Slate Editor Weisberg: Reagan Would Be 'Appalled' at 'Open Bigotry' in Current GOP

April 14th, 2016 10:37 AM

On Charlie Rose Wednesday night on PBS, guest host (and CBS anchor) Jeff Glor interviewed journalist Jacob Weisberg, who is Editor-in-Chief and contributor to the Slate Group, (which publishes Slate Magazine), on his new book about Ronald Reagan. At mid-interview, Glor asked Weisberg what Ronald Reagan would think about the current GOP party, giving the liberal journalist plenty of time to bash the presidential candidates and paint Reagan as liberal on immigration, abortion and “tolerance" in the GOP.

After talking about Reagan’s time in the White House, Glor asked Weisberg, “What would Ronald Reagan make of the current political season?” Weisberg responded, “[H]e’d be appalled at what happened to his Republican  party, the positive aspects of Reaganism.”

Glor pushed back, “But they venerate him. There's still an enormous amount of Reagan discussion on the trail.” Weisberg agreed there is a lot of talk about Reagan and admiration but it doesn’t relate to how they act.

WEISBERG: The first debate I think Ronald Reagan was invoked 42 times, and God was only invoked 13 times, which gives you a sense of hierarchy inside the Republican party. But I think they-- I think they venerate him because of his success, but they don't necessarily follow his example very closely, either, in terms of his specific ideas or his manner.

Wrong. In the second GOP debate, Reagan's name came up 45 times in the large part because it was held at the Reagan Library. Obama's name came up 50 times. 

Glor then asked Weisberg to elaborate on why Reagan would be “appalled” at the GOP race, listing everything to make Reagan sound more like Hillary Clinton than a conservative.

WEISBERG:  For two reasons. First of all, because Reagan believed the Republican party should be inclusive. He was pro immigration. The term "Amnesty" comes from Ronald Reagan. He used it to describe his policy in positive terms. But he wanted to-- he wanted to widen the party's appeal, bring people in. And he really rejected the idea of any kind of nativism, xenophobia. And, you know, I think the party's policies are sort of antithetical.

WEISBERG: Trump is really the most extreme example, but there is now, really in some ways for the first time air, kind of open bigotry in the Republican party, which Reagan strongly rejected, even though many people would argue that his appeal to the Reagan Democrats and to blue collar workers, to a lot of former Democrats was, you know, based in part on certain racial assumptions, coded racism. There's a fair argument there. But he didn't think that was what he was doing and really it hasn't been explicit in the Republican party until now.

After that, Glor asked instead, who would Reagan vote for? Weisberg didn’t have a definitive answer but just more bashing of the current GOP party, in particular Ted Cruz for being “the opposite” of “likeable” and “genuine.”

WEISBERG:  Hard to say. You know you look at Ronald Reagan as someone who supported amnesty immigration, who summoned handgun control with the Brady bill, and he did more-- although he later regretted it-- to make abortion legal in the years before "Roe V. Wade," than any other person, because he essentially signed a bill in California saying a woman's doctor could give her permission to have an abortion. You think about that person running in the Republican party, he doesn't get past Iowa.

But the other thing-- and I think this is in some ways even bigger than the policy gap that has grown up-- is the temperamental one. Reagan had genuine humility. He knew his limitations. It wasn't just an act with him. That's very rare in politics. You certainly don't see it from Ted Cruz, let alone-- I mean, Trump who you can only really talk about in terms of some-- what level of narcissistic personality disorder.

Reagan was kind to people. He had a genuine sense of humor. He was a nice person. You know, he was personally generous. And when you spend time reading his letters, when you write a biography, you're sort of living with the person a little bit. You can think whatever you want about Reagan, but he's hard not to like. And, boy, that's the opposite of Ted Cruz, who it's hard to find anyone in the world who will admit that they do like Ted Cruz.

GLOR: Those Lindsey Graham comments keep cropping up.