During the Bush administration, conservatives heralded Ronald Reagan’s own struggle against terrorism as the ideal model for George W. Bush. Frank Gaffney hoped Bush “not only memorializes Ronald Reagan’s moral compass and strategic vision but emulates them,” while Rich Lowry cited Reagan to boost Bush’s 2004 relection chances: “History does move, especially when determined men give it a push.”
ThinkProgress sat down with Will Bunch, author of “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future” (and renowned blogger), to ask him whether he, too, saw a straight line from the Gipper to Bush’s war on terror. Bunch asserted that “Reagan’s words have been totally bastardized” by conservatives, and said that Reagan never would have condoned some of Bush’s techniques, especially torture:
BUNCH: I do think that some of the swaggering rhetoric that Reagan used…have been I think misinterpreted by Republicans that this was his actual policy, when actually his policies didn’t have the same kind of cowboy attitude that some of his rhetoric did. I can’t imagine, particularly torture, I just doubt that would have been something that would have been condoned during the Reagan administration.
He actually was kind of a — in fact this was used in a headline in the Washington Post — he was actually kind of a pussycat so to speak when it came to the job of killing people through various acts of war.
Indeed, in 1988 Reagan signed the U.N. convention against torture — which the Bush administration later called “quaint.” Bush’s departure from Reagan wasn’t confined to torture. According to Lou Cannon of the Washington Post, Reagan said that any retaliation that killed innocent civilians is “itself a terrorist act.” Bunch observed at TPM Cafe this week, “As relates to Iraq, Reagan would have been appalled at the military strategy underpinning the March 2003 assault, the heavy bombing tactic known as ‘shock and awe.’”
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