PART 1 of 3
There was once a president who when he came into office issued a freeze on federal hiring and new regulations, imposed restrictions on immigration and refugees, increased military spending and, nearly brought us to war, so the critics said, with his rhetoric.
He nominated cabinet secretaries and department heads who had a background that were in direct contrast to the mission of these agencies and embraced the policies of traditional values and pro-life groups, including some who opposed gay rights.
He was denounced in the press, by Hollywood and of course liberal activists and the universities. There was growing fear that a right-wing dictatorship was taking hold in the country, that the poor and handicapped were sidelined, and that we were on the brink of engaging in a nuclear that this president at one time said was “winnable.” Protests abounded in the streets.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, but this is not President Donald Trump we are talking about, but Ronald Wilson Reagan.
Like Trump, Reagan came into office in 1981 as an anti-Washington, outsider; a “disruptor.” The status quo would not work, he said, as “government is the problem, not the solution.”
This is the first of three parts analyzing some of the striking similarities between the two presidents – in terms of their entree into office.
In this piece we will look at foreign policy and immigration. So, let’s look at the comparisons:
FOREIGN POLICY: Reagan’s early actions identified the Soviet Union as the “focus of evil in the modern world” and his support for larger defense budgets were a means to achieve the end of communism, not its co-existence. For Trump, the No. 1 enemy is “radical Islamic terrorism,” and he seeks similar tools to bring ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other groups to their knees
As such, they took on the “establishment” view of how foreign policy should be. Anyone remember ‘détente’?
But Reagan had a rocky time in his first term and much of his second, especially in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal.
Fear mongering about the nuclear buildup among the Left was worldwide. If one goes to YouTube and does a search on “anti-Reagan demonstrations,” you will see violent protests in West Berlin when he visited in 1982. We only remember the historic and passionate 1987 “tear down this wall speech,” but in the early 1980s because Reagan supported the placement of medium-range cruise missiles in Europe, he was reviled. In Germany, France, Belgium and even Britain.
At home, protests occurred around the nation in 1982 about the nuclear build up. A YouTube video of the massive Central Park rally shows a number of leftists using vile language to describe Reagan.
Had Reagan caved to the liberals and given them their nuclear freeze, it is possible the Soviet Empire would still have lasted well into the 1990s and beyond.
And, there were scandals, too – like the payola with General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division and the famous $600 toilet seat.
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was derided by the media and Democrat critics as “Star Wars” since it involved futuristic laser warfare in space to shoot down Soviet missiles. SDI was derided as yet another Regan fantasy what was unworkable, but it led to the historic 1987 Reykjavik treaty with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev which reduced the missile threat. Many of SDI’s technologies proved workable in later years.
However, after his term, communism in Europe fell and with it came the liberation of some 500 million people.
DICTATORS: Like Trump, Reagan was accused of favoring certain dictators the way Trump is accused of being cozy and mollifying Vladimir Putin. Reagan scuttled the Carter Human Rights policy to work with Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, “Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti and also strongmen in Taiwan, South Korea and Guatemala to fight communism. But in 1986, his administration stood back and let both Marcos and Duvalier fall and go into exile, and not in the U.S.
REFUGEES & IMMIGRATION: Reagan had a bigger refugee crisis to deal with than Trump. Around 127,000 Cubans and 40,000 Haitians came by makeshift boat to U.S. shores after 1980’s “Mariel Boatlift.”
Cuban refugees were still housed in camps in Florida when Reagan entered office. Fidel Castro opened his jails and mental institutions and let those people go to the U.S. Reagan had to institute a form of “vetting” to determine who would stay and who would go back.
Liberals excoriated Reagan for allowing Cuban refugees in on political asylum grounds but not allowing the same for Haitians and many Central Americans escaping the “death squads.” He was accused of racism, as more Cubans were white.
During the 1980s, some 800,000 Central Americans came into the U.S. illegally, which was one impetus for the 1986 Simpson-Mazzolli immigration law (which, frankly, did not do what it was intended).
And so, Trump, today, is faced with the same knee-jerk, liberal reaction to his plans to limit refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations and secure the border of Mexico with a “big beautiful wall.”
Coming tomorrow, Part 2: Trump’s early actions on deregulation and taxes elicit the same liberal reaction that Reagan’s did.