George Will Takes on Media’s ‘Ronald Reagan Couldn’t Win in Today’s GOP’ Mantra

“About twenty years after a conservative leaves the scene or dies, he becomes acceptable,” to the media-left, George Will observed on Sunday’s This Week. “They say, if only people were more like Ronald Reagan and that wonderful libertarian curmudgeon Barry Goldwater.” Will recalled: “I worked for Bill Buckley, voted for Barry Goldwater and knew Ronald Reagan and no one talked about them on the left that way at the time.”

Will was responding to Jeb Bush’s media-embraced scolding of the GOP, which George Stephanopoulos helpfully displayed on screen. “Since Ronald Reagan,” Will pointed out, “the Republican Party has given its presidential nomination four times to the Bush family. Other times to Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Where is the extremist in that lot?”

Will bore in: “Now, Jeb Bush’s father is celebrated today for a statesmanship that consisted of breaking the promise he made to the American people of not raising taxes.”

Audio: MP3 clip

ABC’s on-screen heading during the roundtable discussion: “Have Republicans Shifted Rightward?”

(Will echoed Charles Krauthammer, who on Inside Washington noted “every Republican nominee since Reagan has been more liberal than him,” zeroing in on how “the party has just nominated a guy who lives 15 miles to the left of Reagan.”)

Later, responding to some more yammering from panelist Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, Tim Pawlenty zinged:

The discussion always turns to whether the Republican Party has become too extreme. Let’s apply that same analysis to, say, an iconic Democratic leader, John Kennedy -- tax cutting, pro-life, military interventionist. Would he be nominated in the Democratic Party today?

From the June 17 This Week on ABC:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Here’s what Jeb Bush also said in his interview with Bloomberg. He said: “Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding me degree of common ground, as would my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party – and I don’t – as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground.” He’s saying basically they wouldn’t have a place in the modern Republican Party.

GEORGE WILL: Well, let’s look at the facts. Since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has given its presidential nomination four times to the Bush family. Other times to Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Where is the extremist in that lot? Now, Jeb Bush’s father is celebrated today for a statesmanship that consisted of breaking the promise he made to the American people of not raising taxes. The budget deal of 1990, Austan [Goolsbee], because it goes back to something you said, and in the budget deal it was said for every $2 of -- every dollar of tax increase, there’d be $2 of spending cuts. The tax increases went into effect and spending increased.

We go through this all the time. About twenty years after a conservative leaves the scene or dies, he becomes acceptable. They say, if only people were more like Ronald Reagan and that wonderful libertarian curmudgeon Barry Goldwater. And that fine fellow Bill Buckley. I worked for Bill Buckley, voted for Barry Goldwater and knew Ronald Reagan and no one talked about them on the left that way at the time.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center