Thursday, February 10, 2011

UK: Reagan children react to some who claim father's mantle

The Telegraph

article printed in its entirety

Ronald Reagan's children reject Republican claims over his political legacy
The three surviving children of Ronald Reagan have rubbished efforts by Republican presidential hopefuls to claim his mantle as a conservative reformer, branding Sarah Palin "a soap opera".
By Alex Spillius

Celebrations to mark the centenary of the late president's birth have coincided with the need of what critics call a mediocre group of candidates to burnish their reputations to send Reagan-fever jumping to unprecedented levels.

Speaking at a dinner to honour the 40th president, Sarah Palin said she considered herself a "western conservative in the spirit of Ronald Reagan".

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is also considering a run for the White House, compared his Pennsylvania roots to Reagan's in a small town in Illinois and said man who ended the Cold War would have handled the turmoil in Egypt with much more certainty than President Barack Obama. Other potential candidates have lavished praise on Reagan, who died in 2004, and cited him as their chief inspiration.

But asked what she made of Mrs Palin as a potential successor to her father, Patti Davis, Mr Reagan's only surviving daughter, said: "You've got to be kidding me."

Ron Reagan, her younger brother, scoffed: "Sarah Palin has nothing in common with my father. Sarah Palin is a soap opera."

Compared to his father, he said that Mr Gingrich would stand "in some dank little basement somewhere or some fantasy world in his own head".

Even Michael Reagan, easily the most conservative of the three, was unable to draw any favourable parallels between his father and current would-be successors.

"I don't see anyone in Ronald Reagan's image," he told ABC News. "He was one of a kind."

He added; "Everybody's trying to out-Reagan themselves. They're quoting my father, which is wonderful. But they've got to find their own voice and who they are."

The Republican Party's infatuation with the Reagan legacy was evident in the 2008 campaign. But his reputation has now become unassailable for conservatives, who routinely allude to his promotion of smaller government, muscular foreign policy and indefatigable love of America.

Critics have said the excessive reverence for the past points to a lack of identity and uncertainty about the party's direction.

The Reagan siblings disagreed on what their father's view of the Tea Party would have been. Michael, a Republican political consultant who has regularly clashed with Ron, viewed the conservative movement as a natural heir of his father.

Ron, a liberal broadcaster, and Patti, an author, thought he would have regarded the "vitriol" directed at the current White House by elements of the Tea Party as "extreme".

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