The Death of Nancy Reagan and the End of an Era
by Tom Donelson on March 15, 2016 at 8:10 AM
The death of Nancy Reagan ended an era and is a reminder of a better era where politicians were statesmen and stateswomen: giants who ended a cold war without a nuclear exchange and gave the next generation a chance to rebuild the world while engineering an economic prosperity that lasted over two decades.
There is one thing that needs to be said, and to paraphrase a former vice presidential candidate, “I remembered Ronald Reagan, I supported Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.” While many Trump supporters try to compare their guy to Reagan, well, it is not historically correct. While Reagan was considered too right wing and the Democrats in 1980 begged the Republicans to nominate Reagan, Reagan was an accomplished politician who had been on the political scene for two decades, and before that, a well- known actor.
Before Reagan took the oath of office, he had been fighting for conservative ideals for three decades and understood the political process as well as the ideas behind them. Far from being a not so bright dunce that he was often portrayed as, Reagan was knowledgeable on the big issues. Kiron Skinner, Annelise Skinner, and the late Martin Anderson's own research confirmed Reagan's substantive knowledge of the issue by reviewing many of his private writings.
In 1967, Reagan was invited to be part of a discussion with Robert F. Kennedy and destroyed Kennedy in the debate on American foreign policy. Eleven years later, he debated Bill Buckley on the Panama Canal, and these two debates showed that Reagan did have the ability to go toe to toe with some of the best debaters of his era. Somehow I couldn’t imagine Donald Trump going toe to toe with Buckley, much less going one on one with Robert Kennedy, as we are finding out in this election that Trump's knowledge on issues is scant compared to his competitors.
How often have we heard what a great deal maker Trump is, but how many people will remember that Reagan was the master of negotiations? When Trump recently made the case that Reagan worked with Tip O’ Neill, Trump does not remember that Reagan did not deal with Tip O’ Neill, he was dealing against O’Neill. Reagan had a Democratic majority in the House plus heavy opposition in the Senate, including many moderate Republicans, to his economic plans. Reagan did not deal with O’Neill, Reagan dealt with many of the moderate and conservative Democrats, going around O’Neill.
Reagan's deal making with the Russians were classic but based on one factor, Reagan would deal from strength. The nuclear freeze movement was in full force in Reagan's first administration as the left was trying to keep Reagan from putting in the Intermediate Pershing into Europe to counter the SS-20 and undermine his military buildup. Reagan's first goal was to rebuild the military before dealing with the Russians and wait for the right moment. That moment did not come until Mikhail Gorbachev took over the Soviet Empire during Reagan's second term.
Reagan learned one thing about negotiations: negotiations become successful if you are prepared to say no and walk away, which he did at the Reykjavik convention and in the end, Reagan negotiated the removal of intermediate missiles in both Europe and Russia, while his policy set the stage for the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
Reagan walked into the White House with a worldview and a plan to go with that world view. Successful presidents are those who have objectives and show the ability to obtain those goals. Unlike Reagan, Trump does not have a history of a consistent ideology and while some view this as a plus and the the start of new era of no ideology, Trump has no real set plan other than to build a trade wall, and he is now saying that is up for grabs. Trump has gone from being a Republican to the Reform Party at the end of 1990s to being a registered Democrat before deciding on rejoining the Republican Party. Reagan had a consistent worldview that voters could depend upon, whereas Trump's ideology is based on Trump the man and the brand, divorced from a consistent worldview. We really don’t know what Trump will do or can even accomplished since he has no political experience and his business experience includes four bankruptcies. I remember Ronald Reagan, I supported Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.