This is the first post of a new category, This Day in History. It is amazing how relevant history can be to current events.

I said on WRKO Sunday night that the Reagan mythology is hurting today’s Republicans. This came up when a caller or two compared Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan. I had a feeling that was coming and I brought with me to the studio my copy of Reagan: A Life in Letters . This is a compilation of personal correspondence he had over the years with friends, enemies, aides, journalists, lobbyists, columnists, citizens, soldiers and schoolchildren. It is a remarkable book and it lays to waste the idea that Reagan was a dummy or a puppet. He was engaged in the battle of ideas for more than twenty-five years. He was a student of politics and a professor in interpersonal communications. Palin could only dream of having his grasp of the issues or his ability communicate them.

Today’s conservatives forget that Reagan had a frosty relationship with them back in the day. They forget that he was a pragmatist and willing to compromise, see the 1982 tax hikes. Ramesh Ponnuru has a great column worth reading on the dangers of Misremembering Reagan: The Gipper still has lessons to teach — just not the ones we usually hear

Time Magazine’s July 20, 1981 story on the Sandra Day O’Connor nomination, not surprisingly, highlights conservative opposition,

Whether Reagan was playing shrewd politics, or merely following his own best instincts, almost did not matter. After naming O’Connor, the President suddenly found himself awash in praise from a wide range of political liberals, moderates and old-guard conservatives. At the same time, he was under harsh assault from the moral-issue zealots in the New Right who helped him reach the Oval Office. Although they had little chance of blocking the nomination, they charged that O’Connor was a closet supporter of the ERA and favored abortion.

In his diary on July 6, 1981, Reagan wrote,

“Called Judge O’Connor and told her she was my nominee for supreme court. Already the flak is starting and from my own supporters. Right to Life people say she is pro abortion. She says abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she’ll make a good justice.”

That was Reagan. He was a pragmatist not a purist.

Time also cited Sandra Day O’Connor’s credentials,

“There were also ironies aplenty in Reagan’s choice of O’Connor. As a true-blue conservative, he had been widely expected to select a rigidly doctrinaire jurist in order to stamp his own political ideology on the court. Instead, he picked a meticulous legal thinker whose devotion to precedent and legal process holds clear priority over her personal politics, which are Republican conservative.”

Sandra Day O’Connor was a Wise Arizona Woman

In school, she was a high achiever and graduated from high school at the age of 16, then she graduated from Stanford Law School third in a class of 102.

How things change. Heard anyone calling Sonia Sotomayor “a meticulous legal thinker” lately? Not after being overruled 9-0 by the Supreme’s in the New Haven firefighter case.

Compare O’Connor’s resume with what Sotomayor said about her own,

“If we had gone through the traditional numbers route of those institutions, it would have been highly questionable if I would have been accepted,” she said on a panel of three female judges from New York who were discussing women in the judiciary.

Sandra Day O’Connor did not grow up in Greenwich, CT or attend Taft. Like Sotomayor, she was from a poor family. She was raised on a 300 acre cattle farm in Arizona during the depression! Sandra Day O’Connor went “the traditional numbers route”. Some call it the merit-based route.