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Reagan: In or out?

Published on -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

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Former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is traveling the country, alternately campaigning for fellow Republicans and pitching his new book, "Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works."

We hope for potential readers' sake the book is more focused than the speaking tour. Depending on which part of the country you're in, you will hear a decidedly different message.

In Kansas to show support for Gov. Sam Brownback, Santorum attended a rally in Wichita. The idolization of former President Ronald Reagan was on full display, as the supporters viewed "Knute Rockne All American." When in Philadelphia, Santorum offered: "You have to remember, Ronald Reagan was a man of his times. America is a very different country than it was 40 years ago."

The Gipper's policies came up in both cities as well. Back East, Santorum said it's not enough to rely on cutting capital-gains taxes or income taxes on the wealthy in hope of spurring the economy.

"I just don't think that works, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to people, because in times when the economy has done better, not everybody has," Santorum said. "A lot of Americans are in fact falling behind, particularly in the middle."

Different story in Kansas. Or at least a different interpretation of the story while extolling Brownback's policies.

Santorum told the Wichita crowd that: "Kansas can -- it can do the things that Sam has done -- cut government, cut taxes, support small businesses and the family, the building block of our civilization."

We can't help but wonder if Santorum forgets people read or perhaps even recall his own words. In Philadelphia, he was clearly saying the Arthur Laffer-inspired supply-side, trickle-down economics that favor the rich will not work in today's society. In Wichita, he just as clearly said the same Arthur Laffer-inspired approach will work.

If we turn to Santorum's book (which admittedly we did not, we relied on the publisher's comments): "Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan was a Republican leader so charismatic he won over an entire segment of 'Reagan Democrats.' Today, the Republican party can barely muster its own base. Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum provides a game plan for Republicans to bounce back, regain popularity, and return to the party's original values: the solution rests on rediscovering blue collar conservatives."

If we consider a May interview with U.S. News & World Report, Santorum had this to say about GOP presidential woes of late: "The answer is something that has not been put forth by any politician in recent times, which is the pro-growth, pro-worker agenda."

It sounds as if Santorum only believes Brownback and Kansas are on the correct path when the former Pennsylvania senator is in this state. Everywhere else, he's ripping into the regressive policies that create even more disparities in wealth and wages.

Innovation is great, Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer, but only a revitalized manufacturing sector, built on cheap energy, can bring broad prosperity to the 70 percent of Americans who don't have a college degree.

"When you make things and have a manufacturing economy, you have the opportunity to distribute wealth more equitably," Santorum said.

The Inquirer report said "other Republicans have been moving in this direction, fueled by a small band of conservative intellectuals who, like Santorum, say the GOP must abandon its devotion to wholesale tax cutting, slashing government programs and cozy relationship with the financial markets."

Except when in Kansas. On Monday, Santorum said the fall election between Brownback and House Minority Leader Paul Davis is for the "future of the free world."

We are not buying it. And, if this is representative of Santorum's logic and consistency, we won't be buying the book either.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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