Foreign and Defense Policy

What would Reagan do?


David Brooks, commenting on divisions in the GOP:

On the presidential level, this is quickly going to turn into a presidential debate, with Chris Christie on one side, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul more or less on the other, maybe Rubio thrown in there. And so very quickly, this debate will turn into a presidential debate between the two wings of the party. And it will look a little like the Reagan-Rockefeller — I don’t want to overstress that.

But there will be two distinct wings to the Republican Party who will really be going head to toe in the presidential primaries.

Brooks clearly had domestic politics on his mind more than foreign policy, but there is also a sharpening division on foreign policy that involves the same players. In the foreign policy context, the Reagan-Rockefeller analogy doesn’t apply. A better comparison would be the Taft-Eisenhower split in 1952. Regardless, I think it’s essential to remember which side Reagan would be on in that kind of debate – in fact, he was one of the leading Democrats for Eisenhower.

Analogies aside, Reagan made it clear time and again that his core principles were a commitment to military strength and human freedom. Addressing the British Parliament in 1982, Reagan made clear that his policy wasn’t just a response to the Soviet threat.  Rather, the United States has an enduring mission:

The task I’ve set forth will long outlive our own generation…Let us now begin a major effort to secure the best—a crusade for freedom that will engage the faith and fortitude of the next generation. For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny.

Now, a lot of politicians say all sorts of pleasant inspirational things. The funny thing about Reagan is that he always said what he meant.

One thought on “What would Reagan do?

  1. Presidential elections are not generally decided on issues; they are decided by personalities. Otherwise President Obama and President Bush would not have been reelected. If Chris Christie is elected, it will not be because he is a “moderate”. It will be because the voters like his attitude. We already know New Jersey voters do.

    The problem with the primary system is that THERE issues ARE often more important than personalities. So what we have is a nomination process based on one set of criteria and a general election based on another. Not a recipe for victory.

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