Somebody told me about an earlier Ronald Reagan Jr. interview expressing his thoughts about the current Bush administration (thanks, V.), so I went hunting. I think she heard about it on the radio. I’m not sure if this Salon interview is what she was talking about, but it’s juicy. (You might have to watch one of those obnoxious ads to get access to the interview – I click the ad to start it, and do something else until it’s done!) Here are some delectable and prescient outtakes from “Reagan blasts Bush,” by David Talbot (4/13/03):
The Bush inner circle would like to think of George W.’s presidency as more of an extension of Ronald Reagan’s than of his one-term father’s. Reagan himself, who has long suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, is unable to comment on those who lay claim to his political legacy. But his son, Ron Jr., is — and he’s not pleased with the association.
“The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he’s in now,” he said during a recent interview with Salon. “Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the ’80s. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father’s — these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don’t trust these people.”
Reagan took a swipe at Bush during the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia, which featured a tribute to his father, telling the Eashington Post’s Lloyd Grove, “The big elephant sitting in the corner is that George W. Bush is simply unqualified for the job… What’s his accomplishment? That he’s no longer an obnoxious drunk?” Since then he’s been quiet about the current occupant of the White House — until now.
“My father had decades of experience in public life. He was president of his union, he campaigned for presidential candidates, he served two terms as governor of California — and that was not a ceremonial office as it is in Texas. And he had already run for president, against Ford in ’76, nearly unseating the sitting president in his own party. He knew where he was coming from, he had spent years thinking and speaking about his views. He didn’t have to ask Dick Cheney what he thought.
“Sure, he wasn’t a technocrat like Clinton. But my father was a man — that’s the difference between him and Bush. To paraphrase Jack Palance, my father crapped bigger ones than George Bush.”
Reagan says he doesn’t have anything personal against Bush. He met him only once, at a White House event during the Reagan presidency. “At least my wife insists we did — he left absolutely no impression on me. But Doria remembers him very negatively — I can’t repeat what she said about him, I’d rather not use profanity. I do remember Jeb — a big fella, seemed to be the brightest of the bunch. And of course their parents were very charming.”
But Reagan has strong feelings about Bush’s policies, including the war in Iraq, which he ardently opposes. “Nine-11 gave the Bush people carte blanche to carry out their extreme agenda — and they didn’t hesitate for a moment to use it. I mean, by 9/12 Rumsfeld was saying, ‘Let’s hit Iraq.’ They’ve used the war on terror to justify everything from tax cuts to Alaska oil drilling.”
“And the weapons of mass destruction? Whatever happened to them? I’m sure we’ll find some,” he laughs. “They’re being flown in right now in a C-130. “There were, and will be, a lot of people killed over there. And if you don’t care about the Iraqi casualties, what about the American? We stand to lose more people in the next months of occupation than we lost in the weeks of war. One of the reasons we escaped largely unscathed so far was because our military moved so fast. But now we’re sitting targets — we have to establish bases, patrol the streets, guard checkpoints. We’re sitting targets for suicide bombers and other terrorists.”
Reagan’s parents were notoriously remote from their four children. Ron Jr. reportedly had the closest relations with his parents and he remains close with his mother, Nancy Reagan, who as the keeper of the Reagan flame is often called upon to dedicate public sites bearing her husband’s name. Reagan says his mother shares his “distrust of some of these [Bush] people. She gets that they’re trouble in all kinds of ways. She doesn’t like their religious fervor, their aggression.”