The image of Ronald Reagan is a matter of great contention in the ranks of the GOP nearly 30 years after he left office. Not so much the man, but the image. The myth. The brand. Two notable media figures, one an intellectual from the Midwest named George Will and the other a pundit from Hell’s Kitchen called Bill O’rielly, passionately asserted a claim to the valuable political brand.
So, we have a tough-guy image that’s a persona on cable news and we have a long time Sunday morning show face arguing over minutia in a book. But it somewhat represents the factions in the GOP; Tea Party vs Republican. It’s not a war. I don’t want be hyperbolic about an argument over a book, but Will checked O’reilly on his research and did so by flipping his brand back on him.
That was an absolute dagger. So, the pundit from Hell’s Kitchen went all Hell’s Kitchen on his quiet literary critic. Who has his own list of impressive bona fides. It didn’t play well, it was defensive and at times incoherent. Calling him a “hack” repeatedly. Will shot back to his interrogator that it was he that was helping the progressives destroy the Republicans’ brand by tainting Reagan with some memo.
Will’s main point is how the book does not consult living sources and a vast library dedicated to the two term president who arguably defined the 1980’s. Something that has somehow defined the new Republican Party. Both by choice, and by events on the global stage. What would Reagan Do? Always comes up at every turn in today’s political fodder. How would he handle this crisis or that crisis? How he handled the soviets, who evolved/devolved back into the Russians, who are in Syria acting against American wishes, something that makes Reagan relevant to Republicans and reality. We turn to this man, this era, this myth of a better time and a better place for guidance not unlike some that appeal to the Saints.
It is no wonder that two established media figures were so quick to spill rhetorical blood on camera over the matter. I’m typically cynical of the motivation of the media. This is about a book after all. Do I plan on reading this book? No. Do I believe George Will read it and knows what he’s talking about in the case? Absolutely. So, this doesn’t seem like a stunt. It felt more like a personal matter, very personal. It felt like a pecking order being established.
As you can see Will remains cool and doesn’t react to the posturing. The reality is; in a moderated civilized debate George Will would intellectually curb-stomp Bill O’rielly on the whatfor’s of conservatism. The image O’rielly tries project, of domination and of someone one doesn’t want mess with, is actually how he stands on the battlefield of ideas next to Will. Inadequate, and it showed.
O’rielly prattled on about some phone call that Will was suppose to give him before writing his thoughts on his book. That’s the baffling part. O’rielly didn’t get that Will had done to him what he had done to Reagan. He didn’t check with him. Reagan’s gone, so, naturally one would consult the library dedicated to his time as the last leader who faced an aggressive Russia. Then it was known as the Soviet Union. This matters because the next president of the United States will have to come to terms with having to tip-toe around post-soviet assertion on the global stage.
This is about more than a fucking memo, to be all Hell’s Kitchen.