Most Republicans running for president have only one idea: Be like Reagan!
Unfortunately, they seem to remember nothing about Reagan apart from the media-created caricature of a slightly addled old man who somehow mesmerized an imbecilic public with his sunny optimism.
Jeb! goes around saying, "I believe we're on the verge of the greatest time to be alive."
Marco Rubio answered a question in the first debate about God and veterans, saying: "Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. ... And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that's why God has continued to bless us."
John Kasich responded to a question at the New Hampshire presidential forum about why he was running, saying: "Well, Jack, look, we're all -- we -- I've received blessings. Most of us here have been very, very blessed, and when you get that way, you have to figure out what your purpose is in life to make the world a little better place."
They all sound like Barney, the purple dinosaur, singing, "I love you, you love me!"
The other problem with the Be Reagan strategy is: It's not 1980 anymore. Reagan's election is as far away today as the defeat of Hitler was then.
Gov. Scott Walker's answer to whether he'd invade Iraq, knowing "what you know today," was: "I'd point out that in the overall issue of foreign policy, I'd say in my lifetime, the most impressive president when it came to foreign policy was a governor from California."
What does that even mean? Is he going to invade Grenada, fund the Contras and put missiles in Western Europe? Back in 1996, when Bob Dole said, "I'm willing to be another Ronald Reagan, if that's what you want," at least people laughed.
When Moammar Gadhafi was under siege in 2011, Rick Santorum said: "Ronald Reagan bombed Libya. If you want to be Reaganesque, the path is clear."
On the other hand, in the quarter century since Reagan bombed Libya, Bush invaded Iraq, prompting Gadhafi to end his WMD program, invite in U.N. weapons inspectors, and pay the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims $8 million apiece.
Nonetheless, "bomb Libya" is exactly what our feckless commander in chief did. Obama sent American troops to participate in the NATO bombing of Libya -- which helped oust Gadhafi, which led to Islamic lunatics running the country, which led to the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, in 2012, and the refugees flooding Europe today.
Formulaic applications of Reagan's policies from the 1980s don't always work the same way they did in the 1980s. (Similarly, Duran Duran's new single was kind of a dud.) I used "What Would Reagan Do?" as a joke back in 2005; these guys think it's an actual governing philosophy.
When Reagan was running (three and a half decades ago), there was a real fight in the Republican Party over abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, guns and foreign policy. Reagan had to face down elements in his own party to be pro-life, anti-ERA, pro-gun and to pursue an aggressive anti-Soviet foreign policy.
Reagan won. It's over. The ERA is gone. The Soviet Union is gone. The GOP is unquestionably the party of life and the Second Amendment. (If only fetuses could get their hands on a gun!)
Ever since the hero of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, couldn't get out of the starting gate in his presidential bid because he was pro-abortion and anti-gun, no serious Republican candidate is ever going to waver on those two issues again.
So why did Marco Rubio find it necessary to stress that he opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest at the first GOP presidential debate? Did he not live through that whole Todd Akin thing, like the rest of us?
Today, the fight in the Republican Party isn't over abortion, guns or the Sandinistas; the dividing line is immigration. Will we continue to be the United States, or will we become another failed Latin American state?
On this, it's Donald Trump (and the people) vs. everyone else.
Trump announced his presidential campaign by talking about Mexican rapists. Immigration is the only policy paper he's put out so far -- and he's been crushing the polls. He got his one sustained standing ovation from 20,000 cheering fans in Dallas Monday night when he talked about stopping illegal immigration.
But James B. Stewart gasses on in The New York Times about Trump's "namecalling, personal attacks and one-liners that have vaulted him to the top of the polls." In the entire article, Stewart never mentions immigration.
Perhaps some minority of people will vote for Trump because of his personality. But I notice that it's his position on immigration that gets thousands of people leaping to their feet.
The media will talk about anything but Trump's specific, detailed policies on immigration -- all while claiming he doesn't have any "policy details." The very fact that the entire media -- including most of the conservative commentariat -- obdurately refuse to acknowledge the popularity of Trump's immigration plans is exactly why Trump is exploding in the polls.
Trump isn't trying to imitate anyone. He's leading on the seminal issue of our time while the rest of the field practices looking optimistic in front of the mirror.