or accept, Donald Trump is no different than the rest of us.  He is a failed human being greatly in need of God's grace.  

I think that before we throw Trump out for not being Reagan, we need to consider that even Reagan doesn't live up to the image most conservatives hold of him.  

Everyone needs to understand that the 2016 election is for the survival of America as we've known it.  If the Democrats win, they will load the courts with more liberal judges and between them and the president they will continue to take away our rights so that we won't even have the same rights to vote changes into our government in the future that we have today.

For that reason, it's important to think about winning. Whoever is our nominee won't be perfect, just like Reagan wasn't perfect.  But  we need to see who can draw the broadest coalition of voters that can win against the Democrats.  If we don't unite behind the choice of the people and elect the people's chosen nominee, even with all the imperfections of that person, we are handing the future to the Democrats.  

And if we don't unite, when our freedoms are gone and our nation is lost, please tell me how you will explain to your grandchildren what you did to stop the destruction of America.