One of the hazards of trying to claim the mantle of a great man who is only fairly recently departed from the scene is that he still has family and friends around to set you straight. Donald Trump should remember that the next time he tries to insinuate that he's anything like Ronald Reagan or has anything like Reagan's approach to politics, leadership or conservatism. Don't take my word for it; listen to Reagan's son Michael.
The younger Reagan, himself a popular conservative author and talk radio personality, took to the pages of that venerable New Hampshire institution, the Manchester Union-Leader, on Tuesday to remind New Hampshire voters that The Donald is nothing like the man they set on the path to the Presidency with his primary victory in 1980:
Starting with his 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech that galvanized Americans for Barry Goldwater, dad began a 16-year effort of crisscrossing America to support conservative candidates for office. My dad also served eight years as California’s governor. When he ran for President, he had a proven conservative track record.
Donald Trump doesn’t have one. In fact, Trump still can’t explain his sudden change from being a liberal Democrat. When dad ran in 1980, Trump donated the maximum amount to Jimmy Carter. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Trump also donated to a PAC for Walter Mondale, who ran against dad in 1984.Trump has criticized some candidates for their indiscretions made during their childhood. But what can you say for a grown adult who supported both Carter and Mondale over Ronald Reagan?
One of my dad’s most important lessons to me was how to uncover a phony. He told me not to judge people by what they say; judge them by what they actually do. As President, dad used this “trust but verify” principle on the Soviets and it worked. Voters today should apply Reagan’s verify principle on Trump.
There's much more where that came from, but his point about judging actions rather than just words is crucial, and why Republican primary voters - even those inclined towards younger candidates like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz - should look at the candidates' records and not just listen to their rhetoric. When you do that, you see that far more than any experienced politician in the race, Trump is all talk, nothing but talk, having done nothing for any conservative cause or goal in his almost 70 years on this earth.
Ellen Carmichael sat down with Michael Reagan to talk further about the op-ed:
I thought people need to hear it from a Reagan. This man is not a Reaganite. Republicans have to make a choice: if you want to be a Trump Republican, be a Trump Republican. But don’t put Ronald Reagan in the mix. You’re either a Trump Republican or a Reagan Republican.
...Name one person Trump has helped get elected. Name a Republican he’s gone out and given a speech for to help them get elected. You can’t. You can’t find one. Name one Lincoln Dinner, one Reagan dinner, one fundraiser for the Republican Party?
Where has he put his money? With Hillary Clinton. With Rahm Emmanuel. With Jimmy Carter. With Walter Mondale. It’s interesting you don’t see many Republican names on the board of who he donates to. What about the lifting to help the party win? He hasn’t done anything.
And the younger Reagan is deeply skeptical of those voices piping up for Trump, even the son of one of President Reagan's old allies:
What do you make of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s comparison of Trump to your father?
At some point, I say ‘Follow the money.’” What’s going on here? To equate that his father would support Donald Trump over Mike Huckabee, a devout Christian and preacher? There are some other players out here.
What you’re seeing here is people climbing on board with the person they believe is going to win the nomination, and I think Jerry Falwell’s son fell into that group. There’s nothing that Trump believes that would go along with the teachings of Liberty University.
So, follow the money. Is there a huge donation coming [from Trump to Liberty University]? Falwell believes Trump will win the presidency, and he wants to be on the right side of history. His father was on the right side. But, he and Ronald Reagan had an agreement on most every issue known to mankind. So, I was absolutely floored by it, like everyone else was. I don’t think it’s going to help Falwell.
Of course, there's always one way Trump could imitate Reagan. A week before the Iowa Caucuses, Reagan had a 9 point lead in the Iowa polls, and skipped the last debate before Iowa to move ahead to New Hampshire. He ended up losing Iowa to George H.W. Bush. Taking Iowa for granted was a lesson Reagan never forgot. Trump may yet need to be taught it.