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Right then. Right now.

Ronald Reagan was the first true conservative elected president, a leader of big ideas who favored small government, a man who shifted the political debate in ways that realized the vision of the just-departed William F. Buckley Jr. He united the disparate right wings of the Republican Party in common cause, something John McCain, who traveled to the White House on Wednesday for the president's blessing, has not yet managed to do. In fact, many conservatives are still wary of McCain, saying he is no Reagan. But there is the Reagan of myth and the Reagan of reality. With McCain winning the Republican presidential nomination last week, Times researchers Angie Drobnic Holan and Will Short Gorham took some time to compare the real Reagan and the real McCain to see how they match up. Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor



Ronald Wilson

Reagan
John Sidney

McCain III
Born In a five-room apartment over a bakery

(later became 1st National Bank) in

Tampico, Ill., on Feb. 6, 1911
At Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone on Aug. 29, 1936 (a U.S. territory at the time)
Age at

inauguration
The oldest ever ­— 69 at inauguration. (William Henry Harrison, previous eldest at 68, gave the longest inaugural address in history, caught pneumonia and died in a month.) Would be 72 on Inauguration Day 2009. McCain has said at campaign rallies, "I'm older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein."
Military

background
During World War II, served in the Army

and attained rank of captain. Was based in California and narrated training films.
Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. Served as a Navy pilot in Vietnam. Was shot down, captured, tortured and held as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973. Was a captain.
Film

career
Appeared in more than 50 films

(before movie ratings system).
Made cameo appearance in The Wedding Crashers; was criticized because it was rated R.
Elected experience before

presidency
Served as California governor from

1967 to 1975.
Served as congressman from Arizona from 1983 to 1987; served as senator from Arizona from 1987 to present.
Best one-liner "Honey, I forgot to duck," he said to his

wife, Nancy, after he was shot during an assassination attempt in 1981.
"I wasn't there (Woodstock, 1969). I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time."
Conservative

Political Action

Conference

An annual political conference attended by thousands. Started

as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. (Reagan spoke

there a dozen times.)
Reagan's famous City Upon the Hill speech was at its first conference in 1974 — and he introduced three returned POWs from Vietnam, including a young John McCain. But it was in his 1975 speech that he became the leader of a new conservative movement. In his Let Them Go Their Way speech he called for a "new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people." Has not regularly attended the conference. This year, he was applauded and booed. He said, in part: "I have also always believed, like you, in the wisdom of Ronald Reagan, who warned in an address to this conference in 1975, that 'a political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.' ”
Fiscal

conservatism
Promoted tax cuts that led to budget deficits that doubled under his administration, reaching more than $150-billion. He wanted a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a line-item veto, but got neither. Well known for opposing earmarks and pork-barrel spending. Supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a line-item veto.

Immigration In a radio address in 1977, he noted that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. "It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won't do? One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters."

Signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that provided amnesty for undocumented aliens here under certain conditions.

Quotes Reagan on his campaign page when he promises to "Recognize that America will always be that 'shining city upon a hill,' a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism."

The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, also known as the McCain-Kennedy bill, which did not pass, would have allowed certain undocumented aliens to attain nonimmigrant status under certain conditions and after paying a fine, criticized as an "amnesty provision."

Ronald Wilson

Reagan
John Sidney

McCain III
Born In a five-room apartment over a bakery

(later became 1st National Bank) in

Tampico, Ill., on Feb. 6, 1911
At Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone on Aug. 29, 1936 (a U.S. territory at the time)
Age at

inauguration
The oldest ever ­— 69 at inauguration. (William Henry Harrison, previous eldest at 68, gave the longest inaugural address in history, caught pneumonia and died in a month.) Would be 72 on Inauguration Day 2009. McCain has said at campaign rallies, "I'm older than dirt and have more scars than Frankenstein."
Military

background
During World War II, served in the Army

and attained rank of captain. Was based in California and narrated training films.
Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. Served as a Navy pilot in Vietnam. Was shot down, captured, tortured and held as a prisoner of war from 1967 to 1973. Was a captain.
Film

career
Appeared in more than 50 films

(before movie ratings system).
Made cameo appearance in The Wedding Crashers; was criticized because it was rated R.
Elected experience before

presidency
Served as California governor from

1967 to 1975.
Served as congressman from Arizona from 1983 to 1987; served as senator from Arizona from 1987 to present.
Best one-liner "Honey, I forgot to duck," he said to his

wife, Nancy, after he was shot during an assassination attempt in 1981.
"I wasn't there (Woodstock, 1969). I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time."
Conservative

Political Action

Conference

An annual political conference attended by thousands. Started

as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. (Reagan spoke

there a dozen times.)
Reagan's famous City Upon the Hill speech was at its first conference in 1974 — and he introduced three returned POWs from Vietnam, including a young John McCain. But it was in his 1975 speech that he became the leader of a new conservative movement. In his Let Them Go Their Way speech he called for a "new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people." Has not regularly attended the conference. This year, he was applauded and booed. He said, in part: "I have also always believed, like you, in the wisdom of Ronald Reagan, who warned in an address to this conference in 1975, that 'a political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.' ”
Fiscal

conservatism
Promoted tax cuts that led to budget deficits that doubled under his administration, reaching more than $150-billion. He wanted a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a line-item veto, but got neither. Well known for opposing earmarks and pork-barrel spending. Supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and a line-item veto.

Immigration In a radio address in 1977, he noted that apples were rotting on trees in New England because no Americans were willing to pick them. "It makes one wonder about the illegal alien fuss. Are great numbers of our unemployed really victims of the illegal alien invasion or are those illegal tourists actually doing work our own people won't do? One thing is certain in this hungry world; no regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters."

Signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that provided amnesty for undocumented aliens here under certain conditions.

Quotes Reagan on his campaign page when he promises to "Recognize that America will always be that 'shining city upon a hill,' a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism."

The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, also known as the McCain-Kennedy bill, which did not pass, would have allowed certain undocumented aliens to attain nonimmigrant status under certain conditions and after paying a fine, criticized as an "amnesty provision."

Ronald Wilson Reagan John Sidney McCain III
Marital

history
Divorced first wife, Jane Wyman. Married to second wife, Nancy Davis, for 52 years,

until his death.
Divorced first wife, Carol Shepp. Has been married to second wife, Cindy Hensley,

for 27 years.
Children Has children from both marriages, including an adopted son, Michael, with his first wife. Has children from both marriages, including an adopted daughter, Bridget, with

his second wife.
irish ancestry Related to Reagans of County Tipperary, Ireland. Related to McCains of County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
the west Reagan moved to California in June 1937 and thereafter considered himself a Westerner.

In 1980 he declared "I am a Sagebrush Rebel." Reagan's Rancho del Cielo ("Ranch of the Sky") was known as the Western White House. His hosting of Death Valley Days in the early 1960s made him a Westerner in the American popular mind.
McCain was accused of carpetbagging in his first House race (1982) after having moved

to Arizona only the previous year. His response in a candidates forum that year became the stuff of legend in Arizona politics: "Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. ... We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona. .... As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi."
Gun control Reagan did not pursue gun control while in office, typically deferring to the states, but in

1991 publicly supported the Brady Bill, saying in a statement, "It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns."

He also signed a letter along with former Presidents Carter and Ford in support of the Assault Weapons Ban, noting that "while we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons."

McCain voted against extending the assault weapons ban in 2004.

He sponsored a bill to require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions

at gun shows.

The Gun Owners of America gives McCain a grade of F for the previous two sessions

of Congress.

Notable flip-flop Switched from a registered Democrat to a registered Republican following the election of John F. Kennedy, saying "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." Voted against Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, but now wants to make them permanent.
Abortion Opposed abortion. Favored a constitutional amendment to end abortion. As governor of California, he signed a bill to legalize abortion for the health of the mother. Later he said he regretted it as a mistake. Opposes abortion. In 2000, he said that Roe vs. Wade should not be overturned, but quickly recanted his statement and said he misspoke.
Religion Reagan's father was Catholic and his mother belonged to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where Reagan was baptized. Beginning in 1963, Reagan regularly attended Presbyterian services at Bel-Air Presbyterian Church, Bel-Air, Calif., but did not become an official member until after leaving the presidency. In the first 1984 presidential debate Reagan said, "I have not believed that prayer could be introduced into an election or be a part of a political campaign, or religion a part of that campaign." In that debate Reagan explained why he didn't attend church: "I have gone to church regularly all my life. (But) now, in the position I hold and

in the world in which we live, where embassies do get blown up in Beirut ... I pose a threat to several hundred people if I go to church. I know the threats that are made against me. We all know the possibility of terrorism. ... I don't feel that I have a right to go to church, knowing that

my being there could cause something of the kind that we have seen in other places. ...

And I miss going to church but I think the Lord understands."
McCain is Episcopalian (his great-grandfather was an Episcopal minister) and attended

Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., but regularly attends North Phoenix Baptist Church

(a so-called "megachurch" in Phoenix). His wife and children are members of the church.

He has said that "the most important thing is that I'm a Christian." He says he prays "throughout the day" and has credited his "spiritual help and strength through God" with helping him

withstand his years of confinement as a prisoner in Vietnam.

Gay rights Journalist Robert Kaiser referred to Reagan as a "closet tolerant" in a March 18, 1984,

Washington Post column after the Reagans' interior decorator, Ted Graber, spent a night in

the private White House quarters with his lover, Archie Case. In 1978, Reagan opposed California's Proposition 6, which would have prohibited gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools, writing in a letter that was later excerpted in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific

opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's

teachers do not really influence this." A footnote: Despite common misconception, Reagan's son, Ron, is straight.

During the 1980 campaign Reagan noted, "My criticism is that (the gay movement) isn't just asking for civil rights; it's asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative

lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I."

"It's good news that Sen. McCain is on track to win the nomination because he believes in a big tent Republican Party. His record is not perfect, but there are definitely positive signs," according to Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon.

McCain voted and publicly spoke out against amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006, but in 2006 he also campaigned for an unsuccessful amendment to Arizona's constitution to prevent recognition of non-male/female marriages and said he would support amending the U.S. Constitution in the event that federal courts order gay marriage.

Scandal Iran-Contra, an arms for hostages deal with Iran and the illegal use of the resulting proceeds to fund to the Contras, insurgents in Nicaragua. Keating Five, a 1989 scandal involving five U.S. senators, who were accused of interfering with an investigation of a savings and loan. McCain was criticized for "questionable judgment."
A major

accomplishment
Credited with bringing about the fall of communism by diplomacy and drawing the Soviet Union into an expensive arms race it couldn't afford. In 1987, Reagan challenged leader

Mikhail Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also called the "McCain-Feingold" law, banned unregulated, unlimited "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to national political parties and federal candidates. President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2002.
Ronald Wilson Reagan John Sidney McCain III
Marital

history
Divorced first wife, Jane Wyman. Married to second wife, Nancy Davis, for 52 years,

until his death.
Divorced first wife, Carol Shepp. Has been married to second wife, Cindy Hensley,

for 27 years.
Children Has children from both marriages, including an adopted son, Michael, with his first wife. Has children from both marriages, including an adopted daughter, Bridget, with

his second wife.
irish ancestry Related to Reagans of County Tipperary, Ireland. Related to McCains of County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
the west Reagan moved to California in June 1937 and thereafter considered himself a Westerner.

In 1980 he declared "I am a Sagebrush Rebel." Reagan's Rancho del Cielo ("Ranch of the Sky") was known as the Western White House. His hosting of Death Valley Days in the early 1960s made him a Westerner in the American popular mind.
McCain was accused of carpetbagging in his first House race (1982) after having moved

to Arizona only the previous year. His response in a candidates forum that year became the stuff of legend in Arizona politics: "Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. ... We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the first district of Arizona. .... As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi."
Gun control Reagan did not pursue gun control while in office, typically deferring to the states, but in

1991 publicly supported the Brady Bill, saying in a statement, "It's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns."

He also signed a letter along with former Presidents Carter and Ford in support of the Assault Weapons Ban, noting that "while we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons."

McCain voted against extending the assault weapons ban in 2004.

He sponsored a bill to require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions

at gun shows.

The Gun Owners of America gives McCain a grade of F for the previous two sessions

of Congress.

Notable flip-flop Switched from a registered Democrat to a registered Republican following the election of John F. Kennedy, saying "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." Voted against Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, but now wants to make them permanent.
Abortion Opposed abortion. Favored a constitutional amendment to end abortion. As governor of California, he signed a bill to legalize abortion for the health of the mother. Later he said he regretted it as a mistake. Opposes abortion. In 2000, he said that Roe vs. Wade should not be overturned, but quickly recanted his statement and said he misspoke.
Religion Reagan's father was Catholic and his mother belonged to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where Reagan was baptized. Beginning in 1963, Reagan regularly attended Presbyterian services at Bel-Air Presbyterian Church, Bel-Air, Calif., but did not become an official member until after leaving the presidency. In the first 1984 presidential debate Reagan said, "I have not believed that prayer could be introduced into an election or be a part of a political campaign, or religion a part of that campaign." In that debate Reagan explained why he didn't attend church: "I have gone to church regularly all my life. (But) now, in the position I hold and

in the world in which we live, where embassies do get blown up in Beirut ... I pose a threat to several hundred people if I go to church. I know the threats that are made against me. We all know the possibility of terrorism. ... I don't feel that I have a right to go to church, knowing that

my being there could cause something of the kind that we have seen in other places. ...

And I miss going to church but I think the Lord understands."
McCain is Episcopalian (his great-grandfather was an Episcopal minister) and attended

Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., but regularly attends North Phoenix Baptist Church

(a so-called "megachurch" in Phoenix). His wife and children are members of the church.

He has said that "the most important thing is that I'm a Christian." He says he prays "throughout the day" and has credited his "spiritual help and strength through God" with helping him

withstand his years of confinement as a prisoner in Vietnam.

Gay rights Journalist Robert Kaiser referred to Reagan as a "closet tolerant" in a March 18, 1984,

Washington Post column after the Reagans' interior decorator, Ted Graber, spent a night in

the private White House quarters with his lover, Archie Case. In 1978, Reagan opposed California's Proposition 6, which would have prohibited gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools, writing in a letter that was later excerpted in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific

opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's

teachers do not really influence this." A footnote: Despite common misconception, Reagan's son, Ron, is straight.

During the 1980 campaign Reagan noted, "My criticism is that (the gay movement) isn't just asking for civil rights; it's asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative

lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I."

"It's good news that Sen. McCain is on track to win the nomination because he believes in a big tent Republican Party. His record is not perfect, but there are definitely positive signs," according to Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon.

McCain voted and publicly spoke out against amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006, but in 2006 he also campaigned for an unsuccessful amendment to Arizona's constitution to prevent recognition of non-male/female marriages and said he would support amending the U.S. Constitution in the event that federal courts order gay marriage.

Scandal Iran-Contra, an arms for hostages deal with Iran and the illegal use of the resulting proceeds to fund to the Contras, insurgents in Nicaragua. Keating Five, a 1989 scandal involving five U.S. senators, who were accused of interfering with an investigation of a savings and loan. McCain was criticized for "questionable judgment."
A major

accomplishment
Credited with bringing about the fall of communism by diplomacy and drawing the Soviet Union into an expensive arms race it couldn't afford. In 1987, Reagan challenged leader

Mikhail Gorbachev at the Berlin Wall: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also called the "McCain-Feingold" law, banned unregulated, unlimited "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to national political parties and federal candidates. President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2002.

Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; White House biography of Ronald Reagan; the American Conservative Union; Tampico Historical Society; Gun Owners of America; Ulster Heritage Magazine; Times wires; Library of Congress.

Compiled by Angie Drobnic Holan and Will Short Gorham

Right then. Right now. 03/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:29am]

    

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