Is Trump the heir to Reagan?
Three decades ago, as communications director in the White House, I set up an interview for Bill Rusher of National Review.
Among his first questions to President Reagan was to ask him to assess the political importance of Barry Goldwater. Said Reagan, "I guess you could call him the John the Baptist of our movement."
I resisted the temptation to lean in and ask, "Sir, if Barry Goldwater is John the Baptist, who would that make you?"
What brings the moment back is Laura Ingraham's new book: "Billionaire at the Barricades: The Populist Revolution from Reagan to Trump." Thesis: Donald Trump is a conservative populist and direct descendant and rightful heir to Ronald Reagan.
To never-Trumpers this is pure blasphemy. Yet the similarities are there.
Both men were outsiders, and neither a career politician. Raised Democratic, Reagan had been a Hollywood actor, union leader and voice of GE, before running for governor of California.
Trump is out of Queens, a builder-businessman in a Democratic city whose Republican credentials were suspect at best when he rode down that elevator at Trump Tower. Both took on the Republican establishment of their day, and humiliated it.
Among the signature issues of Trumpian populism is economic nationalism, a new trade policy designed to prosper Americans first.
Reagan preached free trade, but when Harley-Davidson was in danger of going under because of Japanese dumping of big bikes, he slammed a 50 percent tariff on Japanese motorcycles. Though a free trader by philosophy, Reagan was at heart an economic patriot.
He accepted an amnesty written by Congress for 3 million people in the country illegally, but Reagan also warned prophetically that a country that can't control its borders isn't really a country any more.