McCain has a point comparing Palin, Reagan

Since I don’t watch those Sunday talk shows, I’m always reading the reactions, and reactions to reactions, on Monday (which is quite soon enough to suit me). Today I’m reading what Chris Cillizza has to say about what John McCain said on Sunday:

The Arizona Republican, responding to a question from CNN’s Candy Crowley about Palin being “divisive,” noted that Ronald Reagan was often seen as divisive as well.

It wasn’t a direct comparison to Reagan (McCain never said Palin is similar to Reagan), but it was a comparison nonetheless. And the reaction was swift, as it often is when it comes to Palin.

So the big question follows: Is it a valid comparison? The answer: In many ways, yes.

The fact is that Reagan has benefited tremendously from the years since his presidency, and people look back on him in a much favorable light than they did during his presidency.

According to Gallup polling data, Reagan’s average approval rating during his presidency was 53 percent — lower than John F. Kennedy,Lyndon JohnsonDwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush andBill Clinton.

As for the operative word here — “divisiveness” — Reagan had a claim to it. Many more Republicans approved of him than Democrats, and even at his peak, just 68 percent of Americans approved of him, a number lower than everyone but Richard Nixon over the last 65 years.

The reason Reagan couldn’t get higher than that was because there was a segment of the population, about one-third, that was dead-set against him. Reagan is often listed in polls of people’s favorite presidents, but because of that one-third, he’s also among the leaders for people’s least favorite presidents. His detractors often feel just as strongly as his supporters about Reagan’s legacy.

Recent polling shows Palin is on par with all of that…

Hey, it works for me. I, for the record, was among that one-third. And probably one of the more adamant members of that segment. My attitude has softened somewhat over the years, but that may be due to the 1984-style revisionism to which I’ve been subjected in media for more than two decades. You know, Ronald Reagan was a great president; he was always a great president — and we have always been at war with Eastasia. (Or would a better analogy be the sleep-teaching in Brave New World? Discuss.)

To the extent that I can clearly recall the past, I remember seeing Reagan — when he emerged on the national scene in 1976, then again in 1980 — as a destructive, negative, insurgent, dumbing-down force in the GOP. So yeah, a comparison to Sarah Palin is valid on those grounds.

Of course, after all these years of hearing what a great job he did, it seems a disservice to him to compare him to Mrs. Palin. One thing’s for sure, though — as a thoroughly professional actor, Reagan played the role of president with far greater dignity than I can imagine the ex-governor of Alaska managing to project.

12 thoughts on “McCain has a point comparing Palin, Reagan

  1. bud

    Reagan played the role of president with far greater dignity than I can imagine the ex-governor of Alaska managing to project.

    Clinton was the least dignified president I can remember. Bush Jr. was suppossed to bring dignity back to the White House by requiring ties and jackets in the oval office. Clinton was OK with very casual attire. Turns out Clinton was one of the best presidents we ever had and Bush Jr. probably the worst (at least since WW II). Give me a quality president with good policies and sound judgement over a “dignified” one any day.

  2. Mark Stewart

    Reykjavik. It all changed after that for Reagan. He rose to the occassion of the USSR’s demise.

    Retreating from the unionization of America was another positive, as was the idea of supply side economics.

    But then it does downhill mighty fast to Iran Contra and the sleepy doodles, et al.

  3. Patrick

    That was really nasty regarding Reagan. Were you that nasty as a journalist back then? Endorse H. W. in 80?

  4. Brad

    “Nasty?” That was NASTY? And to think, I hardly exerted myself at all…

    And yeah, I preferred Bush to Reagan. And Baker to Bush. And that’s just the Bs…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Ronald Reagan was an oversimplifier just like Palin. He knew not of what he spoke so glibly.He just had a smoother, less gratingly Mean Girl presentation.

    I mos def prefer George HW Bush to Reagan! Voodoo economics, indeed!

  6. Phillip

    Brad, Reagan did not “emerge on the national scene” in 1976. He had been elected governor of California a full ten years earlier, and, while not a truly serious contender, nevertheless some significant support in the Republican presidential primaries of 1968. Moreover, he had been a prominent spokesperson for the conservative wing of the Republican party for a few years before becoming CA’s governor. I never was a fan of Reagan as President, of course, but for McCain to link Palin (briefly governor of one of the smallest states in population in the country, and prior to that, mayor and councilwoman in a town of 5000 people) is beyond laughable. Reagan used to be derided as not the sharpest pencil in the pack, but compared to Palin he was Einstein. And, regardless of how one felt about his political philosophy, he possessed extensive executive experience as well as years and years of political seasoning on the national level before his nearly-successful challenge for Gerald Ford in 1976.

  7. Brad

    Well, if you want to get technical, he “emerged onto the national scene” before “Death Valley Days,” perhaps even before “Bedtime for Bonzo.” After all, his supposed masterwork, “Kings Row,” was way back in 42.

    I was thinking in terms of the first time he was an actual threat for the presidency. There really is only one national office that we vote for — well, two, if you count the Veep.

    And you’re right, he was not a credible contender in 68.

  8. Mark Stewart

    More than half of the Republicans were Democrats of some sort, once upon a time.

    There’s that large minority that is still casting around for a home that can really embrace their collection of (world?)views. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to see a real Tea Party. The Dixie Teas; just to amuse myself with a whole bunch of random images.

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