Outlook: Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin?

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Steven Hayward
Monday, March 8, 2010; 11:00 AM

Steven F. Hayward, F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counter-Revolution, 1980-1989," discusses his Outlook article titled "Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin?"

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Teleprompter: As a man who made frequent use of the teleprompter, wouldn't Pres. Reagan take issue with Sarah Palin's constant assertment that only out-ot-touch liberal elitists use it?

Steven Hayward: But Reagan could be good without a teleprompter, and there is some doubt that Obama (and Palin) on this score.

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Discipline : Your analysis are interesting and in-depth and not verbal spitballs. Thanks. Palin's problem is that unlike Reagan she did leave a governorship mid-term (shows lack of sticking to your committments) and doesn't seem to have the discipline. How does someone change their nature as well as voter's perception?

Steven Hayward: That said, it is a problem for any Alaska (or Hawaii) governor to participate in many aspects of national politics because of their geographical remoteness, which is one large reason she felt compelled to do this.

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Reagan: Hi, was President Reagan a policy wonk or politician?

Steven Hayward: It's a winning combination that is surprisingly rare in politics.

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Foreign Policy : d rather your conservative choice for President made decisions based on at least some knowledge? Moreover, how do you think a potential Palin voter would respond to the suggestion he or she views policy knowledge as a negative?

Steven Hayward: That's the lesson I was trying to convey about Palin.

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Did Reagan Even Vote for Bush: I know aides to Reagan deny this, so I will accept that Reagan official endorsement and supported Bush in 1992. Yet, I recall one aide, who some say was disgruntled because he had been fired, claims Reagan told him he voted for Clinton in the ballot box. Who knows what he did in the privacy of a ballot box. Yet, I find it interesting this discussion of whether Reagan would vote for Palin. Was Reagan still a Reagan-ite after he left office? There may have been different views from a President Reagan who also was the leader of his party, and the more reflective former President Reagan.

Steven Hayward: We'll likely never know.

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economic bill of rights: The original pamphlet by Martin Anderson entitled "An Economic Bill of Rights" had these four recommendations: (1) a balanced federal budget; (2) a limitation on federal spending; (3) a line-item veto power for the president; (4) a gold standard: (5) a prohibition of general wage and price controls. Do you know why the gold standard concept was taken out? What evidence exists regarding Reagan's views on the gold standard? Thanks.

Steven Hayward: As I say in my book, to conventional economists, if supply side economics was "voodoo economics" or "laetrille" economics (as one critic called it), then the gold standard was the equivalent of leechcraft.

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Constitutional Amendments: Steve, Tim Seibel here. Hope you're doing well. You are right to suggest the Tea Parties propose Constitutional amendments as a positive agenda and organizing principle which "would put liberals on the defensive." I would further argue that proposing Constitutional amendments would also re-focus the People's attention to the actual text of the Constitution rather than on its interpretation by judges. Don't you agree? If yes, shouldn't you re-phrase your statement that seeking Constitutional amendments "may not be the most conservative of initiatives?"

Steven Hayward: of our government.

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Don't think so: Although I disagreed with many of his policies, I admired him as a man, a leader and a president. He left office with a bigger budget, more federal employees and more debt than when he arrived. I don't see him aligning with the TPers because they violate his 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Another Republican. I think Reagan would be more accepting of diverse groups (minorities, gays) than the TPers.

Steven Hayward: As for the 11th Commandment (which wasn't actually his--it comes from Gaylord Parkinson, a former CA GOP state chairman--everyone always attributes it to Reagan), true in almost all cases, but see my answer above about the Lieberman 1988 election, for example.

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Reagan's Pragmatism: Comment first. One aspect of Reagan methinks you neglected was his pragmatism. As some of the more lucid conservative commentators have pointed out, he worked with Congress and, after his initial tax cut, signed off on tax increases that would disqualify any current GOP contender. And that's just for starters. Reagan has become more a figure of nostalgia than of historical reference for today's conservatives. On that note, would you agree that there's a comparison with what liberals/Democrats have done with the JFK legacy? Although too young myself to have been cognizant during his administration, based on coversations with family elders -- all JFK supporters BTW -- he was neither as liberal nor as popular as many of his hagiographers assume and, in fact, was no shoo-in for reelection.

Steven Hayward: I have a revisionist history of that whole episode in my book which is too long to outline here (hint, hint).

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Career Path: Mr. Hayward: Good morning. I think your Sunday Post column assumed Palin had a lot more in common with Reagan than she does. One obvious difference is that Palin excels in expressing resentments, and Reagan was never only about that. Another, though, is that Reagan had been a celebrity for years when he entered politics. He'd had his fame and earned his money. Palin is going in the opposite direction. I don't think Reagan could have gone back to making movies after being governor of California; I have a hard time seeing Palin winning elective office after cashing in on her celebrity.

Steven Hayward: I recently told this story to Gov. Schwartzenegger and asked him he same question. He replied: "I still work out very day, so I CAN still take off all my clothes."The point of my article was to suggest some things she and others ought to consider if they really do intend to run for high office.

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Palin 2012: With a climate very similar to the one Reagan had when he was first elected, can a Reagan conservative like Sarah Palin win the presidency in 2012? What must she do to accomplish this?

Steven Hayward: So Palin's (or anyone's) chances will depend a lot on events in the next three years.

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Reagan not a Palinite: For one thing, Palin said that if Obama invaded Iran conservatives might think he was sufficiently tough. Reagan, as some might recall (but his fans seldom mention), actually sold arms to the Islamic government of Iran,partly as a misguided attempt to woo supposedly moderate mullahs and also to raise funds (illegally) for the Contras. Reagan also raised taxes, including as Governor of California (back when it was probaby easier for a conservative to do that).

Steven Hayward: And I have a harsh final judgment about North in my book (another hint hint).

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Baltimore MD: Okay, I am a liberal Democrat, but any comparison between Sarah Palin and Ronald Reagan is absurd at this juncture and probably always will be. Reagan was a two-term governor of a state whose economy (especially in the 60s and 70s) was booming so much that it had a greater GDP than 90 percent of the world's nations. Of equal note, perhaps, Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild at one of the most fractious times in its history, as the Hollywood studio system was breaking down, television was moving to prominence and political issues had riven the movie-making community. The fact is, there is no one Republican candidate for 2012 who could put forth a resume of executive experience anywhere near Reagan's. In fact, our current president can't either!

Steven Hayward: Those are all good points, except that they cut no ice for Reagan in the late 1970s (and not just among liberals--the Republican establishment was not impressed with Reagan's California record, and thought his SAG experience counted for nothing).

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Question ... : Was Reagan healthy enough to be president and call the shots in ALL of his 2nd term?

Steven Hayward: But one thing is clear--when the moment called for his (esp. his summits with Gorbachev), he performed strongly.

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Immigrations reform: President Reagan was a supporter of immigration reform that Tea Baggers find anathema. Again how does this garner the support of the anti-immigration reform movement

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World View: Sarah Palin has yet to earn anything on the national stage. She was given it by virtue of John McCain's hail mary move. How on earth can anyone compare Palin's gift with President Reagan's years of work towards the ultimate prize, the presidency.

Steven Hayward: Oh, wait. . .)

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VOTE: Would you vote for Sarah and if so, why?

Steven Hayward: (Hint: he's short.)

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The Real President Reagan Record: How exactly would President Reagan -- someone who raised taxes multiple times, exploded the deficit, and granted amnesty to illegal immigrants fit in with today's Tea Party movement? Not to mention the abortion law he signed as governor (yes, I know he later expressed a lot of regret over that) and supporting the Brady Bill gun control measure!

Steven Hayward: A weak answer perhaps, but results count for more than rhetoric.

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Pittsburgh: I don't recall Reagan whining about every little real or perceived slight against him or his family -- unlike Sarah Palin. How many potential voters do you think this habit of hers will ultimately turn off?

Steven Hayward: (He did privately complain to some editors and network figures.)

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Seriousness: Regarding your point that Palin resigned partly because it is impossible to build a national reputation from remote Alaska, I wonder if this is as true in the days of the Internet and given that there was already a media and public fascination with her. If her concern was to take part in serious, national political debates, should she not have run for Senate? To me, it appears that she is more interested in being a celebrity than doing the hard work required for policy knowledge and effective governance. This is reflected in her repeatedly referring to the Alaska governorship as a "title," rather than as a position of public service. What do you think?

Steven Hayward: And I think the Senate is the graveyard of presidential ambitions; Obama is an anomaly I think.

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Alaska: Did Reagan ever visit Alaska?

Steven Hayward: Good question; I'll have to check.

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Foreign Policy : Wouldn't it be difficult to learn about foreign policy and seem like you weren't? As you know, if you understand policy issues well it is easy to spot which politicians understand them and which don't. Palin, for all her spunkiness, clearly had not thought deeply about foreign policy; if she started to do so I would notice. Are you saying she should study the issues but come across as though she doesn't?

Steven Hayward: I guess I'm not explaining myself very well on this point, and maybe you're right that she'd be better off saying, "You know, I didn't know much about the details of foreign policy when I looked at Russia from my house, but I've been studying it a lot since then and here's what I think."

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Steven Hayward: Bye everyone.


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