Bogarting Reagan: Dems Try to Use Right Icon for Fairness, Extremism Gospels

In his early Hollywood years, through dozens of films and his tenure as Screen Actors Guild president, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat.

After a political conversion that began with his relationship with Nancy Davis and the General Electric Theater, and culminated in his heroic conservative movement status as the 40th president of the United States, the Democratic Party wants him back.

At least through the November presidential election.

The White House has been deploying Reagan's name in earnest as it tries to make a case for tax fairness and the Buffett Rule, and as President Obama and Co. attempt to prove on the campaign trail that the Republican Party is now further to the right than its modern-day idol.

Obama has long made a practice of name-dropping Republican presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Dwight Eisenhower has even made it into the game as an excuse for "investment spending" because he built the interstate highway system.

"I’m a Democrat," Obama said in his January State of the Union address. "But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."

What was Honest Abe serving as a plug for? "That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states," Obama continued. "That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program."

Two weeks ago, on a campaign stop in Vermont, Obama said that Lincoln "couldn't win the nomination for the Republican primary right now," and lauded Roosevelt for wanting a progressive income tax.

Reagan, however, is a relatively recent entry into the repertoire of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Obama brought him up multiple times in his April 3 speech at an Associated Press luncheon, trying to make his party extremism argument.

"Ronald Reagan, who, as I recall, is not accused of being a tax-and-spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases," Obama said. "Did it multiple times. He could not get through a Republican primary today."

But then, as it would be a painful stretch to insinuate that Lincoln supported the Buffett Rule, the White House deployed two 1985 Reagan speeches (here and here) as proof that he ascribed to their brand of tax fairness.

Obama even said this week that he'd change the Buffett Rule to the "Reagan Rule" if it helped get GOP support for passage when it comes to the Senate floor Monday.

The president said Wednesday that his Oval Office predecessor supported the same notion that wealthy executives shouldn't pay more in taxes than their secretaries. "That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking, class warrior was Ronald Reagan," Obama said. "He thought that in America the wealthiest should pay their fair share and he said so."