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NICHOLAS G HAHN III

Trump is no Ronald Reagan

Nicholas G. Hahn III
The Detroit News

“For the life of me — and I’ll never know how to explain it — when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a president,” an internet meme alleges Ronald Reagan said after meeting Donald Trump in November 1987.

It would have been quite the compliment — and prediction — from our 40th president. But there’s no evidence Reagan ever said such a thing.

Two months prior to that White House meeting, Trump took out full-page advertisements to criticize Reagan’s foreign policy as one without “backbone.” Try telling that to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Yet the comparisons to Reagan persist.

“Ronald Reagan spoke the truth in 1980 to the American people,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence wrote, “just as Donald Trump has in 2016.” One Trump economic adviser said the president-elect’s economic plan is the “Reagan revolution of the 21st century.”

Trump evidently considers himself another Reagan. He recently called British prime minister Theresa May to reportedly hope for a bond similar to one Reagan and Margaret Thatcher shared.

Chalk that up to Trump’s “large ego,” as Reagan White House Political Director Frank Donatelli wrote in a 1987 memo.

There may be a superficial commonality between Reagan and Trump — both Washington, D.C. outsiders — but the similarities stop there.

Reagan was a principled conservative who governed like one. Trump seems to have no conservative principles, and has a pattern of endorsing ideas that aren’t conservative at all.

Reagan believed freer trade meant freer people, and campaigned on a free trade agreement with Mexico; no wonder Trump financially supported Jimmy Carter in that 1980 election. The president-elect’s protectionist policies would ignite trade wars and leave many Americans jobless if enacted.

The Berlin Wall fell 27 years ago because Reagan allied himself with equally determined leaders such as Thatcher, Lech Wałęsa, and St. Pope John Paul II. Trump instead regularly alarms NATO members while praising Vladimir Putin and picking a fight with the pope.

The Gipper appealed to our hopes. Trump stokes our fears. The president-elect and his supporters might review history before trying to cast Trump in Reagan’s image.

nhahn@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @NGHahn3