When Ronald Reagan left office in early 1989, several conservative activists feared history may not be especially kind to the two-term Republican, who spent most of his second term under a cloud of scandal, corruption, and mismanagement. The "Reagan Legacy Project" intended to give the former president a public-relations boost, urging state and local governments to start naming things -- schools, bridges, courthouses, highways, etc. -- after Reagan.
And for the most part, the p.r. scheme has been a great success. Reagan's name is everywhere, and the Republican icon is far more popular with Americans now than when he was actually president. Missteps like selling weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in central America have been largely swept under the rug.
But those preoccupied with the Reagan "legacy" never seem satisfied. Congressional Republicans, for example, have already built a Reagan building downtown and forced National Airport to change its name, but it's now time to start renaming bodies of water, too.
The House Natural Resources Committee will likely approve legislation Wednesday that would name 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean and thousands of miles of coastline after the late President Ronald Reagan.Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) legislation would rename the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which generally extends from three miles to 200 miles offshore, as the Ronald Wilson Reagan Exclusive Economic Zone.... The late Reagan, a Californian like Issa, established the EEZ with a 1983 presidential proclamation that declared the nation's sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting and conserving offshore resources, including energy.
Yes, the man the RNC once literally referred to as "Ronaldus Magnus" apparently doesn't have quite enough stuff named after him -- a problem Issa is eager to address by changing the name of nearly all of the water surrounding the United States. Our coastal waters would necessarily be known, forevermore, as Reagan waters.
Why? Because congressional Republicans say so.
It comes a year after Mitt Romney proposed the creation of a Reagan Zone Of Economic Freedom -- no, seriously -- that would include all of the countries around China, which would be bolstered by their new powers bestowed upon them by magical Reaganism.
What I find especially curious about all of this is that today's Republican Party, radicalized to an extent unseen in the United States in recent history, has absolutely no use for the Reagan legacy. None.
Bob Dole, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, and others have all said in recent years that Reagan couldn't even win a GOP primary by today's standards, at least with his policy record, and I'm fairly certain they're correct.
As we talked about last year, Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times, and he supported the precursor to the Buffett Rule. In his first term, Reagan raised taxes when unemployment was nearing 11% -- imagine trying this today -- and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. It's a fact the right finds terribly inconvenient, but "no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people" as Reagan.
Reagan gave amnesty to undocumented immigrants, expanded the size of the federal government, tripled the debt, backed bailouts of domestic industries, and called for a world without nuclear weapons. Reagan also routinely compromised with Democrats, met with our most hated enemy without preconditions, and was willing to criticize Israel.
And then there's his gubernatorial record: in California, Reagan increased spending, raised taxes, helped create the nation's first state-based emissions standards, signed an abortion-rights bill, and expanded the nation's largest state-based Medicaid program (socialized health insurance).
Maybe today's GOP policymakers should focus less on naming stuff after Reagan and focus more on governing like him?