Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate John Raese is fond of touting how he is a "Ronald Reagan Republican," that he wants to return to the ideas of the former president to bring about what he believes will be a better America.
Raese wants to shrink government by eliminating groups such as the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education. But Raese's hero actually increased the size of the federal government by creating the Department of Veterans Affairs, with a $90,000 billion annual budget and 300,000 employees.
Raese wants to cut taxes, which he believes will spur economic and job growth. Reagan, after seeing his 1981 tax cuts plunge the country deeper into debt, raised taxes in seven of his next eight years in office.
Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after the 1981 tax cuts were enacted, and the federal deficit increased from $700 billion to $3 trillion. Those tax cuts, according to the New York Times, disproportionately affected the lower and middle classes. Their research indicated that while median household incomes rose about 30 percent during the Reagan years, those considered to be in the upper class saw their incomes triple and quadruple.
During last week's debate at Shepherd University, Raese said he believes the Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed "Star Wars" when it was introduced by Reagan in 1983, should be brought back in an effort to protect America from the threat of foreign attack.
The space-based laser and satellite system, a multi-billion dollar project, would, in theory, intercept missiles while still flying high above the Earth and prevent any serious damage.
Raese claimed America's enemies, such as Iran and North Korea, are already targeting American interests, and the SDI would stop those attacks.
Critics of the system during the Reagan years quickly pointed out that the system only works in theory, and that there was no way to properly test it without putting America into a precarious situation. Those same critics also pointed out that if such a system were to be implemented, America's enemies might be compelled to attack before the system was properly in place.
Raese also omits that military weaponry was sold to Iran during the Reagan years, something that was prohibited at the time because Iran was subjected to an arms embargo. The weapons were said to be sold in exchange for American hostages, and some of the money from the illegal arms sale was used to fund anti-Communist forces in Nicaragua, which was also banned by Congress at the time.
Another historical tidbit that seems to be brushed aside is how Reagan helped to create the very forces American soldiers are battling today in the War on Terror - the Taliban.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Reagan administration provided funding, arms and training for Islamic mujahidin fighters in an effort to push the Soviet Union out of that country.
The Taliban and one of its prominent commanders, Osama Bin Laden, arose from these rebel groups and began playing even bigger roles in the Middle East.
Raese cannot brand himself as a "Reagan Republican" and then rewrite history to suit his needs. If he indeed wants to carry that mantle, he must accept the good and the bad that accompanies that image.
Wickline is The Inter-Mountain's Buckhannon bureau chief.