Ron Paul versus Rick Perry: Who is Ronald Reagan's true heir?

Rep. Ron Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been trading barbs, with both talking about allegiance to Ronald Reagan. Their arguments take a few liberties.

Chris Keane/Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul speaks during the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, South Carolina, on Sept. 5.
Willis Glassgow/AP
Texas Govenor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Tim Scott, (R) of South Carolina, at Horry-Georgetown Technical College on Monday, Sept. 5, in Conway, S.C.

Ron Paul and Rick Perry are scrapping over who’s the true heir of Ronald Reagan, in case you haven’t heard. Think that subject will come up in Wednesday night’s debate at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.? We think there’s a good chance it will.

Representative Paul started this tussle with an attack ad aimed at Texas Governor Perry. Perry’s the front-runner now, so he’s going to have to get used to the other hopefuls coming after him.

Anyway, the Paul ad is called “The One Who Stood With Reagan.” It starts with the blunt words, “The establishment called him extreme and unelectable. They said he was the wrong man for the job.”

The narrator is talking about Mr. Reagan there – but yes, we know, that’s what all the pundits are saying about Paul today. The ad goes on to say that Paul was attracted to Reagan’s message of smaller government and lower taxes and that he was one of only four congressmen to endorse him for president.

Then comes the scary music, so you know the punch is about to come. “After Reagan, Al Gore ran for president ... pushing his liberal values,” says the ad, “and Al Gore found a cheerleader in Texas named Rick Perry.”

(It’s true that Perry ran a Gore presidential effort in Texas. That was before he switched parties and became a Republican.)

“Now America must decide who to trust: Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader or the one who stood with Reagan,” the Paul ad concludes.

Perry responded to Paul’s linking him with Mr. Gore with a news release titled, “Ron Paul’s Reagan Revisionism.”

This release points out the inconvenient truth that Paul resigned from the GOP in 1987 over frustration with then-President Reagan’s policies.

“There is no credibility left for the Republican Party as a force to reduce the size of government,” Paul wrote in 1987.

What’s our reaction? First of all, the Paul ad plays a little fast and loose with timing. When it mentions that Paul was one of four congressmen to back Reagan’s presidential effort, it does not say that the effort in question was an earlier Reagan try, in 1976. Lots of GOP members were behind him in 1980. Nor does the ad mention that Perry ran Sen. Al Gore’s Texas campaign for president in 1988, as opposed to Vice President Gore’s presidential effort in 2000.

That said, we think the Perry camp has more to answer for. On Perry’s campaign website, they provide a link to Paul’s 1987 resignation letter, and Perry aides either did not read that letter or are counting on the fact that few other people will.

Because Paul resigned from the GOP – and we remember this incident – because the party under Reagan was unsuccessful in reducing the size of government. As the letter notes, between 1981 and 1987, the national debt doubled. Government spending grew by 10.4 percent annually. Tax revenues increased 59 percent during the period – and not because of economic growth.

“The new revenues are due to four giant Republican tax increases since 1981,” Paul wrote back then.

So you could argue that Paul resigned from the party because he was consistent in his beliefs – not because he didn’t like Reagan.

If asked to choose between Ron Paul and Rick Perry, what would Reagan do? We think that’s an interesting question for you to discuss amongst yourselves.

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