Okay, I thought we were discussing the viability and possible success of a third political party. But as a staunch Reaganite, I cannot let scratcher’s comments to unheeded. So quickly, let me address those comments about big government, Reagan and his ‘silence’ on AIDS.
To be honest, some Republican Presidents have increased government spending as well. Let’s look at just what Ronald Reagan did. He did increase government, but he did it in a slightly different way. Reagan dramatically cut the role of the Federal Government in domestic programs and shifted the focus to increasing the military. Of course, this is well known today to be one of the leading reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union. So this begs the question, did Reagan increase or decrease the role of government in our lives? On the domestic front, he dramatically decreased it, so the argument can be made that he was a small-government conservative. If one takes into the account the expanded size of the Federal Government due to the military build-up during the Reagan years then the answer seems less clear unless you remember one key factor, our Constitution. It specifically calls for the Federal Government to provide for the common defense; it does not call for entitlements, or other socialistic programs. So in retrospect, Reagan was definitely a true conservative. It is very unfortunate that we do not have a true conservative in the White House at this time.
Now scratcher alluded to Reagan’s ‘silence’ on the AIDS epidemic. In it he links to Democracy Now!, a far left group. Little wonder that they would have something bad to say about Ronald Reagan. In his reply, scratcher said:
“This is the same Ronald Reagan who sat silent for SIX YEARS as the AIDS epidemic began and spread like wildfire. Why? Because like many so-called conservatives, homosexuality offended his sensibilities. In a statement about AIDS education, Reagan said:
“Let’s be honest with ourselves: AIDS information cannot be what some call ‘value neutral,’ ” said the President, who rarely has spoken about the disease in public. “After all, when it comes to preventing AIDS, don’t medicine and morality teach the same lessons?”
So we have from President Reagan a sterling example of a conservative who allows his own moral beliefs to affect policy – at the cost of many, many thousands (now millions) of lives.”
Wow, those are pretty harsh words. But are they accurate? Did Reagan sit “silent for SIX YEARS?” Of course not; one of the men who knew Reagan best, Edwin Meese III says that to say Reagan was silent on AIDS is completely unfair:
“I can remember numerous sessions of the domestic-policy council where the surgeon general provided information to us, and the questions were not whether the federal government would get involved, but what would be the best way. There was support for research through the NIH. There also were questions about the extent to which public warnings should be sent out. It was a question of how the public would respond to fairly explicit warnings about fairly explicit things. Ultimately, warnings were sent out.”
And Peter Robinson, a former speechwriter for Reagan and author of the book, How Reagan Changed My Life says:
“As I recall, from 1984 onward — and bear in mind that the AIDS virus was not identified until 1982 — every Reagan budget contained a large sum of money specifically earmarked for AIDS. But, of course, that’s the kind of argument that takes place over every item in the federal budget. Nevertheless, the notion that he was somehow callous or had a cruel or cynical attitude towards homosexuals or AIDS victims is just ridiculous.”
Also, official White House papers cited by Steven Hayward, author of the multi-volume Age of Reagan show that Ronald Reagan spoke of AIDS no later than September 17, 1985. Responding to a question on AIDS research, the president said:
“[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.”
But was Reagan “a conservative who allows his own moral beliefs to affect policy – at the cost of many…lives”? Hardly, and who could answer this question better than one of Reagan’s own children? Patti Davis said on Time Magazine’s website as to whether a TV movie which portrayed Reagan as a homophobe was accurate or not. She said she recalls “the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way” in which her dad discussed the topic of homosexuality with her when she was age eight or nine.
“My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, “That looks weird.”… All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn’t really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn’t reserved just for men and women.”
And also responding to that made for TV movie about Reagan and his being a homophobe is this from Martin Anderson, a high-level Reagan adviser and coeditor of Reagan: A Life in Letters:
“I remember Reagan telling us that in Hollywood he knew a lot of gays, and he never had any problem with them. I think a number of people who were gay worked for the Reagans,” Anderson told me. “We never kept track. But he never said anything even remotely like that comment in the movie. His basic attitude was ‘Leave them alone.’”
So it is pretty clear to me that Reagan wasn’t a homophobe, or even an indifferent conservative who ignored the AIDS problem. He budgeted for it every year of his Presidency after 1984. Reagan was a product of Hollywood and therefore knew a great many gay people, so it wasn’t as if the idea of homosexuality was anything new to him. Many of the misconceptions about Reagan’s ‘silence’ on AIDS comes from a CBS movie that was so inaccurate and controversial that CBS was forced to air it on their pay cable station, Showtime. Also it is clear that Reagan was a small government President, with the only part of the government he expanded being the military. To call him as guilty of social engineering as the worst progressive is laughable and highly inaccurate.
But what does all this have to do with our debate on whether a third party is a good idea for the Conservative cause right now? Well, nothing really. I just had to set the record straight on Reagan.
To be fair, scratcher did mention third parties – in a fashion:
“If “true” conservatism is for smaller government and less federal intervention across the board, th[e]n not even Reagan was a “true” conservative. And if we can find some true conservatives, I’ll vote for them regardless of their party affiliation – or lack thereof.”
But if Reagan doesn’t pass a litmus test for scratcher, it makes me wonder just how far to the right a candidate would have to be for him to vote for them. All I can do is reiterate the need for Conservatives to take back the Republican Party so that we can change the course of our country back towards what our Founding Fathers intended.