It's no secret that many current Republican politicians admire Ronald Reagan, but Stephen Colbert is calling the recent trend of Reagan worship into question. On Monday night's Late Show, Colbert interviewed GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about his campaign plans, gay marriage, and his stance on Reagan as a role model. When Colbert asked Cruz about Reagan, he had some cutting questions about Reagan's policies. Colbert's insightful queries are a powerful reminder about what Reagan actually did during his presidency. And his skepticism of Reagan as an ultimate Christian role model provides a much-needed dose of reality after last week's GOP debate, which took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (and featured plenty of positive words about Reagan's legacy).
"Reagan raised taxes," Colbert told Cruz matter-of-factly during the interview. "Reagan actually had an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. Neither of those things would allow Reagan to be nominated today." He then took things a step further by asking Cruz "to what level" he and the other Republican presidential hopefuls could actually emulate Reagan, given the stark differences in their policy views. Cruz at first attempted to switch the conversation topic to his disappointment with President Obama, but Colbert wasn't having it, and he forced Cruz to answer his questions about Reagan's now-controversial policies.
Cruz responded to Colbert's statements by saying that even though Reagan is a role model for him and other Republican presidential candidates, he "of course" doesn't agree with Reagan's policies on immigration and raising taxes. Cruz tried to flip the table by saying that he approved of Reagan's signing "the largest tax cut in history" and his reduction of "regulations from Washington," but Colbert pushed back against those statements.
"When conditions changed in the country, [Reagan] reversed his 'world's largest tax cut' and raised taxes, when revenues did not match the expectations," Colbert stated, adding that Reagan understood that taxes and other policy matters are "a matter of compromise." He asked Cruz if he, like Reagan, would be willing to compromise with Democrats. "It's entirely possible that your plan might be the right one. [But] if it turns out not to be the right one, would you be willing to compromise with the other side, change your mind, and do something that the other side wants, and not feel like you've capitulated with the devil?"
Cruz didn't exactly give Colbert a straight answer to that question, saying that his response to political issues is to not "throw rocks and insults" against Democrats and fellow Republicans. "What I'm fighting for are simple principles," Cruz added, suggesting that his fundamental views transcend party lines. "Live within our means, stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, follow the Constitution."
Amid all of the mudslinging and ad hominem attacks that tend to be associated with political campaigns, Cruz's simple answer and his refusal to participate in verbal attacks is definitely refreshing. Still, his hesitation to respond to Colbert's specific questions about Reagan proves that Colbert had a valid point. And maybe it's time for Republican politicians, whether they're running for president or not, to look to the future instead of continually embracing Reagan and the past.
Image: The Late Show