Republicans who like this current president were fond of comparing him favorably, even before Saturday, to The Beloved Gipper. Hence, this quote from Bush's campaign manager: "In many ways, George W. Bush and the policies that he put forward stand on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan," Ken Mehlman said Sunday in discussing the connections between the two presidents. "Ronald Reagan was someone who believed and viewed the Soviet Union with moral clarity, who understood that peace came through strength and who believed at a time when a lot of people didn't agree with him that the key to prosperity in this country was to trust the American people."
We fully expected that sort of ceremonial conferring of the Reagan mantle on El Presidente. Never mind that the "moral clarity" of the Bush White House seems to hide a ruthlessness and secrecy that frightens a lot of people and that his "key to prosperity" seems to include giving all the money to the already rich, along with no bid contracts to corporations.
But then every network started playing all those clips of the Great Communicator, the speeches, the brilliant speeches, and it's suddenly inescapable how badly George W. Bush suffers by comparison. Watching Ronald Reagan tower so affably over the world during the '80s, and then squinting at the spectacle of Shrub right now groveling in the European weeds for a little respect ... we suddenly see in high relief just how pip-squeaky this new little guy is.
Now Adam Nagourney in the New York Times has Republican insiders saying the same thing, if not for attribution at least for print: " 'Reagan showed what high stature that a president can have -- and my fear is that Bush will look diminished by comparison,' said one Republican sympathetic to Mr. Bush, who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president. Another senior Republican expressed concern that by identifying too closely with Mr. Reagan, Mr. Bush risked running a campaign that looked to the past, which this adviser described as a recipe for a loss."
It now seems unlikely that Nancy Reagan will campaign for little Georgie, since she's become a born-again believer in stem-cell research, a topic the mullahs of the Religious Right won't let Bush discuss. The rumor, according to Adam Nagourney, is that Nancy won't even attend the Republican National Convention in September, thus in effect withholding by her absence the Reagan blessing.