|To: Bill who wrote (249)||1/21/2006 5:00:21 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Reagan's legacy at crossroads|
25 years after oath, his agenda endures. But is the GOP adrift?
By William Neikirk
Tribune senior correspondent
Published January 21, 2006
WASHINGTON -- On a warm Jan. 20 morning precisely 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in an inaugural ceremony that served as the catalyst for the conservative movement that now dominates each branch of the federal government.
Whether it's tax cuts, deregulation, a strong defense or judicial and cultural conservatism, Reagan policies have become firmly embedded throughout American society. "Reagan is more powerful today than when he was president," said Martin Anderson, one of his White House advisers.
There is fresh evidence throughout the capital. Two young lawyers who worked for Reagan--Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito--are expected to have a major impact on the nation's legal system for many years, as a result of being named to the court by President Bush. Conservative Republicans hold leadership posts in the House and Senate. And Bush's politics seem much more closely tied to Reagan than to those of Bush's father, who was Reagan's vice president.
But that movement is now at a juncture nearly as important as Reagan's election, with the continued power of "Reaganism" called into question. The blunt force of Bush's defense policy in Iraq is being challenged. And rising government expenditures and political corruption in Congress have combined to vex Republicans with midterm elections rapidly approaching.
Some conservatives are worried.
"We're at the biggest crossroads since Reagan won the nomination in 1980," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a fervent Reagan disciple, said in an interview. "We face very large challenges and we have no absolute proof yet that we are going to take the right position in meeting those challenges."
Part of the problem is a fracturing from within. Business-oriented pragmatists, deficit hawks, cultural conservatives, Christian activists, libertarians, neoconservatives -- all have different agendas, and all claim the mantle of Reagan, sometimes in the name of things he never accomplished, such as balancing the budget.
"The Reagan legacy is very vulnerable because George W. Bush has embraced it so wholeheartedly," said Michael Genovese, political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. "Bush is the model, not the father, of the legacy. So much of the Reagan legacy is dependent on the Bush legacy."
Even more than his own father, who followed Reagan in the White House, the president has adopted Reagan's ideas, cutting taxes, building up the military because of a terrorist threat and embracing a conservative social and cultural agenda. He also has pushed to enhance the power of the presidency, as Reagan did during his two terms.
Yet to conservatives such as Gingrich and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), the GOP has strayed too far from the Reagan agenda.
"It is the abandonment of Reagan's policies that has gotten us in trouble," said Feeney, who is sharply critical of spending increases in recent years with the GOP in charge of government.
"Reagan was an ideologue," said Mallory Factor, a New York businessman who heads a political group that contributes to conservatives. "He had a simple message and simple programs. We have lost that in our society." He blamed GOP leaders in Congress who have "drunk the water out of the Potomac" River and, he added, lost touch with Reagan's ideas.
"If we're not the party of reform and we try to run as the party of pork, we'll lose," Gingrich said. "Reagan was about reform. He was not about pork."
Legacy in judiciary
Within the federal judiciary, the Reagan influence has enormous reach, culminating with the selection of Roberts as chief justice and Alito's expected confirmation.
Herman Schwartz, a law professor at American University, said the federal judiciary is increasingly taking a right-leaning direction with more conservative nominations over the years.
Edwin Meese, Reagan's attorney general, said he believes the GOP will survive the current challenges and that Reaganism will continue as a powerful influence in American politics. So did Ralph Reed, a Republican operative and former head of the Christian Coalition who is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Meese said the scandals over influence-peddling in Congress are bipartisan and that the GOP will be able to weather criticism over the Iraq war in this year's elections.
Historian Robert Dallek said both Reagan and John Kennedy "remain inspirational voices" long after their presidencies.
"But when you go through the scandals we have seen, the doubts that have been raised about Bush and the Iraq war, the recriminations [over spying] by the National Security Agency, Reagan and Kennedy become all the more appealing," he added.
Reed said Reagan gave the Christian evangelical movement a boost by embracing its agenda after his nomination in 1980, although Reed conceded that the former president did not push some of the movement's causes actively during his two terms. Even so, evangelicals still hold Reagan in high esteem, said William Martin, a Rice University sociology professor and an author of books on the Christian right.
"He was the first president to say he favored restricting abortion on demand," Reed said. "That was a critical moment."
As Democrats criticize Republicans for fostering a "culture of corruption" in Washington, Reed said if the GOP is able to enact lobbying reforms as promised it can overcome the scandals. He said Democrats failed in the 1990s to make internal reforms when several scandals erupted in the House.
Reed has been caught up in the corruption scandal because of his business dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His public relations and lobbying companies received at least $4.2 million through Abramoff's firm to mobilize voters against Indian casino gambling.
But Reed said he did nothing wrong. "I was assured by the law firm at the onset that funds contributed to my effort would not derive from gambling activity," he said, adding that "if I had known what I know now, I would not have done that work."
Scandals such as Iran-contra also hounded the Reagan administration. The large deficits that he ran up also bring criticism. But 25 years later, his philosophy still drives GOP politics even as a major test looms for Republicans in 2006 elections.
Nostalgia for Reagan remains high in the GOP. Anne Davis Burns, a public relations official for a trade association, helped with the inaugural ticket operation on Jan. 20, 1981, and had a front-row seat for the swearing-in. She remembers clearly when Reagan appeared on stage.
"He was kind of larger than life," she said. And to many Republicans, he still is.
- - -
Still an inspiration
Voices of ideological disciples of the Reagan Revolution:
-- Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, ran Youth for Reagan in Virginia in the 1976 primaries. He called Reagan "my modern-day philosophical hero," adding, "Reagan is the man who inspired me to enter into politics while I was a law student at the University of Virginia."
-- Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a conservative and deficit hawk: "While Reagan was deeply committed to traditional values and a strong defense, to understand him was to realize he was a man committed to limited government. This meant things like local control of schools and reforming our government, and not creating new entitlements. He's the reason I became a Republican."
-- Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition founder and now a GOP candidate in Georgia, recalled how Reagan won over evangelical Christians in 1980. "Reagan said, `I know you can't endorse me, but I want you to know I endorse you.' That formal embrace by the Republican Party and by its presidential nominee, who went on to become the president, gave an imprimatur and a seal of approval."
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spent the last six years of Reagan's presidency in the Air Force. "My first impression of Ronald Reagan was, I really liked this guy. . . . I thought he was a cool dude, I thought he had a great sense of humor, he made conservatism not only acceptable but cool, and he brought a dignity but a personal touch to office that it needed."
-- William Neikirk and Tribune news services
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/6/2006 8:39:27 PM|
|Some sad news about Lyn Nofziger:|
An Old Hand's Ode to Two Loves
Former Reagan communications and strategy aide Lyn Nofziger isn't just sitting around as he fights an uphill battle against bone cancer. He's creating a tribute to his two passions: conservative journalism and Ronald Reagan. With the support of important friends like former Attorney General Ed Meese, he has created the Lyn Nofziger Fellowship in Journalistic Excellence. The goal is to raise $500,000 to foster college kids interested in Reagan's conservative revolution and values. "He feels this is the best way to honor Ronald Reagan," says friend Cindy Canevaro. She says he is upbeat even though his cancer is progressing rapidly. Canevaro's brother, Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation, says that to cheer up the beloved curmudgeon, several friends cut a video filled with their recollections of Nofziger's work for the Gipper. "He really had no idea that he meant so much to so many people," says Tapscott.
Lyn's website and blog can be found at:
I heartily recommend his autobiography:
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/28/2006 7:32:46 AM|
|Lyn Nofziger, 81, Irreverent Adviser to Reagan, Is Dead|
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: March 28, 2006
LOS ANGELES, March 27 — Lyn Nofziger, the cigar-chomping former newspaperman who served as spokesman and strategist for Ronald Reagan in Sacramento and Washington, died of cancer on Monday at his home in Falls Church, Va. He was 81.
Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, said: "Lyn was with us from the gubernatorial campaign in 1965 through the early White House days, and Ronnie valued his advice — and good humor — as much as anyone's. I spoke with him just days ago and even though he knew the end was near, Lyn was hopeful and still in good spirits."
Mr. Nofziger was at the hospital with Reagan after he was shot in March 1981 and relayed to the press the president's memorable, if perhaps apocryphal, line to Mrs. Reagan at the hospital: "Honey, I forgot to duck."
Mr. Nofziger was a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Copley newspaper chain when he was recruited to serve as the spokesman for Reagan's first campaign for governor of California in 1966.
Stuart Spencer, who managed that campaign and Reagan's later campaigns for the White House, recalled Mr. Nofziger as profane, disheveled and always quick with a quip. Mr. Spencer said he still had the Mickey Mouse tie Mr. Nofziger gave him years ago. The difference between them, Mr. Spencer said, was that Mr. Nofziger regularly wore his.
Mr. Nofziger frequently expressed his disdain for Washington and for politics, but he kept returning. He put up a cynical facade that endeared him to the reporters he dealt with, but he remained devoted to Reagan, even though he was never part of the president's innermost circle.
Ms. Dahmen, a great-niece of Mr. Nofziger, told The Associated Press on Monday: "He transcended parties; he was loved on both sides of the aisle. You could love him or hate him, but everybody respected him."
Despite his service in the Reagan and Nixon White Houses, Mr. Nofziger was not a doctrinaire conservative. He could, however, take the gloves off when he felt it necessary to serve the boss, either as a communications aide to Richard M. Nixon or as a political director for Reagan.
He worked under Reagan to replace Democrats in the federal bureaucracy with loyal Republicans. John Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, wrote that Mr. Nofziger had helped compile the Nixon White House's "enemies list."
Kenneth L. Khachigian, who worked with Mr. Nofziger in the Nixon White House and remained close to him afterward, said Mr. Nofziger had enlivened meetings, sometimes to the president's displeasure. "He could be infuriating because he never seemed to take things seriously," Mr. Khachigian said. "But on the other hand, he was utterly loyal and devoted to Reagan."
Like several former Reaganites, Mr. Nofziger opened a lobbying practice in Washington after leaving the White House. In 1988, he was convicted of illegally lobbying for two defense contractors and a labor union. Mr. Nofziger dismissed the charges as trivial and told the judge he felt no remorse because he did not believe he was guilty.
A year later a federal appeals court threw out the conviction, saying prosecutors had failed to show he had knowingly committed a crime.
Franklyn Nofziger was a native Californian, born in Bakersfield on June 8, 1924, and a self-described conservative by the time he entered college. He served in the Army and attended San Jose State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. He worked in journalism for 16 years as a reporter and editor, and took his manual typewriter with him to the White House even after electric typewriters and then computers rendered it obsolete.
In a 2003 interview with the University of Virginia, as part of its presidential oral history project, Mr. Nofziger conceded that he never would have imagined going into politics. But in 1966, he took a position as press secretary for Reagan's campaign for governor. He served as the governor's director of communications for nearly two years.
Mr. Nofziger's friends said he could be candid to a fault, which sometimes strained his relations with Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. In 1991, when the president dismissed three former close aides, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, from the board of the Reagan Presidential Library, Mr. Nofziger wrote a scathing op-ed article for The Washington Post. He said Mr. Reagan had broken his heart by turning his back on friends.
"Yes, I know you were a long way from being a perfect president," Mr. Nofziger wrote. "I thought that sometimes you listened to and took bad advice. I thought that toward the end you were paying too much attention to what history might think of you — a mistake most presidents make."
He went on, "But still, while on a scale of 1 to 10 you were more nearly a 7 than a 10, you remained my hero because it's hard to visualize anybody else scoring more than a 5 — at least on my scale. But today, Mr. President, and I weep because of it, you are no longer my hero."
He said Mr. Reagan had forgotten old loyalties and walked away from old friends. "You have let Nancy and the rich and beautiful people with whom she has surrounded herself and you force off the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library three of the most dedicated and selfless Reaganites there are."
Mr. Nofziger wrote four western novels and a political autobiography, "Nofziger."
But those who know him remember not his serious writings but his puns and quips and bits of doggerel. Among them is a limerick that he penned after the doomed nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court last year, which appears on his Web site, www.lynnofziger.com:
Conservatives are fearful that Harriet
Will be George Bush's Iscariot.
They have little doubt
That she'd sell them out
For a ride in a liberal's chariot.
Mr. Nofziger is survived by his wife, Bonnie, their daughter Glenda and two grandchildren. Another daughter died in 1989.
Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting from San Francisco for this article.
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|From: J.B.C.||7/28/2010 4:05:20 PM|
|California To Mark 'Ronald Reagan Day'|
Former first lady Nancy Reagan joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Simi Valley for a ceremonial signing of a bill making it Ronald Reagan Day every Feb. 6 in California.
The late president — and former California governor — was born Feb. 6, 1911, so the 100th anniversary of his birth is approaching.
The 89-year-old former first lady, wearing a yellow pantsuit and balancing on a cane and the governor's arm, walked into the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. She smiled as Schwarzenegger sat at a desk and ceremoniously signed a pair of bills Tuesday morning. He officially signed them July 19.
The other bill establishes a commission to plan Reagan centennial events.
Schwarzenegger told the audience, "Ronald Reagan is my hero."
The governor says Ronald Reagan Day will allow schools to teach about Reagan and be a day in which Californians can remember his legacy.
Other Californians honored with official days include farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, gay rights crusader Harvey Milk and environmental icon John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.
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|To: J.B.C. who wrote (254)||11/1/2010 9:09:21 AM|
|NEW YORK, Aug. 5, 2003 |
Writing For Ronald Reagan
Speachwriter Talks About How It Changed His Life
By Tatiana Morales
(CBS) There's no question that words can change the world, and there's no better proof of that than the famous words spoken by President Reagan at the Berlin Wall back in 1987.
Two years later, the wall came down. The man who wrote those words is Peter Robinson, who spent six years as a speechwriter in the Reagan White House. He has a new book about his experiences, titled "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life."
He tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, President Reagan seemed to him larger than life.
Robinson says, “He seemed like a figure carved on Mount Rushmore. And I was constantly perplexed by how he did it. How did an actor persuade the American people to take him seriously? How did he move people? Bit by bit, by living in the White House, studying him closely, I can remember the moment when I realized, he's human after all. He'd come back from cancer surgery and he spoke to us all in the White House. The chief of staff at the time wanted everyone to see the president was back to normal. And his shirt collar was too big because he had lost so much weight. I thought, ‘oh, no, he's one of us.’ For me a baby speechwriter, I was just 25 when I took the job, it was a lesson in itself.”
The other thing Robinson talks about is the idea that Ronald Reagan seemed so lucky. But one of the things that he demystifies in the book is that the former president was anything but lucky.
Robinson says, “I thought at first he was surreal because he had been lucky all his life. Good looking, became a radio announcer, movie star, married at an early age. Not true. His father was a drunk. It is clear in his boyhood he went through one scary experience after another as a result of that. He was profoundly in love with his first wife, movie star Jane Wyman. After eight years, after what he thought was a happy marriage, she divorced him. Then after marrying Nancy Davis and starting a second family, he was still in his early 40s, his career as an actor dried up. So he had his full share of life's misfortunes. What I discovered, what I decided watching him was from an early age he had to learn to find the good, even in dreadful situations. I think it was probably his mother, her simple faith passed on to him. He understood in a deep way that life was fundamentally good.”
Robinson is the host of the PBS television program, “Uncommon Knowledge,” and the author of two previous books, “It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP” and “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.” A fellow at the Hoover Institution, he lives in Stanford, Calif.
Read an excerpt from "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life."
The Pony In the Dung Heap
When Life Buries You, Dig
Journal Entry, June 2002:
Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan's favorite jokes. "The pony joke?" Meese replied. "Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times."
The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities -- one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist -- their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. "What do you think you're doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. "With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"
"Reagan told the joke so often," Meese said, chuckling, "that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, 'There must be a pony in here somewhere.'"
The other day Josh Gilder, one of my colleagues on the Reagan speechwriting staff, reminded me of Mr. Cho, the barber Josh and I discovered a couple of blocks from the White House. Mr. Cho had come to the United States from somewhere in Southeast Asia -- Thailand, as I recall -- where it was the custom for a barber to massage each customer's scalp before cutting his hair. When you sat in his chair, Mr. Cho would rub your scalp with the palms of his hands, then knead it with his fingertips. He'd work his way slowly up both sides of your head to your crown, then forward to your eyebrows, then backward to the base of your skull. When Mr. Cho finally finished the massage and began cutting your hair, you'd feel so relaxed that you'd have to grip both arms of the barber chair to keep from sliding onto the floor.
For the six or seven months from the time we discovered him to the time Mr. Cho moved to a new barbershop in the suburbs, Josh and I found ourselves getting our hair cut almost once a week. Soon we stopped thinking of Mr. Cho as our barber and began thinking of him as our therapist. Our visits to the barbershop amounted to our own modest exercises in stress management. Mr. Cho helped us cope.
On a typical afternoon, for instance, Josh and I might have drafts of two or three speeches spread across our desks. The telephones would be ringing. Members of the National Security Council or the Office of Management and Budget would be pestering us for rewrites. Our boss, Tony Dolan, the chief speechwriter, would be clomping down the marble-tiled hallway in his cowboy boots to ask us whether in writing certain passages we had actually intended to cause pointless trouble with the senior staff or had simply gone out of our minds. When it got to be too much, Josh or I would telephone the other.
"Thought you'd never ask."
Josh and I have agreed ever since that only one other event could compare with a visit to Mr. Cho. That was a visit to the Oval Office.
"Reagan's presence was just -- I don't know, remarkable," Josh says. "We'd go in there, all worked up over staff wars or the way the researchers weren't doing their work. We might even have been worked up over something important for a change, like the Sandinistas or the situation in the Middle East. Then Reagan would calm us right down. He was just so sweet and serene. A few minutes with the guy were just as good as one of Mr. Cho's massages. Remember?"
Would I ever forget? Ronald Reagan's serenity taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.
For a long time, though, I just couldn't figure it out. I made a mistake about Reagan that you'll understand immediately if you've ever watched the television program The West Wing. The program does a good job of portraying the intensity in the White House -- people who work there really do look serious, speak earnestly, and spend half their days taking urgent telephone calls and the other half hurrying to vital meetings. My mistake lay in assuming that the intensity must reach a peak or climax in the person of the President. If the people who worked for him were driven and harried, it stood to reason that the President himself must be the most driven and harried of all. The West Wing makes the same assumption. Just look at the way Martin Sheen plays the role of chief executive. The man's anguished soul searching never lets up.
Yet in the Reagan White House, the intensity didn't peak in the person of the President. It evaporated. Where Sheen often appears rumpled, Reagan always appeared immaculate, his shirt unwrinkled, his tie snugly knotted, a knife-edge crease in his trousers, his shoes gleaming ...
The foregoing is excerpted from "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" by Peter Robinson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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|To: J.B.C. who wrote (255)||2/3/2011 3:00:32 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Lavish Centennial Plans Testify to the Strength of Reagan’s Influence|
By JENNIFER MEDINA
New York Times
February 2, 2011
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 this Sunday, and nearly seven years after his death, one might think he were still alive and leading the Republican Party.
Along with the requisite speeches and academic panels, the festivities include: a Rose Parade float, a six-foot-high cake, commemorative stamps and jelly beans, a Beach Boys concert, a tribute from the Jonas Brothers and a video homage at the Super Bowl, which is also on Sunday. The memorials, including a 21-gun salute and a graveside wreath-laying by Nancy Reagan, are expected to draw hundreds of former aides and supporters.
Reagan is not the first former president to enjoy the honor of a centennial celebration, but it is hard to remember any that were quite so lavish, speaking to his enduring role in American politics. (This weekend’s festivities at the Reagan Library here, the highlight of a year’s worth of events around the country, will cost roughly $5 million; by contrast, the cost of Lyndon Johnson’s centennial in 2008 was a mere $500,000.)
And a number of the prospective 2012 presidential candidates will be on hand to offer their praise during the revelry, among them Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who has just written a book about Reagan and, in an interview, called him the “most successful president at actually achieving his specific and articulated goals.”
The accolades illustrate the unusual durability — at least among Republicans — of the Reagan legacy, which has endured even as so many institutions have been under attack. Reagan’s near-idol status in the G.O.P. is so ingrained that when potential party chairmen were asked last month to name their political hero, the moderator hastened to add “aside from President Reagan.”
If the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has any say, that qualifier will be repeated for decades.
“Our job is to promote the legacy of his words and work, which were simply incredible,” said John Heubusch, the executive director of the foundation and a former Congressional aide, who said that Reagan inspired him to enter politics. “I’d go toe-to-toe to debate with anyone who said he was not a transformational president. He certainly was.”
Staff members at the foundation are careful to point out that the money for the events and for the museum’s $15 million renovation came entirely from private fund-raising. “President Reagan would not have wanted Congress to spend any money on this,” said Stewart McLaurin, the director of the centennial events, who also went to work for Reagan in 1984.
What about the presidential Jelly Belly jelly beans? Reagan was a famous fan, so it is certainly possible that he would look kindly on spending $24.95 for the special edition Reagan Centennial box. Along with 50 flavors of jelly beans, the box comes with a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a brief history of Reagan’s life and several of his quotes.
The Reaganisms include the lofty: “I can assure you that personal faith and conviction are strengthened, not weakened, in adversity.” And then there’s his philosophy on jelly beans: “You can tell a lot about a fella’s character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful.”
Perhaps it is hardly surprising for Reagan, who was known as the Great Communicator, to be quoted so extensively.
“He’s referred to all the time because he’s extraordinarily quotable and inspiring, as much as Lincoln and more than anyone else in the 20th century,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Mr. Gingrich is hardly the only presidential hopeful who will lavish such adoration for Reagan in the coming days. Ms. Palin is scheduled to speak at a banquet for the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group that uses the former Reagan family ranch near here as its headquarters. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is also expected to attend the official events, as will former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The love for Reagan is not universal, of course, and liberals do not hold him in such high esteem.
“Reagan holds unique status today because the Republicans don’t have anyone else,” said Paul Begala, a former Clinton aide and a political strategist. “They can’t lionize Eisenhower because, by today’s standards, he was a liberal. They can’t lionize Nixon because he was a criminal. Who have they got left?”
“He was an extraordinary president,” Mr. Begala added, “but the right needed a hero, so they turned him into a hero.”
Still, President Obama’s aides were happy to let it be known that his vacation reading list included a biography of the 40th president by Lou Cannon.
Mr. Cannon said that the popular view of Reagan had only improved with time, although his approval ratings were higher than many other presidents when he left office.
“There’s always a certain nostalgia,” Mr. Cannon said. “But the reality is he really did help end the cold war. The world now ain’t a walk in Central Park, but it’s certainly a much safer place than when Reagan took office. And he convinced Americans to believe in themselves.”
That is the sort of lesson the foundation hopes to pass on, mindful that most of today’s students were not yet born when Reagan left office. This year, they distributed a Reagan-centered curriculum to more than 1,400 high schools throughout the country. The schools will also receive a special Reagan centennial coin, which organizers here hope will be used for the coin toss at Friday night football games. Once the game is done, Mr. McLaurin said, those same schools are expected to use the coin to present a student with a Reagan leadership award.
The flurry of activity is a bit bewildering to those who helped plan Johnson’s centennial three years ago.
“Our goal wasn’t really an extravaganza, it was something more modest,” said Larry Temple, the chairman of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation. “We were just trying to put a spotlight on things that might be overlooked. We were trying to do what any history should do, which is show the relevancy to today.”
The Johnson people did have aspirations for a postage stamp, but they quickly realized that getting even a former president’s image on the right corner of an envelope could take years. Reagan Foundation officials, on the other hand, were able to fast-track the process, in part because the Postal Service created the first Reagan stamp in 2004, shortly after his death. The newest version will be issued this month as a “forever” stamp, making it valid even when the price of postage increases. This time, it might please Reagan to know, his image will not be subject to inflation.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/4/2011 8:28:12 PM|
|h/t LB on the PfP thread|
Thinking About Ronald Reagan: On 100th Birthday, He's Remembered for Good Reason
On the eve of Ronald Reagan's election as president of the United States in 1980, a radio reporter asked him what it was that Americans saw in him. Reagan hesitated and then replied: "Would you laugh if I told you that I think maybe they see themselves and that I'm one of them?"
Thirty years and four presidents later, Americans still see themselves in Reagan. In a Gallup poll in 2009 they ranked Reagan as the best president, just ahead of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
This highly generous assessment is based on more than likeability. Reagan left the world safer and the United States more prosperous than he found it. Even some liberal scholars who disdained Reagan when he was in the White House now acknowledge his effectiveness as a leader, especially his role in ending the Cold War. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, his partner in that enterprise, said at Reagan's funeral that the U.S. president was "an extraordinary political leader" who had "decided to be a peacemaker."
Reagan the Negotiator is the president who catches the attention of historians. Conservatives, to whom Reagan is iconic, observe that he was able to negotiate with Gorbachev from a position of strength because of the U.S. arms buildup that Reagan promised as a candidate and delivered as a president. They also note that Reagan was a domestic achiever, reducing the top marginal federal income tax rate from 70 to 28 percent.
This didn't happen in a straight line, as Reagan made numerous compromises along the way to reach this goal, several times agreeing to tax increases. His greatest domestic accomplishment -- breaking the back of inflation that terrified the nation in the late 1970s -- was a product not of "supply side" economics ballyhooed by conservatives but of the drastic tightening of interest rates by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Under the battle cry of "stay the course," Reagan contributed to the process by protecting Volcker from congressional critics, many of them Republican, who wanted the Fed chairman's scalp.
When the economy took off in the second quarter of 1983, with a growth rate that averaged 7 percent for the rest of the year, Reagan's approval ratings soared with it. The "Reagan Recession" lasted 16 months; the Reagan Recovery persisted well into the next presidency. Reagan became popular enough to withstand the Iran-contra scandal, which might have wrecked a lesser president, and he left the White House with the highest job approval rating of any departing president since Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in 1945.
FDR, Reagan's first (and enduring) political idol, was a patrician, which Reagan was not. But both of them connected with people at an everyday level. Stuart K. Spencer, the thoughtful California political strategist who helped manage Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial and 1980 presidential campaigns, compared Reagan to "Joe Sixpack," the emblematic guy at the bar who has his fingers on the pulse of the public.
Reagan didn't drink much beer, but he paid such careful attention to his audiences that he sometimes sensed their concerns before they were fully articulated. When Reagan was exploring a run for governor of California in 1965, polls showed that voters were most concerned about taxes and other economic issues. But as Reagan, who had never run for office before, roamed the state he became aware of an issue that had not yet shown up in the public opinion surveys. Demonstrations were then disrupting the University of California, and Reagan's audiences wanted to know what he would do about it as governor. Reagan quickly realized that middle-class and working-class parents who had sons and daughters in college saw these demonstrations as a threat to their children's education. Without prompting, Reagan made the "mess at Berkeley" a signature issue of his campaign.
I met Reagan in the summer of 1965, when I was a Sacramento-based reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and he was speaking to a luncheon audience of reporters and lobbyists. The speech was part of a series of Reagan talks away from the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco that had been designed by Spencer and his partner Bill Roberts to show that Reagan was something more than an actor reading lines written for him by others. Reagan called the speeches "out-of-town tryouts" and wrote his own script.
On this day, when a questioner wondered how anyone could be governor without public experience, Reagan replied that it would be good to have someone who was inexperienced take a fresh look at government. I was stunned by the answer, but the audience clearly bought it. Reagan was then well known from his films and years as the host of General Electric Theater, and reporters and lobbyists crowded around him after the luncheon, eager to hear Reagan reminisce about Hollywood. At the time, the incumbent Democratic governor, Pat Brown, was hoping the GOP would nominate Reagan on the theory he'd be easier to beat than the putative Republican frontrunner, San Francisco Mayor George Christopher. I wasn't so sure. When my San Jose-based editor asked my opinion of Reagan after this lunch, I said I didn't know why anyone would want to run against someone who was so well known and well liked.
Over the course of the next four-plus decades, I covered Reagan as a political candidate and then, for The Washington Post, for the entire eight years of his presidency. I wrote five books about him, including "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime," and interviewed him scores of times. He was always courteous, although my edgy coverage apparently tried his patience. He complained about it occasionally to his White House diaries, referring to me as "one of three journalists" at the paper "who regularly beat my brains out." In truth, I was struggling to understand Reagan and to keep my reporting on an even keel.
Reagan made it easier in one important way since he never tried to co-opt reporters as so many politicians do. Although there were occasional personal moments in our relationship -- he once suggested that my interest in him stemmed in part from the alcoholism of our fathers -- he never pretended that we were pals, and rarely commented on anything I wrote.
For me, the big exception regarding Reagan's usual diffidence occurred in 1976 when I wrote in advance of the Republican National Convention that Reagan's bid to wrest the nomination from President Gerald Ford had come up short and that members of his staff were seeking positions in the Ford campaign. The Post bannered the story, and Reagan denounced it on national television. (Concerned that I might be shaken, our great editor Ben Bradlee, always on your side in a storm, walked me through the newsroom with his arm on my shoulder to show he trusted my reporting.) Reagan's campaign manager never forgot this story and wouldn't talk to me again, but Reagan did talk to me and didn't mention it. He put negative stories and other disappointments behind him, and he didn't hold grudges, which made it easy to like him and easy for Reagan to like everyone.
On the other hand, he didn't pay all that much attention to what was happening around him. He had Nancy Reagan for that. Martin Anderson, an economist and political adviser who became White House domestic adviser in the early years of the Reagan presidency, was pushed out of the 1980 campaign in a staff shakeup. Later, Anderson was invited back and welcomed by Reagan after a staff counter-coup, but he suspected that Reagan hadn't even noticed that he had been gone.
Stu Spencer attributed Reagan's distancing to his Hollywood background, where the cast kept changing but the actor always had his job to do. Acting isn't an easy craft, and Reagan worked hard at mastering it. He was also an adept writer -- I learned early on that he wrote most of his own speeches and one-liners -- and an even better editor. The book "Reagan in His Own Hand," by Annelise and Martin Anderson, with Kiron Skinner, reproduces illustrations of presidential speech drafts and the edits Reagan made in them. My favorite, also reproduced in one of my books, is a passage from a historic speech to British parliamentarians in Westminster on June 8, 1982, in which Reagan took some mush that had been written for him about Soviet actions in Europe, crossed it out, and wrote in his distinctive, looping hand: "What I am describing now is a policy and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other totalitarian ideologies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the expression of citizens."
These are strong words from Joe Sixpack, but Reagan was at once a man of conviction who thought seriously about the great issues of his time and an ordinary American, never braggy, who treated his audiences -- all of us, really -- with consideration and respect. His greatest single quality was his self-deprecating humor, which came naturally to him and was honed into an effective political weapon. He made fun of his age, his work habits, his vanities, his ideology, his alleged lack of intelligence, and his supposed domination by his wife. When he was speaking to a political rally in Florida and a wind blew his speaking cards off a podium, Reagan picked them up, shuffled them together, and quipped that it really didn't matter what order they were in. When a reporter during the first gubernatorial campaign brought Reagan a studio picture showing him with the title chimpanzee in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo," Reagan signed it and wrote, "I'm the one with the watch." On Air Force One he signed a picture of a sleeping Marlin Fitzwater, his press secretary, with the inscription, "Marlin, we're only supposed to do this at cabinet meetings."
Of all the silly things said about Reagan, the silliest (and I probably wrote it myself at some point) is the statement: "What you see is what you get." What people saw, as Reagan suspected, was that he was one of them, but what they got was a lot more than that. Reagan, for all the quips, was a serious person who had read about treaties and economic theories and the Soviet Union along with his share of science fiction and potboiler novels.
Reagan demonstrated his seriousness of purpose and much more in a dramatic speech to the Republican National Convention in 1976 after Ford had been nominated. Although he hadn't even known he would be called upon to speak, Reagan made the most of the moment by telling the delegates that they faced the dual challenge of preserving individual freedom and keeping the world safe from nuclear destruction. "We live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction that can, in a matter of minutes, arrive in each other's country and destroy virtually the civilized world we live in."
Many mistook this speech as Reagan's curtain call. It was, in fact, a clarion declaration that he had no intention of leaving the world stage. After Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in November, Reagan became the Republican front-runner. The Republican establishment tried to stop this man they now idolize; all of the party nabobs lined up against him in 1980 although only George H.W. Bush stuck around as a genuine challenger. After Reagan won the nomination he united the GOP in a stroke by putting Bush on the ticket and then went on to defeat Carter -- "There you go again," Reagan said memorably in their debate -- in November.
When Reagan entered the White House he was convinced from his reading that Central Intelligence Agency estimates of Soviet prowess were exaggerated and that the Soviet Union was too destitute economically to compete with a U.S. military buildup. Even before he was nominated, he said in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Post that a renewed arms race would bring the Soviet Union to the bargaining table. What made Reagan different from many of his fellow conservatives -- and different, too, from liberals who looked upon the Cold War as an eternal condition -- was that he really wanted to negotiate and thought he had learned the art of doing so by bargaining with movie producers when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Soon after Reagan's first meeting with Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985, I interviewed him for a book and asked him what was the most neglected aspect of his biography. Negotiating for the Screen Actors Guild, he replied. What did he learn in these negotiations, I wanted to know. "That the purpose of a negotiation is to get an agreement," Reagan said.
And so it turned out in the fullness of time that this most conservative and anti-communist of all presidents sat down with Gorbachev and, after many ups and downs, on Dec. 8, 1987, signed the first treaty of the Cold War that actually reduced nuclear arsenals instead of stabilizing them at a higher level. It was an agreement by the way -- the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty -- that Reagan's ideological mentor William F. Buckley opposed and that columnist George Will called "moral disarmament."
Henry Kissinger, who retrospectively acclaims Reagan, said at the time that he had "grave reservations" about the INF Treaty, giving aid and comfort to the right in its campaign to prevent ratification. Reagan took his case to the people, and the Senate ratified the treaty.
It was a precursor to other agreements, the most recent signed by Barack Obama, which made deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals. Today, U.S. and Russian specialists inspect nuclear weapons on each other's soil, an action that would have been seen as unbelievably utopian when Reagan became president. Not bad for Joe Sixpack.
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