On National Security, GOP Candidates Are “Wannabes With Little In Common” With Reagan
As the debate draws nearer, the GOP candidates for president are scrambling to out-Reagan each other. However, their actions, including on national security issues, do not align with the Gipper, as a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund highlights. To be clear, Reagan’s foreign policy record is far from perfect. But there is a stark difference between Reagan and the extremism of the GOP candidates on foreign policy. Despite his foreign policy rhetoric, Reagan was actually open to negotiating with his enemies and supported treaties created by previous presidents. Here are two ways Reagan differs from today’s extreme GOP.
Reagan negotiated with his enemies on nuclear arms.
Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union and he held multiple summits with the Soviet Union’s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Despite their differences, the two men signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminating an entire category of nuclear missiles. As the Reagan Foundation puts it, “the unlikely pairing of a devoted anti-Communist advocate of capitalism with a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist resulted not only in the most significant arms reduction treaty in history, but in a permanent change in U.S.-Soviet relations.”
Current GOP candidates have veered far from Reagan’s stance toward negotiations and have instead taken extreme positions. Scott Walker declared, “I will put in place crippling economic sanctions on Iran and I will convince our allies to do the same.” And former Gov. Huckabee said he would consider using “military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime” if he were president.
Reagan upheld treaties from previous presidents.
As president, Reagan upheld Nixon’s SALT I treaty and Carter’s SALT II treaty, despite the fact SALT II wasn’t even ratified by the Senate. In contrast, many GOP candidates have said they would not uphold the Iran deal, even though the deal is the best option we have to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuke. Gov. Walker, Fiorina, and Sen. Rubio even committed to ripping up the deal on the first day of their presidency. Not to be outdone, Sens. Cruz, Paul, and Rubio undermined President Obama’s negotiations by signing a letter to the leaders of Iran advising them that the president has no authority to negotiate with them.
Though GOP candidates love to love Reagan, these staunch differences in approach to national security prove they aren’t following in his footsteps. Lawrence Korb, the assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan, sums it up well: in reality, the current GOP candidates are “wannabes with little in common” with Reagan.
BOTTOM LINE: In Wednesday’s debate, GOP candidates will most likely compete to be viewed as the heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy. But these are not Reagan Republicans. Their extreme positions on the Iran deal and other issues show that they all lack the pragmatism and penchant for compromise that allowed the 40th president to appeal beyond his conservative base.