First, thinking of that time and how the media treated her:
Yes, she was likely far more decent and intelligent...Mrs. Reagan was hated because President Reagan was hated. There wasn’t a great deal to hate about Nancy, and so such vices and foibles as she had — quaint, in retrospect — were exaggerated to unrecognizable proportions. Spend any time around politics, and you’ll quickly understand that the lie lives forever...
In an interview with Larry Elder Nancy shared these thoughts:
Reagan: Well, I think his legacy was making the country feel good about itself again, making people feel good. There was a whole optimism that he exuded.If you doubt the he knew much, I would simply direct you to read Reagan, In His Own Hand.
Elder: And is that the quality about Ron Reagan that you most admire -- his optimism?
Reagan: Well, that's one of the things that I admire. There are lots of things that I admire about him. That's one of them.
Elder: Tell us what some of the others are, his qualities.
Reagan: Oh, his kindness, his ability to be a great communicator, to communicate with people -- all kinds of people, all different ages, it didn't make any difference. He just connected with them. He was a very romantic man, as those letters he wrote show. A wise man. I could go on and on. How long have we got? (Laughter)
Elder: The thing that people most misunderstand about Ron Reagan.
Reagan: Well, I don't think it's true any more, since they've published the speeches that he wrote, the letters that he wrote, but it used to be that people thought, well, he didn't know anything -- they just handed him things -- but he didn't know anything. Now, with the publication of all the speeches that he wrote, I mean, it shows that way, way back, he had his philosophy firmly in place. He knew what he was doing.
He clearly demonstrates a solid understanding of important ideas about the world:
Scrupulously edited and presented, this book assembles and excerpts scores of his handwritten works, mostly from radio commentaries Reagan wrote in the late 1970s. The collection recovers the most powerful elements of Reagan and Reaganism, such as the depth and clarity of Reagan's principles and his fundamental optimism.More than 50 years from the time of choosing speech, it is still quite a solid exposition of principles of liberty. (transcript)
A source for some of the material that Reagan studied in refining the explanations of what he believed was FEE, The Foundation for Economic Education:
Another person who got hooked on FEE’s materials was a middle-aged actor named Ronald Reagan. The story is fascinating, as detailed in the 2006 book The Education of Ronald Reagan, by Thomas Evans.Aside from having formulated his views with real diligence, Reagan was a successful two term governor of California. Yet, far more often than not the media referred to him as a B level actor.
From 1954 to 1962, Reagan worked as the host of CBS’s top-rated General Electric Theater and served as General Electric’s official spokesman. For weeks at a time he would tour GE’s 139 plants, eventually meeting most of the 250,000 employees in them. Reagan himself estimated that he spent 4,000 hours before GE microphones giving talks that started out with Hollywood patter but ended up as full-throated warnings about Big Government. “GE tours became almost a post-graduate course in political science for me,” he later wrote. “By 1960, I had completed the process of self-conversion.”
The blind partisanship demonstrated by demonizing opponents as well as forgetfulness of admirers in not remembering how hard he battled the establishment in getting elected and pursuing his agenda also come to mind. The U.S. with leadership and vision provided by RWR liberalized economic policy and led the way amongst developed economies in the economic resurgence of the 1980s. If you want an appreciation for what that was like:
...the presidency that was by far the most analogous to Barack Obama's in terms of the miserable economic conditions inherited was that of Ronald Reagan. And comparing the Gipper's 1986 address to Obama's 2014 was a startling exercise in contrast, illustrating the wide gulf between their competing economic recoveries.
Beyond being open minded enough to appreciate what I was observing, I took the opportunity to read the works of several authors who were instrumental to providing ideas relevant to this great resurgence. Jude Wanniski, Art Laffer, Robert Mundell, George Gilder and John Rutledge all had valuable insights to contribute. Anyone can learn a tremendous amount by reading their papers and books.
As a reminder, the four pillars of Reaganomics that were so effective in revitalizing the economy were: sound money, reduced taxation, limited regulation and freer trade. Yes, it really did work.
(As an aside, David Goldman who worked with the late Jude Wanniski at his firm Polyconomics has an interesting observation: Ted Cruz is intellectually arrogant, like Ronald Reagan)
I think you can see why Ronald Wilson Reagan is a fun topic for me. But Reagan being Reagan with a terrific sense of humor, I think the best way to end this post is with a joke:
Just to make clear - I did not vote for him. Although far from perfect, he got a lot right.
Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts:
In terms of personal character and ideological seriousness, Trump and Reagan could not be more different. Reagan was one of the most dignified politicians of the 20th century, one who turned his cheek to vicious attacks, refused to use profanity, and rarely showed an angry side. Meanwhile, Trump’s crude and vengeful streaks virtually define the man.A book review titled: The Gipper Wins Another One
Reagan’s ideological principles were derived from decades of reading, speaking, and debating. Trump, meanwhile, is winging it.
“I don’t think he has an ideology,” Pat Buchanan told the Washington Post. “He very much is responding to the realities that he has encountered and his natural reactions to them. It’s not some intellectual construct.”
Here lies both the irony and farce of the cult-like effort to anoint Trump as the second coming of Reagan. The one meaningful similarity between the two men is that they can both be seen as authentic responses to their times. The difference? Reagan was the right response.
Remarkably, Weisberg dispenses with the ideological bias that has afflicted the authors in this series, and presidency scholars in general, for he has produced a genuinely fair and somewhat admiring book about Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
This is a nuanced account, detailing Reagan’s hatred of nuclear weapons and his somewhat unique assessment that the Soviet Union was doomed.
Weisberg’s assessment of Reagan’s effort to trim the size and reach of the welfare state is also quite balanced. He argues, contrary to the hysterical rhetoric of Reagan’s critics then and now, that “Reagan didn’t succeed in eliminating a single major program, which illustrates the truth of his adage about eternal life and government bureaus.” He does note that Reagan’s deregulatory drive “halved the thickness of the Federal Register, which complies new regulations.”
And speaking of evil, American liberals hated Ronald Reagan when he was President, although it has become gospel among some of them that Reagan was liked on both sides of the aisle. He wasn’t. Tip O’Neill, arguably the most partisan House Speaker of the 20th century, declared that Reagan, not the Soviet Union, was the focus of evil in the modern world.
Weisberg rejects this vicious and vacuous assessment, for Reagan was one of the few public figures to embody “the idealized national character,” with his elements of “simplicity, innocence, and personal modesty.” These qualities are, as Weisberg rightly notes, rare in public life and hard to fake. This book is a rarity as well, and one that hopefully portends more balance in the future from the American Presidents Series.
Like I said, a fun topic for me.