Reagan alumni Meese and Eastman give high marks to Romney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two of the leading constitutional analysts and legal practitioners in American conservatism watched Wednesday’s presidential debate on television, in preparation for an interview with CapitolBeatOK

Both former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who served as the nation’s top legal officer during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and John Eastman, now a law professor in California, applauded the performance of Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, while jabbing at the Democratic incumbent’s showing.

Meese told CapitolBeatOK, “Governor Mitt Romney showed clearly tonight that he has the leadership qualities to be president of the United States. He was knowledgeable about the facts, and did not let the President get away with misleading the American public. He articulated a positive Republican approach to change the direction in which we have been going for the last four years.”

Meese, who worked with the late President Ronald Reagan for more than two decades – during the latter’s two terms as chief executive of California and later two terms as president of the United States – evoked his friend’s memory in hailing Romney’s affable yet aggressive style.

Meese said, “Apparently, Romney appreciated in advance how much the debate made a difference in the Reagan campaign some 30 years ago.”

Meese, now the Ronald Reagan scholar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., continued, “The rule of law and the proper role of government frankly didn’t come up as much as I would have liked. Romney was able to touch on clear differences with the president in the way he thinks government ought to operate, and that was useful.

“I thought Romney was assertive, creative and effective in giving his positions. He expressed well the belief of many that America cannot continue on its current path. Near the end, in references to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, Romney effectively differentiated his views about free enterprise from President Obama’s.”

Meese’s telephone interview with CapitolBeat began immediately after the debate’s conclusion. He spoke from his home in the national capital area. 

Professor Eastman stressed points similar to Meese’s, also awarding significant “style points” to the GOP nominee. He told CapitolBeatOK, “Governor Romney had a clear theme. Trickle-down government is not the way to get our economy moving again. He hit it early, often, and consistently.”

Eastman continued, “He successfully demonstrated that the President’s policies have, and will continue to have, advanced the scope and power of government, instead of liberating the private sector and individuals. From the President’s failure to make good on his promise to cut the deficit in half, to the extended focus on unelected health care panels, to the strong left jab about the President’s $90 billion give-away to campaign donors via green energy subsidies that landed squarely on the President’s jaw, Romney pushed that theme without crossing the line of propriety.”

Turning to President Obama, Eastman said he “seemed a bit out of sorts without his customary teleprompter. He looked, in many ways, smaller than the office he holds. He offered confusing details that failed to counter Governor Romney’s particular charges. He stuck with talking points regarding Governor Romney’s plans even after the Governor specifically refuted them, giving Governor Romney an opportunity to land one of several of his one-line criticisms: ‘Mr. President, you can have your own Air Force plane, and your own house, but you can’t have your own facts.’

Eastman, who worked for Clarence Thomas when the now-Supreme Court justice ran the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, continued, “most importantly, Governor Romney found a way to weave in points about our national defense and our moral compass in a debate otherwise dominated by economic issues.

“Tying our prosperity to the God-given inalienable rights articulated in our Declaration of Independence, for example, was a welcome addition to the Governor’s overall campaign message, and his obvious and sincere concern about cuts to our nation’s military set an important stage for the next debate.”

Now the Salvatori Professor Law & Community Service at Chapman University, where he is the former law school dean, Professor Eastman spoke in a telephone interview from his home in Orange, California.

Note: Meese’s comments were included in a national roundup of post-debate comments posted Wednesday night at

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