UPDATE: In the interest in fairness or balance, the Daily News turned over a chunk of its real estate to a local professor who is one of those who wants to put Reagan on Mt. Rushmore. He is Villanova's Robert Maranto, on leave in Arkansas where his views are more mainstream (just kidding), and he writes today:
In so many ways Obama, the genial, optimistic liberal, has adopted as his model Reagan, the genial, optimistic conservative who championed balanced budgets in theory, while running up huge deficits through his two terms.
That's why Obama drives Republicans crazy. Watching Obama, Republicans feel like Democrats did when they watched Reagan. He champions one set of values and governs by another. Yet, politically, everything seems to be working for him. It's just not fair.
But then politics is seldom fair, and leadership isn't always what it seems to be at the time.
Last month, I took part in C-SPAN's poll of presidency experts, ranking the chief executives from first to 43rd. Much to my amazement, the overwhelmingly liberal professors ranked Reagan in the top 10. Much as I hated him at the time, I now put the Gipper at No. 4, just behind Washington, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, and just ahead of Reagan's own hero, FDR. He belongs on Mt. Rushmore.
So does he want Reagan re-carved from Jefferson's face, then -- Jefferson being a tad too pro-rabble for today's conservatives? Interestingly, in the discussion at Firedoglake last night about Reagan there was some back and forth about the C-SPAN poll. Everybody assumes they were all professors so they have to be all liberal, but clearly that's not the case. One of the C-SPAN pollees was Paul Kengor, who wrote "God and Ronald Reagab"and was the guy tapped to debate me on the Michael Medved Show last week, and Maranto, having bashed one his earlier op-eds here before, doesn't come off as a liberal either. I think C-SPAN -- which has a Democrat and a Republican call-in line -- is aggressively seeking their idea of balance.
As for the broader issue of Reagan's rise in these kind of surveys, I think it's also a triumph of style over substance. Historians ranked Reagan much lower in the 1990s, even as the nation basked in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and conservatives strived to credit the Gipper. Now, we've seen the disastrous impact of Reagan-inspired economic policies, so his reputation should really be lower. Maybe Reagan is reaping the windfall of comparisons to his "son," George W. Bush.