President Obama has developed a serious case of man love for Ronald Reagan. He just can't stop talking about him. As longtime friends of Dutch, we have to tell the president: He's just not that into you.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama again pitched his plan to raise taxes on the rich, the so-called "Buffett rule." He likened it to aspects of the Gipper's 1985 tax-overhaul proposal. "If it'll help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice," he said, "we could call it the Reagan rule instead of the Buffett rule." Clearly, the bromance between Barry and Ronnie is alive and well, at least in Mr. Obama's imagination.
As usual, the White House is taking Reagan out of context. His 1985 tax-reform package had nothing in common with the mega-government philosophy at the heart and soul of Mr. Obama's policies. When Reagan saw inequities caused by the tax code, he sought to limit them, not make them worse. If a boss paid a lower effective tax rate than his secretary, the Gipper's answer was not to raise the boss's taxes but to lower the secretary's. "Lower, flatter tax rates will give Americans more confidence in the future," Reagan said in the same speech Mr. Obama quoted. Funny how he missed that passage.
Mr. Obama would never be happy with the whole Reagan package. Like anyone suffering from puppy love, he overlooks many flaws. The Gipper was a small-government, tax-cutting, pro-defense president who inspired a generation of Americans with his optimistic vision for America. Liberals hate that. Reagan also warned about the drive for nationalized health care being part of the liberal agenda to force socialism on Americans. But the way things are going, the White House may soon start shamelessly referring to Obamacare as Reagancare.
Reagan is a strange fixation for Mr. Obama, who has a number of more party-appropriate predecessors. He could lavish praise on Bill Clinton, for example, or even better, Jimmy Carter. He could embrace the popular notion that he is serving out Mr. Carter's second term. If Mr. Obama put his information into Match.com, he'd be looking at Mr. Carter's online profile faster than you can say "malaise."
Yet his crush on Reagan is all about forbidden fruit. It's Mr. Obama's walk on the supply side. He knows he shouldn't, but he has a burning case of growth envy. Reagan went into his fourth year in office with the economy growing at a robust 7 percent, compared to Mr. Obama's 1.3 percent.
The White House can recycle stock speeches about the American dream or say Mr. Obama is the embodiment of American exceptionalism, but his actions demonstrate that he has a jaded view of the country. With Reagan, those words meant something positive and compelling. Mr. Obama speaks from the teleprompter; the Gipper spoke from the heart.
Mr. Obama should go back to giving hugs to people like his radical Harvard law professor Derrick Bell. It's a much better fit.
The Washington Times
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