Guest: Political Commentator, Actor and Former First Son Ron Reagan
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Reagan says that his father not only would not have supported Trump, he would have been “sickened” by Trump’s candidacy:
RR: “Of course [Reagan would have found Trump’s candidacy abhorrent], yes, of course. My father would be terribly embarrassed by this, would be embarrassed for his country, his party, Republican voters who were foolish enough to nominate this guy.
I think he would be sickened by Donald Trump. Donald Trump, by the way, claims to have known my father—that they knew each other—and, you know, “I liked him, he liked me. He was a good guy.”
My father would not have known Donald Trump if Trump stood up in his soup. They met at a receiving line once and had their picture taken, I’m sure. But my father didn’t know Donald Trump and wouldn’t have cared for Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not the sort of fellow my father really talked to.”
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Reagan says the possibility of electing Trump poses “an existential threat to our country”:
RR: The presidency is an awesomely powerful position, not just for the United States, not just in the United States, but globally as well. In this particular case, we have an instance where one of the two main candidates running for the presidency is someone who is so unfit, so unknowledgeable, seemingly so uninterested, really, in the job that voting for him, electing him to the presidency would pose an existential threat to our country, actually.”
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Reagan fundamentally disagrees with the premise of a recent Frank Rich article in New York magazine drawing parallels between the candidacies of his father and Donald Trump, saying “My father was a grown-up. … He did real stuff.”:
RR: “I didn’t read that column. I heard mention of it so I can’t comment on it specifically and deal with it point by point.
The idea that my father who was a two-term governor of the largest state in the union, who had been an outstanding member of his party for years and years—he was a Democrat, of course, originally but then became a Republican in the … ’50s.
My father was a grown-up. My father was an adult. He did real stuff. He cared more about the country than himself. He is nothing like Donald Trump and whatever parallel Rich might have found in terms of the logistics of their campaigns or something like that or my father’s appeal to white working class voters or something like that is pretty superficial. The similarities are pretty superficial.”
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Reagan rips into Paul Ryan and says the future of the Republican Party is in jeopardy with or without Trump:
RR: “The future of the Republican Party is already in jeopardy even without Trump because this phenomenon that has been taking place would have taken place without Trump. If it wasn’t Donald Trump it would be somebody like him. It’d be a Ted Cruz who would mouth some of the same stuff.
Remember that Donald Trump, if you tease out what appear to be policy announcements—because really he doesn’t have any ideas, any ideology, any real policy prescriptions—if you sort of tease out some of this, much of what he’s saying is pretty much Republican orthodoxy. He strays at times. He goes off and criticizes the Iraq War, says something nice about Planned Parenthood or something like that, but most of it is the same kind of crap that Republicans have been saying for quite some time so he’s really no different than the rest of them.
But most of these people, like Paul Ryan, for instance, who has had some harsh things to say and had some very harsh things to say about Donald Trump, very realistic things—the fact that he’s a demagogue, the fact that he appears to be a racist, or at least behaves like a racist, the fact that he would be a threat to our nation were he in the White House—and yet, they’ll turn right around and say, “Well, of course I’m going to support him. Of course he’s the nominee of our party”, as if partisanship trumps what’s good for the country, no pun intended.
But that’s what these people apparently feel. They are heaping shame upon themselves. Paul Ryan should be embarrassed to shave in the morning. I don’t know how he looks at himself in the mirror and the rest of them, too.”
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Reagan calls Trump “a dangerous clown” and says Sanders was “more of a threat to the establishment than anybody running for president … in my lifetime:
RR: “I think that Bernie Sanders, even more than Donald Trump who, after all, is just a clown—he’s a dangerous clown if he got into a position of power, but he is just a clown—Bernie Sanders was more of a threat to the establishment than anybody running for president in maybe, well, certainly in my lifetime, I think, any major party candidate running for president. And I think that the media establishment and the political establishment heaved a sigh of relief on both sides of the aisle, both Democrats and Republicans, when it became apparent that Bernie Sanders was not going to be able to pull off the upset against Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders wants to change the system. Hillary Clinton wants to tweak it, but like her friends in the media, her presentations is that basically everything is OK, really. There’s nothing really wrong with the system. It just needs some adjusting. It needs some fine-tuning. Bernie Sanders is saying no, the system needs to be changed. And that’s something the establishment is not particularly excited about. It’s their system. They don’t want to change it.”
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Reagan on whether he thinks Bernie Sanders’ candidacy will leave a lasting impression on the Democratic Party and the nation:
RR: “Yes, I do. You look at who, primarily, his voters are. They were young people. This is the generation to come. These are millennials and younger and all of a sudden it is no longer unthinkable to have a real conversation in this country about, for instance, universal single-payer healthcare. We were reminded by the Sanders candidacy that we are the only developed nation on Earth that doesn’t provide our citizens healthcare as a right of citizenship. Those sorts of ideas are going to take hold. Sanders is the head of a movement now and Elizabeth Warren, perhaps, can pick up the gauntlet and carry it forward even farther, particularly if she becomes the vice-presidential nominee.”
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Reagan slams Donald Trump and explains how the media should cover him:
RR: “I think that the primary challenge right now for the media, now that we’ve sort of sorted out the primaries and things like that, is to not fall into the habit of treating this election like most other elections, in particular, not treating Donald Trump as if he is a normal, if somewhat colorful candidate, for the Republican Party.
Donald Trump is not fit for office and the Republican Party, by nominating Donald Trump for the presidency, has revealed itself to be a political organization that is simply not to be taken seriously anymore. They’ve been heading down this road for a long time now, but they’ve reached this sort of apotheosis.
And it’s not about Donald Trump either. Donald Trump before long will be back to peddling rubber steaks and jug wine. But the voters, the half, let’s say, of the Republican Party that will vote for a Donald Trump, that’s the problem the Republicans are stuck with now for the long haul. What do you do with those voters? What do you do with your constituents when what they want is a fool like Donald Trump?
So the challenge for the media here is to lay all of this out and to call a spade a spade and not pretend that we’re just having a slightly unusual election cycle here. No, it’s nothing of the kind. We only really have one candidate running for president now and it’s Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, you know, should not even be considered by anyone who considers themselves an adult.”
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Reagan responds to Bill Samuels’ argument that the reforms made to the Democratic Party in the 1968 and 1972 conventions, flipping the nomination process largely to the public rather than the party insiders, created the conditions that gave rise to the possibility of an “idiot like Donald Trump” becoming President:
RR: “Well, I understand what you’re saying and the point about populism that you’re making. I really think though that what has led to this particular place in the Republican Party is—because let’s not do a false equivalency here between the Republicans and the Democrats. I’ve got plenty of problems with the Democratic Party, which is always trying to act more like Republicans, frankly. That’s my big problem with them, but they’re nothing like the Republican Party now.
At around about the time that you were talking about back in the ’60s during the civil rights era and all, the Republican Party was also going through a shift and this was the adaptation of the so-called “southern strategy” that started out as a pretty blatantly racist strategy. “We’re gonna flip the South from, you know, white Democrats to white Republicans.”
And it also began this sort of cultivation of the religious right and the first stirrings of the anti-science movement, anti-intellectualism among Republicans. And the Republican Party began cultivating the most ignorant, fearful people in the United States.
And with the advent of FOX, of course, the FOX quote-unquote News Channel, which is just a propaganda wing of the conservative movement and certain corporate interests, they had their own propaganda mill and they began filling these people’s heads with misinformation. As I’m sure you know, people who watch Fox News know less about the world than people who watch no news at all. They’ve found this in poll after poll after poll. Consistently, year after year, if you watch Fox News you are less informed than if you watch no news at all because you’re being, of course, misinformed.
And all of this has led up to having a constituency within the Republican Party of people who really don’t know anything about the world they live in, who live in a kind of fantasy bubble where the president is a Kenyan and he’s a Muslim and he’s actually in league with terrorists and for some reason he’s trying to bring down the country. He hasn’t been able to do it for 8 years now but he’s trying. He’s trying to tear the country down along with the terrorists. And part of that will be taking all our guns away. Yes, I know he hasn’t done it yet, but you wait. In the last month of his presidency all of this will happen. And by the way, global warming is a hoax and evolution doesn’t take place and that sort of stuff.
If you believe all of that kind of nonsense, the birther nonsense and all the rest, you can vote for an idiot like Donald Trump. He’ll seem fairly normal to you. He’s saying the sort of idiot things that you say to yourself when you’re sitting around in front of a television at home. That is what’s happened to this country. (There’s) a large chunk of the populace who are just idiots.”
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Reagan on whether there is any way the Republicans will come around on gun control:
RR: “I don’t know how much more dramatic you can get than 49 dead people in a nightclub or, perhaps, 20 dead first graders in a school classroom. I mean really, how much more dramatic does it have to be before somebody decides that sucking up to the NRA and the gun industry isn’t as important as saving people’s lives?
Apparently we just haven’t reached that threshold yet with the Republican Party and I don’t think that this latest atrocity is going to make a difference. I think you might be able to peel off a few Republican votes, but the party as a whole isn’t going to come along with gun regulation.
But I think you can peel off a few votes, perhaps, for very specifically targeted things like closing the gun show loophole. That would be a huge thing. 45% of gun sales now are not subject to any kind of background check because they happen between private parties at gun shows or whatever. And the other is the people who are on the terror watch list. People who are not allowed to get onto an airplane maybe shouldn’t be allowed to buy assault weapons and explosives. Maybe that would be a good idea to stop that from happening. It’s possible because 80% of the country is behind sensible measures like that. The Republicans fearing for their electoral safety, a few of them at least, might come along and you might get something like that passed. But in terms of comprehensive gun reform, gun regulation, nah. It’s not gonna happen.”
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Reagan weighs in on whether the Democratic Party should change the nominating process for President; calls for the elimination of superdelegates and caucuses:
RR: “Sure, and … not just the Democratic Party either. First of all, the Democrats need to get rid of the superdelegates. That’s just a profoundly undemocratic thing.
In general, I think we should get rid of the caucuses. We should have primaries. Those primaries should be regularized throughout the country. In other words, they should run the same way. If they’re going to be open, they should all be open. If they’re closed, they should all be closed so that there’s evenness across the board there.
We’ve got to get the money out of politics. So either we’re going to publicly finance our elections, which is a fine idea it seems to me, or you severely restrict the amount of donations that anybody can make, so that essentially everybody has to run the Sanders style campaign. One of those things, it seems to me, needs to happen.
Voter registration—we have to get to a place where we’ve got virtually automatic voter registration. As a citizen, you turn 18, you become a registered voter. Vote by mail would probably be a good idea since we seem to have such difficulty keeping polling places open and having enough of them in particularly poor neighborhoods. Thank you, Republican Party. It would be a lot better, I think, if things went the way they do in my state of Washington where everybody votes by mail.”
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Reagan explains why atheists like himself have the least chance of any group in America of getting elected to public office:
RR: “It’s one of the most persistent fantasies that the human race has, that there’s some benign overlord up there in the cosmos who is looking out for you and paying attention to what color socks you’re wearing in the morning. And people do not like to be disabused of notions like that. As Christopher Hitchens once said, it’s their favorite toy and they don’t want to give it up. And so somebody that reminds them that there’s really no logical or rational underpinnings to their beliefs is threatening and makes them uncomfortable. Even if you’re not sticking it in their face all the time, just the very fact that you are atheist yourself is threatening to a lot of people. So naturally, they don’t want to vote for you.”
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