The Other Reagan Legacy: Outspoken Son Ron

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By Rene Sanchez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2004

LOS ANGELES, June 24

In the two weeks since former president Ronald Reagan was laid to rest, his grieving family has mostly retreated from public view, staying mum as Republican leaders lionize his legacy and promote President Bush as his political heir.

Not the late president's younger son, Ron. Bashing Bush is his new pastime.

With more than 35 million television viewers across the country watching, Ronald Prescott Reagan first hinted at his disdain for the Bush administration this month when he delivered a eulogy during his father's sunset burial service in Southern California.

"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man," Ron Reagan told mourners. "But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians -- wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage."

Since then, in a series of nationally televised interviews, his comments about Bush have become less oblique and much harsher.

Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" Wednesday evening, Reagan denounced Bush's opposition to broadening embryonic stem cell research, calling it "shameful." He called Bush's decision to invade Iraq a "terrible mistake" and said, "We lied our way into the war." Then he said he was eager to see Bush defeated in November.

Two nights earlier, he appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" and scoffed at the new Republican rallying cry that Bush is positively Reaganesque.

"My father never felt the need to wrap himself in anybody's mantle. He never felt the need to pretend to be anybody else," Reagan said. "This is their administration. This is their war. If they can't stand on their own two feet, well, they're no Ronald Reagans, that's for sure."

He returned to CNN again Thursday with another round of denunciations, saying at one point, "My father didn't know George W. Bush from Adam."

It is quite a blitz. And it has Republican leaders across the country amazed and amused, but apparently not alarmed.

Reagan, 46, who is a contributor to MSNBC and an occasional host on the Animal Planet channel, has long been an outspoken political liberal. And some of what he is saying now about Bush is almost tame by comparison with other, more obscure remarks he had made in recent years. In a 2003 interview with the online magazine Salon, for example, he called the Bush presidency "overly aggressive, overly secretive and just plain corrupt." Then he delivered this rhetorical shot: "My father was a man -- that's the difference between him and Bush."


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