Last night the GOP presidential hopefuls gathered in Simi Valley, CA at the Reagan Presidential Library, and the fire works flew. Governor Romney and Senator McCain -both the statistical frontrunners- spent most of the debate fighting over who was more conservative. In a memorial dedicated to the memory and the history of the greatest president in U.S. history, we had at least two candidates violating one of President Reagan's commandments, "Never speak ill of another Republican." What made it worse is both Romney and McCain claimed that "the Gipper" would endorse them. Really? A man who never blatantly attacked another Republican with false accusations would endorse one candidate who has spent millions trashing his opponents, and another who twisted a quote of his opponent to make him look weak? I believe that the two leading candidates have shown that much of today's GOP has moved so far away from the Reagan Revolution that they would not be able to find any simbolence of it with a microscope. So, what's happened that led the GOP so far from Dutch Reagan's dream?
Like in any great movement the "heirs" to the leader claim that their ideas are that of the previous. However, like a wicked game of telephone, the further you get from the origin the more twisted the original message gets. The problem the GOP faces today is that Reagan is not here today to correct any errors, and thus the most convincing orator can convince the party faithful that they are Reagan's heir-apparent. Yet, when they get to power they act like anything but Ronald Wilson Reagan, and the GOP follows in lockstep. If the GOP is to have any hope of finding their way back to power, they really need to take a long hard look at the real policies and attitudes of President Reagan, and then try to emmulate them.
As a novice historian of President Reagan, I have researched the life of this prolific leader. He is my political hero, and I hope to some day be half the leader he was. That being said I know that Reagan would have looked at last night's debate with horror and disgust. He would not have approved of Sen. McCain refusing to back down from his claim of "withdrawl" against Gov. Romney even after it was proven false by both the Governor and the moderators of the debate. The same horror would have been directed at Gov. Romney for his millions of dollars spent on attack ads, and his continual attacks on his fellow Republicans. I know that "the Gipper" would tell the candidates to focus on what brings us together, and stick to their message of hope and promise. He would advise the candidates to make a solid promise to reign in spending, and build up our defense. He would also support repairing this country's infrastructure, and using that as a real economic stimulus, and not the band-aid policies that are being pursued. He would tell the GOP hopeful to support life at all stages, and work hard to put people on the Supreme Court who believe the same. President Reagan would overall tell the Republican Presidential Candidates to stay positive.
It amazes me when the American people begin rallying around a candidate because he is well quaffed, or good looking, or is a war hero, or speaks well. When they should be looking at who will do the best job. They may not agree with every policy decision, but ultimately they need to realize that there is more to America than tax policy or immigration policy.
Now I have always been up front in my endorsement of Governor Huckabee, and I am still for Huck. After watching last night, I am even more convinced that Gov. Huckabee is the president this country needs. He is also -according to this novice Reagan historian- the closest to Reagan out of the whole field of GOP candidates, and I am not the only one. Nacy Reagan I am sure believes the same. She has not said so, but you can see it based on her actions last night.
On CNN you could see that before the debate, after the candidates had been introduced, Mrs.Reagan walked up to Huckabee and started a conversation. During the course of the discussion she slipped her hand into the crook of Huckabee's elbow. This movement was completely unsolicited. Ask any woman and she will tell you that is a sign a woman is completely comfortable with you. Also, she was smiling ear to ear when they talked, and any time Huckabee talked during the debate she was seen smiling. There was even a time, when Huckabee was speaking on state's rights, that the camera turned to Gov. Schwartznegger and you see Mrs. Reagan lean in and say I like him. For a woman who hated politics, and doesn't give her endorsement lightly, she seemed to be rather fond of the Arkansas Governor who got very little attention.
Ultimately, it will be a long time before we have another President like Ronald Reagan, but it doesn't have to be a long time to have a president and a Party that will emmulate his policies. Let's hope that the GOP faithful figure this out, and use the humble American from Dixon, Illinois as their litmus test for future candidates at every level of politics.