- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

President Bush yesterday honored former President Ronald Reagan on his 91st birthday, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle criticized the former president's tax cuts and downplayed his role in winning the Cold War.
Mr. Daschle was one of several congressional Democrats who complained that Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush both cut taxes and caused deficits. Four Democrats even refused to support a joint congressional resolution wishing Mr. Reagan a happy birthday.
House Republicans said such criticism was unseemly on the day when Mr. Reagan, who is ravaged by Alzheimer's disease, reached an age unattained by any other president. They passed the birthday resolution proclaiming the former president "is loved and admired by millions of Americans."
Mr. Bush sat at his Oval Office desk, which was once used by Mr. Reagan, and signed a bill designating the former president's boyhood home in Illinois a national monument. Later, during a trip to New York, Mr. Bush invoked Mr. Reagan's name while touting his beefed-up military budget.
"It is the largest increase since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose 91st birthday we celebrate today," Mr. Bush said. "His budgets helped rebuild the military power of the United States, and for that, our nation should be grateful.
"Well, what was true in his day is true today," he added. "Whatever it costs to defend our security and whatever it costs to defend our freedom, we must pay it."
But Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, struggled to find something nice to say about the nation's oldest former president. Asked to comment on Mr. Reagan's legacy, Mr. Daschle told reporters "it's too early" to evaluate the presidency that ended in 1989.
"We'll let historians judge that," he said. "It's not been that long."
The nation's top elected Democrat said there are "clearly parallels" between the Reagan presidency of 1981-89 and the current Bush administration.
"We are repeating in many cases the same mistakes made in 1981 and '82," Mr. Daschle said. "I fear that we are going to see deficits every bit as large as the ones created in 1982 and for exactly the same reasons. So from that perspective, there is a parallel that is very disappointing. We shouldn't repeat the mistakes of history, and that's exactly what I think we're doing."
Asked again if he could think of any accomplishments by Mr. Reagan, Mr. Daschle equivocated.
"I think that he certainly deserves some credit for the end of the Cold War," he said. "It was on his watch."
But then he qualified that praise.
"A lot of what was done in the 1980s, I think could be attributed to decisions made not only by the Reagan administration, but in the Carter administration and previous ones," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Daschle's comments were echoed by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, New York Democrat, who complained on the House floor that one of Mr. Reagan's first acts as president "was to offer a major tax cut for the most affluent people" that led to budget deficits.
"We find ourselves at this moment facing a very similar situation," Mr. Hinchey said.
But Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said Mr. Reagan was responsible for laying the groundwork for the booming economy of the 1990s and for winning the Cold War. Perhaps more importantly, he said, Mr. Reagan "made America feel good and positive about itself again."
The resolution by Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, credits Mr. Reagan and his wife, Nancy, for restoring "the great, confident roar of American progress, growth and optimism" and ensuring renewed economic prosperity.
"His leadership was instrumental in extending freedom and democracy around the globe and uniting a world divided by the Cold War," Mr. Cox said.
The House approved the joint resolution 408-0, with four Democrats voting "present." They were Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and Pete Stark, Barbara Lee and Diane Watson, all of California.
The Senate passed the resolution by unanimous consent on a voice vote.


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