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6/15/2004

Bush's Reagan Troubles

From the New York Times:

Even before Mr. Reagan died, Nancy Reagan and her daughter, Patti Davis, made their opposition to Mr. Bush's policy on stem-cell research well known. But on Friday, at the culmination of an emotional week of mourning for the former president, his son Ron Reagan delivered a eulogy that castigated politicians who use religion "to gain political advantage," a comment that was being interpreted in Washington as a not-so-subtle slap at Mr. Bush.

The remark has provoked intense debate among Republicans about precisely what the younger Mr. Reagan meant. Some saw the reference to religion as a message to the administration on stem-cell research. Others saw it as a possible critique of the war in Iraq. Still others insist there was no deeper message at all.

But a friend of the Reagan family, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Reagan, who did not return a call seeking comment on Monday, was deeply uncomfortable with the way the Bush administration intertwined religion and politics and felt compelled to say so at the burial of his father, a ceremony watched by millions.

"I think he was making a more profound statement about style," this friend said, "and the danger of religion in politics."

First families often cause trouble for presidents. Jimmy Carter, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton each had brothers who made them uncomfortable from time to time. But rarely does the family of one president step on the toes of another. The Reagans and Bushes, who have had famously strained relations throughout the years, may be an exception, as Nancy Reagan and her children guard Ronald Reagan's legacy, fending off efforts by both the right and left to trade on it for political gain.

"I think Nancy would not want that," said Barbara Kellerman, a Harvard expert on leadership who has written a book on first families. "She is not mad about the Bush family, and the last thing she intends is for W. to inherit her beloved and sanctified husband's mantle."
Two things. First, the idea that Reagan was talking only about stem-cells is absurd on its face. It demonstrates ignorance about Ron Reagan and rose-tinted glasses about everything Bush has ever done. Second, I can think of another former first-family member that is a thorn in Bush's side: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

 

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