Reagan looms over debt debate inspiring both sides

By TOM RAUM | July 23, 2011 | 9:29 AM EDT

President Barack Obama makes a statement in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, July 22, 2011 on the break down of debt ceiling talks. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ronald Reagan might as well be sitting in on the troubled debt talks — that's how often his memory is invoked by both sides, but for vastly different reasons.

Conservative Republicans praise the 40th president's steely advocacy for smaller government and lower taxes.

President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies praise him because they say he was a compromiser who was willing to negotiate with Democrats such as House Speaker "Tip" O'Neill on landmark tax and Social Security deals. And they say Reagan was willing to raise the federal debt ceiling so the government could keep borrowing to pay its bills.

Can both be true?

In fact, both sides are experiencing a touch of Reagan amnesia.