On Sunday, during an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, Senator John McCain seemed to draw a momentary parallel between Sarah Palin and former President Ronald Reagan. When Crowley asked if McCain would characterize Palin as "divisive," McCain replied, "I think that anybody who has the visibility that Sarah has is obviously going to have some divisiveness. I remember that a guy named Ronald Reagan used to be viewed by some as divisive." McCain's remarks have occasioned a fair bit of grumbling, most of it of the "you're no Jack Kennedy" variety. Here's the clip, and some of the responses:
Technically He's Not Wrong, point out Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez at The Washington Post. Reagan was certainly "divisive," the authors write: "There was a segment of the population, about one-third, that was dead-set against him... even after he was shot in 1981 and the economy improved in 1986." And there's a similar faction of hard-core Palin opponents. Blake and Sonmez note that "where Reagan differs from Palin, though, is the so-called 'Reagan Democrats.' Even in his darkest days, about 20 percent of Democrats supported the former president. Palin hasn't gotten anywhere close to that; there are basically no Palin Democrats. And given the passions she evokes, it's hard to see how such a group would form."
But He's Wrong in Every Other Way Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway can't believe his ears. "Ronald Reagan was a man of strongly held ideas. Sarah Palin repeats sound bites she writes on her hand. Ronald Reagan served the state of California for two full terms. Sarah Palin quit the job she was elected to in order to pursue a more lucrative career as 'author' and Fox News talking head. I grew up on the Reagan Presidency, Ronald Reagan remains a political hero of mine. Senator, Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan."
McCain's Just Trying to Cover Himself "John McCain's political legacy is tied to Sarah Palin," writes Jason Easley at Politicususa. "If she were to get elected president, it would validate his 2008 choice to put her on the ticket, and remove what looks to be a permanent stain from his legacy. McCain is desperately hoping that he isn't remembered for unleashing a mentally ill, crack pot, Alaska hillbilly onto the national political scene." Easley adds that "Ronald Reagan whether one loves or loathes him, was qualified to be president. Sarah Palin is not ... Those who believe that Sarah Palin is the next Ronald Reagan are completely delusional."
He Didn't REALLY Compare Palin to Reagan While most headlines about this story have played up the sound bite, Elise Viebeck at The Hill goes a different route, pointing out that McCain "stopped short" and "retreated a bit" from drawing a full equivalence between the two politicians. Viebeck is right: When Crowley asks McCain, "Do you see her as a parallel [to Reagan]?" his response is a feint: "I think she's doing a great job. I think she has motivated our base, I think she had a positive impact on the last election, and I'm proud of her."
Anyway, the Idea Doesn't Hold Much Water Steve Kornacki at Salon rolls out a detailed post explaining all the ways in which the political landscape has changed between 1980 and now. Kornacki says that Palin is "not the clear front-runner that Reagan was... Her name never appeared on a single primary ballot; whether all -- or most -- of her admirers are willing to vote for her for president remains to be seen." He also notes that unlike when Reagan was campaigning for president, "there is plainly room for a non-Palin candidate -- even if it's a candidate who's not currently registering in the polls -- to claim the party base's loyalty for '12."