Obama and the Democrats have been eager lately to compare their “messiah” with Ronald Reagan. How they can do this and simultaneously decry him is of course a paradox only the Democrats can get away with. But since Obama is so eager to channel the Gipper, perhaps a comparison of the two bears examination.
Actually, there are a few similarities between them. Both ran on the promise of economic change and both inherited economies that were in the throes of a recession, in part caused by the policies of their predecessors. However, while the state of the economy may have been similar upon their respective inaugurations, that is about as far as the similarities go. The attitudes of Obama and Reagan could not be more different.
Reagan, of course, campaigned against the ineptitude of Jimmy Carter and his spending policies, blaming him, and rightfully so, for the economic woes of the time period. Unlike Obama though, once he stepped into office, Reagan actually took action to fulfill his campaign promises. He did not merely endlessly whine about Carter’s policies and their detrimental effect on the economy, nor did he blame economic headwinds. Rather, Reagan took action- cutting taxes, increasing work incentives and deregulating the economy. As a result of this, according to the Heritage Foundation, the GDP grew a total of 35.7% between 1983 and 1990. Obama on the other hand, continues to advocate massively expensive, intrusive New Deal reminiscent policies, despite the fact that such programs were not successful for FDR. And when, unsurprisingly, they haven’t worked either this time, all he can do is complain about economic head winds, and of course, blame Bush.
Economic policies aside, the attitudes with which Reagan and Obama have approached their presidency are also polar opposites. Reagan’s personality is perhaps chiefly what makes him so memorable and endearing, even to those of us who were not alive during his presidency. He had the ability to do what most politicians cannot- make fun of himself, and even his opponents without anyone taking serious offense. But despite his lighthearted manner, he still was very much a respected figure of authority and could take charge of a situation. Unlike Reagan, who famously said, in response to a question about his own age, that he wouldn’t take advantage of Walter Mondale’s youth and inexperience, Obama lacks the ability to joke about himself and position, and he certainly doesn’t treat his opponents with the same respect Reagan did. Obama has even called the Republicans enemies in the past, and despite the media’s promise to take more responsibility in eliminating so called ‘violent rhetoric’ from the public stage, he and his administration have had no harsh words when members of his own party have called Republicans terrorists and Nazis.
So maybe next time Obama gets up to speak before the nation, he can take a moment to conjure up the image of the man he supposedly is emulating, and speak with a grin on his face, a joke in his heart, and the knowledge that he alone is responsible for the actions of his administration, because in the words of the great Gipper himself “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”