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“A Generation Later, Rubio Flubs ‘Morning In America'”: The Whole “Morning” Metaphor Is A Little Too Subtle For Marco

Marco Rubio’s new television ad is generating a fair amount of attention, but not for reasons his campaign will like. In the opening moments of the minute-long “morning in America” spot, viewers see a boat crossing a harbor – which wouldn’t be especially interesting except for the fact that it’s a Canadian harbor.

And while that’s obviously amusing, it’s not the only reason to pay attention to the ad.

The “morning in America” reference, of course, is not accidental. It’s a phrase many Americans, especially Republicans, will probably recognize as a signature theme of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign. Remember this ad from 32 years ago? For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the script:

“It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

And now, consider the message of Rubio’s version of the same ad. Note it’s mirror-image parallels.

“It’s morning again in America. Today, more men and women are out of work than ever before in our nation’s history. People pay more in taxes than they will for food, housing, and clothing combined. Nearly 20 trillion in debt for the next generation, double what it was just eight years ago. This afternoon, almost 6,000 men and women will be married, and with growing threats and growing government, they’ll look forward with worry to the future. It’s morning again in America and under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton our country is more vulnerable, divided, and diminished than ever before. Why would we ever want for more years, again, of that?”

Maybe the whole “morning” metaphor was a little too subtle for Marco Rubio.

The point of Reagan’s “morning in America” was optimism. “Mornings,” as a metaphor, are about new beginnings, fresh starts, and the hopes that come with a new day and new possibilities. It’s why the Republican icon made it the theme of his re-election campaign – he wanted people to feel good about the country.

Our dreams are dying; they’re just getting started. It’s not the end of an American promise; it’s the beginning.

Rubio’s ad keeps saying “it’s morning again in America,” except the Florida senator doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using “morning” incorrectly. To hear Rubio tell it, the United States is on the verge of a dystopian nightmare as our country descends into a hellhole. Rubio’s “morning” isn’t about new beginnings and new possibilities; it’s about waking up, opening the window shade, and feeling as miserable and pessimistic as possible.

It’s as if the senator got confused, and thought “morning” and “twilight” were effectively the same thing.

This is, however, part of a pattern. For months, Rubio’s polls were stagnant when he tried to run a positive, optimistic campaign, so he decided to scrap his message and adopt Trump’s script as his own. As of a couple of months ago, Rubio began telling the public the United States is “in decline”, the American dream is “dying.”

This new commercial is a continuation of the theme. Rubio is selling crushing pessimism with a smile, assuming people won’t pay attention to the fact that he’s not pitching Reagan’s message; he’s offering the literal opposite.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 16, 2016

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Morning In America, Ronald Reagan | , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Insanity Started A Long Time Ago”: Overheated Talk Against The Government Has Come Back To Bite The GOP

Julian Zeilzer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, isn’t buying the handwringing we’re seeing from David Brooks and the National Review about the presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In a case that others have made, but perhaps not so thoroughly, he says: GOP Establishment Deserves Trump, Cruz.

Going back to Reagan’s embrace of the Moral Majority, the racism Lee Atwater infused into George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign and the fact that it was McCain who chose Palin to be his running mate in 2008, Zeilzer demonstrates how GOP presidential candidates laid the groundwork for what is happening today.

He also captures how Boehner and McConnell initially embraced the election of tea party candidates like Ted Cruz back in 2010.

In the House of Representatives, Republican leaders were more than welcoming to the tea party revolution that took hold in 2010 — until it no longer suited their purposes. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell welcomed the energy and enthusiasm that tea party activists brought to the fight against President Barack Obama.

While the activists might have pushed the boundaries of acceptable partisan compact with threats like allowing the government to go into default, the discipline as a voting block and willingness to stand up to an ambitious President helped, in the leadership’s minds, to revitalize the standing of the party. Or at least that’s what Boehner thought before he felt he had to leave.

Zeilzer points out that conservative media has also played a role – echoing the warnings of conservative David Frum.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination…If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

Finally, Zeilzer notes that overheated talk against the government has come back to bite the GOP establishment.

At the heart of the Cruz and Trump campaign is an essential message that has been a central theme of conservatism in the post-World War II period: that Washington is never good and career politicians are without virtue.

Their anti-politics rhetoric comes directly out of the “conservative establishment” politics that formed in the 1970s and 1980s. “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Reagan said.

Once again today, David Brooks is pleading with Republicans to “stay sane.” His supplications completely ignore the path the GOP took that led them to where they are today. As Zeilzer notes, “the alliance, the ideas, the rhetoric and the style have all come from the heart of Republican politics.” In other words, there’s no “staying” sane. That’s because the insanity started a very long time ago.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 26, 2016

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP Presidential Candidates, Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Are Candidates So Afraid Of The Press?”: What Presidential Candidates Lack Today Is Guts

Just before the doors to the press bus close with a sigh, a tall, tanned man with weathered skin leaps aboard and walks to the rear.

He is wearing a brown suit with a carefully folded white handkerchief in the pocket. His dark hair is slicked back. It is 1976. He is Ronald Reagan, and he is running for president.

His presence on the press bus — virtually unheard of for a candidate today — does not attract any special attention. Reporters fill the air of the bus with the clack, clack, clack, ping, zip of their portable typewriters.

The bus begins to roll and one by one the reporters go back to talk to Reagan. Finally, I am the only one who has not spoken to him. The press secretary looms over me in my seat.

“C’mon,” he says. “Time to talk to the governor.” (Reagan had been governor of California.)

“Think I’ll skip it,” I mumble. “Don’t really have anything to ask him.” It was my first campaign and I was very nervous.

“You’ve got to go back there,” the press secretary says. “The governor will be hurt if you don’t.” He is serious.

I unfold myself from my seat and follow him.

Reagan greets me warmly. He has an easy smile and long laugh lines that crinkle his face.

“Is there something you would like to ask me?” he says.

I paw through the pages of my notebook, which are limp with sweat. Reagan’s favorite issue is the Panama Canal and how Jimmy Carter wants to give it back to Panama.

At each stop, Reagan says one of three things about the canal:

“We bought it, we paid for it, we built it, and we intend to keep it.”

“We built it, we paid for it, it’s ours and we are going to keep it.”

“We built it. We paid for it. It’s ours.”

I flick through my damp notes. Um, um, I say. Um, how do you feel about the Panama Canal?

Reagan’s face brightens. He leans forward and speaks to me with the utmost seriousness. “We built it,” he says. “We paid for it. It’s ours.” He then leans back in his seat.

Great, I say. Thanks a lot. Really.

I get up and he stops me to shake my hand. “Nice meeting you,” he says sincerely. “I’m sure we’ll do this again.”

And we do. Day after day. (I learn to ask slightly more complex questions.) And nearly every day, Reagan also holds a full-fledged press conference at which reporters can ask him anything.

This, too, has gone the way of the carrier pigeon, the great auk, and the woolly mammoth. These days, candidates have advisers and coaches and pollsters. What they lack is guts.

They hide from the press whenever possible.

Today, covering a presidential candidate means never having to say you saw him.

Ronald Reagan railed against a number of things including communism, big government and high taxes. But I never heard him rail against reporters. He was not a blame-the-press president.

Flash-forward to Nov. 6, 1992. This is how my column begins:

“After one of George (H.W.) Bush’s last campaign speeches, Torie Clarke, his spokeswoman, climbed onto the press bus to answer a few questions.

“As we pulled away, Clarke gazed out the window onto a familiar sight: Crowds of people shaking their fists at the media.

“‘I hate it when I ride with you guys,’ she said with a sigh. ‘I’m always afraid someone will throw a Molotov cocktail.’

“She was kidding. A little.

“At nearly every stop in the last weeks of his campaign, George Bush would bash the media.

“Attacking the media was good politics. Just like Willie Horton had been good politics. A scapegoat had to be found to explain the lousy poll numbers. And the media were convenient.”

At the time, I interviewed a photographer who told me how he had been standing by a cyclone fence taking pictures of Bush, when a man reached over the fence, grabbed the photographer’s hair and slammed the photographer’s head into the fence.

“He kept yelling, ‘Get an honest job, get an honest job.’ I thought it was bad when they just spat on us,” the photographer said. “But this was worse.”

In Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, a large crowd awaited us. Two yellow ropes created a gauntlet for us to walk through.

A gray-haired gentleman leaned over the rope line and waved his small American flag in my face.

“Scum!” he yelled at me. “You scum!”

Bush walked out and delivered what had become his stock line.

“Annoy the media!” he shouted. “Re-elect George Bush!”

The people did not re-elect George H.W. Bush, but now just about everybody — including me — has warm feelings about him.

I actually had forgotten about his incidents with the press and only stumbled across them when I was looking for columns about how presidential campaigning has changed and how attacking the press has become a tactic that guarantees cheap applause and maybe a point or two in the polls.

Recently, Donald Trump said of reporters: “They’re scum. They’re horrible people. They are so illegitimate. They are just terrible people.”

Some of the Republican candidates want debate moderators who will be easy on them — or else.

“I’m not going to allow them to ask stupid questions,” Chris Christie said recently. (Maybe he knows some guys.)

Today, Republicans invoke the name Ronald Reagan as if he were a god. But they forget how he actually behaved. Reagan, for all his faults, had something today’s candidates lack: a spine.

He did not quiver like a bowl of Jell-O or whine when asked a “gotcha” question.

A gotcha question is one that seeks to reveal a difficult truth.

So you can see why today’s candidates are so afraid of them.


By: Roger Simon, Chief Political Columnist, Politico; The National Memo, November 5, 2015

November 7, 2015 Posted by | Political Media, Presidential Candidates, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Struggling To Justify A Heresy”: Are Republicans Falling Out Of Love With Ronald Reagan?

The first big Republican presidential primary debate defied expectations in any number of ways. But one of the most surprising things may have been that only five of the 10 candidates invoked the memory of that most sainted Republican, that giant among dwarves, that demigod among mortals, America’s greatest president and a man who walked the Earth without sin. I speak, of course, of Ronald Reagan.

How on Earth did the other five candidates forget to speak his name and clothe themselves in his holy memory?

In the “undercard” debate that took place hours before the main event, the ratio was a bit better — four of the seven candidates invoked Reagan. But the trend still held. Could it be that the power of invoking Reagan is beginning to fade — even if only a bit?

Consider that, with the exception of Donald Trump, the Republican candidates who mentioned Reagan in the prime-time debate — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and John Kasich — are all stuck in single digits, as are all the candidates from the undercard. Furthermore, many of the mentions came when a candidate was struggling to justify a heresy, as if to say, “Please don’t be too angry with me about this, because Reagan did it too.”

Defending his switch from pro-choice to pro-life, Trump said, “Ronald Reagan evolved on many issues.” Paul, explaining why he’s not the hawk other Republicans are, said, “I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets.” And Kasich explained his support of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid by saying, “President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.” Only Cruz offered a good old-fashioned song of praise, when he said with a stirring voice and passion in his eyes, “It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.” (I won’t bother going over the history of that event, except to say that it didn’t happen because the Iranians were so terrified of Reagan’s steely resolve.)

In a group of people who worship Reagan, maybe there’s little to be gained by reiterating your love for him; it would be like a cardinal saying he ought to be pope because he is in fact a Catholic. Or maybe it’s that a full quarter-century after Reagan left office, even Republicans have a somewhat more realistic view of his presidency than they used to.

I’d like to think that if the importance of Reagan as a totem is fading, it has at least something to do with liberals like me, even if that seems a little far-fetched. We have spent a lot of time not only mocking Republicans for their worship of Reagan, but also pointing out that he was a far more complicated president than they claim. His record even includes a number of decisions that today look downright liberal. He did indeed negotiate with the Soviets (to the dismay of many Republican hard-liners at the time), he raised taxes repeatedly, the deficit ballooned on his watch, and instead of setting out to destroy government entitlements, he partnered with liberals to save Social Security in 1983 (more details can be found here).

That isn’t to say that Reagan wasn’t a strong conservative, because he was. But he was president in another era, when being a Republican meant something rather different than it does today.

Up until the last few years, you could be a Republican in good standing while still being pragmatic. But today’s Republican Party isn’t just more conservative on policy, it has become doctrinaire in a way it didn’t used to be. Compromise itself — regardless of the context or the content — is now held by all right-thinking Republicans to be inherently evil. Far too much is made of Reagan’s alleged friendship with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, but it’s true that Reagan could be friendly with his political opponents. Today, every Republican has to express a deep and intense loathing for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton if they hope to win their party’s favor. The Tea Party essentially took over the GOP after Obama’s election, forcing everyone in the party to prove again and again that their hearts are pure and they’d rather lose everything than willingly give an inch on anything. Entire organizations now exist to police elected Republicans for signs of heresy, and punish those who fail to measure up.

So maybe that’s why you now hear Reagan invoked mostly defensively. The one who does it knows that he has transgressed, and hopes that the aura of Saint Ronnie will cleanse him of his sins and bring him before the primary electorate clean and unsullied. But it doesn’t seem to work — Republicans are vigilant for even the faintest whiff of impurity, and no amount of Reagan-invocation will distract them once they’ve caught the scent. If that’s true, we might hear his name spoken less and less often as time goes on.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, August 10, 2015

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Primary Debates, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans In Need Of A Reagan Refresher”: Pointing To Reagan As Some Kind Of Platonic Ideal Is Ridiculous

A couple of weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) presidential campaign launched a new television ad, condemning the international nuclear agreement. The funny part, however, was Christie’s argument that Obama should have followed the example set by … Ronald Reagan.

The subject came up again last night, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked whether he’s prepared to abandon the U.S. commitment to the diplomatic deal on the first day of his imaginary presidency. The senator replied:

“I oppose the Iranian deal, and will vote against it. I don’t think that the president negotiated from a position of strength, but I don’t immediately discount negotiations. I’m a Reagan conservative.”

Paul went on to note that Reagan negotiated with the USSR, which is proof that the United States can engage in talks with our foes, though Paul opposes the Iran deal anyway for reasons he didn’t specify.

A little later in the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also added a dash of Ronaldus Magnus and Iran. Responding to a question on cyber-security, the Republican senator said, “It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.”

It’s worth emphasizing that Cruz’s story is based on a GOP fairy tale.

Regardless, the underlying point remains the same: when it comes to U.S. policy towards Iran, the current crop of Republican presidential candidates keep pointing to Reagan as the model for contemporary leaders to follow. Perhaps they haven’t thought this through.

Let’s again set the record straight: the Reagan White House illegally tried to sell weapons to Iran in order to help finance an illegal war in Central America. It was one of the biggest scandals in American history. Much of Reagan’s national-security team ended up under criminal indictment.

At one point in 1986, Reagan delivered a nationally televised address in which he looked at the camera and promised Americans the scandal wasn’t true. Four months later, he was forced to deliver another televised address, conceding the fact that his claims in the first one weren’t true.

I can appreciate why Republicans find all of this quite inconvenient now, and why the right may prefer to wipe the scandal from the party’s collective memories, but when the subject of U.S. policy towards Iran comes up, pointing to Reagan as some kind of Platonic ideal is ridiculous.


By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Primary Debates, Rand Paul, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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