(Page 2 of 2)
The author shows the suspense building as the year wears on. He also describes the tension between Reagan operatives who wanted an early candidacy announcement and those who wanted one as late as possible. Reagan, himself, was in the latter camp, so “later” prevailed. He details the almost constant misreading of Reagan by Ford operatives and the fecklessness of campaign director Bo Callaway’s planning until Stuart Spencer, one-time Reagan gubernatorial campaign wizard, came upon the scene to create an effective strategy.
Spencer correctly saw that a detailed addendum which accompanied a Reagan speech in Chicago in September 1975 (the “$90 Billion Speech”) offered solid material for undermining Reagan in tax-averse New Hampshire. While Reagan’s speech called for the transfer of several programs to states and communities, along with the resources to pay for them, he did not list the programs that would result in the estimated $90 billion federal savings. The addendum spelled these out. Spencer’s researchers projected that many of these shifts would require states to increase their taxes. Shirley’s dramatic narrative shows how Spencer & Co. used this to great effect in New Hampshire. The Reagan campaign was thrown on the defensive and kept there for several weeks.
Reagan recovered from the early losses, of course, with a dramatic come-from-behind win in North Carolina and went on to lose the nomination to Ford in Kansas City by a slim 1,187-1,070. This was to be the last presidential nomination of either party to be settled at a convention.
The final night of that convention brought the unprecedented call by President Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to come down to the floor and address the delegates. Reagan’s short speech riveted the audience. Shirley captures the intensity of the moment and concludes that this speech was a turning point for the Republican Party. Thereafter, Ronald Reagan and the conservatives would be in the ascendancy.
To produce this rich, comprehensive account of a complex campaign, the author conducted something on the order of 200 interviews and reviewed dozens of books and papers. For this writer, for whom the flames of political passion have been banked for some time, the book fanned an ember which for 417 pages was reignited.
Craig Shirley gores no oxen and grinds no axes here. He gives us a nearly fly-on-the-wall account of events. While he is a Reagan partisan, he is not tendentious. Thus, his book makes a useful and highly readable addition to the literature that is adding up to history’s assessment of a man who most agree was one of the most important public figures of the 20th century.
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?