I wasn’t a fan of President Ronald Reagan. I voted against him twice, in 1980 and 1984.
As the years have gone on and as I look back at the late president’s legacy, I am struck by one element of the manner in which he governed. He governed with a measure of good will toward his foes.
Yes, he could blister liberal Democrats with the best of ’em. He did so with a touch of humor. You’ve heard as well about his personal friendship with the late Democratic U.S. House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.
President Reagan also crafted what he called the “11th Commandment,” which was that “Republicans shall not speak ill of other Republicans.”
That “commandment” has been tossed into the crapper, onto the scrap heap, burned, torn to shreds. You name it, today’s Republican Party has abandoned the 11th Commandment with a vengeance.
Don’t misunderstand: I don’t have a particular interest in seeing Republicans lock arms, hug each other’s necks, sing from the same hymnal page. I’m just amazed as I watch GOP officials lambaste each other how irrelevant their idol’s admonition has become in today’s climate.
The most glaring and daring example of Republican cannibalism involves Roy Moore, the Alabama candidate for the U.S. Senate. He is accused of making improper advances on underage girls. Congressional GOP leaders want nothing to do with this guy. Moore in return as all but declared political war on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; other senators are backing McConnell, with many — if not most — of them withdrawing their endorsement of Moore. They believe the accusers’ account of what Moore allegedly did.
What might the former president think of all this? What might President Reagan say to his fellow Republicans? Indeed, would the president stand with the Alabama candidate or would he choose to believe the man’s accusers?
This isn’t The Gipper’s Republican Party. Of that I am certain. Indeed, my strong hunch is that President Reagan’s affection for the likes of Speaker O’Neill might subject this once-beloved political figure to much of the intraparty condemnation he once banned.