Former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett (UT), who lost his seat to a far-right primary challenger after holding it for over a decade, slammed the tea party in an interview with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren Friday. Saying the tea party movement “cost the Republicans control of the Senate,” Bennett warned Republicans to “be careful” about kowtowing to the narrow demands of the hard right when nominating a presidential candidate. Bennett went on to note that the GOP has shifted far to the right from previous Republican presidential candidates like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “Ronald Reagan would probably not recognize the description of Ronald Regan” that many conservatives have of him, Bennett said, noting that he held views that were “absolute anathema to many of the tea party people”:
BENNETT: And people talk about Ronald Reagan, but I remember Ronald Reagan very well. … But Ronald Reagan would probably not recognize the description of Ronald Regan that is coming out of a lot of the tea party blogs. Ronald Reagan, yes he was very conservative, yes he was a man of principles, and he wouldn’t budge on those principles. But he said something that would be absolutely anathema to many of the tea party people when he said it’s better to get 80 percent of what you want than zero. And Reagan would compromise, Reagan would make deals.
Indeed, as ThinkProgress has noted, the image of Reagan that many conservatives hold dear bears little resemblance to the actual man, who did many things these self-professed Reaganites would not like. Reagan raised taxes, increased government spending, and ballooned the size of government. And Reagan was a staunch defender of unions. A union boss himself, Reagan was the only president to have been a union member. As Bennett implies, today’s conservative movement, with its assault on government and unions, has disregarded its greatest hero.