While working the backrooms and front lawns for conservative voters and concerned citizens throughout Los Angeles County, I have been bombarded with messages, press releases, and general recriminations about Bill O’Reilly’s last book: “Killing Reagan.” No, I have not read the book, and the contents of O’Reilly’s latest spin into modern Presidential history in and of itself does not concern me. The embittered fight between the Fox News Host and the Washington Post-Fox News columnist and contributor George Will has attracted my interest – and caution.
The former Catholic School kid – a fresh piece of humanity, according to one of his religious teachers – called George Will a “hack” Will contends that O’Reilly is lying about Reagan and his mental faculties. In his latest WaPo column, Will laments:
“Because of its vast readership, "Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency" by Fox News's Bill O'Reilly and his collaborator, Martin Dugard, will distort public understanding of Ronald Reagan's presidency more than hostile but conscientious scholars could.”
Will it? Honestly, who cares? For the record, why is anyone writing and promoting the conservative cause for liberty still talking about “Killing Reagan”? Ronald Reagan is dead, and has been so for more than a decade. You can visit his grave at his eponymous Presidential library in Simi Valley. Still, with the Republican Presidential candidates’ imitating and Fox News hosts’ redefining the inimitable Gipper, one would think that they are retreating to the past. To paraphrase Barack Obama, I have to declare: “The 1980s called. They want their President back.”
Conservatives need to get over fawning, overdone Reagan idolatry and return to a well-placed, measured respect for Ronald -- and move on. The female David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin is a mouthpiece conservative token for the “shrilly, shrilly liberal” Washington Post, but she was spot on when she wrote about Reagan worship: “Tear down this icon.” A conservative friend and leader in Rhode Island, Rhode Island Republican Assembly President Raymond McKay, mused very simply to me and his colleagues among the National Federation of Republican Assemblies: “Ronald Reagan is dead”.
We need to get over our Reagan nostalgia, folks, and the laughable blow-up between O’Reilly and Will is proof positive why. The problems which the cause of individual liberty, limited government, and constitutional rule face in our times need more than a little bit of Reagan to resolve. Entitlement reforms, the repeal of vast expanses of the state, the taming of Wall Street through the free market – all of these reforms cannot wait one more election cycle, while two big wigs of the conservative movement and the Republican Party snarl at each other and rile up the base.
Why are two conservatives debating the legacy of a long-gone conservative President, when the current slate of conservative contenders is blasting past him in record and rhetoric? The fact that talking heads on a conservative news program are scratching at each other over one book from one hack is just sad.
There is too much going on in our country for this foray of fight and fancy.
Conservatives, traditional fighters, and liberty activists are attacking the behemoth of Big Government writ large and imposing. Senior citizens are asking: “Children, where’s my country?” With health care costs spiraling out of control, and the cost of living crushing those on a fixed income, is anyone surprised that Grandma and Grandpa are pessimistic about their golden years? Middle class workers, taxpayers, and homeowners see bills piling up, but not the financial resources to defray those costs. Moving up has become more of a fantasy than a part of the American Dream. This is wrong. US Senator Rick Santorum and other Republican Presidential candidates have outed a federal government which is now picking winners and losers. This is a loser deal all around. Millenials face crushing national and student loan debt. Future representatives in Congress and the White House need to make it easier for all of us to live and thrive in our own houses.
Yet on Fox News, O’Reilly and Will don’t seem to care. It is discouraging and sad to see these two intellects demeaning each other. They should be fighting for a restoration of our country’s foundational principles. They should remind us why Reagan was great, then focus on how the next generation of Republicans can and will make this country great again, better than Reagan, better than Coolidge.
Republican presidential candidates have anything to worry about, anyway. Who are conservatives activists running against in Election 2016? The old codger of the Left, “Weekend at Bernie” Sanders wants to play socialist Santa Claus and take more from those who work and subsidize those who do not. The Democratic front-runner is an old granny with a penchant for lying, yet no skill at operating two email servers or talking straight to black people about racial tensions. “Black Lives Matter” for Democrats – on Election Day. For Republicans fighting in Inner City Los Angeles or Baltimore, Maryland, black lives matter all the time and more than ever, and African-Americans are starting to vote the right way. As for Martin O’Malley, even the Wall Street Journal diminished him as “an unidentified bystander” during a priceless photo-op. If anyone is paying attention to the Democrats’ declining enrollment in registration and elected office – as opposed to two old white guys fighting over a book and a memo -- they would see Democrats scrambling for contenders against strong incumbents in Georgia, the Midwest, and even in California, where an East Bay Republican assemblywoman has yet to draw a noticeable Democratic challenger.
Democratic illiberalism is on the run, because this country has had two straight Presidential terms of it, and American voters by and large have come to terms with it: they don’t want any more. George Will described these necessary growing pains for the American electorate: “There is no better inoculation against liberalism than a heavy dose of it.” O’Reilly would do well to remember this. Stop fighting over Reagan, guys. Let’s win today!