Monday, May 14, 2012

Former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel: Reagan would reject Tea Party politics

Tea Party folks often invoke Ronald Wilson Reagan as their political god. The Gipper is their Messiah.

And in these troubled times -- they are very troubled about the Obamas occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue-- they want another Great White Hope.

Only trouble is...

Reagan -- who has reached mythological levels that exceed Mount Rushmore -- is the standard-bearer for the modern conservative (oxymoron alert). So, by extension, Reagan would be enthralled by the harsh right turn of the Tea Party led GOP; he would fully sanction this movement under his namesake. Right?

No so fast, says former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel -- he joins the chorus of GOP old guards who are greatly alarmed by the direction of their party. Hagel states:

The Republican Party has drifted so far to the right and become so partisan in recent years that President Ronald Reagan wouldn't even want to be a part of it, former Nebraska GOP senatorChuck Hagel told The Cable.
"Reagan would be stunned by the party today," Hagel said in a long interview in his office at Georgetown University, where he now teaches. He also serves as co-chair of President Barack Obama's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Reagan wanted to do away with nuclear weapons, raised taxes, made deals with congressional Democrats, sought compromises and consensus to fix problems, and surrounded himself with moderates as well as Republican hard-liners, Hagel noted. None of that is characterized by the current GOP leadership, he said. In his eyes, the rise of the Tea Party and the influx of new GOP lawmakers in Congress have driven the party away from common sense and consensus-based solutions.
"Reagan wouldn't identify with this party. There's a streak of intolerance in the Republican Party today that scares people. Intolerance is a very dangerous thing in a society because it always leads to a tragic ending," he said. "Ronald Reagan was never driven by ideology. He was a conservative but he was a practical conservative. He wanted limited government but he used government and he used it many times. And he would work with the other party."
The situation today is similar to where the GOP found itself in the early 1950s, when there was a battle for the direction of the party over the party's identity, Hagel said. Dwight Eisenhower and his moderate allies won that fight, diminishing the influence of extremists like Joe McCarthy, Hagel said.
But today, the extremists are winning.
"Now the Republican Party is in the hands of the right, I would say the extreme right, more than ever before," said Hagel. "You've got a Republican Party that is having difficulty facing up to the fact that if you look at what happened during the first 8 years of the century, it was under Republican direction."
George W. Bush started two wars while cutting taxes, added an unfunded prescription drug mandate, and ran up the deficit, but today's GOP leaders can't reconcile that history with their agenda today, Hagel noted.
"The Republican Party is dealing with this schizophrenia. It was the Republican leadership that got us into this mess," he said. "If Nixon or Eisenhower were alive today, they would be run out of the party."
Hagel decried the departure of the World War II generation, including figures like Ted Stevens,Bob Dole, and now Richard Lugar, and along with them the leadership provided by GOP senators who put national interests above party politics.
"They made it work because their obligation and responsibility was to a higher cause than their party. They were all partisan but they all knew their higher responsibility was to move this country forward and resolve issues through compromise and consensus. We've lost that glue in the Congress."


  1. I do not agree. I was around for Reagan and now the Tea Party, and I do not think that he would reject the Tea Party. He would find a way to work with them. Reagan was OK at cutting taxes, but could never get spending cut.

  2. I do not want to put words in your mouth nor assume, so I am simply asking:
    Would Reagan demonize fellow GOP politicians -- by calling them RINO's -- that do not pass a purity test?
    Would Reagan call fellow GOP politicians traitors for working with the other party?
    Would Reagan threaten shut-down government if he did not get 100% of his proposals in to a bill?
    Would Reagan never consider any increase revenue even when the country needed it?
    Would Reagan place ideology purity over sound governance?
    Would Reagan place partisan and party politics over the welfare of country?
    Just asking...because the person that stated the above was not just around when Reagan was president, Chuck Hagel was a member of Reagan's administration. Likewise, other Republicans like Richard Lugar, Bob Dole, Joe Scarborough, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins and Ted Stevens etc. have voiced similar opinions about the intolerance and extremism of the Tea Party.

  3. benjamin....You are a very good thinker, and you are good at politics (a dirty profession). Reagan would have never done any of those 6 things, but that was NOT the focus of your post. You suggested that Reagan would have rejected the Tea Party. You used Chuck Hagel as cover for your suggestion.
    I would suggest that both Chuck Hagel and you are wrong. Reagan was very clever (like you) and crafty, and he would have found a way to work with the Tea Party to get what HE wanted. By the time the Tea Party realized that they had been had, the vote would be taken. Even with all of Reagan's skills even he could not get spending cut. He got taxes cut, but not spending. Our wonderful Country is headed toward a clift and it will be up to you and your generation to fix the problems.

  4. You are too kind in complimenting my political But thank you for helping me clarify and amplify Mr. Hagel's point. As you state:

    "Reagan was very clever (like you) and crafty, and he would have found a way to work with the Tea Party to get what HE wanted. By the time the Tea Party realized that they had been had, the vote would be taken."

    That my friend is a form of rejecting Tea Party politics -- he would have cleverly (I agree) co-opted them into his way of thinking.

    Politicians need votes, consequently, Reagan would appeal to them and metaphorically speaking, sanded their rough edges. However, he would -- in my opinion -- caved in to their way of thinking. He after all was the master of communication -- even if you disagreed with his policies.

  5. To quote the infamous Texas gov. Rick Perry: ooops, I meant to say Reagan would not cave in the the Tea Party way of thinking.