‘When I’m president,’ &c.


You don’t mind if I say something I say every four years, do you? I’ll vote for the first presidential candidate who uses the conditional: who says, “If I were president, I would do X,” or, “If I’m elected president, I will do Y,” or, “I aim to implement Z.”

Presidential candidates, no matter how far-fetched, are always saying, “When I’m in the Oval Office, I’m gonna do X.” “In my first 100 days, I will do Y and Z.” Give me a break. I understand the need for confidence, even a little swagger, but please: A little grammatical modesty would go a long way.

The other day, Michele Bachmann said, “Let me be abundantly clear — my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief.”

I wish I could run for president, if only to be the first to say “would.” Would you find that refreshing and appealing, dear friends and voters? Shall I thump my tub? Listen, when I’m president, I’m gonna fix the budget, fix immigration, restore American power in the world, and eliminate the mosquito.

Oops, I’ve slipped the grammatical leash already. But at least I haven’t promised anything about ocean levels.

As this article tells us, Democrats and Republicans are having a tussle over Ronald Reagan. As they fight over the budget, they are evoking the memory and example of Reagan. Each side is doing this. Which is a little strange.

But not really: Democrats really appreciate dead Republicans, or retired ones. It is an old, old story — a full-blown pattern. Whoever the Republicans of the moment are, they’re extreme, and right-wing, and beyond the pale. Whoever the Republicans of the past are, they were moderate, and reasonable, and public-spirited.

Democrats have sung the praises of Barry Goldwater for a couple of decades now. While he was in the saddle, they vilified him as Attila the Hun or a Nazi. Martin Luther King, in his Nobel lecture, said he represented “a dangerous Fascist path.”

Reagan, of course, was a racist, a warmonger, a hater of the poor, a nuclear cowboy, a racist. Did I mention “racist”? They did, every two seconds. Bush 41, when he came in, was a heartless right-winger. Democrats would always compare him with his father, the late senator Prescott Bush. “His dad was such an admirable, gentlemanly Republican, but the son has thrown in with the far Right.” Bush 41 actually had to defend himself at a press conference, saying he thought his dad would be proud of him.

Then, when Bush 43 came in, the Democrats said, “If only he were like his father, that sweet, civilized, and patriotic man!” I joked at the time, “What if one of the twins becomes president? The media and the Democrats will say she is an extremist, nothing like good ol’ W., a man you could do business with.”

Maybe someday the Democrats will say something nice about a Republican who’s alive and working. But don’t count on it.

One more thing: That article I linked to? It’s an Associated Press report by Tom Raum. It includes a sentence that goes, “The big bipartisan agreements of the Reagan years were mostly cobbled together by [Tip] O’Neill’s forces and moderate Republican leaders such as Sens. Howard Baker of Tennessee and Bob Dole of Kansas, and Rep. Barber Conable of New York.”

Dole as moderate? That’s just great. When he was working, the Democrats and the press said he was a hard conservative, an arch right-winger. He was the one who was put on the 1976 ticket, as a sop to the Right, which was anti-Rockefeller. Now Dole gets to be a “moderate.” I can’t wait to find out what the AP says about Jim DeMint 20 or 30 years from now.

In fairness, I must say that it drove Democrats nuts when Reagan cited FDR, Truman, and JFK. In the ’84 campaign, Walter Mondale said, bitterly, “Stick to your own heroes: Harding, Hoover, and Nixon.” But Reagan, remember, had voted for and loved FDR and Truman. He also campaigned for Hubert Humphrey, when HHH ran for mayor of Minneapolis!

JFK, it is true, he was not high on. But they had supply-side tax cuts in common . . .


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