As 1975 dawned, the Republican Party was in about the same shape the Democrats are today: reeling from election losses, demoralized, unsure of its footing, grasping at straws. Presidential calculations for 1976 had been thrown into a cocked hat. John Connally, Nixon’s favorite, had been derailed by the Watergate resignation. Ronald Reagan, who had been waiting his “turn” (“taking one’s turn” being a Republican staple), found the concept suddenly irrelevant. Gerald Ford, who, upon appointment as vice president assured Nixon he would retire in 1976, now, as the 38th president, was having second thoughts.
In Reagan’s Revolution, Craig Shirley sets the stage for the remarkable Ford-Reagan campaign for the 1976 presidential nomination by examining these and other antecedents going back to the Goldwater-Johnson campaign of 1964. He shows how Reagan’s late-campaign televised speech for Goldwater captured the hearts of a number of conservatives; how a small cadre of them pushed hard for Reagan to permit his name to be put into nomination in 1968 (he agreed, at the last minute), then clamored for him to run in 1976.
On joining Reagan’s senior staff in the Governor’s office in Sacramento in early 1974, I was advised by chief-of-staff Ed Meese, “We don’t know whether he intends to run for president in 1976, but we don’t want to do anything to close off that option.” In other words, do a bang-up job in the Governor’s final year in office. We all watched Watergate events with the avidity of tea readers that year. Those around him constantly recalculated the political calculus; however, Reagan kept his own counsel as to his future.
Late that year, the early months of Ford’s presidency, the White House watched the Californian warily. They even made heavy-handed attempts to preempt him by offering him minor cabinet positions.
Early in 1975, when he became a private citizen, Reagan was bombarded with friendly pleadings to found a third party or declare himself a candidate for 1976. He did neither. Instead, he plunged into his daily radio commentaries, weekly newspaper column, and frequent speaking tours. All this steadily broadened his constituency, as was little understood at the time, but which the author traces effectively.
Shirley had access to several fascinating internal Ford political documents and contrasts these with memos, conversations, and actions in the Reagan camp to give the reader a vivid you-are-there sense of participation in events as they unfold.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?