NBC’s Andrea Mitchell raised the ire of former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan on Meet the Press when she said that Republicans were “trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan for their own political purposes now.” during a discussion of his legacy. Noonan was quick to fire back at Mitchell, telling her that “Republicans are not, I think, trying to appropriate Ronald Reagan – Ronald Reagan was a Republican. Conservatives aren’t trying to appropriate him – he was a conservative.” Mitchell then backtracked by saying that she was referring to “some of candidates and the Sarah Palin quotes-one wing of the party” that she feels are constantly invoking Reagan’s name.
The mainstream media has also been saying much of the same thing, with stories over the weekend on how many times Palin and other potential 2012 candidates refer to Reagan in their books. In addition, there is Palin’s speech at the Reagan ranch on Friday, where she ripped the Obama Administration but also said that Reagan would be proud of the conservative movement today.
There is nothing wrong with Republicans trying to, in Micthell’s words, “appropriate” Reagan. He is an icon and a true conservative hero. In a time when conservatism is experiencing a rebirth, it is a smart strategy to emulate a president who still evokes fond memories in the movement. As Noonan pointed out, allowing Mitchell to clarify her remarks isn’t about appropriating, as much it is about trying to lay claim to the Reagan mantle. What Mitchell should be criticizing are Democrats that are trying to compare Obama to Reagan and steal his legacy. That is a very tall order. Politicians have been trying for more than 20 years, without success, to assume the mantle. It isn’t likely to occur with the current group of prospective presidential candidates either.
There was and will always be only one Reagan in our lifetime and that’s the way it should be.