The presidential nominating conventions are over, and from what one political pundit has said, there are only about 967,000 votes up for grabs that are spread out in about a half dozen swing states. There is a great divide between the two parties that makes this election much easier to choose from. It is interesting to see how the Republican Party has evolved since Eisenhower was president. I doubt that any modern day conservative Republican would vote for IKE in a primary today. And if Ronald Reagan ran for president today under a different name but exactly the same political history and record, he wouldn’t have much chance either. Eisenhower understood power, and he understood the abuses and dangers of power. That included his caution in not using nuclear weapons in Korea, not expanding the war there, not getting involved in Vietnam beyond a handful of advisers, and not triggering a war with the Soviets over Hungary. Eisenhower also advocated for an open skies policy with the Soviets where we would have mutual reconnaissance flyovers to ensure compliance with an arms limitation treaty. He had a long term vision that in the end I doubt few would dispute that we were better off for his hand at the helm for eight years.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes numerous times as governor of California. Before Roe vs. Wade he signed into law the most liberal abortion law in the country. As president he is remembered for lowering taxes and forgotten for his tax hikes. He is also largely forgotten for creating the largest deficits up until Bush II and Obama. Some economists believe that Reagan’s deficit spending was a big reason for getting us out of the recession that he inherited, that his deficits contributed to lowering unemployment. Reagan also did nothing when over 240 marines were killed in a terrorist attack in Lebanon. How much of that would fly in today’s Republican Party?
Obviously this forum is not the place for a detailed record analysis of either president. In my opinion both were very good presidents, and I voted for Reagan both times. But considering the total allegiance to the Republican Party’s platform today that is commanded of all Republican candidates for office, it makes sense why Romney and Ryan have tacked so hard to the right, why they publicly ignore where they have strayed from the platform in the past. At one time I was pretty confident that Romney would win the November election. Today, barring the unforeseen and all things being equal, I wouldn’t bet on it. Rather than post blogs challenging me on this, I would suggest that we wait until after the election to do a post mortem. I maintain that Eisenhower and Reagan had it right, that they had the pulse of the American people, and in Reagan’s case, the reality of his presidency is very different from the mythological one. And in spite of the reality he had a successful tenure in the White House.
On a totally different note, I would like to recognize the passing of Otis Brumby. I don’t claim to have known him well, but I am honored that I had several private meetings with him in his office, phone conversations, and other communications. I was very honored and touched when he introduced me as his friend to John McCain in 2007. It is probably fair to say, though, that we had less in common politically, but on some of the important issues in our community we often found common ground. The man was unfailingly gracious in person. Some years ago when we had very strong disagreement on a matter of local public interest, he allowed me to meet with him to argue my side and to present evidence to support it. Afterwards, I asked him if I could have 500 words to respond to his past editorials on the subject. He replied that I should take a thousand words. Facts, logic, reason, and evidence could persuade him---not always, but often enough to convince me that he tried to get it right, that he was intellectually honest. I will miss his closing words after each conversation, “Come by anytime and let’s have a cup of coffee. You are always welcome.” Otis Brumby could leave this world secure in the knowledge that he made a positive difference in the community he lived and served, and made it better than when he arrived a long time ago.