Friday, February 26, 2010

Reagan's Conservative Credentials

The debate over whether Reagan can really represent today's conservative movement scratches on. Will Bunch's efforts to provide liberals with, if not claims on Reagan's image, antidotes to its conservative representation, have had some effect. Here, a Florida journalist restates the case, prompting a native veteran of the adminsitration to write in with a grouchy rebuttal.

More curiously, Glenn Beck has adopted the idea. In a USA Today interview, Beck claimed: "I’ve always said I was a Reagan-style conservative. But I don’t think Reagan was a real Republican. He just maintained some shared values." That Beck is willing to use the image while remaining sceptical of it makes me like him a little more, strangely.

David Jenkins at the Frum Forum picked up on this, but responded more to Beck's rejection of Teddy Roosevelt at CPAC this month. This is the plot thickening, as a moderate conservative attacks the Tea Party hero for excluding Reagan from the movement. Jenkins is vice-president of Repulicans for Environmental Protection, and in a letter to the Washington Post made one of the most interesting contributions to the debate so far - that Reagan saved the ozone layer.

Today, our ozone layer is healing because Reagan took prudent and decisive action to address the threat based on the best available science at the time. He did not wring his hands and wait for evidential certainty that might have come too late. Reagan understood that to be a true conservative, you also have to be a good steward -- a fact that those who claim to be emulating him today seem to have forgotten.

It is a portrait that chimes with Reagan's commitment to SDI - a faith in the reality of future threats, and an attitude to science that combined blithe confidence with a lack of interest in "evidential certainty".

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