Reagan: The Life

Reagan: The Life


good afternoon and welcome to the
National Archives and David area archivist United States it’s a pleasure
to help have you here in the room with us or if
you joining us by on our YouTube channel or friends
viewing us on C-span welcome our guest author today
we’ll take a look at on the most influential officeholders in our modern your ronald
reagan fortieth president before we get started
like to tell you about to other programs are coming up here at the archives later this month on
Monday June 15 will observe magna carta de here the
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Carta in it leader shows the maid occurred as
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foundation the Foundation supports over education reach activities in applications for membership awesome Henry William brands is a man the American West foreign are on earned graduate degrees in mathematics
and history are gone and Texas it on Vanderbilt
University in Texas A&M University before going to the University of Texas
at Austin where we hold jackass plans senior cheer in history as a brand’s teaches history
with in writing to graduate students and
undergraduates is written several dozen books on american history in politics is no
stranger you the best seller list to books traitor to his class about FDR and the first American about
benjamin Franklin finalists for Pulitzer Prize is also a
written on your this is this grant Andrew Jackson Woodrow Wilson Theodore
Roosevelt lectures frequently on historical and
current events can be seen and heard on national and
international television and radio you spoken several times over
the years here at the National Archives for his latest
book reagan life professor branches records held by
the National archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library research ratings and written correspondence minutes meetings memoranda conversations
with foreign leaders it is it’s the speeches and much more
this new book has drawn praise from a number of sources yet you the other Road in the bush in 10
posts that Reagan’s legacy continues to fuel the ideas and frame
the choices facing his would-be successors and is astute
biography is further evidence at the 40th president continues to cast
a long shadow over is still largely conservative political
order please welcome HW brands thank you David that very kind injured action I want I’m
delighted to be back the National Archives because I can say
that none other books that I’ve written in this series of which reagan
is the last word been possible without the records at the National Archives so keep up the great work and make it
possible for people like me to do what I do the the book I’m gonna talk about today reagan life is in fact this six and
final volume in the series that I started about twenty years ago and it was originally planned as a history of the
United States in I was thinking five or six volumes and I pitch the idea to a publisher
who’s assorted laughed in my face saying in these days nobody writes that
kind of I’ve work history in it you wrote that
nobody would by nobody would read it and this
particular publisher said and I will be able to guess the ages you by your reaction to this that the
publisher said who do you think you are anyway will Durant okay if you view the tackle now who will
Durant rise will and Ariel Durant wrote the story of civilization history
of humanity in about twenty five volumes I knew that
the the answer that I was expected to give was no of course not but the real
answer was yeah I wanna be because I read not all those falling to
the lot and I was very intrigued and quite charmed by the idea that you
could be guided through a broad sweep history by a single guide I had already
been in the business of teaching history long enough to know that certainly in American history
though work I’ll say abroad survey of American
history is parceled out to typically for five or six different authors now i
nee naively originally thought that was
because in the academic world the expertise is a portion so you’d find the colonial expert to write on the
colonial period then the expert on the early national
period and so on and and that is indeed part of the
reason the after I got into the business myself
as a co author on these books I also discovered that
the more mercenary a reason is the more authors you get on the title
page the more their graduate students are teaching in various places around the
country who might actually adopted book cell I did not want a ride history by
committee I wanted to do it myself and I realize
it was rather ambitious but I decided to go ahead after absorbing and thinking my way through
the initial discourage at from this publisher at the
idea of doing it and I decided that I wouldn’t do it head
on I would do it in the form the syriza biographies and this because
I look at the best seller list and I saw that
it’s relatively rare to see something on the bestseller list
that says a history of history history of that but there are lots of biographies make
the best sellers people like biographies so I thought what I would do
it I would write this history the United States but I would do it under the guise in the form of a series the biographies
and the first volume in the series was about benjamin Franklin and in fact I
came and spoke here by benjamin Franklin now fifteen or twenty years ago and I’ve had the honor to come back and
speak on another about a number of the books in the series I’ve which the final one is ronald
reagan sonya tell you a little bit about why I wrote about ronald reagan
and not perhaps somebody else and it has to do with the fact that in
the first place the volume in the series before this
volume 5 reagan is volume 6 volume 5 is about
franklin roosevelt and franklin roosevelt died in 1945 so I needed someone who can pick up the
story could pick up the story in 1945 and I wanted somebody who would get me
as close to the president as reasonably possible after having written five volumes in the
series I wanted end it with six I didn’t want
to have to do said so that ruled out certain other potential candidate when I started this
year is I did not in 10 and I didn’t even expect that most have the biographies would be of presidents in fact volume 1 is a bad benjamin Franklin I’ve sometimes been
asked why was benjamin Franklin not president and the short answer was that he died
but he died im just as George Washington was
being an R-rated first president there’s an there’s a deeper reason he didn’t
have to the personality to be president but the subsequent books in the series
turned out to be president and this primarily because I love the
way I conceived up the series in the first place it was
going to be a history at the United States and so I needed
biographical subject who occupied some place near the center
of american public life if I had chosen an inventor up poet an artist have some sort then I could I would really be testing readers’
patience when I went from that particular life to the broader themes in american history
and so presidents are pretty much right in the
center of things and they enable me to tell that broad
story without diverging too far from the light and the crew the president so it turned
out that most in these actually everybody after
Frank why as president so Andrew Jackson was
volume to ulysses grant was falling three Theodore Roosevelt franklin roosevelt and finally wrong
great now again back to the reason for reagan with each obvious books I tried to associate with the individual
with a more precise I tried to choose the individual to somehow appear demise what I
conceived in my head as the central task American history Deering this particular period so my book and Benjamin Franklin is called
the first American because it seemed to me the central
theme of american history during the 18th century was the
emergence other American I Kennedy benjamin Franklin like everybody
else’s generation George Washington Thomas Jefferson James
anything in a min they were all born englishman and they
died America so how did this happen my book on Andrew Jackson was about the
emergence american democracy so Jackson and by the way Jackson is 23 years old in the year that
benjamin Franklin dies so wanna buy considerations is that I
want my figures to be stepping onto the adult stage as the previous figure steps up and this is partly because as a
biographer I will be the first to confess that I
don’t do childhoods very well and I don’t wanna
spend a lot of time on people’s childhoods and this is maybe it’s my personal taste I have written biographies and which they’re
the obligatory darling latter’s from little franklin
roosevelt to his mother and their lot something that I could
have chosen from but wonder to make the point and let’s
get onto the adult life so I deliberately arranged it so that my figures would be
adults by the time they have to take over from the previous one but by the
time they received the baton from the previous ones so Jackson is 23
when Franklin dies ulysses grant is in fact 23 when Andrew Jackson dies Theodore
Roosevelt is just I he’s three or four years out of
college when Ulysses Grant dies and so on we get down to franklin
roosevelt the dies in 1945 so I want somebody who’s in a dull and
his sorta embarked on life at that point I need
somebody as well who seems to me to summarize what happens in America in the second half of the 20th century I
thought about lyndon johnson lyndon johnson is a
president who was central to the civil rights
revolution remade American Society in the second
half of the 20th century from in he would have been a good choice
except for two things number one Robert Caro has pretty much stolen
lyndon johnson from everybody else until he finishes
now I think in fact that as soon as Caro finishes there will be room for a one volume on lyndon johnson but Caro is kinda
dominating the Johnson market and I’m not gonna step into that one but even if that
weren’t the case for my purposes Johnson steps of the stage too soon
healy’s the White House in 1969 he dies in 1973 and there’s still a quarter century ago
on the 20th century I thought about richard nixon and
richard nixon he carries a real a bit farther forward
but there’s a problem with rich actually there’s an enticement with richard nixon
but there’s a problem with richard nixon the enticement for the biographer is
that nixon has that dark streak in his personality
that buyer for is really like yeah it’s as Tolstoy said all happy
families are alike in boring is the unhappy ones and so it’s the unhappy individuals the
ones who have that dark street they’re appealing to the biographer but
they’re not necessarily appealing to the biographers publisher be cuz just as there is a rule with Broadway
musicals you know you’ve got a success when the audience comes out whistling
the theme song okay well publishers like it if your readers can be doing the equivalent
they’re whistling you know and I couldn’t imagine in when
I would talk about this my publisher I couldn’t get them to imagine anybody who request playing I don’t know
what the watergate things on the bay if you leave them on a down note that
they don’t go tell all your friends were wonderful book this is everybody I
carried it to be uplifted it might be instructive that it would be
uplifting I’m a circle back and do next but I wound up with ronald reagan in
part because his dates the date that period is life
work really well for me he lives into the 21st century little too asking for but the other reason is that well to other reasons and they relate I
had just written about franklin roosevelt and franklin roosevelt is the iconic
president for the first half of the 20th century
franklin roosevelt more than any other president is the one who is
associated with the creation are the modern American welfare state he
is the the liberal launch I’ll the agent
liberalism you can call the agent franklin
roosevelt that starts in the 1930s and I would say continues through the nineteen sixties there’s a
direct line from the new deal in the nineteen thirties through the great society the nineteen
sixties any essence love the new deal and the great society
is the liberal believe that when there are important social
problems government preeminently the federal
government is the agency %uh choices the solver first
resort so when there is a big problem when the
economy is in depression in the 1930s in Lhasa people need relief turn to washington in the nineteen
sixties when lyndon johnson wants to deal with
civil rights when lyndon johnson wants launch a war on poverty Johnson and all the people who voted for
all the people who voted for franklin roosevelt directly 59 percent
who voted for Roosevelt in 1936 that almost 60 percent vote for lyndon
johnson 1964 they say yes government is the solution
to our problems and that’s where we will look that attitude changing it was changing during the nineteen
seventies and it was decisively era first when Ronald Reagan was elected president
in 1980 and so in fact in his first novel
address ronald reagan famously said government is not the solution
government is the problem and I would our community that this is the attitude that has
predominated the American political conversation ever sent it’s not that there haven’t
been any new programs new federal programs between 1980 and now but if you compare the number that were
created between the nineteen thirties in the nineteen in 1980 when new federal programs came
off in a cane easily to what has been accomplished on that
round since 1980 they can sell them and they come heart
with the Fe up Obamacare which is still hanging
in the balance five years after his past being a good example of this so if there
is one individual I think who embodies the
conservative turn in american politics in the second half
of the 20th century’s ronald reagan and having written about roosevelt I felt sorta obliged and intellectually
academically and historically to look at the counterpart to franklin
roosevelt and I convinced myself and I hope begins
readers the book that one way of looking at Roosevelt and
reagan is that they are for the two parentheses are the American
Century roosevelt’s the left parenthesis and
reagan is the right parenthesis so that’s why I wrote about run-rate now I’m gonna tell you a little bit
about what I discovered or at least what I concluded I’m not
gonna tell you everything because of course I want you to read and write and by the book but I am going to share
with you some the experiences that I had in doing research for the book but the first
thing I mean it was tell you a story and this is a story that relates to ronald reagan when he
was the least likely political hero in the United States in fact this is
raggin Deering what I call to myself his
wilderness years a brief summary in reagan’s biography
till then reagan was born in Illinois he grew up
in the small town of Dixon he went off to college in Eureka Illinois he went from there into radio in the midwest he found his way to
Hollywood and he had on modestly successful film career but it was only modestly
successful he never quite cracked the top above the marquee he was okay at playing easy role he didn’t have it within him to play the really top the really dramatic roles and I’m gonna give you a little bit up mean I don’t claim the
Insight myself I’m just this is how I explain that and it has to do with some other
research that idea but it was research that came from a
direction that I didn’t expect it all it wasn’t something I found in the
records the National Archives it was something that I actually well ty parlor I was doing a book tour for an earlier book in fact my the last
published book that I was doing was ulysses bring and I
was doing an interview with a radio host and I believe the host was in Chicago and we’re having this
interview and as often happens toward the and vienna is an hour-long hearing
people callin the toward the end the host asked me
what my next project was are you working on it and I said I was
working on ronald reagan and the host at that point put his hand
over the microphone and he said when we get off the air
there something on a tad said okay good I’m had no reason to expect that he was an
expert on things relating to ronald reagan but eighties
fellow Midwesterner something like that there was some insight share so we get off and I’m all ears and he said if you want to understand wrong right what you need to remember
years that ronald reagan was the son have an alcoholic father now when he told me yes it was no particular
news reagan himself reported on this in his name and so I
was waiting for him to say more because he that this wasn’t he wasn’t given me new information he
went on to say however I speak on this subject as the Sun up an alcoholic father and I will tell
you that there is a characteristic emotional
style that people in that situation grow up with and here’s the way it works sorry this is what he was
telling he said one day your father is your best friend and you’re throwing the baseball around
in the backyard anne’s telling your funny stories in UK
check out for ice cream and the next day he’s beating the living
daylights outta and everyday I’ve your boyhood when you wake
up you don’t know which father you’re going
to be dealing with and as a result the as my host Assange you grow up keeping people and emotions at a
distance because the one person who is your should be a role model the one who
should be the one who shows you how to deal with emotions is someone who
is other early and sometimes violently on reliable now I heard this and either okay I’ll take this away and
see what I can do with it and at that point I went back and I reread reagan’s or and I reread
nancy reagan’s memoir and the first thing that struck me was a
passage from nancy reagan or just ascent where she said that now all tell you that reagan and Nancy Reagan were so close emotionally to the each other they were
almost the entire emotional universe one to the other and no one understood ronald reagan better
than nancy reagan and probably vice versa but nancy reagan said in her memoir which I recommend to
you called my turn it was written in the early published in the early 1990s it is
one of the most handed memoirs up anybody in american
public life in the last 50 years at least that I’ve encountered and she set that as close as she was to
her husband whom she always call Ron any as close as I was to Ronnie there
were those moments when that curtain came down and even I didn’t now what was going through his
head but was going through its heart so for me it’s
the reagan to admit that about her husband to state that arise when I thought was
quite striking but there was another passes this from reagan’s own memoir that I found maybe even more striking
again its just a sentence or two and if you maybe if I’ve read it before and it didn’t
mean a whole it didn’t mean as much to me as it did
the second time after having this conversation with my radios there’s a moment that reagan describes
when he’s our boy he’s maybe 11 or 12 years old living in Illinois and coming home from
school on a cold winter afternoon and there’s snow on the ground the
temperature is below zero and he walks up to the haps and justice
is about to walk up the walkway to the house he almost trips over his father passed
out drunk in the snow and as reagan he’s writing this at the age
up eighty so he’s looking back seven
decades and he remarks that I stood there for a
moment and I asked myself what should I do
should i wake my father and getting inside where it was warm or
should I just walk on by and leaving their lying in the snow now for a young boy even for a moment to be considering should I just leave my dad out here in
the snow leading freeze to death would my life the that if my father were dead that strikes me
as quite a significant revelation now
reagan in his memoir doesn’t make much any quickly goes on
attack the rest the memoirs about how his mother had told him had told him his
brother that their father had this disease and this was the way he was made understand
what alcoholism was it is easier policy responsible for this so don’t hold it
against him but clearly at some level he is holding against anyway sup this was one of the things
that I kept in mind in observing reagan watching reagan and in
answering the question going to the basic question in all of this is so how did ronald reagan accomplished what he
accomplished all get to what he accomplished but I’m actually
gonna come round to the store and military and so reagan goes off to hollywood and
his film career gets about this high be gradually phased out in part because
he wouldn’t go he couldn’t go to those emotional well Springs that actors have to go to
if your gonna convey emotion you have to have some
emotion inside yourself that you’re willing to access so you can
play that part in Euro but he wouldn’t he couldn’t go
there and so in fact when anticipating a
little bit when reagan decided to go into politics he announces the run for governor
California its annual goal metro-goldwyn-mayer a hollywood inside
heard that reagan is running for governor any set now now you got it all wrong
jimmy stewart for governor ronald reagan for best friend that’s the
kind of role that reagan play anyway even at that level his film
career is allowed by the early nineteen fifty
he was demoted for the big screen to the small screen the tiny screen a television which was a serious the
most and not only that so he was he had a
three minute gig every Sunday night he was hosted the GE theater and he would just introduced this sorta
made-for-t_v_ play and that wasn’t it for the rest of the
week he was a spokesman it was basically that black man for the General Electric
Company for eight years during the nineteen
fifties reagan was essentially a walking infomercial and this with what his
career hit unto and then in the early 1960s he lost
even that Jop and he managed to find a role as host death now is but there was no
future for this guy in showed its and his life had been show business at
one sort or another and he had no idea what the future is
going to bring now anybody who had looked at ronald
reagan in nineteen sixty-three before he went into politics would have ban hard-pressed to identify any of those talents any of those
ambitions any of those character traits that make for political greatness you could dual
line above 10 people a tickets are any ten people off the
street include reagan and say okay so which one is gonna change the american political
world and you have a hard time saying this is the guy now as the biographer you know I know
what he became and as is the case with a lot of
biographies you you don’t narrative least are at the end and work backwards but you
conceptually do the reason I wrote about ronald reagan was because he became president the
United States if reagan had drop-dead at the age of 52 neither I nor
anyone else with lot about writing a biography
ronald reagan its be cuz he became this person who will
change american politics and I would say change world affairs as well that were
interested in the first happened is like you look back
at the first half is that light and it’s really hard to figure out what it is and that gives
rise to this thing that’s going to be calm so the fundamental question that I had
is how did he do it how did this person up un remarkable
talents presence and everything else accomplish what he did now I am gonna
tell you the story sup here’s the story reagan is in the middle
of his career these eight years where he gives talks
on behalf of general actor so sometimes the talks are in GE plant
very often there lunchtime talks to the road a club the Chamber of Commerce the
article on his name and he always called it the rubber chicken to work and he was often introduced by
people who never met in the fall and people who
in particular in in the case is this particular story the
guy who’s going introduce him is someone who has never net ronald
reagan in fact is only seen the name in print
and so is a little bit uncertain as to how the last name is pronounced
its belt are AG a in and is it reagan or is it read alright so in this story are introducer is puzzling over this
question on the morning be four he’s gonna give the introduction it now
anne’s time at get kinda anxious because he doesn’t
want to make a fool of himself in front of all his friends and mispronounce the
guest’s name so he’s wandering around his neighbor is
walking around the neighborhood thinking this hour and he encounters something else who apparently lives in
the neighborhood as well my neighbors was walking his dog and this guys walking a dog that some kinda small
town like DAW and so the guys gonna make
introduction ass guy walking on street neighbor here I’ve got this problem do you happen to
know how this guy’s name is pronounced any shows Iran are you a GN and the guy walking
the dog said own is right as ronald reagan rake sure it’s raining it’s not really
in it’s raining Rick or that is really because I was really afraid I was gonna
you’re wrong get embarrassed so rate rainy start
walking away saying rate rate and as he just as he’s walking past
the guys oh by the way that’s a really cute dog you got what
kinda dog is that it’s a bagel cell this was a story that ronald reagan
told on himself now the reason I’m telling you as that this is part the answer is gonna
sound really pros a but its part at the answer to how ronald reagan accomplished what
he accomplished and I can give you the whole blow by blow up my interpretation of how
reagan accomplished when he comes first I will tell you what he accomplished and before I do
that I’m going to make a disclaimer those of
us who are in the biography business we often use a shorty and those as particular who write presidential
biographies we tended to is say or speak as though the things that happened during
the presidency other person or writing about were
accomplished by the person writing about now I’m gonna
be the first to acknowledge that that is not universally true
sometimes it’s not even mostly true lyndon johnson did not in fact the civil rights revolution by
himself by any means Martin Luther King at
something to do with this and all those people marching demonstrating people got
beaten over the head they have lots to do with it as well
however there was in the nineteen sixties an
essential role for a president in guiding that legislation through
Congress likewise I’m gonna say that ronald reagan change the american political conversation that
it had been moving in a liberal direction since
Franklin Roosevelt since Ronald Reagan it’s moving then
been moving back in the other direction I will tell you what reagan set out to
accomplish I’ll give you my scorecard on what he
did accomplish reagan wanted the secrets reagan success was
the fact that he focused very narrowly on are very small set goals in particular ronald reagan had two
goals that he reiterated every time he gave a
speech by the way I begin my book with what
those people who like ronald reagan and those people
worked around reagan simply call the speech and is a speech he gave on
behalf of barry goldwater in the autumn of nineteen sixty four
weeks before the election of 1960 when goldwater was clearly going to lose
and lose badly to lyndon johnson but in order to raise
some money to keep their at the goldwater campaign for many too deeply in debt and maybe
energize Republic to go to the polls little bit
the goldwater campaign allowed to put this were agreed to put
this political novice on TV run-rate again means and speeches
in Southern California he seemed to get a pretty good speech so they put them on
TV and it’s in all its really not an exaggeration to say
that 30 minutes before reagan went on
television on that October night in 1964 the nation well those two people can
remember ronald reagan as an actor the few and plot but nobody thought a
break-in as this Paul political figure almost nobody 30 minutes before he went on TV that
night and by the time that 30-minute speech ended there were people there are lots
of republicans who were smacking their foreheads and
saying we nominated the wrong candidate if we had nominated this guy we might
have a chance of winning in fact this story up Republican
conservatism which is really story of conservative
modern conservative is how ronald reagan went from that
reaction so the day before he gave that speech no
it hurt again than the very next day there were Ronald
Reagan for president Committee being formed around the country never
run for any political office at all he started thinking about it
anyway so ronald reagan’s two goals articulated in that speech and create
every speech he gay for the twenty-five years it is
political life reiterate the same two things number one shrank government at home number two defeat communism abroad wanted the
secret to reagan success was his insistence on focusing on those two
goals now I told you I was gonna need a scorecard 100 new ones to go I will say that he
got one and a half I’ll I got one and a half
of his two goals the one that he got again not all by
himself but the one that got completely was to defeat communism reagan pushed soviet communism to the brink of dissolution and when
reagan gave that speech before the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 he
said mister Gorbachev tear down this wall the wall didn’t come down right away
they come down within the next two years and it was followed by the demise of the
Soviet Union now of course mikhail gorbachev had a lot to do with this the other george bush had a lot to do
with the fact that the Soviet Union dissolved peacefully that it went out with a
whimper rather than a bang but if there’s a central figure in this
drama certainly pushing from the american side it’s ronald reagan so I’m gonna get him
he gets one out of one on that one he gets half out at one on the the goal of
shrinking government how and and the way he only got half but
this is very significant for the way we live today when ronald reagan became president the
litmus test for republican conservatives on fiscal issues was the balanced budget households have to
balance their budget match the income with the outgo government needs to do the same thing
reagan entered office as that kinda this cool traditional
fiscal conservative but during the course of his first term he
may up fateful decision to accept tax cuts with out insisting on spending
cuts now reagan proposed a budget to Congress
and his first budget message is I want to cut taxes I
wanna get spending and what he got was guarantees our tax
cuts bringing the top marginal rate from seventy
percent down to below 30 percent scrap back up a little bit from since
then but he got the tax cuts any good almost literally take those to
the bank he got promises for spending cuts but promises a spending cuts any political realist knows that as much
is certain groups in congress might complain about tax cuts they don’t really complain that hard
because they know them for their running for reelection if
they tell their constituents guess what I cut your taxes people complain about having their taxes
cut spending cuts are a lot harder reagan did not get the spending cuts he
got the text what did the country get the country got
structural deficits that have been a very large problem ever
since the Reagan years reagan not surprisingly blame the
Democrats in Congress blame tip o’neill they just wouldn’t go along with me well
he should have known he didn’t know but he did act on the
fact that when you make political compromises you have to insist that the two part to
the compromise stick together if you separate them then you might get
parts for your not gonna get the other part so anyway so this is what reagan
accomplished how did he accomplish it well I’m running out of time i want to
leave time for questions so I will make this relatively brief and I will tell you I I realized this is not a
vertically Republican city I spoke in Dallas a couple nights ago they were really
interesting but I’m about to say but you are all interested in politics I
SM so I’m gonna tell you the formula and
you can share it if you want or you can just buried if you don’t want it this is a formula for the right how the
republicans can reclaim the White House in 2016 day and it goes like this: well you should
be as much like ronald reagan as you can be and what is it about ronald reagan that conservatives today should emulate that
is if you want to collect the first thing is SPIE conservatively 100 percent of the time ronald reagan in that for speech in 1964
to his farewell address in 1989 was 1 100 percent conservative and this is why
ronald reagan even today isn’t icon at the Republican Party be
cuz everybody from just right of center to
the most zealous at the Tea Party activists 10 read reagan’s speeches they can watch
reagan speeches on YouTube and is almost chapter and verse they are can preserve it here message
that conservatives embraced ever since so if you like all call rhetorical
conservatism reagan is your guy you can not hear him
you cannot read him make any kinda slipped from that one
hundred percent consistent conservative message sup that’s the thing you want to do in your
speeches but there something else you need to do you need to this is why I told you a
little story about reagan and the bagel you need to you learn how to make people laugh learn how
to make people smile one are in the I I realize this sounds
miners sounds present a but one up the secrets reagan success was well was something he learned during
those wilderness years on the rubber chicken circuit he would
speak before audiences he didn’t know audiences that might as far as you know they could have been
skeptical they could have been hostile but he would always warm them up with a
story a joke and in fact if you read reagan
speeches while he’s in the White House nearly everyone begins with a joke now what’s the purpose the purpose is to
get people to to lack because reagan learn when he was
speaking in all those places and Midwest everywhere else that if you can get people to laugh with
you you’re halfway to getting them to agree with you but
there’s a larger message here and that is that reagan I don’t know reagan thought this through
he was not a particular reflective guy may have simply been instinctual him it
may have reflected his career in hollywood where he was a
celebrity where he wanted people to low like him some love you are some %uh view no conservatives and I
don’t mean to stereo type conservatives but I will say
and you can decide for yourself well I say is accurate but they’re I would say that most conservatives tend to be pacifists I would say a lot
I’m come across is grouchy even as angry righteously indignant now I think you have to agree with me at
least regarding the pessimism because the definition of a conservative
is a person who is distrustful I’ll change and you know
it you’re distrustful changes thank the changes usually for the work but I would just say in american
politics in american conservatism there is this stern often angry emotional undercurrent and I’ll
give you the example that was foremost an American thing at
the time reagan came on the scene barry goldwater barry goldwater’s philosophy was no different than ronald
reagan’s philosophy I’m leadership really %uh the RAM
reagan’s blasting is no different colours philosophy but they’re this age there appearance to
the american people could not have been more different barry goldwater was stern barry
goldwater lecture barry goldwater was scary to a
lot of people and the Johnson campaign went to town on
their reagan by contrast radiance is friendly
guy reagan’s is likable guy Reagan tells jokes reagan’s smiles reagan is conservatism with a friendly
face reagan in fact reagan why’s that rare I mean is a almost unique in
American experience example other optimistic conservative Reagan said again and again
ether let it bleed that america is the shining city on a
hill and its gonna get more shining as time
goes on again and again schooling on his
tombstone as a separate app Reagan said that
America’s best days are ahead now for somebody to say that in the 1970
late 1970s when he’s running for president after the nineteen sixties in the
nineteen seventies which between the Vietnam War the ride to the nineteen sixties
watergate stagflation the 1970s it wasn’t the most natural thing remember jimmy carter in the so-called
malaise speech races we get these problems we need to
look within cuz there’s something wrong in their brings another no it’s not America’s
best days are ahead cell here’s how the republican candidate
can win take that conservative message but put a
smile on it be friendly be appealing cell I’m just thinking that you know if Ted Cruz could have character transplant he’s your guy
anyway I will stop there and take questions
that might have occurred or objections for that and there are
microphones here for the class while shortly after reagan came to washington
nineteen eighty clark clifford at long-time Democrat fixer attorney truman Johnson
administration trigger opine that reagan was nothing
more than amiable dunce you remember that called
yes would you speak to that in I say the truth a or not truth that well
he definitely got have a right rating was amiable accel
lab raid on that a little bit because reagan did have that emotional
reserve that I talked about reagan seem to be anywhere from a distance it seem like
the friendly got you saw on television you think I hear somebody that I’d like
to get to know like to have a beer with but in fact a closer people got to
reagan more they realized that there was this coolness at
its heart reagan had almost no France aside from Nancy there were people the
associated with but he never let his guard down
sufficiently to let people close about the dunce Park I I think in that
first dollar trading was no dummy he knew a lot more than people blocking new now I’m gonna tell you
something that I got I did interviews with permit every surviving senior member the
cap and I will share with you what they told
me in a date is almost in the same words everyone
that I talking and I’ll let you decide what to make it usually
within the first five minutes they assured me that they would say you
know Ronald Reagan was a lot smarter then
people thought he was and okay that tells me something but
when they say than people thought he was because
people in the use very smart at all part everybody was a dunce to be smarter
than a dunce is is damning with faint praise they
didn’t nothin said he was the smartest person I ever met
and this also was in one pack so bob gates was Robert Gates was stalking
me he was and that number two going to CIA during
the reagan administration course he later went on to other things but I’m Gates told me that he thought that reagan deliberately downplayed how
much he knew because reagan like to keep those
expectations low he could sneak up on people this way but I will tell you that reagan new enough and he didn’t know too much and I think this is actually important if you are going to affect
change from position to the presidency and i’d and in many ways jimmy carter is the one who shows what
happens when you know too much because Carter became notorious for
micromanaging Carter I’m sure on an IQ test her came out much higher than reagan and Carter was one who thought being on a
master all the details of policy well the federal government even
executive branch is up big thing and if you try to master
everything if you spread yourself too thin you get nothing at all the secretive reagan success was his
focus on these two particular items and when reagan wanted the focus on those pretty Aires
he knew enough and I could just buy this having
read that transcript reagan’s negotiations
with mikhail gorbachev and I spent a lotta time on the weekend at reykjavik where reagan
is going toe to toe with gorbachev and it is clear that neither one is a master all in the details I’ll what goes into
each element of the nuclear arsenal but he
certainly you knew as much as gorbachev did about this and he knew that he had his
experts ken adelman other people who would fill
in the blanks fill in the details when necessary so reagan understood that you don’t have to know everything
to be present you have to know and now and then you have to know who to hire
who knows the rest so in this case I I’ve long had this
theory then I have no way of knowing how to
test this theory but that if you could somehow take all the presidential elections in
history and average out the IQ I the the you know that the intellectual
IQ not the emotional or social like your political give st. you know the standard
school-based kinda IQ if you can average out the winners
against the losers I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the
winning candidates wound up with the lower average IQ than
the losing candidate and this just simply goes to show I
guess you could say it shows the limits on IQ is a measure
important stop but also goes to show couple things one
is that no ordinary american voters are not necessarily drawn to the smartest person in the room and
secondly that that kinda intelligence does not
necessarily conduce to affective result as president you can
hire smart people you can’t hire judge an ass really what separates the president to affect
change from those who don’t yes next question up on thank you for a great presentation
I’m looking forward to reading your book I only began looking at some with it are you
point out reagan a emphasize the importance of words in
the imposed important to focusing so I am I looked at the title reagan the life comparing it to reagan’s second
memoirs up which is a little bit less bold by AR an American Life are so I was wondering
if that up the title every second memoirs
influenced your tiling the book or you publish a
book and I how how do you think well I i’m sure do your purpose is
bubbly to buy definitive up life president reagan of course missus reagan really liked Lou Cannon’s
books I don’t know if you want just discuss look and its but because I
mean that’s great me too okay the subtitle is a subtitle I did
not use in fact I resisted a subtype I want to
just be called rate but publisher for some reason thought
that that somehow didn’t convey that this was a
biography so I don’t know what else it would be but
none the last so I sent it off mean shit I send off
with just reggae and it came back in pay through with reagan the light at which point by the way I long ago learned that the
fine print in the standard book contract says that while the author has control over
everything goes inside the book the author has almost no
control sometimes the author is asked to consent
to what goes on the outside the book and the outside the
book includes the title the standard book contract says that the
publisher in conjunction with the author will
determine what the title is the title is part of marketing so actually I happen to like I mean I
didn’t want to put life and times that’s too trite and all I well that they said they sent back with our lives
said okay let’s be assertive about this now I’m not I’m not I’m I would not be the one to Declan to
claim that this is the definitive like and furthermore it’s way too soon for
anything to be definitive about something like ronald rate is in the
sense that we’re still too close to the events and were too close to the dance in two
senses number one years what Australia 1 what is the
meaning at the end of the Cold War now if Russia under Vladimir Putin decides to revive this hostility with
the United States and if in five years those russian
missiles are again they’re still thousands of
them are aimed at the United States and the United States missiles are aimed
at Russia then it’s gonna start to look as though 1991 with not that big a deal so we don’t know exactly how all this
stuff plays out secondly although I made or I hope was good use are records at
the Reagan Library and records available elsewhere there
are a whole lotta records that are still not available and they’re gonna be becoming available
probably over the next 10 20 30 who knows how many years and so it’ll probably will be fifty or
sixty years before anything really approaching it tentative life but there have been a
couple reviewers have been kind enough to say that this is the definitive life are
times and I’m not going to argue with that all lukin lou cannon is the best up the first takes on rain Canon covered
reagan as a journalist from the California years through
washington and ray and Kanon for obvious reasons interest the
services be focuses on the political life and he has to the
pines one is president reagan one is governor reagan and each one is as bad as my whole life
can give relatively short attention to reading
before you visit the park’s so mine in this case maybe that’s why
the publisher said the life because it really does include the first
50 years with candidates mostly 52 94 I and yes sir your turn in this town
it’s pretty easy to run into people who have met with reagan
and I talked to quite a few folks who did meet with him in the white house in
the all tell the same story yet when they would go into those
meetings he would read something to them and then when they got to the question
answers he would turned to you know one is a jerk an
official see what caps why don’t you take that or George why
don’t you and that’s always made me wonder how much beyond the two big ideas how much the
reagan agenda was his agenda or did he just
continue to be a walking infomercials president for someone else
a request I would say that the agenda was reagan’s
but the details on those other issues were filled in by other people and I’ll
give you for the extreme example the turned out bad we
can look at the ones that turned out reasonably well from a republican conservative
perspective deregulation large parts the economy reagan believe
that the economy was to regulate as a 1980 and regulations ought to be elected to
as reagan what it said to unleash the independent spirit not ownership for the american people the
reagan didn’t get down in the details what was gonna be deregulated when this
is the basic principle now you guys put into operation but the the particular area in which reagan’s inattention de
détail blew up in his face and even he would
have knowledge as was in the iran contra scandal and iran
contra scandal emerged outta on I won’t repeat the whole story
I all get to the part that deals with reagan
specifically and Iran reagan was greatly concerned over the
fate American hostages held in leather reagan entered the White House wow there were
52 American hostages held in Iran and he made a big deal against jimmy
carter for not affecting the release the hostages so
those hostages were released on the day that reagan was in our grade but over
the course of the next few years several Americans were taken hostage in
lebanon by hezbollah which was supported by the government
Iran and reagan became closely involved in negotiations to attempt the release
of the hostages even to the details are sending weapons to terock in the hopes that that would
help spring the American hostages in lebanon now your material that other sources that a
yes I had access to reagan’s diary and in reagan’s diary it’s really
clear that he understands the connection
between the arms shipments to iran and the release
of the hostages time and again he writes okay so the
current plan is we send them a new shipment anti-tank
missiles and they’ve released two hostages now in
fact is always written in the the future tense and perspective
because they sent the weapon the hostages didn’t get released but then he would go on sale okay we got
a new deal now more weapons in their release the hostages fine and in reagan’s the
high res this is in reagan’s on hand it’s clear he knows there’s hostages
arms for hostages but he’s not paying
attention to are the details are the arms shipments
any particular he’s not paying attention to the connection between the profits from the arms sales to iran and the money is
going to cart so that’s the the countryside in the iran contra
connection now 1 comment about first the hostages then
back here at the counter connection about the hostages when some love you
will remember when reagan went on television after the
iran contra story broke and he got up in front at the American
people speaking from the oval office and he
swore that this was not arms-for-hostages and
if you look at him if you listen to his voice if you read body language he certainly sounds sincere now if reagan had been up better actor than
he was I might have been willing to say okay he
was just acting any fool all but I think it was
something more at one level complicated at but also simpler than that that reagan had this deep-seated belief that the United
States never did anything wrong at least not
wrong for long now some others I got from talking to
Ron Reagan his son and ron was a teenager when Reagan was
in politics he was the youngest in the reagan children and he was on the liberal line in Canada
rebellious and he’s the kinda poke and prod this
fall and Ron Reagan tells the story about how they were watching a movie one day
reagan like to watch movies you really liked westerns and they’re watching a Western in which
the Indians were get beaten up on the way indians you did in American history and Ron after exposure to point out to
his father that no the Indians really got a bad
deal from the United States government don’t you think so dad any
said it made his father uncomfortable so when he was talking because reagan didn’t want to believe
that this greatest country on earth ever did stop that was basically wrong
consistently wrong so I was talkin Ron ratings and my
father was no dancer echoes up he was smarter than he would
encourage my was no dummy and he knew for example
that slavery was and evil institution and it was supported by it was legal in
the United States for three thirty years so my father knew that
there was this dark aspect of american history but between
what he knew you and what he felt there was this and so when reagan is
talking about we didn’t trade arms-for-hostages their is part reagan the part that wrote
the dire that knew there was this linkage but there was other part this is no the
United States doesn’t do that kind of thing now in reagan’s defense if defenses appropriate here he might have said well
you now the arms were going to tehran: and the hostages were in lebanon the hostage holders one getting arms
themselves now he knew the linkage and if anybody had
used anti-democrat had used that against me were said
that’s absurd of course but it it was absurd but it is the kind
of thing that I think he believe and is not i’ve seen this and
other people in politics you probably seen it in perhaps your own life and lies people
around you it’s one thing to know something it’s another thing to feel it or believe
it and oftentimes people live in this state
cognitive dissonance where they know one thing but they act as
though it’s a thing is actually the real deal now in the question why certain
details policy reagan I’m convinced did not know
that profits from the arms sales are being
diverted to the hospital it to the congress and I say this on the basis our first
live all the reaction that reagan made the
reaction head when he was informed by at me that wet that the there had been this
diversion and everybody’s all reagan seeing said
he’d you know his face went white and he was
shocked by this but beyond as I talk to john poindexter who was the national security adviser at
the time and I asked him the question this way said did you feel as though and you were kinda hung out to dry as a result occurs
when the story bro it was poindexter oliver
north were fired and reagan attempt on President waltzes way and Poindexter said no I wasn’t
resentful I wasn’t better or that was my job my job was to protect the president from
stock he didn’t wanna up from stuff he shouldn’t nap so I didn’t
tell that the %ah the money was being diverted to the contras
actually poindexter asked me told me one other
and and this is and maybe this time
anticipating a question by 1986 reagan why as 7e five years 76 your body in the air and he was well the question came up later whether the diagnosis outsiders wage reagan
announced to the public in 1994 whether there are any symptoms
have that earlier aw some people thought they saw things as
early as 1984 some love you perhaps remember
the first debate between ronald reagan walter mondale and in the first debate reagan did not
acquit himself well at all here’s the guy was the trained
actor who knows how to memorize is lines he
could not remember his closing stay you know everybody all I can is
always memorize the opening statement opposing state he tripped already he repeated himself
the Wall Street Journal the friendly Wall Street Journal the next day said asked the question they put the
question the headline is reagan to old to be president Ron Reagan writing later said that he thought those
were the initial symptoms about sums involved but john poindexter
told me that he thought that one of the reasons
that the iran contra scandal got outta hand
the way it did that there was a step going on in the
West Wing that reagan was aware of was that reagan was becoming forgetful
and people would tell in stock and he would forget now this would
culminate in a very poignant but also serves scary moment when reagan is two years
out of the white house and he is being asked to give evidence
to testify in 10 the iran contra criminal case and
so he gets a deposition and in this deposition of course a couple hours he’s
asked a whole longest quest and he answers more than eighty if these questions with
one form up I don’t know I can’t remember I don’t
recall and these weren’t just questions these
detail these were questions as basic as do you do you remember who your chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was I don’t recall and really got heart-wrenching when he was asked do you
remember who michael deaver was mike deaver was reagan’s closest brand close political associate from way
back in the California days and he can’t remember finally at the end of this reagan says
its almost like I was now I was never
president at all it is really anguishing to read the SB
here’s here’s someone whose light his past life is vanishing before his eyes it’s also kinda scary here’s somebody who’s only two years out
of the white house you know so how much at the symptoms were there when
he was in the white house I do not use the label the term the word al timers until reagan does himself but I don’t need that to demonstrate the reagan was slowing down when he was
in the white house he work shorter hours he’d never been a
workaholic he was never want these people who thought that the more hours you put
in would translate directly into better output he went up he went home at night went up
to the residents typically 5:30 or 6 and that was the end
of his workday any word often sleep in it wouldn’t come
down till nine o’clock by the end of his term he was not coming
down till ten o’clock and people were just okay he slowing
your can I point to anything poindexter was pointing to iran
contra I think otherwise explain that can I point to any incidents any aspect
that policy that suffered because this I cannot in fact I can give you some
evidence to the contrary that when called upon raking could still
perform very well here’s weekend with gorbachev in
Reykjavik was this is in 1980 and 1986 and rating for 36 hours was I’m gonna
say he was at the top of his game now he couldn’t
sustain after day after day after day in fact he called it off at the end of
Sunday the meeting response to go Saturday and into Sunday morning you’re
gonna go home they continue to negotiate through early
Sunday afternoon then another 13 late Sunday afternoon and finally he calls an end to it some
of his advisers that have that we stay overnight and come back and try to get a final
agreement Monday morning because they were very
close to an agreement that would have if follow through on what led to the
elimination of nuclear weapons between superpowers but reagan finally said nope I’m not
gonna I’m going home and his explanation was
Nancy holding Sunday dinner for me and so I
get back we run outta time we probably have thank
you you’ve been wonderful I ok up

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