Reagan Bombs the Reagan Test

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Michael Steele's GOP Purity Test, dubbed "The Reagan Resolution," outlines 10 "conservative principles" ostensibly central to the GOP's agenda. While many Republicans have warily steered clear of the test, it has stood up for many as an ideal of conservative perfection.

But would Ronald Reagan, the test's namesake icon, pass? The Atlantic's Michael Kinsley and the Daily Beast's Peter Beinhart both say no. Each columnist tests Reagan's executive record against the 10 "conservative principles," and both find the former president in violation of more than two (the pass/fail cutoff). A few of Reagan's "failures" particularly stand out:

  • Smaller Government  Beinhart homes in on the first principle: "'smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes.' Let's take those from the top. Smaller government: Federal employment grew by 61,000 during Reagan's presidency--in part because Reagan created a whole new cabinet department, the department of veterans affairs. (Under Bill Clinton, by contrast, federal employment dropped by 373,000). Smaller deficits and debt: Both nearly tripled on Reagan's watch. Lower taxes: Although Reagan muscled through a major tax cut in 1981, he followed up by raising taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986."
  • Illegal Immigration  Beinhart also finds Reagan wanting on principle five: "Reaganite candidates must 'oppos[e] amnesty for illegal immigrants.' Really? Because if you look up the word "amnesty" in Black's Law Dictionary, you'll find a reference to the 1986 bill that Reagan signed, which ended up granting amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants."
  • Opposing Gun Restrictions  Kinsley digs up an old Reagan op-ed: "In 1991, after leaving office, Reagan wrote (or at least signed) a New York Times op-ed urging his successor, George H.W. Bush, to sign the Brady Bill, a gun control law named for Reagan's first press secretary, who was badly injured in John Hinckley's assassination attempt on Reagan." As Kinsley concludes: "Good thing Chairman Steele made the whole thing voluntary. It would be sad to think that the Republican Party no longer has room for Ronald Reagan."
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