Pass the talking points


Tim Grieve
June 7, 2004 6:39PM (UTC)

John McCain may or may not be on John Kerry's short-list for the vice presidency. McCain says he won't take the job, and Kerry won't talk about the V.P. selection process at all. But this much is clear: When Ronald Reagan died this weekend, McCain and Kerry found themselves in serious mind-meld mode, so much so that it was hard to think that McCain wasn't reading from the Kerry campaign's talking points for the weekend.

Here's Kerry, in a statement released Saturday just hours after the White House announced Reagan's death: "Ronald Reagan ... lived by that noble ideal that, at 5 p.m., we weren't Democrats or Republicans, we were Americans and friends. President Reagan and Tip O'Neill fought hard and honorably on many issues, and sat down together to happily swap jokes and the stories of their lives. The differences were real, but because of the way President Reagan led, he taught us that there is a big difference between strong beliefs and bitter partisanship."

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And here's McCain Sunday morning on "Meet the Press": "Ronald Reagan did some very controversial things. The partisanship that existed in the 1980s was as strong, and -- the Contras, the Pershing cruise missiles, tax cuts, all of those things. But after 6:00, he and Tip O'Neill would get together and tell stories and enjoy each other's company, and that was true in other parts of Capitol Hill. Now, we have such bitter partisanship and such personalization of politics that I know Ronald Reagan is very disappointed ..."

While other Republicans were leaping to link George W. Bush with the ghost of the Gipper -- Ed Gillespie, for one, told the New York Times, "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them" -- McCain made it clear that he won't be joining that particular party anytime soon. When Tim Russert asked McCain to comment on Bush's suggestion that Europeans disliked Reagan in the 1980s as much as they dislike Bush now, McCain noted that the war on Iraq is "very unpopular in Europe" and then spoke warmly about the "kindness and gentleness" he saw in Reagan.

He said nothing at all about George W. Bush.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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