Sunday, November 23, 2008

Goodbye to the Gipper?

t's time for the GOP to say goodbye to the Gipper.

Not to Ronald Reagan, the president who faced down the Soviet Union and helped revive American morale. But Republicans should turn away from the Gipper, the president's sometimes glib, sometimes misguided. sometimes reckless alter ego.

And it should perhaps turn back to other icons of its history.

For the Gipper is far different from President Reagan. Reagan accurately assessed the danger and the weaknesses of the Soviet Union. As many have noted, he stood almost alone among American leaders in believing the evil empire must be resisted and could be defeated. Its demise in 1989 is a huge achievement.

Republicans rightly exult in that legacy. But that is from Reagan, the cold-eyed yet fearless strategist. He grasped the whole historical situation and the essence of communism. He was courageous, but — despite what his critics said — he wasn't reckless. Basically, he outwaited his opponent.

Consider in contrast the Gipper's feckless venture into Lebanon. There, in contrast, he presented a bold face, but he never understood the situation. That's why he sent U.S. Marines into a stronghold of fanatics, but wouldn't let them load their weapons.

When suicide bombers killed 241 American servicemen and 58 French servicemen, The Gipper and the U.S. cut and ran, emboldening Islamic militants. The Gipper was good for stirring words, and easy promises, but not so useful when it came time to hang tough.

Reagan helped revive the U.S. economy. But he did it by backing Fed chief Paul Volcker, who jacked up interest rates to choke off inflation.

The legacy of the Gipper, however, is that financial progress can be achieved without pain. But light of the financial meltdown, it may be time to re-evalute that.

Yes, Reagan helped restore American optimism. But did The Gipper make "pessimism" -- a.k.a. caution and prudence -- taboo in political discourse?

The Republican Party needs to rethink its fixation on the Gipper.

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