Leaders are not created equal

April 13, 1997|By Laura Ingraham

Americans are more cynical than ever about politicians, believing that the conduct of the Clinton administration is no different from any other presidency in recent memory.

Yet even a cursory examination of the record of President Clinton compared with that of President Ronald Reagan, the other recent two-termer, leads to the comforting conclusion that not all politicians are created equal. Consider:

* Administration's guiding principles.

Reagan: limited government, a strong defense, encouraging democratic movements abroad.

Clinton: See latest polling data.

* Domestic policy hallmarks.

Reagan: restoring national pride, beating runaway inflation, reducing taxes.

Clinton: school uniforms, midnight basketball, the V-chip, mandatory 48-hour hospital stays.

* Justification of most damaging administration scandal.

Reagan (Iran-contra): fighting the juggernaut of communism in Central America.

Clinton (fund raising): fighting the juggernaut of Bob Dole.

* Vice presidential strategies for fulfilling presidential ambitions.

Reagan (George Bush): solicited support from the Christian Right.

Clinton (Al Gore): solicited cash from the impoverished Buddhists.

* Important forces behind presidential re-election.

Reagan: blue-collar workers, Southern Democrats, Catholics.

Clinton: China, the CIA, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Lippo Group.

* Location of first family vacations.

Reagan: ranch in Santa Barbara.

Clinton: wherever a rich friend has an empty house.

* Stance on hot-button issue.

Reagan (abortion): anti-abortion during 1980 campaign, anti-abortion during first term, anti-abortion during 1984 campaign, anti-abortion during second term.

Clinton (welfare reform): for it (during 1992 campaign), vetoed it (twice), for it again (signing GOP bill during 1996 campaign), then promised to fix it (soon after signing bill).

So lest we forget, there was a time not long ago when the presidency and the White House had value for Americans beyond providing fresh material for Letterman and Leno. Reagan didn't have degrees from fancy places like Oxford and Yale, but even his political foes knew he led by holding a firm grip on the rudder of right and wrong.

Laura Ingraham is a news analyst for CBS News and MSNBC. The article is adapted from a piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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