Tuesday, June 2, 2009

President Obama and President Reagan


President Barack Obama, seated, joined by former first lady Nancy Reagan, left, and others, signs the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act during a ceremony in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2009. From left are, Nancy Reagan, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., the president, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill.
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

President Obama and President Reagan

Matt Lewis, Contributor, Posted: 06/2/09

As President Obama signed the proclamation establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission, I couldn't help but think back to the campaign.

As you might recall, it was during a controversial January 2008 interview, when candidate Obama committed a classic Washington gaffe -- which can be defined as accidentally telling the truth -- when he said Ronald Reagan, "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way Bill Clinton did not."

Obama was factually correct -- but that didn't stop his Democratic opponents from beating him up over it, and from taking their own cheap shots at the deceased president.

After that incident, Obama wisely avoided complimenting the Gipper for the rest of the campaign, but it was clear that he had a profound respect for Reagan's ability to transcend the traditional political paradigm. After all, very few men are ever elected president, but of them only a rare few could be called great. Whether or not you agree with their philosophy, it's fair to say that Franklin Roosevelt was great, Ronald Reagan was great, and Barack Obama wants to be great.

During the 90s, it was often written that Bill Clinton was almost as good at communicating as The Great Communicator. To be sure, Bill Clinton was a gifted orator, but other than, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and "the era of big government is over," it's hard to remember anything he said. In this regard, he's sort of like a great guitarist such as Yngwie Malmsteen or Joe Satriani. They are technically great players, but nobody has ever had one of their songs stuck in their head. Contrast that with George Harrison, who was not a great player, but could write a catchy riff. Well, Ronald Reagan had a million memorable and substantive lines -- not the least of which was, "Tear down this wall!"

Clinton, of course, was incredibly talented, but lacked the discipline to fully exploit those talents. In that regard, Obama does have the best chance of any modern president -- including both Bushes -- to change the trajectory, as he said.

To be sure, my conservative friends will point out that Barack Obama is doing everything in his power to undermine Ronald Reagan's policies -- that the trajectory we are on is straight toward the road to serfdom -- while paying homage to Reagan with mere lip service. This is true. It's also smart of Obama, and, in a sense, it is another example of Obama's copying Reagan.

Reagan's boyhood hero, of course, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. And as president Reagan went out of his way to speak kindly of FDR, even as he sought to reverse the trajectory Roosevelt had introduced with the New Deal. Stylistically, though, it was always clear that Reagan learned much from FDR. He was also wise enough to never criticize FDR directly, for fear of angering all those Reagan Democrats who also had a special place in their hearts for Roosevelt.

The bill President Obama signed today creates a panel which will plan events to honor President Reagan's 100th birthday, which will be celebrated in 2011.

By honoring a popular former president like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama is being, well, Reaganesque.


No comments:

Post a Comment