Ronald Reagan’s chief domestic policy adviser, Gary Bauer, believes Donald Trump is better suited to be a Republican president, at this moment of relentless and harsh political attacks from the left, than even his former boss would have been.
Conservative commentator Mark Levin — who served in a top position in the 40th president’s Justice Department — voiced a similar sentiment at a recent event at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
And for both men, it’s Trump’s willingness to counterattack that makes all the difference.
“I think some of the people today you hear say, ‘Oh I wish we had Ronald Reagan again instead of Donald Trump’ are in denial about the nature of the time we live in,” Bauer, president of the conservative group American Values, told The Western Journal in a recent interview.
“Ronald Reagan was exactly the right kind of conservative candidate in the 1980s.
“Ronald Reagan, in my view, would not be able to win in America today, because his demeanor was so kind and gentle. But we’re living in an era when the left is willing to destroy people that stand up against them in ways that in the ’80s, those of us in the Reagan administration couldn’t begin to imagine,” he added.
“And it takes somebody like a President Trump to be able to fight back and prevail against that kind of pressure.”
Bauer questioned if even President Dwight Eisenhower — a national hero who led the Allies to victory on D-Day and ultimately over Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in World War II — could escape the modern left’s wrath. Ike, as he was known, enjoyed broad bipartisan support in his day.
“I’m not sure Dwight Eisenhower could navigate this bitterness and just outright hatred on a lot of the left for not only Republicans and conservatives, but in some cases, hatred of the very idea of America,” Bauer said.
He pointed out that Reagan and Trump talk about the United States in very similar terms, focusing on the nation’s greatness.
“There was not the same visceral reaction against Reagan as there has been about Trump because most people during the Reagan era all agreed on the idea that this was a great country, a ‘shining city on a hill,’ as Reagan would always remind us,” Bauer said, alluding to a phrase Reagan used multiple times throughout his political career, including in his farewell address to the nation.
It wasn’t always a phrase associated only with Republicans. In January of 1961, then-President-elect John Kennedy used the same phrase in a speech to the Massachusetts legislature.
Reagan, like Kennedy, was of the World War II generation, which witnessed the U.S. become the world’s pre-eminent military and economic superpower and liberate tens of millions around the globe.
According to Bauer, the left’s reaction to Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was to label it a racist proposition, pointing to the nation’s history of slavery, segregation and other injustices, seemingly ignoring America’s great achievements and sacrifices to get where it is today.
Last summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, went so far as to say America “was never that great.“
The question of slavery in America — which predated the formation of the United States by 150 years — was, of course, settled by the Civil War, between the Northern free states and Southern slave states at the cost of over 600,000 lives.
Bauer contended that Trump’s victory in 2016 was the result of enough of the electorate finally getting fed up with the left’s negative view of the country, its founding principles, its history, and its free enterprise system, which places a premium on individual initiative and risk-taking in pursuit of one’s dreams and potential.
“That constant attack by the left, year after year on central ideas of the Republic caused a reaction in middle America that produced Donald Trump,” Bauer said.
Bauer believes Trump’s base remains strongly behind him because he has shown himself to be a fighter, willing to address even the most politically divisive issues. In doing so, he has turned Republican establishment orthodoxy on its head.
“Trump gets up in the morning thinking how he can engage in the culture battle,” the former West Wing staffer said, because the president recognizes that politics is downstream from culture. “If you lose the culture, you’re not going to win in politics either.”
Bauer offered the example of abortion.
“We elected pro-life presidents before, and other than Reagan, who did periodically, most of the people we’ve elected, including some senators and others, they never wanted to actually make the argument for the sanctity of life,” he said.
“Donald Trump wants to have that argument,” Bauer stated. “Donald Trump in 2016 literally asked his staff going into a debate with Hillary Clinton, ‘How can I make sure the abortion question comes up even if it isn’t asked by the moderator?’ Because he understands the power of the pro-life argument for Americans who go back and forth on the issue.”
At an event at the Reagan Library earlier this month, Levin — former chief of staff to Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese — shared Bauer’s belief that Trump has the right skill set to function in the current political climate.
The conservative commentator said looking back at the candidates for the Republican nomination, he is not sure any of them could have withstood the attacks the 45th president has.
“I often tell my wife, ‘we’re going to miss Trump when he’s gone,’ and I’m a Reagan guy, but I’m also a Trump guy,” Levin stated firmly, garnering strong applause from the audience. (Watch in video below starting at 58:36.)
“I also know (Trump) loves his country,” the Fox News host said at another point. “I also know he believes in our economic system. I also know he believes in sovereignty, borders for a country. I also know how he treats allies, like Israel… He knows infanticide when he hears it and he rejects it. He’s put more originalists on the courts since Ronald Reagan.”
But these words summed up the argument perfectly.
“We’re going to miss him, because he’s not George W. Bush. Because he’s a fighter,” Levin said.
“He takes on the media. He takes on the Democrat Party. He takes on individuals in his own party. He calls them as he sees them. And this is what drives them nuts.”
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