GOP Reagan-Bush spin echoed by the media

Within hours of the death of Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States, purported similarities between Reagan and President George W. Bush became a favored talking point of Republican political operatives and then was echoed by others, including a reporter from The Washington Post appearing on a FOX Sunday talk show.

The spin:

Frank Fahrenkopf, former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman, on a CNN breaking news segment on June 5:

FAHRENKOPF: I think what also came to mind was the comparison in a way with President Bush. I mean, when Ronald Reagan came to Washington in 1981, the view was that this was a governor from a western state, no foreign policy experience. He was “dumb,” a cowboy actor. Remember all of that? That he needed advisers around him to do anything. And sort of very much the same thing that George W. Bush faced when he first time [sic]. The economy, I mean people forget the day he was sworn into office; the crime rate in this country was 21.5. It's hard to believe that now, looking back. So the great changes that he brought and the dignity and pride he brought back to America are the things that resonate most with me.

Grover Norquist, conservative movement leader and president of the Americans for Tax Reform, on June 5 (as quoted by The Washington Post on June 6):

NORQUIST: George W. Bush has governed as if it were the third term of Ronald Reagan's presidency. People who are looking to run for president in 2008 will run as Ronald Reagan's heirs.

(Norquist holds weekly conservative strategy sessions in a boardroom of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, DC, where talking points are distributed among “lobbyists, analysts, senior White House and Hill staffers, advocates for property rights, gun ownership and traditional values” according to a January article in The Washington Post.)

The echo:

Morton M. Kondracke -- Roll Call executive editor, co-host of FOX News Channel's The Beltway Boys, and regular contributor on FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume -- during a FOX News Channel alert on June 5:

KONDRACKE: What's amazing is how underrated he [Reagan] was by his opposition, and it's uncanny how parallel that is to George Bush. There were covers on Der Spiegel magazine, for example, in Germany when Reagan became President, “cowboy,” “dunderhead,” “movie star,” all that kind of stuff, and the Democrats all thought he was a dunce too, and it kind of all encapsulated in that wonderful Saturday Night Live send-up, you remember, during the Iran-Contra scandal.that was the caricature of what most of Washington, especially the Democrats, thought that this guy was all about, and they still give Gorbachev the main credit for the end of the Cold War, as though it was Gorbachev's gift to the world to demolish his own Empire.

Ceci Connolly, Washington Post staff writer and regular contributor on FOX Broadcasting Company's FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, on that program on June 6:

CONNOLLY: You really see what a lasting impact he [Reagan] had on American politics, and especially Republican politics. I mean, think about, well into the late 1990's we were all out around the country looking for those “Reagan Democrats.” Reaganomics, a type of economic theory that we studied and wrote about and tracked for such a long period of time. When you stop and think now about the second President Bush, I think that you see many of the same traits and characteristics, and in fact, secrets to political success. You see another political leader who thinks in big strokes, who often thinks in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, who is a delegator, who does not get bogged down in the details, who is often underestimated or underrated, has that same sunny optimistic outlook, talks about freedom around the world, those same themes, smaller government. Not always successful at some of those goals, certainly, both times around rising deficits, but you really see that lasting impact.

Connolly's view of Reagan and Bush is shared by GOP operatives but not by Washington Post “Style” section columnist Tom Shales, who wrote:

The gap between him [President George W. Bush] and Ronald Reagan -- in terms of stature, speaking ability, and overall presidentiality -- is gargantuan.