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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: They’re no Ronald Reagan

The Wednesday debate among Republican presidential candidates was held at the Reagan Library, which features the airplane the Gipper flew on as president. It’s no surprise that all of the candidates, except for Jon Huntsman, crowded onto the very tip of the right wing, but it’s strange that they would express their adulation for a president who traveled comfortably in the middle.

I can envision a couple of Ronald Reagan’s retorts to some of the candidates’ comments.

“There you go again!” Texas Gov. Rick Perry concurred with the other candidates who had rejected a hypothetical budget deal in which there would be $10 in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases. The bipartisan Deficit Commission suggested a 3-1 ratio of cuts to new revenue. Reagan signed off on multiple tax increases, some in response to widening deficits.

“Facts are ugly things.” Several statements fit this rejoinder:

Mitt Romney said his reform of health care in Massachusetts only affected 8 percent of residents, whereas “Obamacare” affects 100 percent of Americans. Politifact, a fact-checking organization, rated this claim “Pants on Fire” (as in “Liar, Liar …”). Romney’s Massachusetts figure refers to the percentage of residents who were uninsured before the law was adopted. But when he discusses Obamacare, he is counting everyone who could potentially be affected, even if they’re already insured. Both plans feature purchasing mandates and penalties for failing to comply.

Perry accused President Barack Obama of having poor information or being an “abject liar” for saying “the border is safer than it’s ever been.” First, Obama didn’t say that, but he did point to improved conditions in a speech in El Paso, Texas: “We now have more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any time in our history. The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents – more than twice as many as there were in 2004.”

Though off slightly on the number of agents, rated this statement true. It also noted a USA Today article showing that violent crime rates along the border have been falling for years. It’s more dangerous for a cop on the beat in most major U.S. cities than it is for agents patrolling the Mexican border.

Perry also called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, which is flat wrong. But if he truly believes it is a criminal enterprise, then it’s odd that he doesn’t call for it to be abolished, rather than fixed. Bernie Madoff would enjoy such mercy. This is an especially weird claim to make at the Reagan Library, because Reagan was the last president to sign off on a major rescue plan for the program. If politicians had let the program alone at that point, it wouldn’t be in need of repairs today. Instead, Social Security revenue was borrowed to cover other spending. If any “scheme” needs to be called out, it’s this one.

Campaign prevaricating is to be expected, but you’d think these candidates could let Reagan be Reagan and quit pretending that they are.

Projecting. Speaking of Reagan, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner should’ve borrowed one of his quotes for Friday’s press conference: “Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.”

Indeed, she declined all media inquiries in announcing that City Hall is going to get to the bottom of all that went wrong in the Otto Zehm case, just as soon as the criminal and civil trials conclude. From there, city leaders will recommend the appropriate changes.

Here are two suggestions: Add an “Accuracy Watch” feature to the Spokane Police Department’s newsletter. As I noted five years ago, this gem was authored by then-acting police chief Jim Nicks:

“Our department is currently under a media microscope. It’s my opinion that the Spokane area has an overabundance of media and a lack of self-generating sensational news. In an effort to keep the news interesting, sometimes our media is prone to misrepresent and mislead the public. Unfortunately, some are influenced by this reporting, and respond emotionally before all the facts are known.”

The second suggestion is to consult a psychologist who understands “projection.” Here is Webster’s online definition of this affliction: “The attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects; especially the externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.”

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.
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