Trump v. Reagan
I know there are some who want to turn back, who want to return to the more insular and isolationist days of old. I vetoed the trade bill last week because I don't believe we can or should turn back. Critics of our policies complain that, on one hand, America is, as they say, "exporting jobs," which is to say our companies invest overseas, and on the other hand, that America is "selling itself to foreigners," which is to say that foreign companies are investing here. Put it together, and what they're really saying is "turn back." The isolationism of their foreign policy walks hand in hand with the isolationism of their economic policy, and both will lead us to disaster.
Dan Balz writes at The Washington Post:
“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so,” Ronald Reagan told one of the first CPAC gatherings in January 1974. “The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia.” Quoting Pope Pius XII after World War II, Reagan said, “Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”
Contrast that with what President Trump said Friday when he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump’s speech, coupled with the appearance a day earlier by White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, provided the most definitive articulation of the “America First” philosophy that carried Trump to victory in November and that is redefining conservatism and, with it, the Republican Party.
“We need to define what this great, great unprecedented movement is and what it actually represents,” Trump said. “The core conviction of our movement is that we are a nation that put and will put its own citizens first. For too long, we’ve traded away our jobs to other countries. So terrible. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while leaving ours wide open.”
Trump opened his speech Friday with another screed at the media as dishonest, repeating his claim that news organizations are the enemy of the American people. When Reagan appeared before CPAC in 1981 shortly after his inauguration, he said this:
“During our political efforts, we were the subject of much indifference and often times intolerance, and that’s why I hope our political victory will be remembered as a generous one and our time in power will be recalled for the tolerance we showed for those with whom we disagree. . . . We must hold out this exciting prospect of an orderly, compassionate, pluralistic society, an archipelago of prospering communities and divergent institutions.”
That too is a contrast between the 40th president and the 45th.