The Nation: Reagan's Longest-Running Act

Every presidential candidate more or less repeats himself. Henry Jackson keeps saying the same things about busing and détente; Jimmy Carter talks about the need for love in government and about all the Georgia agencies that he reorganized when he was Governor; George Wallace rarely omits a reference to "pointy-headed bureaucrats" toting briefcases filled with peanut butter sandwiches. And Ronald Reagan gives essentially the same speech every time.

Honed over more than a decade of public life, the Reagan speech is no Gettysburg Address, but it lights up the audience. Sample warm-up joke: A man in traction in a hospital pays...