In Screed against Weiner and Spitzer, Pat Buchanan Whitewashes Reagan’s Adultery and Nancy’s Pre-Marital Pregnancy

The Reagans’ wedding photo: From left matron-of-honor Brenda Marshall, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and best man William Holden — Nancy was about two months pregnant when this photo was taken

In a post titled “Pat Buchanan’s caliphate,” P.M. Carpenter has some fun with Buchanan’s lambasting the decadent immorality of liberal pols like Anthony Wiener and Elliot Spitzer compared with what he views as the minor moral failures of good Christian Republicans like Ronald Reagan:

Just strike up the paleoconservative, theocratic band and for heaven’s sake “Consider how far we are along the path that liberalism,” [Buchanan writes in a post at a wingnut site], “equates with social and moral progress”:

Ronald Reagan was the first and is the only divorced and remarried man elected president. But the front-runner in the New York mayor’s race today quit Congress as a serial texter of lewd photos to anonymous women. The front-runner in the city comptroller’s race was “Client No. 9” in the prostitution ring of the convicted madam who is running against him

Leaving aside the fact that the office of mayor of New York cannot aptly be compared with the U.S. presidency, Buchanan left out the worst of Dear Leader Reagan’s personal moral failings, which were far worse by Buchanan’s standards than consorting with prostitutes and sending naughty text messages.

In the late 1930s, when Reagan started dating and then allegedly living with Jane Wyman — the couple claimed he’d moved into a studio apartment in the same four-unit building where she lived — she was dtill very much married to Martin Futterman. By Old Testament standards, there are few sins worse than adultery, which is an act so heinous it is prohibited in two different ways in the Ten Commandments. It is explicitly forbidden: “Thou shall not commit adultery.” But it also implicitly banned by the commandment forbidding the sin of coveting, as in “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s ass, his wife or his slaves, etc.”

Flash forward to 1952. Reagan, now divorced from Wyman, had been living on the Sunset Strip and “playing the field,” as he called it, for several years — including a stint at the notorious Garden of Allah Hotel where he later recalled waking next to a young wanna-be starlet whose name he could not recall — when, on March 4, 1952, he rather abruptly married fellow B-movie actor, Nancy Davis. Their daughter Patti was born seven months later, on Oct. 21, 1952. The Reagans have never claimed that Patti was born prematurely.

These indiscretions seem minor today because, as a society, we have become more open-minded about the realities of sex and romance. And it should be noted that in Buchanan’s screed, he omitted mentioning Republican adulterers in the news lately. Rep. Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, comes to mind, as does Sanford’s fellow C-Street Christianist cultists, ex-Sen. John Ensign, ex-Sen. Pete Domenici and ex-Rep. Chip Pickering (who schtupped his mistress in the C Street cult center, which was then officially listed with the IRS as a church).

But in the political landscape of the late 1970s, either of the revelations about Reagan’s past — that he had lived with a woman who was married to someone else and that he’d had to marry Nancy because she was pregnant — would have almost certainly killed his chances of becoming president.

The country was still reeling from the aftermath of the war in Vietnam and the GOP’s Watergate scandal, which had ended in 1974 when Richard Nixon had resigned rather than face trial and conviction and a stint at the federal prison at Butner, N.C. There simply were not enough Neanderthal and country-club Republicans to win the presidency. The Reagan campaign had to win over the evangelicals, particularly Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, a prototype of today’s teavangelicals.These voters, who had historically either stayed home on Election Day or voted for the Dixiecrat wing of the Southern Democratic Party, would have never countenanced supporting Reagan had they known he was both an adulterer and a fornicator.

This points to a paradox about right wing politics. Reagan, who is worshiped by the tea party as the ideal conservative politician, would have never survived the 1980 primaries had the so-called “values voters” learned about his not-so-secret sinful past. But neither could he survive the Republican primaries today. While today’s teavangelical “values voters” would likely give him a pass on his marital indiscretions, as they did former Gov. Sanford when he ran for Congress earlier this year, they would not tolerate Ronald Reagan’s liberal record — he raised taxes multiple times, increased the federal deficit and debt, legalized abortion in California and granted amnesty to millions of “illegals,” just for starters.

During his time in office, Reagan was referred to as the “Teflon president” because none of the scandals in his administration — including trading weapons of mass destruction to the Iranian terror state in return for hostages — affected his approval rating among the public. Now, after decades of burnishing by loyal propagandists like Pat Buchanan, the mythological Ronald Reagan has been preserved, not in Teflon but in amber.

One comment

  • j
    July 30, 2013 - 6:51 am | Permalink

    Just this morning I was listening to the rant on Morning Joe
    about Wiener (who I really do think was stupid) however when you have a republican senator who was on all the high priced prostitutes lists, and had them diaper him, and a congressman (formerly governor) who abandoned his job to walk the Appalachian trail and was really in S.America with his mistress there certainly is a double standard.
    By the way – did anyone ever get to the bottom of the story
    of the dead young girl intern found in a certain congressman’s office?

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