“What do you think of the continuing feud between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan?” a friend of mine asked over Memorial Day weekend as he walked over my lawn and joined me on the front porch.
“Amazing!” I replied.
“I think it is utterly unprecedented!” he exclaimed.
“What a person views as “unprecedented” is sometimes shaped more by one’s age or historical knowledge than by objective reality,” I noted as I waved my visitor toward a seat and poured him some wine.
“Well, does Trump or Ryan more accurately represent the true Reagan heritage?” he demanded to know as he grabbed the wine and settled into a chair.
I took another sip of wine to fortify myself and launched into an explanation of my own perspective.
“The notion,” I intoned, “that Reagan was universally acclaimed as the statesmanlike exemplar of Republican and/or Conservative values and principles during his own day can only lodge itself inside the head of a person who was politically unaware back in Reagan’s day — or has never studied the period.”
“And I suppose you were aware back then, or have studied it extensively?” my friend asked.
“Both,” I confessed. Then I plowed on. “Back in the day Reagan’s character was routinely questioned. After all Reagan had been married and divorced and then remarried. People today don’t bat an eye at such behavior – but it was scandalous back then in some quarters. Then, too, I can vividly remember one of my Aunts — who happened to be a yellow dog Democrat from Alabama — lecturing me on how anyone who actually voted for Reagan was apt to burn in the fires of hell. My Aunt’s coterie had noticed that “Ronald Wilson Reagan” had 6 letters in each of his names and that “666” was the mark of the Beast. She far preferred the preacher-like Jimmy Carter and his lovely wife Rosalynn.”
“Oh C’mon,” my friend exclaimed, “That is sheer nonsense. Nobody ever believed Reagan was the Anti-Christ.”
“Wait, there is more,” I laughed, “We mustn’t forget John Anderson, the Republican US Congressman from the Rockford, Illinois area (who served as the Number 3 man in the Republican House Caucus). In 1980 Anderson left the Republican Party and ran for President as an Independent against Reagan.”
“Why did Anderson run against Reagan?” my friend wanted to know, “didn’t he realize Reagan was the real deal?”
“Congressman Anderson perceived the exemplary nature of his own character and principles so clearly that other politicians, with what he perceived to be less exemplary characters and principles, paled in comparison – particularly Ronald Wilson Reagan, who Anderson perceived to be an unprincipled blackguard,” I suggested, with a sly sort of grin.
We both laughed uproariously. Honest to goodness when politicians start talking about “virtue” and “principles” and their sterling “character” it is just a bit too much – particularly around Memorial Day. On such a weekend we should reflect on our own imperfections and honor those who have given their lives for our country.
“Maybe there is something in the water in the Rockford, Beloit, Janesville area that shapes the perspectives of past and present US Representatives like John Anderson, Adam Kinzinger, and Paul Ryan,” my friend speculated.
“Who knows?” I wondered. I am still wondering.
— Mobley is president of Thiensville.