A couple of weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) presidential campaign launched a new television ad, condemning the international nuclear agreement. The funny part, however, was Christie’s argument that Obama should have followed the example set by … Ronald Reagan.
The subject came up again last night, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked whether he’s prepared to abandon the U.S. commitment to the diplomatic deal on the first day of his imaginary presidency. The senator replied:
“I oppose the Iranian deal, and will vote against it. I don’t think that the president negotiated from a position of strength, but I don’t immediately discount negotiations. I’m a Reagan conservative.”
Paul went on to note that Reagan negotiated with the USSR, which is proof that the United States can engage in talks with our foes, though Paul opposes the Iran deal anyway for reasons he didn’t specify.
A little later in the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also added a dash of Ronaldus Magnus and Iran. Responding to a question on cyber-security, the Republican senator said, “It is worth emphasizing that Iran released our hostages in 1981 the day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.”
It’s worth emphasizing that Cruz’s story is based on a GOP fairy tale.
Regardless, the underlying point remains the same: when it comes to U.S. policy towards Iran, the current crop of Republican presidential candidates keep pointing to Reagan as the model for contemporary leaders to follow. Perhaps they haven’t thought this through.
Let’s again set the record straight: the Reagan White House illegally tried to sell weapons to Iran in order to help finance an illegal war in Central America. It was one of the biggest scandals in American history. Much of Reagan’s national-security team ended up under criminal indictment.
At one point in 1986, Reagan delivered a nationally televised address in which he looked at the camera and promised Americans the scandal wasn’t true. Four months later, he was forced to deliver another televised address, conceding the fact that his claims in the first one weren’t true.
I can appreciate why Republicans find all of this quite inconvenient now, and why the right may prefer to wipe the scandal from the party’s collective memories, but when the subject of U.S. policy towards Iran comes up, pointing to Reagan as some kind of Platonic ideal is ridiculous.