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Reagan Junior Warns Bush: 'Stop Hijacking My Father's Reputation'
Published on Sunday, September 26, 2004 by The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
Reagan Junior Warns Bush: 'Stop Hijacking My Father's Reputation'
In an exclusive interview, the son of the Gipper brands the current Republican leader an opportunist and a cheat but fears Kerry has shot himself in the foot
by Jenifer Johnston
 

He's a hypocrite. He "plays farm" on his ranch. He cheated to get to the White House. He lied about Iraq, and used national grief from September 11 to his own advantage.

Those are the kind of criticisms the left has levelled at President Bush for months, but just 37 days before the election, those accusations are coming from Ron Reagan - the son of one of America's most revered Republican presidents.

In an exclusive interview, Reagan has spoken frankly to the Sunday Herald about his anger and deep resentment of the Bush administration for "hijacking" his father's legacy through the campaign.

Ronald Reagan, who was president between 1981 and 1989, died, aged 93, in June after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. George W Bush's father, George, served as Reagan's vice-president.

The present Bush team have recruited several of Reagan's presidential aides and speechwriters to the 2004 campaign. But Ron Reagan accused Bush of trying to re-invent himself in the mould of his father, who was near-idolised in the US as an immensely strong president in the face of the cold-war threat.

Reagan said: "This administration will use whatever they can - they will try to hijack that legacy, they will pretend that Mr Bush is the reincarnation of my father. I don't feel terribly happy about that; I certainly don't remember Bush being at any Thanksgiving dinners.

"I don't know Mr Bush well, but from what I can gather, he's nothing like my father as a man."

Ironically, Reagan says he sometimes finds Bush "amusing, when you see pictures of him on his ranch with his little chainsaw as if he actually does any work there".

Reagan, a broadcaster and writer, told the Sunday Herald that he is determined to speak out about the tactics of the Bush administration in this election campaign - especially when viewed against the struggle of the 2000 result.

He said: "The reality of this administration is so ugly that most Americans, even those who are more or less opposed to the administration, really don't want to come to grips with that.

"This is an administration that has cheated to get into the White House. It's not something Americans ever want to think about their government. My sense of these people is that they don't have any respect for the public at large. They have a revolutionary mindset. I think they feel that anything they can do to prevail - lie, cheat, whatever - is justified by their revolutionary aims."

Although confirming he has no ambition to stand for political office himself, Reagan admitted that his address to the Democratic convention in July raised eyebrows, not least with his family.

"I wouldn't want to be a politician, because politicians are constrained in what they can say. My mother probably gets a little nervous if I'm too rough on George Bush - I mean, she has to speak to these people every once in a while. But she knows I have to speak my conscience."

His conscience drives Reagan to campaign on a single, personal issue - stem cell research.

The Bush administration is firmly against it, so stem cell research receives just $25 million in federal funding and has evolved into a political hot potato . Reagan's convention speech received a standing ovation, in tune with public opinion that shows three quarters of Americans favour more stem cell research. But Republicans and the Christian right (a considerable voting force in the US) continue to brand it immoral and equate it with abortion .

"This is an issue that has become extremely divisive in American society," he said. "They always say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged - well, I wonder how they would feel if a child or a loved one developed diabetes or Parkinson's, and then see where they lie on the debate. Most people have no difficulty in choosing between a petri dish and a human being."

Even the first lady Laura Bush has been tasked with opposing it - despite her own father dying, like Reagan Sr, after a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer's . She stated last month: "To hear people say that a cure for Alzheimer's is at our fingertips is just not right."

Reagan has a sharp reply to her assertion. "If Laura Bush went back and did her homework, she would see that nobody thinks there is a cure around the corner for Alzheimer's.

"Diabetes, Parkinson's and spinal injuries will come first in the search for therapies. It was thought that stem cell research would help Alzheimer's, but it's clear other things will come first. Mrs Bush was either uninformed or disingenuous in her comments, but perhaps, with federal funding, we could address the issue properly."

In the run-up to polling day on November 2, Reagan will be keeping an eye on the three key television debates pitting Kerry against Bush in front of the nation for the first time.

Reagan is quietly hopeful of a Kerry comeback , but is realistic about the impact the media has on the campaign. "Kerry has made a slight comeback in the polls, but it doesn't really matter how many people watch the debates. When Gore and Bush debated four years ago, Gore did a better job, but the press focused on his mannerisms and his make-up and ignored Bush's lies. The American media is not healthy.

"I do think Kerry has an uphill battle on his hands, and it's of his own making. He made a huge mistake in saying: ‘If we knew what we know now, we would not have gone to war.' He should have come out forcefully and said he made a mistake about the war in the first instance."

The war in Iraq, and the Bush administration's attitude after September 11, are viewed by Reagan as "terrible".

"September 11 was a huge opportunity for the Bush administration. When you read accounts of insiders who were close to the top of the administration on September 11, it's shocking. Within hours of this terrible atrocity they were looking for opportunities to take advantage of it. They turned it into a situation where they could attack Saddam, who had nothing to do with September 11. This wasn't a wake-up call for them."

In a recent book called Five Minutes With The President, for which Reagan wrote the foreword, he called on Bush to look into his heart and ask what kind of Christian he really is. He told the Sunday Herald that he would like to hammer home to Bush the consequences of his actions.

"I would ask him whether he felt that the innocent Iraqis and Afghans who died under our bombs were going to heaven as he imagines it. I think the answer to that would be very telling about Mr Bush's character and his outlook on the world."

Reagan lives with a constant legacy of his father - in name, but also in his strong sense of right and wrong . The world-wide grief and mourning for his father is something he found "gratifying ".

Despite being at opposite ends of the political spectrum, does he think his father would have been proud of him?

"I hope my father would be proud. All I'm trying to do is lend my name and voice to what I see as an unaligned good cause. I hope that he would be supportive of that. I have no reason to believe that he wouldn't be."

© Copyright newsquest (sunday herald) limited

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