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Former President Ronald Reagan Former President Ronald Reagan  

Santorum commits Republican sacrilege: Attacks Ronald Reagan

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Jamie Weinstein
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      Jamie Weinstein

      Jamie Weinstein is Senior Editor of The Daily Caller. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, the New York Daily News and The Washington Examiner, among many other publications. He also worked as the Collegiate Network Journalism Fellow at Roll Call Newspaper and is the winner of the 2011 "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest. A regular on Fox News and other cable news outlets, Weinstein received a master’s degree in the history of international relations from the London School of Economics in 2009 and a bachelor's degree in history and government from Cornell University in 2006. He is the author of the political satire, "The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer."

BRENTWOOD, N.H. — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum committed one of the gravest sins in Republican politics on Wednesday evening by knocking the revered former President Ronald Reagan at a packed town hall meeting.

While addressing America’s entitlement crisis at his first New Hampshire event since his stunning near-victory in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, Santorum said Reagan contributed to the entitlement crisis by pushing Social Security’s sustainability issues down the road instead of dealing with them head-on in the 1983 bipartisan deal to fix Social Security.

“If Rick Santorum gets elected and we do what I said that we need to do, which is to deal with the entitlement programs now, not 10 to 20 years from now,” Santorum said.

“You’ll know — unlike Ronald Reagan who maybe was a better politician than me — you’ll know that it was Rick Santorum that worked together and got the American public to gather together to fix this problem. Why? Because it is our problem.”

Santorum was walking the audience through what he called the “ancient days of yesteryear” in a interminable and incredibly detailed response to a questioner. He explained that in the 1983 deal Reagan brokered with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil to fix Social Security, the retirement age was moved back to 67, but that change wasn’t slated to be enacted until the politicians responsible were out of office.

“This was the brilliance of the politicians that did this,” Santorum said sarcastically.

“They were absolutely brilliant. They passed a bill that didn’t take effect for 20 years so nobody blames them. It was brilliant. They increased the Social Security age by two years back in 1983 and it didn’t start phasing in, it doesn’t fully phase in for almost 40 years. And so Ronald Reagan did that. Most people have no idea — no one associates Ronald Reagan with raising the retirement age. Why? Because all of the people it affected were nowhere near retirement and they didn’t know about it.”

To another questioner, he continued his critique of Reagan for the Social Security deal.

“You know, I love Ronald Reagan, but if I would point to one thing during his administration that he did a serious wrong, it was this bill — it was this Social Security fix,” Santorum said.

“He bought the idea of increasing taxes now — that’s always what the left wants to do — increase taxes now, reduce benefits later. And that’s exactly what the bill did.”

Later Santorum invoked Reagan positively while explaining his plan to get rid of the tax code and create a new system with two rates: 10 percent and 28 percent.

Santorum said he chose 28 percent as the top rate, “Because that’s the top level Ronald Reagan put in place, and if it is good enough for Reagan on taxes, it’s good enough for me.”