A former top advisor to United States President Ronald Reagan apparently doesn’t think too highly of today’s version of the conservative movement that lifted Reagan to the presidency in 1980 — even though most current conservative Republican politicians cite Reagan as the patron saint of modern conservatism.
In fact, said Bruce Bartlett in an interview with MSNBC‘s Ed Schultz on Friday, most contemporary conservatives understand little of Reagan or his policies, because today’s conservatives are “stupid and not very well read.”
Bartlett, 65, served as an economic and domestic policy advisor to Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, and Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush. Bartlett remains an advocate of so-called “supply side” economics, the core conservative economic theory in which relieving tax burdens on high income earners and businesses will have a beneficial “trickle down” effect, creating jobs and economic opportunities for individuals who rank lower on the income-earning ladder.
But Bartlett became disillusioned with conservative politics in the administration of George W. Bush, believing that the younger President Bush had betrayed the principles set forth in the Reagan administration, which lasted from 1981 to 1989.
When asked by Schultz how Reagan himself would have been treated, had the Republican icon — who died in 2004 at age 93 — been invited to speak at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Bartlett’s answer was that Reagan “would be booed out of the crowd.”
“He gave amnesty to illegal aliens back in 1986,” Bartlett recalled. “They would have denounced him for raising taxes eleven times. They would have denounced him for raising the debt limit. They would have denounced him for running budget deficits. They would have denounced him for supporting labor unions.”
Bartlett went on to add that some of Reagan’s policies when he was governor of California from 1967 to 1975 would have been particularly upsetting to the CPAC audience.
“We are not even getting into all the liberal things that he did as governor such as signing the most liberal abortion law in the United States. I think this guy definitely would not be a favorite of this crowd,” the former Reagan aide said.
But why the discrepancy between what Reagan actually did and the high regard in which CPAC-style conservatives say they hold him? Bartlett said that it all comes down to knowledge of history.
“They are really rather stupid and not very well read,” Bartlett remarked. “To them Reagan is a distant figure in history.”
The Friday interview was hardly the first time that Bartlett has been harshly critical of modern conservatives. Last year, he chided Republicans for failing to realize that many of the policies of current President Barack Obama, which are roundly condemned by modern conservatives, are actually well in line with the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan.
[Images: MSNBC (right), Getty Images (left)]