I liked this column by Charles Krauthammer, offering a corrective to the current gloom in Republican circles about the quality of their presidential field. The party longs for another Reagan, the column points out. Republicans hoped that Fred Thompson might be that man, but what little they have so far seen of Thompson has changed their minds. All the other candidates are gravely flawed in one way or another, or so the party thinks. The column reminds Republican supporters that Reagan was a dozer, a flip-flopper on abortion, a granter of amnesty to illegal immigrants, and that he appointed Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court, whose swing votes "upheld and enshrined Roe v. Wade for the past quarter-century".
The point is not to denigrate Reagan but to bring a little realism to the gauzy idol worship that fuels today's discontent. And to argue that in 2007 we have, by any reasonable historical standard, a fine Republican field: One of the great big-city mayors of the past century; a former governor of extraordinary executive talent; a war hero, highly principled and deeply schooled in national security; and a former senator with impeccable conservative credentials.
The reference to idol worship reminded me of Britain's Conservative Party after Margaret Thatcher. The perpetual disappointment that resulted from holding each new leader to that false standard has been a large part of their problem. On the other hand, think of the leaders that followed her: John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, David Cameron. William Hague (I insist) might have been a good prime minister, and I'll reserve judgment about Cameron. But it was not just "gauzy idol worship" that made the others look bad.
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