Published on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Bush Continues on Reagan's Rightward Path -- and Then Some
by Helen Thomas
The late President Reagan left a legacy -- the Reagan Revolution -- that turned the country to the right, where it remains today.
I thought conservatives never had it so good as they did with Reagan, but it turns out that the Bush administration has been even kinder to those on the far right.
Compared with the present administration, Reagan almost seemed "moderate" at times, with his mix of conservative aides offset by a few others in the administration, such as the even-handed James A. Baker, who served as his chief of staff.
Bush's hard-line advisers and strategists convinced him that the United States could unilaterally call the foreign policy shots for the rest of the world and ignore our traditional allies because of America's global military supremacy.
This led to Bush's pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and his self-proclaimed desire to be known as a "war president."
Reagan tolerated other points of view. The 40th president was often pictured -- incorrectly -- as set in concrete with his ideas. In reality, he showed himself to be a much more pragmatic and flexible politician, unlike the incumbent.
Bush views Reagan as his political role model -- more so that his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
The president has gone further than Reagan in proselytizing his conservative ideology. Reagan railed against "big government," but Bush has outdone him by privatizing parts of Medicare, the Civil Service system and Social Security.
Bush has less patience than Reagan had with those who disagree with him. There is a touch of religious righteousness in this president that Reagan would never embrace. Bush told author Bob Woodward that he is guided by "a higher father."
Reagan, on the other hand, kept his religion to himself, except when he survived an assassination attempt on his life in 1981. Then he said he felt the hand of God was on his shoulder "for a higher purpose."
Reagan sprinkled his administration with dedicated tax cutters who shared his strong conviction that government was the problem, not the solution. Bush has made tax cuts for the richest people in the country an article of his political faith.
Although Bush put a "compassionate" prefix before his conservatism, neither he nor Reagan deviated much from the philosophy of social Darwinism, meaning if you can't make it, tough.
Reagan was the first leader to demonize the word "liberal" and often spoke it with a hiss. Bush has followed suit in the denigration of liberals.
Reagan grew up in the New Deal era when government programs sprouted to help the disadvantaged. During his early Hollywood days, as a liberal and a Democrat, Reagan served six terms as head of the Screen Actors Guild.
But something happened on his way to the California governorship and, eventually, to the White House that turned Reagan toward conservatism. He changed his party affiliation to Republican.
During the 1980 presidential campaign, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) was the first labor union to announce its support of the Reagan candidacy.
No sentimentalist, Reagan fired 13,000 air controllers who had gone on strike in 1981.
Bush also has been militantly anti-labor, as evidenced by his campaign to change federal law to eliminate overtime pay for thousands of workers.
Both presidents ignored billowing budget deficits to meet their conservative domestic and foreign policy goals, including deregulation and enormous escalations of military spending.
Both Reagan and Bush had a choice biblical word for those not in sync with them. They are "evil."
Bush tosses around the word "evil" with evangelical fervor.
Reagan branded the former Soviet Union as the "evil empire" and helped its demise by bankrupting the economically strapped Soviets with a trillion-dollar arms race.
As president, Reagan turned the country to the right. Bush has zealously pushed it even farther down that road.
©1996-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer