Who is more conservative - Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama?
If you think that's an absurd question, you're not alone. We had this discussion on The Dylan Ratigan Show when I was filling in for him on MSNBC and both of my guests thought it was absurd. A conservative website led with the headline that it was absurd (though they did not present one single fact to back up their claim). Except as it turns out, based on the facts, it is a really hard question to answer. And it would be absurd to claim otherwise.
-Gave Amnesty to Illegal Immigrants
-Negotiated with Terrorists (Traded Arms for Hostages with Iran)
-Raised Taxes on a Large Scale Four Times (After Initially Lowering Them)
-Negotiated with the "Evil Empire" without Pre-conditions
-Made a Decision to "Cut and Run" From Lebanon After Our Troops Were Attacked
In fact, as you look at the Reagan list, it seems he is the exact opposite of what conservatives now claim they want. It looks like the caricature of what they think liberals do. There is no way that even Dennis Kucinich would be able to do all of those things; he certainly wouldn't negotiate with terrorists the way Reagan did.
Of course, Reagan also took the country further right in many ways but our political spectrum has moved so far to the right that he looks left behind by comparison. So, let's go to Obama and see what that "socialist" is up to.
-Escalated the Afghanistan War (Added 30,000 More Troops)
-Has Ordered Drone Strikes (Assassinations) on US Citizens Outside the Country
-Gave Drug Companies Near Monopoly Power by Barring Imports, Extending Patents and Not Allowing the Government to Negotiate Better Prices
-Funneled Billions into the Biggest Banks in the Country After They Crashed the Economy
-Stacked Deficit Commission with Fiscal Conservatives
-Lowered Taxes Significantly (Stimulus Bill)
-Ordered Increased Offshore Drilling Before BP Spill
The Obama team would argue that they did a lot of this because the Republicans made them do it. First, that's entirely untrue because the Republicans didn't make them pass any bills. The GOP also didn't give most of this legislation a single yes vote, so they could have been entirely ignored if Obama had the courage to do that. And many of the items on the list are executive actions, which the Republicans have no control over.
Second, conservative is as conservative does. If you implement this many conservative positions, are you really sure you're not one?
Now, people will cry and scream that we had the most historic health care reform and will soon have the most historic financial reform ever. Isn't that progressive enough?! No, that's nonsense. They are called historic only because the White House called them that. Financial reform is a joke that still leaves the big banks in charge and has failed to end "too big to fail." And yes, health care reform actually covers more people if they ever get it (maybe in 2014) and if they can afford it (depends on what private insurance decides to charge them), but it still leaves the health care system exactly as it was before. This is the progressive change people voted for?
The bottom line is that, no matter what the reason, Obama seems to be in some important ways significantly to the right of Reagan on the political spectrum. If Reagan ordered the execution of US citizens abroad, he might have been impeached. If Obama tried to give undocumented immigrants blanket amnesty the way Reagan did, he might be impeached.
I don't think Obama is a hard right-winger. It's just that the political establishment in this country has moved so far to the right (though not the public, according to polls on specific issues) that as a natural politician when he goes to appease them, he is solidly center-right on the spectrum.
And the political line has moved so far that if Reagan tried to run as a Republican now he would be the laughing stock of the party. Rush Limbaugh would tear him to shreds and Bill Kristol would say he is Neville Chamberlain. He would be run out of town as a tax-raising, amnesty giving, terrorist negotiating, cut and run no-good lib who hates the troops.
And anyone who claims otherwise is being absurd. As Reagan once said, "Facts are stubborn things."