-- by Dave
As you might imagine, Fox News was practically a nonstop Ronald Reagan 100th birthday commemorative channel over the weekend, with practically wall-to-wall coverage of events and speeches at the Reagan Library. And at times it was so maudlin that it was embarrassing.
Pretty typical of this was a segment yesterday featuring Greg Jarrett and Casey Stegall discussing the day's events, as Stegall gushed over what a moving tribute it all was, and Jarrett eagerly agreed.
And of course, this also meant that Fox couldn't miss the chance to bash President Obama by comparison. So immediately afterward, Heather Childers -- a new weekend co-anchor at Fox -- came on with a George W. Bush lackey named Christian Whiton, speculating about how Reagan might have handled the crisis in Egypt.
Interestingly, Whiton insisted that Reagan would have been on the side of the pro-democracy marchers because "he just believed in freedom that much."
Then he and Childers proceeded to slag Obama:
CHILDERS: You just mentioned 'tear down this wall' -- four words, changed the worlds, helping end Communism, and of course, the fall of the Berlin Wall -- those words, pretty straightforward, unlike President Obama's initial words to Hosni Mubarak calling for an 'orderly transition.' Did Obama do the right thing initially?
WHITON: No. And you know, Ronald Reagan also believed in being somewhat concise in foreign policy, especially the big goals. And he knew what was really behind the threats we faced -- he had spent the better part of three decades before he took office in 1981 thinking about the threat from Russia -- not just its more apparent manifestations like the Red Army in Eastern Europe, the Red Army in Afghanistan, ICBMs, but understood what drove it, the Communist ideology. And he understood that ultimate victory meant undermining Communism.
But in the same way, not only President Obama but his predecessor in the White House have not really made the same analogy of our current conflict. We haven't identified Islamism as the chief thing that unites groups from Al Qaeda to the Islamic Brotherhood, the Hezbollah. Nor have we figured out how to fight it, and President Obama, the Obama administration saying that it would be fine for the Muslim Brotherhood to be part of a future Egyptian government shows that our Washington foreign-policy establishment really doesn't understand today's threats the way Ronald Reagan used to.
CHILDERS: And while President Reagan had some dramatic successes, there still remain some questions regarding his policies with South Africa and apartheid. He maintained a constructive-engagement policy. Are there lessons to be learned from that in dealing with Egypt.
WHITON: There are. You know, President Reagan was a very principled person, but he was not a Boy Scout, nor should we want our presidents to be Boy Scouts. You know, one analogy, the Philippines was run by an autocrat, and we partnered with that autocrat, Ferdinand Marcos, out of necessity, because the bigger objective we were working toward was the defeat of Communism. But we still always behind the scenes and sometimes in front of the scenes put pressure on Marcos to reform politically, to liberalize. And then when the Filipinos took to the streets to demand his ouster, we helped facilitate that ouster. So you can work with unsavory characters, and unfortunately often you have to do that in diplomacy, but keeping your eyes on the bigger picture, which at that point was the defeat of Communism, and at this point ought to be the defeat of Islamism -- you know, keep your eye on that ball and you'll do OK. And I think Ronald Reagan knew that.
CHILDERS: It's so obvious from the ceremony today -- Ronald Reagan followed words with action -- he believed in being clear -- famously called for the Soviet Union, called it an 'evil empire' -- pretty clear words. Do you think Obama's problem is that he appears to waver, or was that necessary in the initial stages of the revolution going on in Egypt?
WHITON: Well, there was tremendous wavering at first, then the president came out and said a few positive things about democracy and freedom, but he has no credibility on that issue, and actions have not been followed with words. You can't say that and then turn around later and say that, you know, the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood ought to be welcomed into an Egyptian government. You can't welcome people into your political system who want to destroy that political system unless you're willing to have it be destroyed.
You know, Reagan backed up his rhetoric against the Soviet Union -- we supported freedom movements in the Eastern Bloc, we supported Solidarity in Poland, we fielded a 600-ship Navy, a Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense, all sorts of other things. So when President Obama, and frankly before him, with President George W. Bush, when they say nice things about democracy, people around the world judge us on our actions, not on our words, and frankly, actions haven't followed words as they did under the Reagan administration.
This is all just so incoherent that it's laughable. If Ronald Reagan was so clear and straightforward about dealing with threats to the United States, then how does Whiton explain the fact that Reagan secretly traded arms for hostages in his dealings with Iran?
Indeed, Reagan's "clarity" and obsessive focus on Communism at the expense of all other potential threats led to the Reagan administration financing and creating monsters who later became real threats to American security themselves. We can't forget, after all, that is was the Reagan administration that propped up the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, against whom we later engaged not just in one but in two wars. Nor can we forget that it was the Reagan administration that underwrote the Afghanistan resistance that then gave birth to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
But comparing Mubarak to Marcos is indeed worthwhile -- though not in the way Whiton seems to think. Because in fact the Reagan administration -- which had been Marcos' staunchest ally -- notoriously dithered while the "People Power Revolution" gathered. It was only when Marcos' removal became a fair accompli that the Reagan White House acted to help him remove to Hawaii -- absconding with millions of dollars in gold bullion certificates.
In contrast, the Obama administration has been a model of quiet consistency on the situation in Egypt, where it has been pushing Mubarak to liberalize consistently, and has been consistent in supporting the pro-democracy forces marching in the streets, as Whiton clearly believes we should.
Meanwhile, right on Fox News, we have right-wingers like Dick Morris arguing loudly that, in order to defeat Islamism -- which Whiton thinks is our top priority now -- we need to strongly support Mubarak and his thugs.
Really, right-wingers can't seem to be able to decide whether to crap or go blind when it comes to Obama and Egypt. The only thing they know: Obama Bad, Reagan Good.
[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]