Remembering Gov. Reagan

Not sure if you folks at home realize this, but today — May 2, 2010 — is the 42nd anniversary of the “Draft Reagan” movement that tried to get then-California Governor Ronald Reagan to run for President of the United States. On such an auspicious anniversary as this — and given all the attention the current governor’s race is getting — I thought it fitting to reprint a small excerpt from Rick Perlstein’s superlative 2008 book Nixonland, which somehow describes politics and culture of the 1960s in a fresh, though often depressing, way. The following illuminates what Reagan was actually doing as governor at the time of the Draft Reagan movement:

“His governorship was floundering. He proposed a budget that cut every department by 10 percent, which made as much sense as trying to lose 10 percent of one’s body weight by extracting tissue from every organ; he didn’t even know that much of the budget was set by statute. He never came within a mile of the goal. Then he passed the largest tax increase in the history of a U.S. state. Meanwhile a cabal of aides, including Lyn Nofziger and Edwin Meese, plotted to overthrow his chief of staff by bugging hotel rooms to try to uncover evidence of gay sex. They were so indiscreet about it that Drew Pearson reported speculation ‘whether the magic charm of Governor Ronald Reagan can survive the discovery that a homosexual ring has been operating in his office.’ Reagan was in way over his head. ‘Can anyone tell me what’s in my legislative program?’ he once plaintively asked aides in the middle of a press conference. It hardly mattered to those who wanted to see him president.”

-Anthony Pignataro

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