As former Newsweek editor-in-chief Evan Thomas appeared as a guest on MSNBC Sunday to discuss former First Lady Nancy Reagan's passing, host Chris Matthews and Thomas used Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon to chastise the current Republicans for being too unwilling to compromise.
After Thomas asserted that Reagan and Nixon "are rolling over in their graves" and recalled that Nancy Reagan encouraged her husband to engage in talks with the Soviet Union, Matthews ended up oddly claiming that the Reagans knew "the purpose of the Cold War was not to win it but to end it," as if paving the way for ultimately driving the Soviet Union's influence out of Eastern Europe and other countries and pushing Moscow out of 14 of the 15 Soviet former Soviet republics could not be considered a "win" by the U.S.
At 5:55 p.m. ET, Matthews raised the issue of current politics:
Well, let me ask you, Evan, come here, you just did a great book on Nixon, and talk about this just briefly, the direction of the Republican party. How about that for a current event question? Take it from Nixon to Reagan to now. Where are we headed?
Thomas painted the current party as out of step with past Republican presidents as he began:
Well, I'm sure Reagan and Nixon are rolling over in their graves because both Reagan and Nixon understood populism, you know. They both rode that wave themselves. They knew how to exploit fear as well as hope. But -- but both Reagan and Nixon knew how to get things done. With your old boss, Reagan with your old boss Tip O'Neill, they made deals. Nixon may have had pretty hardline populist rhetoric, but he made deals with a Democratic Senate.
The former Newsweek editor accidentally called President Reagan a "hardline communist" as he continued:
Nancy Reagan understood this. She pushed her husband to get along with the Soviet Union. Reagan was a hardline communist (sic), but Nancy Reagan understood you have to reach out to your enemies. So both Reagan and Nixon were able to do that. Nixon, of course, famously going to China as well as Moscow.
The current crowd, it's hard to say. Maybe Trump will turn out to be a deal maker, you know, no one really knows because he's never had the job before, not in public life. I'm sure that Nixon and Reagan would be worried today.
Without acknowledging the role that placing military pressure on the Soviet Union had in undermining the communist empire, Matthews portrayed President Reagan as not trying to "win' the Cold War:
I think the Reagans, Nancy and Ronald Reagan understood the purpose of the Cold War was not to win it but to end it -- to end it, that was the goal. Not taking Moscow like taking Berlin or Tokyo. It was to end the war peaceably, and they did it. And they get a lot of credit, and they deserve it.