Another View -- Michael Reagan: Trump is no Reagan Republican
Mr. Trump, I knew Ronald Reagan. And you’re no Ronald Reagan!
Of course, I am stealing that line — with a twist.
Donald Trump shouldn’t mind. He’s been stealing my dad for his own purposes. Trump frequently invokes Ronald Reagan’s name to defend his sudden, 180-degree switch from being a life-long, pro-Clinton Democrat to a Reagan Republican.
Both men did make a switch, but almost all the similarities between the two end there. Ronald Reagan’s odyssey from Hollywood liberal to conservative backer took place over almost two decades.
Starting with his 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech that galvanized Americans for Barry Goldwater, dad began a 16-year effort of crisscrossing America to support conservative candidates for office. My dad also served eight years as California’s governor. When he ran for President, he had a proven conservative track record.
Donald Trump doesn’t have one. In fact, Trump still can’t explain his sudden change from being a liberal Democrat. When dad ran in 1980, Trump donated the maximum amount to Jimmy Carter. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Trump also donated to a PAC for Walter Mondale, who ran against dad in 1984.Trump has criticized some candidates for their indiscretions made during their childhood. But what can you say for a grown adult who supported both Carter and Mondale over Ronald Reagan?
One of my dad’s most important lessons to me was how to uncover a phony. He told me not to judge people by what they say; judge them by what they actually do. As President, dad used this “trust but verify” principle on the Soviets and it worked. Voters today should apply Reagan’s verify principle on Trump.
During the 2008 election, Trump told CNN that he wanted President George W. Bush impeached. Then, during Obama’s first year in the White House, after he rammed through Congress a $800 billion stimulus and proposed a radical health care takeover, Trump praised the President, saying he was “amazing” and “truly phenomenal.”
Obama’s then chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel was a player in passing Obamacare. Rahm eventually left the White House to run for Chicago’s mayor. In 2010, Trump actually donated $50,000 to Rahm’s mayoral campaign! Just last year Trump told “60 Minutes” he wants single-payer health care like they have in Canada and Britain. It’s nothing less than socialized medicine.
For most of his life Trump had been a Democrat, backing strong gun control and abortion rights. Today he says he’s for the Second Amendment and pro-life. But when asked who he’d like for the Supreme Court, he suggested his sister, a sitting federal judge. It turns out she’s liberal and pro-choice.
Trump also donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2012, after she had served almost four years as Secretary of State, Trump had nothing but praise for her. He told CNN: “I think she does a good job ... The record of Hillary Clinton and how did she do as Secretary of State, probably above and beyond everybody else.” Folks, this was in 2012.
Still, at some point Trump says he became a conservative. I am not sure when. In 2012, Trump sharply criticized Mitt Romney.
“He had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal,” Trump said of Romney’s plan for the nation’s illegal immigrants.
“It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump said. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
Trump’s own plan today calls for mass deportation. Go figure. I almost need a chart to keep tabs on Trump’s ever-changing positions.
This past September, Trump was the first Republican candidate to call for the U.S. to open its doors to Syrian refugees. He told Bill O’Reilly, “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to.”
He quickly backtracked on that. Then he came out for a total ban of all Muslims into the U.S.
I don’t doubt for a second the Donald is a great and funny entertainer. He’s always playing to his audience. Today, it’s Reagan conservatives. Tomorrow, I am afraid, it may be liberals in Washington. Come Election Day, should Reagan Republicans vote for Donald Trump?
Recently, I tweeted the answer: “You can’t be a Trump Republican and a Reagan Republican. It’s time to choose.”
Michael Reagan is the eldest son of President Ronald Reagan. A bestselling author, syndicated columnist and commentator, he chairs the Reagan Legacy Foundation.