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Reagan Biographer: Trump Is No Reagan — but He Is Very Similar to Another Republican President

the blaze

Jan. 25, 2016   4:13pm    Fred Lucas

A Ronald Reagan biographer who worked on the Reagan campaign said that Donald Trump is no Reagan but that he is quite similar to former Republican President Richard Nixon.

“Politics was never personal to Reagan, but it’s always very personal to Nixon and to Donald Trump,” Craig Shirley told TheBlaze. “Reagan could be tough. But Nixon would go beyond tough in campaigning and would even be cruel, whether it was Helen Douglas or Hubert Humphrey. Donald Trump goes beyond being tough to cruel.”

“Ronald Reagan was a fairly liberal Democrat, and he evolved over years and he became more and more conservative,” Trump told CBS News. “And he was not a very conservative person, but he was pretty conservative. And he ended up being a great president.”

Trump further said that the movementbehind his own campaign is larger than the movement for Reagan, stating on Bloomberg News, “I think that the closest thing I can think of is Reagan, but I don’t think it’s the intensity that we have. Now, Reagan had a little bit of this, but I don’t think to the same extent — but he also won. And don’t forget, we are very far out. This far out, the Secret Service and the all of the people, these are fantastic people … and everybody tells me that they’ve never seen crowds like this, this far away from November — it’s a long ways away.”

One reason Trump’s professed conservative conversion line up with Reagan’s, according to Shirley, is that it came before a potential presidential run, whereas Reagan’s change was gradual — from a conservative Democrat to a conservative Republican in the early 1960s, years before running for public office.

“Reagan believed, I think, what Whitaker Chambers believed, which is that he was going from the winning side to the losing side,” Shirley said.

Shirley is the author of three books on Reagan: “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All,” about the 1976 presidential campaign; “Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America,” about the 1980 election; and “Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” after Reagan left the White House.

Similar to how Trump has succeeded by campaigning against political correctness, Nixon won in 1968 and 1972 by campaigning against the counterculture that created immense concern in middle America.

Shirley largely attributes Trump’s “faux populist” rise to three factors: President Barack Obama’s administration; the weakness of the Republican Congress in fighting Obama; and the failure of former President George W. Bush’s big government conservatism.

Shirley did not entirely contend that Trump is a liberal or progressive, just of an entirely different conservative outlook from Reagan. He argued that Reagan was more of a classic liberal in the tradition of John Locke, while Nixon was a conservative in the tradition of Edmund Burke.

“Reagan was a conservative of the enlightenment, a classic liberal, not an American liberal, that believed first in the autonomy of the individual, that power flows upward from the people to institutions,” Shirley said. “Nixon and Trump are more like Burke conservatives, that institutions must always be defended.”

The Endorsements that Matter — and Don’t


Bush collects high-profile backing he thought he needed, but voters don’t seem to care

by Brendan Kirby

In the year of the outsider, the insider Establishment endorsements so coveted by presidential candidates matter not a whit.

Jeb Bush has the backing of the most current and former members of Congress and governors, as well as former officials of his brother’s and father’s administrations. And if you look at his polling, it seems his endorsers are also about the only people voting for him.

By contrast, the ultimate outsider — Donald Trump — does not have a single endorsement from a sitting elected federal official or governor. He did, however, get a high-profile endorsement from Sarah Palin, another outsider. Other supporters are an eclectic cadre of businessmen, like investor Carl Icahn; activists, like social conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly and commentator Ann Coulter; and celebrities, like boxer Mike Tyson and football coach Mike Ditka.

Trump has the blessing of a motley crew of outsiders. And of course, he is romping in the polls.

Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has drawn support from the ranks of the most conservative current and former members of Congress. That includes Rep. Steve King of Iowa, known as the “Kingmaker,” and former Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, two of the country’s strongest immigration hawks.

Sen. Marco Rubio is getting support from congressional Republicans both to the right and left of the average party member. The campaign scored a big coup when it won the support of House Benghazi committee Chairman and Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy, for instance.

Rubio is closing in on Bush’s lead among representatives, senators and governors. Not helping much. He’s still well behind.

Nothing oozes Establishment more than 1996 nominee Bob Dole and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, both of whom back Bush.

In such an anti-establishment year, the support of figures like Cantor — who suffered a humiliating primary defeat in 2014 — can have the opposite effect.

“The Cantor endorsement was not one Bush was probably particularly happy about, at lease form a public standpoint,” said Timothy Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.

Yet most endorsements don’t hurt, and even this year they can help at the margins, analysts say.

Josh Putnam, who teaches political science at the University of Georgia and runs a blog devoted to the primary process, said few voters pick a candidate based on a single endorsement. But he said an accumulation of endorsements typically signals candidate strength.

“In a lot of years, the candidate who is able to get more endorsements usually does better,” he said.

Craig Shirley, who has chronicled Ronald Reagan’s career in several books, said no candidate in modern history has ever won a major party nomination with as little institutional support as Trump. The closest precedent, he said, is Reagan’s insurgent campaign against President Gerald Ford in 1976. Even then, Reagan couldn’t quite pull off the upset.

Hagle said the King endorsement is significant for Cruz in Iowa, both because he is from the state and his immigration record perfectly matches the mood of the Republican electorate this year. He pointed to another key endorsement — social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats. He has endorsed the last two Republican winners in Iowa and is plugged into a large base of voters.

“It is more along the lines of whether that person is going to work on your behalf” rather than just lending their name, Hagle said.

Shirley said well-respected leaders often are more influential for voters than national figures. “The closer the person doing the endorsing is to the people of that state, the more important it is,” he said. “It’s not a household name, but it means something to the people in that state.”

Shirley said timing and the unexpected are crucial. If Trump were to suddenly start picking up endorsements for Establishment figures, he said, that would signal that he is broadening his appeal.

If Rubio eclipses Bush’s endorsements among lawmakers, it could trigger a wave of endorsements that could at least help consolidate his position as the only viable alternative to Trump and Cruz. Unless it doesn’t, according to Wayne Steger, a DePaul University professor.

“There’s no Establishment consensus on any of these candidates,” he said. “They’re mostly undecided … When they divide like that, there’s no signal to donors.”

Buchanan, Schlafly Pound NR Anti-Trump Tirade


Conservative icons say ideological purity less important than leadership

by Brendan Kirby

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan delivered a one-two punch Friday against the National Review, which has used its latest issue to launch a full-scale effort to take out GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

The magazine includes essays from conservative writers who argue that Trump would be a disastrous nominee for president and that he lacks authenticity as a true conservative. Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Friday, Schlafly swatted away those complaints.

“National Review is not the authentic conservative,” said Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum. “You know (magazine founder) Bill Buckley was for giving away the Panama Canal, which was an enormous issue with conservatives. And in 10 years, they never wrote a single article about the Equal Rights Amendment. So they were no help against that. So I don’t recognize National Review as the authority on conservatism.”

Buchanan, who worked in the Reagan White House and ran a pair anti-Establishment races for president in the Republican primaries that resembled Trump’s current campaign, said during a separate appearance on the show that Schlafly’s support for Trump serves as rebuke to the billionaire’s critics.

“She’s the first lady of American conservatism,” he said. “Phyllis Schlafly is a legend to those of us who grew up in the conservative movement.”

Schlafly said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be a good president and noted that many Eagle Forum members support him. But she said Trump is responsible for placing the country’s most important issue — immigration — at the center of the national debate.

“We are just grateful for Trump for bringing out the immigration issue,” she said. “I’m not going to tell you Donald Trump is perfect or right on everything. That’s not my thing at all. I think that immigration is the top issue today. Just look at what’s happened to Europe. And, we don’t want what’s happened in Europe to happen to us.”

Schlafly said she is less concerned about ideological purity and consistency over decades. She said Reagan was imperfect but became the best president of the 20th century. Despite two lopsided off-year victories by the Republican Party in 2010 and 2014, conservatives have precious little to show for it, she said.

“We do respond when (Trump) says he wants to make America great again,” she said. “Yes, we do. Obama didn’t want to make us great again. He wanted to make us like everybody else. We don’t want to be about everyone else. That’s why people came to this country.”

The National Review’s broadside against Trump is like deja vu for Buchanan, who found himself on the cover of the conservative magazine in 2003 labeled an “unpatriotic conservative” for his opposition to the Iraq war. He said the magazine and other Establishment conservative writers are off-base in trying to run Trump out of the Republican presidential race.

“Who designates these people spokesmen for the conservative movement?” Buchanan asked. “I mean, where did that come from? Is there somebody who gave them holy orders or something to be speaking for the conservative movement or conservative cause?”

Craig Shirley, a noted Reagan biographer, said during his own appearance on the show that the magazine is mistaken to hold itself out as the arbiter of the conservative movement.

“National Review is but one voice, not the voice of conservatism,” he said. “Reading people out of the movement is never a good idea — even people who are recent converts or still on an ideological journey, you know, moving from the left to the right.”

Shirley told Ingraham that National Review made a tactical mistake with its anti-Trump issue. Rather than packing all of its punch into a single issue, he said, it would have been more effective to roll out the articles one a time over weeks and months.

“Now, the debate is just about the efficacy of the magazine, should they have done it, and now they’re pulled out of the debate,” he said. “Then, you have the name calling instead of legitimate complaints, or issues, against Donald Trump.”