Ten Miles Square


March 30, 2012 1:15 PM “Even Ronald Reagan”?

By Jonathan Bernstein

Yes, I know that GOP Reagan worship is strong, but really — do Republicans now simply assume that Ronald Reagan was the Greatest President Ever? Really?

I ask, because (via Steve Benen) of a new Mitt Romney ad bashing Barack Obama for claiming to be one of the greatest four presidents (which, natch, Obama never said, as Benen points out, but that’s not the point here). The narrator says that Obama’s claim is that he’s better than “George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and even Ronald Reagan” (my emphasis).

Parsing that, it seems that the Romney campaign is asserting, or perhaps assuming, that claiming to be better than Ronald Reagan is a stronger claim than claiming to be better than George Washington. Right? That’s what the “even” is doing there.

Do Republicans really think that Ronald Reagan was a greater president than George Washington? I guess so. What I’m really wondering, however, is whether that ad really was aimed for a general election audience. Does Team Romney really think that anyone outside of partisan Republicans thinks of Reagan as a greater president than Washington?

Granted, it’s just a tiny point about an ad that hardly anyone (I assume) will see. Still, if anyone is looking for hints that Republicans are trapped in a feedback loop, this is the kind of evidence that goes into the pile.

(In case you’re wondering: Lincoln was presumably omitted from the ad because Obama’s original comment mentioned Lincoln, and thus Obama supposedly wasn’t claiming to be greater than him).

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.


  • Anonymous on March 31, 2012 1:15 AM:

    also, does Romney not think that Lincoln and FDR aren't better presidents than Kennedy? why not mention Eisenhower since he's a Republican?

    Reagan was for talking to a communist leader (during Cold War!), reducing nuclear arms (after the arms race), amnesty to illegal immigrants. Reagan apologized to Japanese Americans for interment camp during WW2.

    Reagan's top rate income tax was 50% with 5 brackets most of his presidency.
    He also believed that capital gains tax should be treated the same as regular income tax.

    Liberation Republicans do not like Reagan's war on drug (though the term was coined by Nixon) and the fact that Reagan almost tripled federal debt.

    Don't we just have nice memories of 1980s to 1990s so we just associate Reagan and Clinton with those happy times?

  • SteveT on April 01, 2012 1:47 PM:

    Ronald Reagan and Jesus --

    Two men whom Republicans claim to revere.

    Two men whose actual words Republicans disavow.

    Two men that Republicans would ride out of town on a rail if they ran in a Republican primary today.

  • Ted Frier on April 01, 2012 1:58 PM:

    It's not about Reagan, it's about the right wing "fundamentalist" psychology and its need to sanctify itself by association with sacred icons from the past. The mythological Reagan serves the same self-flattering and self-justifying purpose for the right wing as do the Founding Fathers of the Tea Party Republicans' fantasy -- religious deists and freethinkers who conservatives believe nevertheless founded a "Christian nation;" students of history who constructed a constitution to "break the violence of faction" whose works are nonetheless the inspiration for a right wing political movement whose divide and conquer tactics epitomize factionalism.