Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Political Body Snatching

The title phrase refers to "Stray Reagan Thoughts" by Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review's online feature "The Corner". Point 3 contains the phrase and was interpreted by Andrew Sullivan as a critique of his opinion that Ronald Reagan the politician more closely resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger than he does George Bush.

Some of the points Sullivan makes seem barely relevent:
He rarely went to church as president and was the first president to have an openly gay couple sleep over in the White House. He and his wife were no strangers to male homosexual company.
Regardless of the reason why President Reagan rarely attended church as president, being willing to sleep in the same mansion as a gay couple for one night doesn't exactly put one in the revolutionary vanguard of social liberalism. Similarly for the point about male homosexual company, which seems to presume that anyone who meets an openly gay man and doesn't immediately lunge for rubber gloves and protective facegear is a social liberal.

Another point seems misleading at best:
Reagan also appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, and in Anthony Kennedy, gave birth to the judicial father of the gay rights revolution.
The one thing we can be completely sure of is that the president who nominated Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court (or Robert Bork, for that matter) did not nominate Anthony Kennedy in the hopes of launching a crusade of judicial activism in support of gay rights.

Bush's supposedly "limited ability to reach voters in socially liberal milieus" also seems like a misleading point to me, since the so-called "Reagan Democrats" weren't necessarily social liberals if I remember correctly. Obviously, there are socially liberal Democratic strongholds scattered around the country that no Republican is going to be able to win more than a handful of votes from in the near future. On the other hand, if reaching socially liberal voters was a realistic test of any Republican presidential candidate's electibility, we'd probably have President Jim Jeffords running for reelection this year. Besides, if President Bush can poll 11 million more popular votes than his party's previous nominee and lead his party to historic congressional gains in mid-term elections, he must be doing something correctly.

I'm considering Sullivan's article a negative entry into the "past presidents game" (one of these days I'll put up a summary of archive links, I promise): Bush is unlike Reagan.

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