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Check out this GREAT article by renowned, accurate and trusted, lifelong Reagan reporter & biographer, Lou Cannon, who has graciously granted us the right to quote and reprint some of his work. It further validates what many of my colleagues and I have seen first-hand for over forty years!

Thinking About Ronald Reagan:
On 100th Birthday, He's Remembered for Good Reason

Lou Cannon

Lou Cannon
February 1, 2011


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."


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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.


Ronald Regan, The White HouseFDR, 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 middleclass 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.


Quoted with permission of the author, Lou Cannon.




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