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Citing Ronald Reagan not so helpful this time around

Tonight's Republican presidential debate will be held in just a few hours at the Reagan Library near Simi Valley, where the late president is buried and his legacy is on display. (And it'll be live-streamed here on this website starting at 5 p.m. PST.)

Ronald Reagan's name has come up quite a bit in the ongoing struggle for the GOP presidential nomination as the candidates seek to assume the political mantle of the revered California Republican. That's perhaps understandable given the unpopularity of the current president, whose mantle no one seeks this election year.

But according to an imaginative analysis by The Times' Ben Welsh of the words spoken at 15 major Republican debates during the current campaign, citing Ronald Reagan is not only unhelpful. It may be severely dangerous to your political fortunes.

The political power of the Reagan name, like the broad coalition of social, political and economic conservatives he built, may be crumbling.

According to Welsh's analysis, the Republican candidate who invoked Reagan the most is the longtime front-runner who was among the least successful candidates this time, never winning one primary and apparently giving up his effort today -- Rudy Giuliani.

During those 15 debates, Giuliani mentioned the Reagan name 44 times, including one single marathon debate answer that included Reagan's name 10 times (see below.)

Of the remaining GOP candidates, Mitt Romney has cited Reagan 28 times, Sen. John McCain, the new front-runner, 21 times, Mike Huckabee, the yet-to-be-front-runner since Iowa 15 times and Rep. Ron Paul, the 10-term House member with the libertarian ideas, only five times.

--Andrew Malcolm

To read Giuliani's full 10-Reagan answer, see below....

The following is from the Jan. 10 Republican debate on Fox News:

CARL CAMERON: Mayor Giuliani...


CAMERON: ... on the campaign trail over the course of the last several months when you've been asked about your conservatism, you've said that it was basically up for voters to decide. I wonder if you can explain why you're the complete conservative tonight without quoting George Will, and contrast that conservatism to the rest of the members on the dais here.

GIULIANI: Well, first of all, the reason Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 was because Ronald Reagan was seen as the strongest leader in comparison to Jimmy Carter. And Ronald Reagan ran a 50-state campaign.

Of course, it was built around peace through strength, which meant a strong military. And it was built around empowering people, which is why he lowered taxes. He didn't lower taxes just for the purpose of lowering taxes, he lowered taxes because he wanted to leave money in people's pockets because he felt that people spending money creatively is much better than government trying to direct the spending of money.

I worked for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan appointed me associate attorney general of the United States. He appointed me United States attorney in the southern district of New York. And we're in different times. Ronald Reagan's principles would apply now, but they have to apply to different circumstances.

I'm a conservative because I believe in a strong national defense, the way Ronald Reagan did. I think peace through strength that Ronald Reagan proposed to deal with the Cold War is similar to what we have to do now in dealing with this terrorist war against us. That's why my first commitment to the American people is to be on offense against terrorists.

"I also believe that we have to pursue those principles of lower taxes, restraining spending, devolving power to people, getting power to governments that are closest to the people. I believe those are the core of the conservative coalition that makes us a 50-state party.

"There are some disagreements on social issues. Not on goals, but on some of the methods. But if we want to be a party that can run and win in states that Ronald Reagan won -- New York, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, states we haven't won in a long, long time, and states in which we don't even campaign any longer -- we're going to have to take a really good look at what made up the Reagan coalition. It was a broad outreach, an inclusive one, not one that kept people away."

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Funny. Look up Ron Paul's history, and he's probably the most qualified person to name-drop Ronald Reagan too.

It is my recollection that Obama too commented that the Reagan time frame generated a lot of great ideas! He should get some points for that! ...GO HILLARY!!

When Republican candidates speak of Reagan they go too far. Especially if they keep saying his name too many times. Reagan expanded government and ran a budget deficit. Sent Rumsfeld to shake Saddam's hand in 1983.

If Republicans can clearly speak of the problems Reagan created while admiring his past coalitions they would be alright. None of the Republican candidates can do that. It's always too admiration of Reagan and vilifying Democrats.

Because the Republican candidates have focused on National Security during their debates, America is worse off GOP mishandling that issue.

Waterboarding is torture, that's where it begins. How Bush has tried to make that a legal process for the military is wrong. He used Rumsfeld to make that decision, he's fired. The Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, no one believe his legal argument, fired.

GOP supports less privacy on the internet. Using ISP's to gather citizen data and now Cheney is arguing no punishment. ISP's should pay fines, courts will find citizens have rights to privacy while online. Online is not a wiretap!

GOP with Bush leading them has failed National Security tests . They say America hasn't been attacked. We are constantly under attack internally from our criminals. Too much focus on perceived international threats, less resources for state and local police to stop criminals.

Lies were told how international risky Saddam was. Bush has made similar statements about Iran and North Korea. The real threat is Pakistan where Bush has made a friend in Perfez Musharraf. Where Bin Laden and head of Taliban are. That guy needs to step down but he continues in power.

The Iraq war was about oil, taking it from Saddam. The cover, is war on terror wherever it may be.

High prices of oil are realized, $100 a barrel, Saudi friend's of Bush are profitable, so the cover worked. Middle East destabilization is profitable, oil companies are the biggest supporter of Bush and his family.

Cheney helped Haliburton get no bid contracts to rip the military off. The company he formerly ran and will likely lead again.

Soldiers lives to take Iraq's oil, GOP rationalizes that!

That's a failure of National Security clearly. It put America in a weaker international position and ruined our image.

McCain must be honest or he will lose his chance to be President.

He must say the Iraq war was about oil, because that's the truth. We didn't go to war in Iraq to nation build that country. It was simply to take oil from Saddam, keep control of it. It takes the whole military to do that. Its global positioning American forces in the Middle East so OPEC is more influenced by America. Protecting Iraq oil is the key reason our military will exist there for decades.

Well Lauren it may be true that Obama name dropped Reagan and I realize this could hurt him slightly in a Democratic race. But Hillary worked for Barry Goldwater in '64, isn't that a bit more problematic? Not to say anything about those campaign contributions she's been getting from Haliburton...

Thompson was the only one who resembled Reagans policies and approach.
Ron Paul? Isolationism was never Reagans way.

I'm still writing Fred in. No one else worth voting for.

GO Obama!

While Obama evoked Reagan as an ideologue (which he was), he in no way endorsed Reagan's policies. He rightly recognized that while the GOP has embraced some downright evil ideas and policies, the Dems have offered nothing. And he was also trying to say, "Just as Reagan united Democrats and Republicans, so can I."

No, he didn't support the old turkey waddle. He hated him and Reagan earned every inch of it with the PATCO fiasco, the deficit, the ignorance of AIDS, the backhanded racism, the gutting of social programs, the S&L scandal, the 87-92 depression, Iran-Contra, and countless other plagues and scandals.

Reagan was a mouthpiece and a blowhard. He was also a racist, who started his political campaigning in Philadelphia, Ms., where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered. This was an homage to the the racist States Rights mentality. He's roast in Hell.

Enough is enough already!

I am so fed up with the media dividing our country along racial and gender lines using fear tactics. Every talking head on TV and talking mouth on radio is doing it…Stirring racial prejudice. Black American, White Americans, Latino Vote, Asians and the garbage goes on and on... Just for your information...African Americans (in media circles "Black Voters") will vote their conscience based on careful analysis and study of each candidate based on what he or she can do for our family and our country. We do not vote based on the color of some ones skin...If that were indeed the case...Jessie Jackson...Al Sharpton and the rest would have gotten the majority of Black votes. They did not because of their positions on pertinent issues concerning this country and our families. The media is using an underlying racial prejudice by fanning the flames of racial fear in whites particularly in the south by waving the "African American" Flag... "Browns will not vote for black "," White voters", Asian Americans etc... Enough already... Bill Clinton is playing the race card hard, but doing it subtly...Talking about “Clinton being the first Black President”...Bill is not Hilary! This reminds me of taking my wife to visit my childhood farm back in (Georgia) last year. We traveled the back woods and found that the old house that I grew up on had been demolished. All the cotton, sweet potato, and cornfields had been replaced with timber farms. I wanted to show her the wild grapes and blue berries that I used to eat from as a child. Most of the black berry bushes were gone. Nothing remained the same. I learned to drive on a tractor at the age of 7 plowing fields and farming. Anyway. When we got to the back road that I lived on, I finally found Mr. Colon's ( the man that my grandmother worked for) old house still standing. The old tobacco barn that I used to hang tobacco in as a child was still standing. When I got to Mr. Colons, his son Jerry came out and recognized me immediately, even though it has been 30 something years since we had seen each other. He gave me a hug and called to his wife to come and meet me. She said something and Jerry sadly looked at me and told us that we should go on the back porch to talk. He offered my wife and me a soft drink and we talked about our child hoods together. The old house and barn were not the only things still standing. When I got back to town, my cousins told me that Jerry's wife never let anyone black in her house. I said that just to say that because Bill Clinton offered us a soft drink does not mean that Hillary is going to let us in the front door of the house. All Americans need to wake up and put these foolish racial prejudices behind us. We are trying to spread democracy around the globe. It is this part of democracy that needs to go away. Experience and leadership seems to be the key phrases for the Clinton campaign today...tomorrow it will be what ever is popular. Keep in mind that experience and leadership has us in an unpopular war and has most of the mid-east hating our country. Lying, sexual immorality, greed, invasion of and diminished rights with the new patriot act all came as a result of so-called experience. Experience and leadership has us with no national medical insurance plan and experience and leadership has put Social Security at the brink of bankruptcy. Our country is facing a financial breakdown because experience and leadership allowed special interest groups, lobbyist and cooperate greed to take advantage of the poor in the mortgage business. Experience has shipped our jobs overseas and entertained the idea of foreign companies taking over our shipping ports. Experience has set back and allowed our borders to be overran by over 12,000,000 illegal from all parts of the world...China, Cuba, Africa, Mexico and entertained the thoughts of making them legal...Not just Mexico! I just imagine that some of them will affect the outcome of our political process. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was Americas youngest president with very little experience...Ronald Regan was an actor with very little experience...Arnold Swartzneggar is a foreigner and actor and came aboard with very little experience. So was Jessie Ventura...of wrestling fame. The media will scare us and divide us with "the race and experience card... but we must vote our minds and our hearts based on intelligent, systematic evaluation of where these candidates stand on issues that are important to our country, and our families. Race and gender should be the last thing on our minds no matter what your race is. We are the American Race and will be... after all is said and done and after the swearing in of our next president still… Americans. Vote your heart not your eyes! What do you think?

Ronald Reagan exceeded all of our expectations as President. The difference is that others have not followed him - and his message has been lost. Consider his children - do they reflect his message? Now consider the children of JFK - what a difference.

Obama's praise for Reagan -- part of his "I'm a uniter" strategy, no doubt -- should have been saved for *after* the nomination. Name-dropping Reagan didn't help a would-be fascist like Giuliani, but it was downright poison to Obama.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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