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Sarah Palin is honoring one Reagan and offending another with the same speech. The former Alaska governor is scheduled to speak in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Friday at a tribute to former President Ronald Reagan – just one of the celebrations marking the centennial of the 40th president’s birth on Feb. 6.
But his son, Ron Reagan, tells The Associated Press he doesn’t see anything in common between his dad and the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, who was invited to speak by the event’s sponsor, the conservative Young America’s Foundation.
“Sarah Palin is a soap opera, basically. She’s doing mostly what she does to make money and keep her name in the news,” Reagan says.
“She is not a serious candidate for president and never has been,” said Reagan, a political independent whose politics lean left.
But former Reagan speechwriter Kenneth Khachigian praised the choice of Palin to discuss Reagan’s legacy.
Palin was a teenager when Reagan took office in 1981 and like many young people “their lives and philosophy and political fortunes were shaped by the Reagan era. She can reflect on that as well as anyone could,” Khachigian says.
Palin is expected to talk about Reagan’s 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” which he gave on behalf of then-Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. In it, he touches on themes he would revisit for years to come, including the dangers of high taxes and encroaching big government.
Palin’s political committee did not immediately respond to an e-mail Thursday seeking comment.
Palin was introduced to the nation at the Republican National Convention in 2008, and her folksy, wisecracking style sometimes earned her comparisons to Reagan, who was known for his wit and appeal beyond the traditional Republican base, especially with blue-collar Democrats. She frequently referred to Reagan on the campaign trail, and in her debate with Vice President Joe Biden reprised Reagan’s famous rejoinder from his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, “There you go again.”
But Palin, now closely aligned with the tea party movement, has become for some a polarizing political figure.
Tea partiers rail against soaring public debt and sprawling government programs like Social Security and Medicare, but public debt roughly tripled on Reagan’s watch and he did not attempt to dismantle Social Security or Medicare during his term, says Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.
“He was no tea partier,” Cannon says.
The Young America’s Foundation was founded in the 1960s to promote conservative ideas on college campuses, and it purchased Reagan’s former ranch in 1998. The foundation is not connected with the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.