- He's a hypocrite. He "plays farm" on his ranch.
He cheated to get to the White House. He lied about Iraq, and used national
grief from September 11 to his own advantage.
- Those are the kind of criticisms the left has levelled
at President Bush for months, but just 37 days before the election, those
accusations are coming from Ron Reagan - the son of one of America's most
revered Republican presidents.
- In an exclusive interview, Reagan has spoken frankly
to the Sunday Herald about his anger and deep resentment of the Bush administration
for "hijacking" his father's legacy through the campaign.
- Ronald Reagan, who was president between 1981 and 1989,
died, aged 93, in June after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.
George W Bush's father, George, served as Reagan's vice-president.
- The present Bush team have recruited several of Reagan's
presidential aides and speechwriters to the 2004 campaign. But Ron Reagan
accused Bush of trying to re-invent himself in the mould of his father,
who was near-idolised in the US as an immensely strong president in the
face of the cold-war threat.
- Reagan said: "This administration will use whatever
they can - they will try to hijack that legacy, they will pretend that
Mr Bush is the reincarnation of my father. I don't feel terribly happy
about that; I certainly don't remember Bush being at any Thanksgiving dinners.
- "I don't know Mr Bush well, but from what I can
gather, he's nothing like my father as a man."
- Ironically, Reagan says he sometimes finds Bush "amusing,
when you see pictures of him on his ranch with his little chainsaw as if
he actually does any work there".
- Reagan, a broadcaster and writer, told the Sunday Herald
that he is determined to speak out about the tactics of the Bush administration
in this election campaign - especially when viewed against the struggle
of the 2000 result.
- He said: "The reality of this administration is
so ugly that most Americans, even those who are more or less opposed to
the administration, really don't want to come to grips with that.
- "This is an administration that has cheated to get
into the White House. It's not something Americans ever want to think about
their government. My sense of these people is that they don't have any
respect for the public at large. They have a revolutionary mindset. I think
they feel that anything they can do to prevail - lie, cheat, whatever -
is justified by their revolutionary aims."
- Although confirming he has no ambition to stand for political
office himself, Reagan admitted that his address to the Democratic convention
in July raised eyebrows, not least with his family.
- "I wouldn't want to be a politician, because politicians
are constrained in what they can say. My mother probably gets a little
nervous if I'm too rough on George Bush - I mean, she has to speak to these
people every once in a while. But she knows I have to speak my conscience."
- His conscience drives Reagan to campaign on a single,
personal issue - stem cell research.
- The Bush administration is firmly against it, so stem
cell research receives just $25 million in federal funding and has evolved
into a political hot potato . Reagan's convention speech received a standing
ovation, in tune with public opinion that shows three quarters of Americans
favour more stem cell research. But Republicans and the Christian right
(a considerable voting force in the US) continue to brand it immoral and
equate it with abortion .
- "This is an issue that has become extremely divisive
in American society," he said. "They always say a conservative
is a liberal who has been mugged - well, I wonder how they would feel if
a child or a loved one developed diabetes or Parkinson's, and then see
where they lie on the debate. Most people have no difficulty in choosing
between a petri dish and a human being."
- Even the first lady Laura Bush has been tasked with opposing
it - despite her own father dying, like Reagan Sr, after a lengthy struggle
with Alzheimer's . She stated last month: "To hear people say that
a cure for Alzheimer's is at our fingertips is just not right."
- Reagan has a sharp reply to her assertion. "If Laura
Bush went back and did her homework, she would see that nobody thinks there
is a cure around the corner for Alzheimer's.
- "Diabetes, Parkinson's and spinal injuries will
come first in the search for therapies. It was thought that stem cell research
would help Alzheimer's, but it's clear other things will come first. Mrs
Bush was either uninformed or disingenuous in her comments, but perhaps,
with federal funding, we could address the issue properly."
- In the run-up to polling day on November 2, Reagan will
be keeping an eye on the three key television debates pitting Kerry against
Bush in front of the nation for the first time.
- Reagan is quietly hopeful of a Kerry comeback , but is
realistic about the impact the media has on the campaign. "Kerry has
made a slight comeback in the polls, but it doesn't really matter how many
people watch the debates. When Gore and Bush debated four years ago, Gore
did a better job, but the press focused on his mannerisms and his make-up
and ignored Bush's lies. The American media is not healthy.
- "I do think Kerry has an uphill battle on his hands,
and it's of his own making. He made a huge mistake in saying: - -If we
knew what we know now, we would not have gone to war.' He should have come
out forcefully and said he made a mistake about the war in the first instance."
- The war in Iraq, and the Bush administration's attitude
after September 11, are viewed by Reagan as "terrible".
- "September 11 was a huge opportunity for the Bush
administration. When you read accounts of insiders who were close to the
top of the administration on September 11, it's shocking. Within hours
of this terrible atrocity they were looking for opportunities to take advantage
of it. They turned it into a situation where they could attack Saddam,
who had nothing to do with September 11. This wasn't a wake-up call for
- In a recent book called Five Minutes With The President,
for which Reagan wrote the foreword, he called on Bush to look into his
heart and ask what kind of Christian he really is. He told the Sunday Herald
that he would like to hammer home to Bush the consequences of his actions.
- "I would ask him whether he felt that the innocent
Iraqis and Afghans who died under our bombs were going to heaven as he
imagines it. I think the answer to that would be very telling about Mr
Bush's character and his outlook on the world."
- Reagan lives with a constant legacy of his father - in
name, but also in his strong sense of right and wrong . The world-wide
grief and mourning for his father is something he found "gratifying
- Despite being at opposite ends of the political spectrum,
does he think his father would have been proud of him?
- "I hope my father would be proud. All I'm trying
to do is lend my name and voice to what I see as an unaligned good cause.
I hope that he would be supportive of that. I have no reason to believe
that he wouldn't be."
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