A common media theme since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in January 2011 has been that former President Ronald Reagan and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill were great legislative partners despite being from different parties.
Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan threw some cold water on this notion on PBS’s McLaughlin Group Friday saying, “There’s a lot of myth about Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan working together. They did not" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
PAT BUCHANAN: There’s a lot of myth about Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan working together. They did not. Ronald Reagan…
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: You saw the pictures.
BUCHANAN: They did not. Look, in Reagan’s first term, you know who he worked with? He had a Republican Senate by ten votes, and he had a Democratic House that had 40 guys in it called Blue Dog Democrats and Danny Rostenkowski of Chicago.
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Yep, yep.
BUCHANAN: These are the guys he worked with on his economic package. I went into the White House in 1985, John. Reagan had won 49 states, and they beat him again and again on Contra Aid. He fought for it, he finally got that through. We had to fight to get the MX missile through. And in ’87 when the Democrats took over the Senate…
MCLAUGHLIN: What’s the point?
BUCHANAN: The point is when the Democrats took over the Senate, they not only Borked Robert Bork, they almost got Ronald Reagan attempted to impeach him. The point here is we had Democrats for six years in that House we could work with, and Tip O’Neill was not the leader of that Democratic Party.
MCLAUGHLIN: I’m not talking about some zero sum game. I’m saying that all things considered he had remarkable success in dealing with Democrats.
BUCHANAN: He had, no he didn’t.
MCLAUGHLIN: De facto success he did. I just showed the record.
BUCHANAN: He had success in bringing the Blue Dogs whose Congressional districts he carried by huge margins.
BUCHANAN: They came with him. The rest of the Democrats fought him every single year.
For myself, I've often wondered whether this supposed love affair between Reagan and O'Neill was a media exaggeration.
My recollection of that period was that the Democrats and their press minions fought Reagan much as they did George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Today, with a Democratic President and a Republican Speaker, it furthers the liberal agenda to make it seem that Reagan and O'Neill were such great legislative partners.
By this illusion assuming Buchanan is right - and I for one view Buchanan's historical acumen on this issue as beyond reproach - it puts pressure on current Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) to acquiesce to President Obama's wishes.
I wouldn't be surprised if years from now the media claim George W. Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were bosom buddies too.