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Let Nancy Reagan Speak for Reagan
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, September 08, 2006

In his first advertising campaign, James Webb has tried to assume the Reagan Mantle, deploying a 1985 video of Ronald Reagan complimenting James Webb's military service:
"James' gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decorations," Reagan says. An announcer's voice continues as Reagan's image morphs into pictures of Webb as a soldier.
Not so fast! Three former Reagan peers — former Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, former Attorney General Ed Meese, and former Reagan Campaign Chairman and U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt - ripped that Reagan Mantle right back:
"We are disappointed that James Webb is dishonoring the memory of President Reagan by using an old video clip to imply that Ronald Reagan would be supporting him. He should be ashamed of himself.

It is Senator George Allen whose leadership, integrity and optimism reminds us of President Reagan. On virtually every issue, from the consistency of his views and outlook, to his constant support for low taxes and less government spending, to his commitment to supporting judges who will interpret the law rather than make new law, it is Senator Allen who is the true heir to President Reagan."
Meanwhile, Webb campaign spokesman Denny Todd suggests we "let Reagan speak for Reagan". I'm ok with that. Here's Nancy Reagan:
Nancy Reagan has ordered Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb — a former Reagan White House military aide — NOT to use video of her husband praising Webb in an upcoming campaign ad.

A three-paragraph letter from the former first lady's office says the use of footage of President Reagan is ... quote ... "neither authorized nor appropriate."
Webb tried to expropriate Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately for him, he encounted people who served with Ronald Reagan, who knew Ronald Reagan and who were friends with Ronald Reagan. Mr. Webb, Ronald Reagan's peers believe you are no Ronald Reagan.

Jon Henke is the New Media Coordinator for the George Allen Senate campaign.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Yeah, but did Webb imply that Reagan would endorse "Monkey Fest"??
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
Decorated military officers don’t necessarily make good politicians, even if they are better decision makers.
Written By: Mac
URL: http://
Webb is parading the fact that the President of the United Sates once praised him. He is not claiming President Reagan’s full backing (of course he wouldn’t, since Reagan is dead), just pointing out the fact that President Reagan also liked some of his qualities (at the time anyway). What’s wrong with that? At least he’s not arrogantly assuming the mantle of "Reagan’s True Heir".
Written By: Jojo
URL: http://
Reagan obviously thought very highly of Mr. Webb. I don’t think that we should be offended by that, even if he is a Dem.

Senator Allen also has a few Reagan quotes, not to mention quotes from Thomas Jefferson. We shouldn’t be offended by that either.
Written By: fcGop
URL: http://
If Reagan said it, Reagan said it. It doesn’t matter if Nancy doesn’t like the fact that her husband once said something nice about Jim Webb. It’s not exactly like the quote is "fake but accurate." Reagan commended Webb’s service. It was public. Nancy can’t pull that back from the public sphere even if she wishes her husband had never said nice things about her husband’s former Navy Secretary.
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
Reagan commended Webb’s service.
Nobody objects to Mr Webb’s military service and nobody disagrees with President Reagan’s characterization of it as honorable. Nobody. It’s just odd seeing Webb bring up the importance of military service 6 years after pointing out that it’s not military service but what you do with your his endorsement of Senator Allen. And it’s important not to conflate President Reagan’s approval of Webb’s military service with Reagan’s approval of Webb’s politics.
Written By: Jon Henke
Jon—9/11 changed things for a lot of people. I suspect the premium that’s being placed on the war on terror is likely to encourage more vets—especially those with strong national security credentials—to run for office. I see this as a healthy development.
Written By: JPTERP
URL: http://
Unfortunately for him, he encounted people who served with Ronald Reagan, who knew Ronald Reagan and who were friends with Ronald Reagan. Mr. Webb, Ronald Reagan’s peers believe you are no Ronald Reagan.

Jim Webb served with Ronald Reagan, as his second Secretary of the Navy.

You’re a hack, Jon.
Written By: David Weigel
But Jon, if all Reagan was doing was honoring Webb’s service, what’s wrong with using his statements to that effect in his political campaign? Does this mean that nobody is ever allowed to cite support they might have once gotten from across the aisle - because after all, that person might not support the political campaign at hand. It’d be one thing if Webb loathed Ronald Reagan and then turned around and used his endorsement to woo voters. But Webb genuinely admired and still admires Reagan. You can claim to your heart’s content that George Allen is the rightful heir to Reagan’s legacy. But that doesn’t mean Webb has to agree. Webb was a Republican, after all. And it wasn’t Reagan that made him jump to the Democrats. It was a much lesser President - George W. Bush - that did it for Webb.
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://
So are these George Allen posts from Jon considered part of the George Allen campaign, or not?

I guess I still find this a little confusing — He noted that’d he’d continue to post on QandO, and I’m happy for Jon that he got the position, but I find these posts just... odd. They have a different flavor than Jon’s usual posts; more single-shot barbed points than his customary contemplative musings. So it just doesn’t feel quite QandO, I dunno...

Written By: Mithras

Yes, Jim Webb "served" with Ronald Reagan. But he disagreed strongly with the policies Reagan advocated, took his disagreements public, disparging Reagan in his public statements, and ended up leaving his office after less than ten months as Secretary of Navy.

So I don’t think Webb can be considered a friend of Reagan. I would also think that Nancy Reagan, Ed Meese, Ken Duberstein, and Paul Laxalt are quite a bit more authorative as to what Reagan would think of the policies of Webb vs. Allen.
Written By: Fredrik Nyman
URL: http://

In reference to the Webb resignation I recommend checking these letters from the Reagan archive.

"It is with regret that I accept your resignation as Secretary of the Navy, effective February 22, 1988.

During the past four years, you have served our country with honor and courage, just as you have throughout your distinguished career. As my first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, you played a major role in revitalizing the reserve components of our Armed Forces. You were instrumental in restoring confidence and pride in one of our most noble national traditions — the concept of the American citizen-soldier . . ."

Ronald Reagan, February 23, 1988

What are your sources for Webb’s alleged "disparaging" comments about Reagan?

From what I understand Webb was hard-headed during his time as Navy Secretary but generally well-respected. Webb’s issue was with Secretary Carlucci’s fleet reduction proposal, not with President Reagan.
Written By: JPTERP
URL: http://
I just find it amusing that Webb - the nutroot’s selected candidate - is trying to claim the mantle of Reagan. How does that make the left feel? After all, Reagan was their first "Hitler" long before anyone ever heard of George W. Bush...
Written By: mark
Is this guy really implying that Reagan would have supported him over George Allen?

I am puzzled why a Democrat would use Ronald Reagan’s memory to try and get elected in the first place. According to his party Reagan was a lazy, stupid Nazi cowboy who almost started a nuclear war in his spare time while he wasn’t busy stealing school lunches from poor children.

Have Democrats really taken their hatred of GW Bush to such extremes that they are willing to give up their hatred of Reagan?

This is all so weird.
Written By: DS
URL: http://
Jim Webb served with Ronald Reagan, as his second Secretary of the Navy.
I fail to see what that has to do with the points I raised above. I’ve clearly acknowledged Mr Webb’s remarkable military service.
Written By: Jon Henke
Just for the record:

What is George Allen’s voting record on the massive increase in domestic government spending over the past 6 years, Medicare, Farm Bill, Highway Bill, etc., etc., etc.? Most Republicans voted for these monstrosities, is George Allen an exception?

If HE’S trying to assume the mantle of Reagan I assume he has a lot of Nay votes on record, or this hoo-hah is really about nothing. Should be easy to prove.
Written By: DS
URL: http://
Between now and the mid-term elections, I am assuming, as I must, that Jon is doing a job he has been commissioned to do, and that he is therefore circumscribed from, wrt many matters, speaking what he might otherwise speak.

My own dissatisfaction with George Allen is captured by Radley Balko (who also wishes Jon well, on a personal level).
Written By: Mona
It is odd, though, to see these posts by Jon. As Mithras noted, they have a very different flavor from his usual commentary. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with that.

As to Reagan, it seems clear to me that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have much of a claim to his mantle. But I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have approved of Webb’s use of the footage, given his belief in the 11th Commandment.
Written By: Andrew Olmsted
Andrew, that 11th Commandment only carries so far. Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat. He changed parties when he came to believe the Dems had abandoned his values. Jim Webb was once a Republican, having been tapped by Reagan to serve in his Administration. Indeed, as I understand it, Webb supported Allen in ’06. But Webb has now jumped parties.

People will do that when they determine the party they are in no longer stands for what is important to them. Webb is clearly using the Reagan footage to immunize himself from attempts to depict him as a raging leftist. Which he is not. Seems perfectly sensible to me that he would emphasize the approval Reagan once showered on him to make that point.

Out of deference to Jon, however, I’m not planning to opine overly much on this race; I don’t live in VA, so I don’t have that much stake in the outcome, anyway.
Written By: Mona
Let Nancy Reagan Speak for Reagan
But, Jon, you know who can speak for Ronald Reagan even better than Nancy Reagan?

Ronald Reagan.
Written By: Waldo Jaquith
Insofar as Reagan believes Jim Webb served honorably in the military, that’s a good point. I agree. Not sure how much that has to do with whether he should be a Virginia Senator, though. In fact, I believe Jim Webb has made that same point, previously.
Written By: Jon Henke
I don’t see where Webb says that Reagan would endorse him. Please provide a quote (Cf: Rumsfeld didn’t imply that admin critics were appeasers).
Written By: jpe
URL: http://
Correction. I wrote:
Webb supported Allen in ’06.
I meant: Webb supported Allen in ’00.
Written By: Mona
To the few Republicans who in this particular post have labeled Democrats "nutroots" and have accused us of villifying Reagan, hating his legacy, and even calling him a Nazi or other insulting names, let me respond.

I am a Democrat, no more a member of the nutroots than Republican bloggers who do pretty much the same thing - support their candidate with thoughtful, well-written posts.

I strongly disagreed with some of Reagan’s policies and philosophy, notably his economic ideas. Still do. But I never, never considered him a Nazi. And I don’t know anybody else who did. Those who labeled him as such were extremists not mainstream Democrats.

I admired his optimisim and his ability to communicate his ideas to the public. I just didn’t agree with all of this ideas

So please don’t characterize all Democrats as crazy traitors. The last time I looked, we still have freedom of dissent in our country. And I strongly suspect that Ronald Reagan passionately supported that right.

As for Jim Webb using the footage of Reagan praising his military service during a speech Reagan gave at the Naval Academy in 1985, Webb has a right to use it.

It’s silly to claim that it could mislead people into believing its an endorsement in a current campaign by a deceased president. Most people realize Reagan has passed away. His laying in state and funeral were very visible. They were widely televised and well covered media events.

Every candidate, including both Webb and George Allen, has a right to display pictures of himself with respected leaders and to quote words of praise from those leaders. The footage of Reagan praising Webb’s military service is Webb’s history. It’s his biography and he’s every bit as entitled to use it in his campaign as Allen is to use his history.
Written By: Anonymousisawoman
I seem to recall in the not too distant past (2004 election, maybe?) that the GOP ran ads showing John Kennedy talking about how lowering taxes was good for the economy. The howls from prominent Democrats were deafening.

Now the shoe’s on the other foot, and neither side seems to like it very much.
Written By: steverino
Comment Rescue:
"But, Jon, you know who can speak for Ronald Reagan even better than Nancy Reagan?

Ronald Reagan."

Waldo Jaquith

Heh, heh.
Written By: Bubby
URL: http://
You must be very proud to be working for a racist, and a wife beater.

Ask your boss about his first wife sometime. It’s common knowledge in Charlottesville that he used to use his first wife as a punching bag. He sent her to the emergency room and the battered women’s shelter on more than one occasion.

Ask your boss if he’s ever punched out his current wife. If he answers, it’ll be the blogging scoop of the century.

[EDIT: I see people coming to this post, under the impression that this comment was left by a staffer for the Richmond Times Dispatch. I’ve looked at the IP address used to leave the comment and it doesn’t appear to be from either the RTD or from Richmond at all. This was almost certainly left by a prankster, spoofing the reporters email address — Jon Henke]
Written By: Elder Statesman
It’s common knowledge in Charlottesville that he used to use his first wife as a punching bag. He sent her to the emergency room and the battered women’s shelter on more than one occasion.
That kind of thing demands at least one link. If it were true, it would be all over the MSM and the blogs. I decline to believe such defamation without evidence — no matter my political assessment of George Allen.
Written By: Mona
The reason Webb’s usage of Reagan’s 1985 endorsement of him has struck such a chord with the Allenites is that it drives home Webb’s larger point so lethally. As Ronald Reagan once said of the Democrats, "I didn’t leave the Democratic Party of FDR. The Democratic Party left me." It was extremely powerful and it served to highlight how a party once committed to the "common man" had devolved into an interest-group led coalition of ossified welfare statists, pacifists and racial antagonists. Webb, in effect, is saying the same thing in reverse. He claims, "I didn’t leave the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. The Republican Party left me." He is saying, in essence, that the party of strength, character and national renewal has devolved into the party of religious extremism, personal vindictiveness and ideological obtuseness on matters of national security. That doesn’t mean Webb supports all of Reagan’s old agenda. He doesn’t. Just as Reagan didn’t continue to believe in many parts of the New Deal. Both men clearly changed after the object of their admiration passed from the scene. But they both looked back fondly on the character of the men that helped them form their earliest political identity.
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://

you could do a better job of promoting George Allen while not alienating your Q and O readers, if you took on big ideas in a substantive manner, like you used to.

I’m no fan of Ronald Reagan, though I’m sure he had his good points. It’s nothing to me which one’s claims of friendship with Ronald Reagan win the contest of dead-on exactitude. But more to the point, even people who like Reagan aren’t going to be convinced by hearsay and attitude.

This would have been a better post if it had attempted to demonstrate which of Reagan’s major policy initiatives, beliefs, and ideas that Jim Webb doesn’t support.

Just some constructive criticism.
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Still haven’t seen an snswer to this one:

What is George Allen’s voting record on the massive increase in domestic government spending over the past 6 years, Medicare, Farm Bill, Highway Bill, etc., etc., etc.? Most Republicans voted for these monstrosities, is George Allen an exception?

If HE’S trying to assume the mantle of Reagan I assume he has a lot of Nay votes on record, or this hoo-hah is really about nothing. Should be easy to prove.
Written By: DS
URL: http://
this Henke guy is bringing this site down. When I want to read a politicians webpage, I’ll go to a politicians webpage.
Written By: DaveMon
URL: http://
"this Henke guy..."
No, DaveMon, it is crass commenting like the phrase quoted above that brings a site down.
Written By: Notherbob2
URL: http://
The real question here:

Who told Nancy to condemn the Webb ad? Was it her astrologer, or was it her tarot cards?
Written By: Virginia Centrist
JPTERP, I’m not sure what your point is. Are you suggesting that if Reagan wasn’t happy with Webb he would have written a different letter, e.g., one reading "Dear Jim, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out?" There are certain rules of decorum, and certain things you always vs. never say, especially in print. While in law school searching for my first job, I got too many ding letters to count that were every bit as complimentary, if not more so, than Reagan’s "regretful" acceptance of Webb’s resignation.
Written By: Xrlq

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