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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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 2 May, 2010, 09:16

    Thanks. I remember supporting Reagan in 68, when I was 13. I didn’t know much about California politics, especially his tax and spending increases and legalizing abortion, but Reagan was supposed to be “conservative.”

    I supported him in every election I could: 68 Michigan primary, 76 Mich. primary (first time I could vote for prez), 80 Mich. primary, 80 general, 84 Mich. primary, 84 general. Six presidential elections.

    There’s a recent book on Reagan’s landmark 76 campaign, in which he narrowly lost to Gerald Ford, but united conservatives around himself in preparation for the 1980 campaign: “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All.”

    — John Seiler

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  2. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 2 May, 2010, 10:41

    Again, it amazes me how you denigrate President Reagan because he was not a 100 percent “conservative” ideologue. Worse, he had the audacity to occasionally work with those in the other party to help solve our country’s problems. If a Republican today sat down and had drinks with a member of the opposition like Reagan did with Tip O’Neill, you’d be screaming “head on a stick!” That’s how politics has degenerated in the past 20 years, and our country and our state are the worse for it.

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  3. Admin
    Admin Author 2 May, 2010, 17:34

    Well, StevefromSacto, Reagan himself said signing the California abortion law was the worst thing he ever did, and even wrote a pro-life book, “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” in 1984.

    And why can’t I criticize someone whom I supported six times for president? I’d support him today if he were running. No politician is above criticism.

    Even Moses messed up and was denied entry into the Promised Land.

    — John Seiler

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  4. StevefromSacto
    StevefromSacto 3 May, 2010, 11:18

    Well, if your message is that any politician is entitled to make a mistake, I agree. Maybe that means you’ll cut President Obama a little slack… although somehow I doubt it.

    And I can’t seem to get an answer from anyone on this blog about the fundamental and very imnportant difference between President Reagan and today’s right-wing ideologues–his willingness to work with those with different political views to help solve state and national problems. If Reagan sat down to have a drink with Tip O’Neill, Rush would denounce him as a “traitor” and John and Ken would want his “head on a stick.”

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