Saturday, July 25, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to make money off of Ronald Reagan, even though he said he wouldn't.

Trump has been selling commemorative coins with the image of former president Ronald Reagan in order to finance his campaign. The Trump campaign is struggling to keep up with the money raised by Joe Biden—almost unheard of for an incumbent.

Screenshot from 11:25 P.M. today

There's nothing unusual about selling merchandise, but making money by selling Reagan's likeness requires permission from the Reagan Foundation, which pointedly demanded Trump stop doing it last week. The Republican National Committee immediately said it would, but Trump seems willing to force the Reagan Foundation to take him to court.

Reagan's memory remains popular among Republicans, which may explain why Trump is trying to associate himself with the former president. At this point in Reagan's presidency, he had a 55% approval rating and was cruising toward a landslide victory over the Democratic nominee Walter Mondale. (Trump is at about 40% approval and polls show him struggling to get to 150 electoral votes.)

It's not the first time Trump has tried to get Reagan's popularity to rub off on him. Last year, Trump tweeted a photo of the two meeting in 1987. The caption was a fabricated quote from Reagan in which the former president says he felt like he was meeting the president when he met Trump. It's extremely unlikely that Trump, who is obsessed with his own fame, didn't know it was fake.

But in terms of policy and personality, the two could hardly be more different.  Reagan was well-liked even by his political opponents for his warm demeanor, but he was a party man first: his famous "eleventh commandment" for the GOP was to never speak ill of another Republican. He declared an amnesty for undocumented immigrants and provided them a path to citizenship. Relations with the Soviet Union warmed considerably on Reagan's watch: he was horrified by the prospect of a nuclear war. But where hostile countries were concerned, Reagan saw things in terms of good and evil, and urged Americans not to give up the fight against totalitarianism by conceding the moral high ground.

There is one way in which Trump and Reagan are often compared—their apparent cognitive decline while in office—but it's a sensitive subject for Trump.

Why should I care?

  • A better way for Trump to improve his popularity would be to emulate some of Reagan's traits.