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Former attorney general visits Hall residents
Edwin Meese recalls the Reagan years
Edwin Meese, right, attorney general in the Ronald Reagan administration, talks Monday with Gene Welsch after Meese gave a presentation at Lanier Village Estates about the Reagan presidency. - photo by Tom Reed

A member of former President Ronald Reagan’s cabinet extolled the leadership qualities of his former boss in Gainesville Monday, urging the residents of a local senior community to look for those qualities in the candidates vying for the presidency in 2012.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese said Reagan went to the White House in an economic environment similar to the current one.

And Meese said Reagan’s approach to the economy made him responsible for “one of the most rapid recoveries we’ve had from a major economic recession.”

“(Reagan is) the example against which former presidents have been measured,” Meese told a group of residents at Lanier Village Estates Monday afternoon.

Meese spoke twice in Gainesville Monday (he had a later engagement at Harbour Point Yacht Club) on the behalf of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C.

He is the group’s Ronald Reagan chair in public policy, and as such is responsible for keeping Reagan’s legacy of conservative principles alive in public debate and discourse, according to the foundation’s website.

He also is chairman of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

“The nice thing about being with a group like yours is you remember Ronald Reagan,” Meese said, noting a group of high school students he spoke to recently only knew his name from their history books.

Meese told listeners Monday that Reagan, three days before his inauguration, presented his cabinet members with the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership,” a more than 1,000-page handbook with some 2,000 policy suggestions, many of which the Reagan administration adopted, according to the foundation’s website.

A representative of the Heritage Foundation later asked the Lanier Village Estate residents for donations to fund the organization’s efforts.

Meese said it was Reagan’s vision, his commitment to his vision and his integrity that made him a successful president.

“We’re never going to find another Ronald Reagan,” Meese said.

Meese, however, said he had not made a determination as to his favorite candidate. Further questioning from residents prompted Meese to say he might have a better idea after the South Carolina primaries.

Others in the crowd questioned how Meese thought a lawsuit against President Obama’s health care overhaul would play out in the Supreme Court.

Meese said he believed the vote would be close, but that he hoped “those votes will stick to the Constitution.

“If they don’t, then we will have effectively given up a great deal of what’s left of our freedom,” Meese said.