The crowded slate of candidates expected to scramble for the GOP nod for president in 2016 will face a "character test" of the 11th Commandment espoused by President Ronald Reagan: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican, historian Craig Shirley tells Newsmax TV.
In an interview Tuesday with "Newsmax Prime" host J.D. Hayworth, Shirley, whose new book "Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan"
will be out this fall, said with so many Republican candidates, "it's inevitable" there'll be personal attacks.
"This is a character test for the candidates," he said. "Do they rise above their own consultants and make an appeal to the majority of Republican primary voters and hopefully the majority of American voters? Or do they engage in … baseless or personal attacks? [T]he Founding Fathers, the framers to the Constitution, said the only two considerations for president of the United States were character and experience. So in and of itself, this is going to be a test."
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Shirley explained Reagan adopted the so-called 11th Commandment after the bruising 1964 GOP presidential primary involving Barry Goldwater against Nelson Rockefeller – and aimed to bring "the party back together."
"What he meant by the 11th Commandment was that you could criticize a fellow Republican over policy. What you couldn't criticize a fellow Republican over was sobriety or patriotism or fidelity," Shirley said.
"So when he went after Gerald Ford in 1976, he went after him on the issues. He went after him on détente and the Panama Canal and various other issues. But he didn't go after him on personal issues. So in his mind, he did not break the 11th Commandment."
Shirley hailed the crowded field of GOP candidates, arguing, "Competition has always brought out the best in people."
"Dick Cheney told me that Reagan's challenge of Gerald Ford made Ford a better candidate… much better campaigner," Shirley said. "So there you have the evidence right there from … President Ford's chief of staff, that the competition brought out the best in him."
Shirley also predicted a "non-establishment" candidate will finally win the GOP nomination.
"The party is operating [on] less a sense of equilibrium since the time of [President Dwight] Eisenhower – half establishment, half kind of revolutionary Reaganites," he said.
"So it would be the Bush wing on one side and the Reagan wing on the other. … The Reagan wing now outweighs the Bush wing, although you have many more conservatives competing. … I tend to think … it'll come down to an establishment candidate versus a non-establishment candidate and I think this time, given the voters' reaction to all the things about Washington, they're going to opt for the non-establishment candidate."
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