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From Reagan to Romney

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I will broadcast today from Ronald Reagan’s beloved Rancho del Cielo, the “Reagan Ranch,” high above Santa Barbara.

Today is the 25th anniversary of President Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech before the Brandenburg Gate.

The speech was only controversial for a few days when it was given. It is only in retrospect, after the Berlin Wall came down, that all the world and now all of history can see its significance.

Only a few years before the speech the USA had been mired in stagflation and was reeling backwards after Vietnam and in the inept hands of Jimmy Carter. Cubans were across Africa and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan when Reagan took office, and the “Misery Index was spiraling up.

President Reagan, with the help of great friends inside his Administration and in Congress, and of course with the support of the American people, turned it all around.

I have been arguing for months now that 2012 is 1980 all over again, and that the country will send President Obama back to Chicago this fall just as it dispatched Jimmy Carter to Georgia –decisively– and that the fresh start begun in January 2013 by Mitt Romney will quickly revitalize the country’s fortunes.

There are even a lot of “Romney Democrats” starting to show up, as happened in Wisconsin where many union households voted for Scott Walker.

There is certainly a lot of talent to help Romney with the turnaround. If you missed my conversation yesterday with John Thune, read it here. It is a full-throated rejection of the line being taken by the president in the new New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza that all that ails the country is GOP obstructionism. Here’s a part of Thune’s response:

I start a lot of my speeches nowadays, Hugh, with the question what do you think a second Obama term would look like, because I think it’s terrifying to people when they look at the three and a half years that we’ve just been through, that unconstrained by having to run for re-election, if he was able to do what he wanted to do, you would have even more regulations, you’d have higher taxes, you would have more government spending, and that is a prescription for disaster for this country. But I do think that he wants to blame Congress, the reason that we are where we are is because we haven’t worked with him to put his agenda through. The fact of the matter is they had everything that they wanted there for a long time. They got their massive health care expansion, they got a trillion dollar stimulus bill which didn’t create any jobs. And they want to double down on that now. Everything he’s talking about is a stimulus II, which would be more government spending, and that’s just the wrong prescription for the economy. And it’s ironic to me in a lot of ways that his folks out there keep trying to spin this as somehow, this is a problem with Congress, as opposed to a President who for three and a half years now has tried to make this country stronger by making government bigger, which is the exact opposite of what we ought to be doing.

Read the whole thing, and then reflect on President Obama’s rhetoric and record, and compare it to Regean’s in 1984 when that incumbent ran for re-election on a platform of “Morning in America.” There were certainly challenges ahead when Reagan was re-elected, and the biggest of them was the Soviet Union, but Reagan ran at them, not from them.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank calls this past few days the president’s “Junius Horribilis,” and the first third of June has indeed been awful for the president. But the first three and-and-a-half-years of Obama’s tenure at 1600 have been even worse for the country. As Lizza’s piece shows, the president has no clear vision for where he wants the country to go and no plan to get there.

Mitt Romney by contrast has a lengthy “freedom agenda,” including his proposed school reforms that the New York Times profiles this morning.

Romney is running on hope. Obama on fear. It should not surprise that the candidate extolling freedom has the momentum. As Ronald Reagan showed 25 years ago today, there is no limit to what freedom can accomplish.


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