On the homepage today, we have a piece by the sterling Sir Charles Cooke on the subject of repetition in politics, basically. It’s headed “‘Canned’ Debate Performances Are a Problem Only for Pundits Who’ve Heard It All Before.”
Needless to say, I’m reminded of a Reagan story, because that’s what happens to me: I’m always reminded of a Reagan story. I can see a tree on the side of the road and be reminded of a Reagan story. (“Killer trees!”) (See, I told you so.)
In this case — in the case of Charlie’s piece — I’m reminded of two Reagan stories.
Between 1976 and 1980, Reagan ran around the country, trying again to be president. He gave his speech — his favored speech, his set speech, his stump speech — over and over. One day, Michael Deaver came to him and said, “Governor, we’ve been giving this speech for a while now. Maybe we should have a new one.”
“I like this speech, Mike,” replied Reagan. “You get me new audiences.”
In the 1980 campaign, he said that the United States was in a depression. President Carter objected to this, as well he should have. No, we are not in a depression, we are in a recession, said Carter. He took pains to explain the difference.
Reagan had a line — a retort: “If Jimmy Carter wants a definition, I’ll give him one. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job. Recovery begins when Jimmy Carter loses his job.”
The crowd would go nuts. The traveling press corps, who had heard it a million times, would roll their eyes — or recite the line along with Reagan. Or shout it out, gleefully!
Reagan intended the line for his crowd, of course — not for the press corps, who had heard it all before.