On Christmas Day, I glanced at the memorabilia from my years in politics. The photos and notes from Newt Gingrich. Candid shots of me with the likes of Jimmy Carter and of the brilliant mastermind of his presidential victory, Hamilton Jordan. Next were shots of me posing with Bill Clinton and then with both President Bushes.
And oh yes, here was a young U.S. Senate aide Matt Towery with one Ronald Reagan.
Everyone knows there are plenty of people with photos of themselves with politicians. And there are loads of people who were close to Reagan. Many of them have both the credentials and the motives -- especially the motives -- to refute what I am about to write. Certainly my friends who still consider themselves respected experts and D.C. insiders would never dare write what follows. They would be cast off into the outer circles of the political establishment.
Personally, I could care less. So here goes.
Reagan was once an Iowan. He once broadcast University of Iowa football games, and he later was "discovered" by Hollywood when living in Des Moines.
It is my personal belief that if Reagan were alive and living in Iowa today, and he had to choose among the Republican presidential candidates, that he would likely choose the man the GOP establishment and national media have written off -- Congressman Ron Paul.
To begin with, there is little doubt that for at least foreign policy, Reagan was basically a non-interventionist. He bragged about the fact that the United States did not occupy foreign countries. He stressed in virtually every speech about the "Evil Empire" of the Soviet Union that they must be brought down, but not by use of force or war. When provoked by Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi, the Osama bin Laden of the 1980s, Reagan used strategic bombing next to the quarters in which al-Qaddafi was sleeping to bring the brash "terrorist" to his knees.
Even the vicious murder of more than 200 troops in Lebanon did not provoke invasion or war. Instead, Reagan removed U.S. presence there in order to cool down an ultra-hot situation.
Oh yes, we did invade Grenada. More a military exercise than a true battle.
As for domestic policy, again Reagan's philosophy seems closer to that of Paul's than any other Republican candidate today. Reagan constantly railed against big government. In speech after speech, he emphasized the need to adhere to the Constitution, and to respect the powers of the individual states. Sound familiar?
As for some of Dr. Paul's more far-fetched positions, they may be "out there," but it wasn't hard for me to find quotes from Reagan that reflected nearly the same sentiments. For example, Paul's concerns about a monetary system based on something closer and closer to worthless paper was similarly expressed by Reagan as early as 1964 when he stumped for Barry Goldwater for president.
In a speech that year, Reagan expressed concerns about America losing its monetary independence. And, eerily, he alluded to fears about foreign nations owning American currency.
As I try to remind my friends who were around in 1980, Reagan was considered by the mainstream Republican establishment to be as kooky as many label Paul as being.
Gerald Ford in 1980 was quoted in Time Magazine as saying that Reagan was "unelectable." It is no wonder that when Reagan challenged Ford some four years earlier for the GOP nomination, Paul was one of only a handful of sitting congressmen who supported Reagan's effort.
What Paul lacks is Reagan's movie-star looks, and the credibility that comes with having been governor of California. Even without those attributes, Paul has managed to become the first Republican candidate I've seen since 1980 that can draw huge crowds so devoted to their candidate that they seem almost cult-like in their zeal. Believe it or not, that's what we thought of the Reagan crowds that gathered early in his bid for president in 1980.
The fact is that Reagan tamed both his rhetoric and the implementation of his agenda to meet the realities of the presidency. My guess is that were Ron Paul to have such a chance, he would inevitably do the same.
I still believe that between the Republican Party's longing to appear "mainstream" and the national political media's fear of appearing to give in to "fringe elements," that Paul's quest for the nomination will fall far short in the end.
But as I have said before, Lord help both parties if he decides to run as a third-party candidate. They may not like what he might say, but he would darn sure say it.
As Reagan said once said when a debate moderator cut him short, "I paid for this microphone." Paul might just buy one of his own.