Monday, January 24, 2011


Sarah Palin, seeking to wrap herself in Ronald Reagan's mantle, has now published a USA Today op-ed that will probably get attention not for its insight into Reagan (the thing is almost entirely right-wing boilerplate), but for its title image: it's called "Palin on Reagan: He Was 'America's Lifeguard.'"

"America's lifeguard" -- mildly clever? Cleverer than you expect Palin to be?

Um, perhaps not. I see Reagan being called "America's lifeguard" in the headline to this AP review of a 1998 TV documentary on Reagan. And the reviewer apparently was picking the phrase up from the film itself (which, by the way, he describes as "reverential") -- the first episode of the multi-part documentary was titled "Lifeguard," eve though it covered a period well beyond Reagan's youthful days as an actual lifeguard (in fact, it covers his life into part of his presidential term). The documentary appeared on -- I hope you're sitting down, right-wingers -- PBS. No, worse -- WGBH, the PBS station in Boston. (I should note, however, that while the writer and co-producer of the film, Adriana Bosch, may have made it for commie-pinko PBS, she's also an American Enterprise Institute featured speaker.)

John O'Sullivan, reviewing Edmund Morris's Reagan biography Dutch in 2004 for National Review, also used the phrase "America's lifeguard." (Morris also appears in the PBS documentary.)

So this isn't an original turn of phrase, though I suppose Palin will now be credited with it (and will try to milk it forever).

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