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tv   The Presidency Ronald Reagans Presidential Campaigns  CSPAN  November 2, 2019 11:55am-2:01pm EDT

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justices reflect on the impact supremeirst female court justice. on wednesday, african american history. thursday a look at past impeachment proceedings. revolution american american history tv every weekend and all next week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. >> next on the presidency, ronald reagan's political affairs director sits down with historian craig shirley behind the scenes of the campaign for the white house. this conversation which picks up with the 1976 republican contest against incumbent gerald ford took place as part of mr. shirley's university of virginia
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course, reagan on leadership. -- >> frank, thanks for being with us. this is our course, you are german -- you are joining an august group such as john meacham. >> always wanted to make grad school. [laughter] >> you finally did. i didn't get a chance to email out frank's bio. this is may the single most important, critical keeper of the reagan legacy, the reagan legacy in america today. frank worked on the 1976 reagan campaign, he worked on the 1980 campaign, he worked in the white house, he worked on the 1984 campaign, and he has been the longtime chairman of the reagan ranch, which has been one of the
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three major vantage points in american politics today. there is the library in simi valley, the ranch in santa barbara, and eureka college. frank, thank you for being here. let me get right into it, then the students will ask questions. you organized the very first conservative political action conference in 1973. >> 1974, right? >> 1974. and reagan spoke as the keynote speaker, the star attraction. >> first of all, thank you for having me. the great baseball player who used to play for the yankees, yogi berra, had a 10 seat to mangle his sin -- had a tendency to mangle his syntax.
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he once was asked if he had read a biography about himself. he said, why should i, i was there? we will be talking about things tonight where i was there. the first political action conference was held in january of 1974, a lifetime ago. there was really a twofold idea behind this. the first was that the nixon administration was in all kinds of trouble at that time, being accused of watergate and all the attendant problems. the first goal was to say that the conservative movement is allied with the republican party but not the same as the republican party. there republican party is a political vehicle and the conservative movement we always thought stood for ideas which
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had a home may be in the republican party. the second point was that there was this governor way out in california that was probably the most consistent conservative on the national scene we had had, but a lot of people nationally did not know about him. the idea was to give him a national forum to introduced him to americans. remember, this was way before talk radio and cable television. a big deal used to be getting an article about your candidate in the new york times or washington post, then send it around to people. it was a much bigger job to get the word out. those were the two main purposes. >> how many people attended? >> we put it together in about two months. it wasn't a bad attendance. i would say about
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several hundred attended. we put ads in some of the conservative newspapers, we did a lot of mailings to donors. the irony was that we did not really know the irony was that we did not really know who was going to show up because you did not have instant registration. people might have gotten it in the mail and said, i will go to that. the reagan banquet, which was the highlight of the conference and the most widely attended event, literally 200 people showed up that we did not expect to show up. we were kind of barricading them, holding them outside while the program director of the mayflower hotel was literally leading an effort to put up more tables. literally putting up tables and trying to find silverware and so forth.
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they finally got in. but we had a very good crowd. craig: cpac is a lot different today. frank: now it is institutionalized and there are thousands people who have it on their calendar already for the next year. craig: how did you get involved in politics? frank: two things. one is that i was assigned -- i went to a catholic boys high school in pittsburgh and, believe it or not, i was assigned by our teacher to read "the conscience of a conservative" by barry goldwater. i came from a democratic family but i remember thinking, i believe in a lot of this stuff. in college, it was the high point of the campus uprisings, the new left and so on. it is an interesting statistic that the leadership of the new left was drawn primarily from upper wealthy families. i was active in one of the
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conservative organizations, young americans for freedom, and we came primarily from working-class backgrounds. a lot of blue-collar. craig: you worked on the 19 76 reagan campaign. frank: i did. i was the co-youth director. [laughter] frank: i told you not to laugh. craig: he ran briefly in 1968 but even he denied that he ran briefly in 1968. but the 1976 campaign was monumental, important, and did change the republican party and the ark of reagan's future. frank: it definitely did change all of that. it was a long shot because we were challenging and incumbent president.
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craig: which is very unusual in the republican party. the last time was 1912. frank: the other thing you have to remember, president ford, and modern, is thought of as a moderate republican. in the republican party in 1975 and 1976, he was conservative. he led the revolt against what he considered to be a moderate republican leadership 30 years before newt gingrich did the same thing. craig: when he first ran for congress, it was a primary challenge to a more moderate candidate and he ran to his right, i recall. frank: as i said, i think that ford, if you want to talk about the old conservatism, which was balanced budget conservatism, he would have been a strong conservative.
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but once you got into talking about a broader panoply of issues, especially social issues and, most amazingly, foreign policy, jerry ford had been captured by henry kissinger and detente, so that created a big opening. i guess the point i would like to make as we go through this discussion is that, i think when we talk about instances in both the 1976 and 1980 campaign, there are many junctures where reagan is one step removed from disaster and if he falls off the ledge at any of those points, you probably never hear from him again. as somebody once said in the sports context, great teams aren't always great, they are just great when they have to be. i would say, if you look at
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reagan's political record, and each point he faced a crisis, when he had to come up big, he did. craig: a lot of times he took his own destiny into himself, like the nashua debate, the carter debate. frank: i like to think he had a brilliant staff. craig: because you were on that staff. frank: of course. in point of fact, at these critical junctures, it was him. 1976, he gets into the race with much fanfare and proceeds to lose the first five primaries in a row. his staff is looking for a graceful way for him to withdraw without being humiliated. reagan goes on national television before the north carolina primary and gives one of his patented speeches. the money in those days, $2 million was a lot of money, poured in.
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again, there is no internet, so people actually had to take down the address, write a check, put it in the mail, and all that. after that speech, reagan goes on the offensive and wins the north carolina primary. it rejuvenates him. to that point, all the way through until he wins california decisively, jerry ford is kind of hanging on. craig: to your point about reagan at the precipice, if he loses north carolina -- frank: i would think that he would have agreed and probably would have withdrawn. and that would have been the end. there would have obviously been no future campaign. craig: he doesn't win 1980, he becomes a footnote.
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frank: latest crazy person to challenge and incumbent president goes nowhere. craig: north carolina changes everything. the american people see him now more legitimately because he beats an incumbent president. frank: you've got to win. winning builds credibility. it wasn't just the wind. it was how he won. he won this himself with one speech where he found his voice in foreign policy. craig: he started to reject the advice of his campaign manager and started going after issues that his campaign manager at the time did not want him to go after. frank: it was a foreign policy based campaign for the bulk of the campaign.
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it resonated not only with republican voters, but with a lot of democratic voters. union members, maybe socially or economically liberal, but on foreign policy, being tough on the russians, they were on the republican side more than the democratic side. we felt that we had a ready-made coalition if we could get the nomination. from north carolina on, he wins the vast majority of the primaries. he wins a lot of delegates. the only reason we wind up losing in the end is that we outran our supply lines. we had a very small staff and we literally could not put up delegate candidates in some key states.
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ohio and new jersey. the last day of the primary campaign, reagan won california overwhelmingly. in those days, it was winner take all. but, we only had like nine out of 88 delegates in ohio and similar in new jersey. in the fall, they all go to ford and he ends up with enough uncommitted delegates to win the nomination. craig: it was a foreign policy election but he threw in some other things. the ford administration was handing out federal largess. sewer contracts, tree cutting contracts, anything they could do, and reagan was on the stump saying, whether they say hail to the chief or santa claus is coming to town. the panama canal treaty, we have not talked about that, but they played a critical role. it was still bubbling up as an
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issue in 1976 because the ford campaign was in negotiations with panama to transfer control. it did not reach full fruition until 1978 but it was starting to bubble up. frank: this was a very difficult time in american life. especially in the foreign policy side. because america had just lost its first war ever. we were humiliated. we got kicked out of vietnam. we lost the war in vietnam. craig: laos, cambodia. frank: the russians seemed to be on the march and the so-called third world. they had a tremendous presence in africa, for example, and as we later learned, in central
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america. on top of that, we kind of took a kid gloves approach to the soviet union, even when they imprisoned their own citizens in the gulags, like alexander solzhenitsyn. it seemed like no one was willing to speak up to how america had a critical role to play in trying to stem the advance of communism. reagan spoke up. craig: reagan really, from the time of containment and mutual cooperation, he is the first one really to break with the bipartisan precedent of everyone going forward from truman right up until ford. the soviet union is a thing of permanence, the berlin wall is a thing of permanence. we have to find a way to coexist. he says, we will transcend them. this is terrifying to the
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establishment. frank: i think that becomes evident in the 1980 campaign. he was able to realize the scenario whereby the soviet union would not be permanent, where we could utilize a combination of diplomatic and especially economic pressure to force them into places where they could not go, because they could not compete with us economically. therefore, reagan envisioned that, plus, i think, a strong ideological appeal to freedom. he always believed individuals, no matter where they were, wanted to be free and wanted the freedom that we have in the united states. that really resonated behind the so-called iron curtain with the satellites and so forth. craig: if nixon cannot run for a
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third term in 1976, if he survives watergate, if agnew survives watergate, agnew almost certainly runs for the nomination in 1976. i think agnew would have beaten john connolly. connolly was a lifetime democrat and newcomer to the republican party. but, if agnew runs absent watergate, does reagan challenge him? it is hypothetical. frank: i would say to you that it would depend on what kind of campaign agnew ran if he would have broken, in important ways, and may be adopted some of the things that reagan strongly believed about foreign policy, i think there would have been a possibility he could have been co-opted. reagan was a practical man. he was not one that wanted to be
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on fools errands. i remember at the 1975 cpac when there was so much pressure to form a third party, reagan was the adult in the room, he set everybody down and said, the largest grouping of conservatives is in the republican party. why should we try to start some new organization that we know nothing about? he was always a practical man. i think another thing he would have considered, with agnew running essentially a third term for nixon, would he have been a stronger candidate maybe then reagan would have been as an outside force? >> reagan takes on ford, this is pretty monumental.
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but, part of the reason -- there are a lot of policy differences, detente, henry kissinger, he -- social issues are just starting to -- energy independence. and the soviets and all of those other things. but also, there was a personal element in that reagans and the fords did not get along with each other. frank: i think that is fair. i don't think reagan was ever overly personal. i think he grounded his opposition more on policy and on real differences even though he -- i think he sort of viewed ford as an accidental president. i think ford resented the fact
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that reagan didn't give him more efforts. he was the president. i think ford felt that he was the president now and he deserved support if reagan wanted to run next time, so be it. craig: but it did get back to reagan that they were jokes being made at his expense in the ford white house. and ford went to the gridiron speech and said, it is not true that ronald reagan dyes his hair, it is just turning prematurely orange. misses reagan was upset about that. frank: a lot of that was generated by the people around ford. the one exception to that was dick cheney. i once asked cheney about this. he always got along well with ronald reagan. i said, i am a little surprised because you started your political life with gerald ford and yet, he and all of his people -- he said, you have to
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understand that i was more conservative than ford. obviously, i have sympathy for my boss. but it was not a problem for me when reagan became president or became the nominee, to support him. craig: when i interviewed cheney on my book on the 1976 campaign, he said the exact same thing. the reason he said, because i was a westerner like reagan and i understood what he was talking about as far as the populist resentment toward washington. i don't think nelson rockefeller never really got that. reagan loses to ford by the
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narrowest of margins. this is the last openly contested nomination and it is all being broadcast live. frank: the convention hinged on a rule that required the delegates to vote the way their states had voted. had we won and let the delegates vote their conscience, i think we had a chance. i was so despondent that night that i remember i walked out and just shook my head. we just blew the best chance we ever had to elected a conservative, that's how down everybody was, because he was soon to be the next governor of california. he was 65 years old which, in those days, was considered old.
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the idea of him running again in four years was certainly not viable. craig: all the newspaper columns and said, into the sunset you tried twice and failed twice. frank: i think i was as low as i ever recalled. craig: until he gives the incredible speech. frank: he had intended to be a spectator at the convention. the delegates are the ones that started this, i think. they were screaming "viva ole," which was the reagan battle cry.
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craig: the texas delegation would say "viva" and the california delegation would say "ole." frank: we have got to unite the convention. craig: half support ford, half support reagan. frank: ford invites reagan up to say a few words. i think he was sincere, he won, it should be his night. craig: just prior, tom brokaw was in his skybox live on nbc and he says, governor, are you going to address the convention tonight, and reagan says no. frank: the convention gets louder and louder, so he finally feels he has to say something. i think mike dever told me the story, he walks out of his box to walk down and say something
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and he turns and says, what do i say? he says, i don't know, you will think of something. craig: mike told me the same thing. frank: anyway, he gets up and it is like he had a five minute speech prepared. are you going to show that? craig: yeah. frank: it is not totally ex-temp, because he had been working on an article that was going to say this same thing. he kind of talked about 50 years from now. the theme of the speech was, 50 years from now, they will know if we met the challenge here tonight because they will know if america was still free or not.
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craig: he talked about a letter in a time capsule. frank: you will still see that. typically, so beautifully delivered. reagan never raised his voice. he is one of the great orators of our time who never had to pound the table or shout. there was a little humor in it. it was just perfect. unfortunately, the convention erupted. craig: which was embarrassing to ford. frank: in fairness, ford gave a good speech. it was one of the best speeches he ever made. it was a good speech. maybe reagan challenged him and said, i have to step up here. anyway, that kind of electrified everyone. you are saying, if ford doesn't make it, or if he does, what about reagan in four years? i can tell you that literally a week later, i got a personal
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note from reagan saying, thank you for everything you have done. i want to let you know, we are not going to just stand around, we will stay in the battle. that made me think, this is more than just a pat on the back letter. then, i was still executive director of the young americans for freedom at the time and we invited to our convention, the next july of 1977. he accepted immediately. so, he is still -- we used to call it the mashed potato circuit. he is still on the mashed potato circuit. who knows?
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craig: i am convinced that why he decided to run in 1980 -- of course my research and writing various books -- he went out stumping for republican candidates all through the fall of 1976. he went every place. every place he went, stewardesses, bellhop's, police officers, every place he went, people saw the speech in kansas city because it was the only thing they watched on television. people said, governor, you have to do it one more time. i think that grassroots outpouring is what convinced him as much as anything to run again in 1980. frank: that could be. he was a populist in the good
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sense. a phony populist says to the people, what should i believe? a real populist says to the people, here's what i believe, i need your help. craig: the essence of leadership. frank: i think that is true. so i came into contact with him a few times after that in 1978. he was really -- this was not a guy who was looking at his watch, feeling like he has to do this for the sake of the party. i got the impression that this was somebody who really felt like he had one more fight in him. craig: after he gives the speech in kansas city, i interviewed you and everybody else about the convention. one of the things, kenny klink, old friend who was with reagan in 1976 and 80 and 84. the big time supporter, and after reagan gives this magnificent speech, she says, we have nominated the wrong man. frank: i have heard that story
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from others. i don't think it was isolated. craig: i think it was the feeling of a lot of ford people. ford's hold on the nomination was very tenuous. after you get this note and after 1978, you are convinced he is going to run again in 1980. frank: i think, by the end of 1978, when the republicans did so well in the off year elections, i think the decision was pretty well made at that point. craig: on reagan issues? the republican party was moving toward reagan. frank: it was a very ideological
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election and that virtually all of the republicans who were elected -- hatch, gordon humphrey, steve sims. armstrong in colorado. it is really interesting, the republican party today is almost uniformly conservative. if you looked in 1976 and a list of republican senators and said, are they moderate or conservative, it was like 50-50. there were several who were liberal republicans. craig: what i tell people is that there used to be the wednesday club, the meeting of
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moderate republican senators. that doesn't exist. we think of jacob javits, clifford case, others who were there, and their whole philosophy is pretty much gone in the republican party. when you work on most ready to sign on to the 1980 campaign, were you thinking about connolly or bob dole, or any of the others? frank: there were some good candidates running but this was someone who i had been hoping for 10 years that he would get a shot, to see what we would do with genuine conservatives as president of the united states. there was really no doubt that is where i would be. craig: what did you do for the campaign? frank: i was one of the regional political directors.
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craig: who were some of the others? frank: charlie black. craig: this was really the cream of the crop of republican operatives in 1980. frank: should i mention all of the names? craig: well, some of them. i want you to name drop, ok? frank: charlie black is a long time republican political operative, still act of on today's scene. bill timmons was a longtime republican lobbyist and worked on capitol hill. he was active in the young republicans. lee atwater, everyone has heard of lee. became chairman of the rnc under george h w bush. managed the 1988 campaign.
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we had a really strong team. charlie black was in charge of the political operation and he did really a terrific job in putting a first-class group of people together. craig: roger stone. you can drop his name, too. frank: roger is a dear -- a friend of mine. craig: likewise. frank: before roger kind of -- he was a really good political tactician. he organized new york and connecticut in a way for republicans -- craig: the last time republican carried new york and connecticut was in 1980 and 1984.
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frank: moderates, conservatives, had them all working together. craig: so this group got together, a serious group of republican operatives. you took issues seriously, took the job seriously, took the candidate seriously. frank: a good political staff, i think, you should only hear from them occasionally. their work should do their talking for them. today, everyone wants to be on television, i get that, but if you are a good political operative, you are a nuts and bolts person. you are supposed to find those issues in your state that most resonates with the most number of voters.
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you advise the candidate which parts of the state to go to, and you do your best to recruit volunteers. you put that altogether, it is not stuff you get by just talking about it. craig: my point, this group was especially good because of the seriousness of purpose. every campaign has bad staff that embarrass the campaigner the candidate, they are fired or kicked upstairs. none of this group ever got in any trouble, never got in the
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newspapers, never were off-base, no scandal, no nothing. just did a very superb job for reagan in 1980. frank: reagan was his best weapon, but i do like to think, in the states he had to go to, we were well prepared, good ground organization, making sure that he hit the right issues. we gave him every chance, i think, to win every state. we did not win every state but we hopefully created those chances. craig: you only won 44. frank: i was talking about the primaries. craig: i think you won 32 out of 38, something like that. how much interaction did you have with reagan in 1980? frank: the most important was when he came into one of my states. i had ohio, pennsylvania, wisconsin. very important states in the primary. still important states today. very important states back then. a large section in each state of what we call reagan democrats. socially conservative, lots of union members, not registered republicans, but that would react favorably to what reagan was talking about.
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in fact, it was on of our rallies in milwaukee, wisconsin, where the national press first coined the term reagan democrat. this was in a blue-collar area of milwaukee. i remember, when we pitched this step a lot of local republicans, the reaction was, are you crazy? there is not a republican within 10 miles of that place. craig: hubert humphrey spoke there, george mcgovern spoke there. only democrats spoke there. frank: we got there on a saturday night and the place was jammed. frank: i think it was at that point that the national press started to take us seriously. it was at that point that the press began using the term reagan democrat, which is still around today. i think most of them are republicans by now.
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that was a tremendous shot of credibility, nationally, the belief that we were not limited to just the 30% or whatever it was of the electorate that called themselves republicans in those days. there was a whole new swath of independence and democrats who were looking for something else. craig: in part, a rejection of carter. reagan, the issues he is talking about in 1976 have really changed by 1980, except soviet communism and soviet advances which, by 1980, the republican party has rejected detente. they have not embraced reagan's strong anti-soviet positions yet. but reagan is talking about a whole new set of issues. tax cuts, cultural and social issues which didn't really talk
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about in 1976. frank: by 1980, the three-legged stool of reaganism and what up until recently has been modern republicanism was born. supply-side economics, family values, and americans fulfilling -- anti-communism. that is what i mean when i say, reagan democrats were open to that kind of message. craig: of course, one of those precipices again was the now famous nashua debate where reagan had the option of canceling it, ducking it. he is at the precipice and he goes ahead and debates george bush.
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this is a seminal moment. even today, people refer to the nashua debate even though they don't know what they are talking about. frank: again, reagan is on the precipice. he announces that he is the leader in the clubhouse, and he loses iowa, the first caucus he loses to george bush, by running an ultraconservative strategy. he doesn't really debate, doesn't campaign, he just does nothing. taking the manager's advice, and it was the wrong advice. now, the second shot is new hampshire, and it is do or die. if you lose two out-of-the-box, you might be done. craig: he had a strong primary challenger in george h w bush.
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frank: he won iowa, he was a very disciplined guy, the former chairman of the rnc. he had deep relationships around the country. craig: more foreign policy experience. frank: he was a formidable person. he wins iowa and we are in new hampshire now. in those days, there were like six weeks between the two. so the focus -- craig: now, there is only one week. if this current schedule of one week had been the environment reagan was running in 1980, he would have lost new hampshire. and then he would have been out. frank: the more compressed the primary schedule, the more likely that the previous contest influences the latter contest. we had time with six weeks. everyone talked about nashua,
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and that was important. reagan, he went every day for six weeks from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., every little town that you can think of a new hampshire, he was everywhere. he was serious this time. craig: he had the press bus trailing him around to all these events. finally, at the end of one day, they hang a big sign on the side of the bus that says, free the reagan 44. frank: i thought he was unbelievable, the energy that he displayed. actually, some of the polling that we had before nashua had
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reagan taking a slight lead over bush. so, you are two days out from the tuesday primary. this is supposed to be a saturday night debate. the race is still in doubt at this point. it is a convoluted series of developments. i almost don't want to go into all that. craig: i will assign a reading for the class. frank: assign the reading but for now it doesn't make any sense. the point is that reagan showed emotion. he was angry when the moderator suggested that his microphone be turned off. they mispronounced his name. it was a genuine sign of a flash of emotion.
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it electrified the entire audience. and, there was still a debate. i was not there, but people who were there tell me that reagan was magnificent. every single answer, he was on fire. so, we learned about the guy that we saw in kansas city all those years ago, finally showing himself again two years later. craig: reagan was always at his best when he was angry. pt lee met with bush after the debate and bush says, what is the good news? he says, well, the bad news is you lost the argument. the good news is nobody is paying attention to the debate and you lost that, too.
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so, he wins three days later which, by the way, was the same weekend that the u.s. beat the rush in hockey. the miracle on ice, the greatest sporting event in my history. i am still celebrating that two days later and reagan just cleans up in new hampshire. it is a good thing we won by such a big margin because we spent all of our money and had no money left. craig: bush had money. frank: he spent it and he won michigan, pennsylvania. money still counts and we had nothing. the momentum was so large from that that i never had a doubt that we would be the nominee. craig: that is when you knew reagan would be the nominee.
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right after new hampshire. frank: all things being equal. you know, one of my states, we won wisconsin, which was thought to be a more progressive state. craig: the heavy presence of conservative democrats. voters who identified themselves as republicans, george bush won. we won among independents. craig: and in texas. frank: independents saved us. again, this is bush's home state. craig: this is the beginning of the new reagan coalition. he is winning the primaries with
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democratic and independent voters. frank: more people want to vote in our party's primary and we think that is a bad thing? craig: coming into our country club. frank: the implicit thing they were saying, they are just coming into vote for reagan because they know he is a weak candidate. craig: nobody bought that. frank: nobody bought it. craig: he became a conservative, you read "conscience of a conservative," you spent all these years in republican and conservative politics. in 1980, after new hampshire, republicans feel pretty vindicated that they were right all along.
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frank: again, i think back to just four-years earlier. feeling like it was the best chance we had and it is gone. four years later, we are in position to be the nominee of the republican party and have a chance to win in the general election. on the one hand, it is very satisfying. on the other hand, we are ahead at halftime. we still have a lot more -- craig: you still have the convention and then the fall campaign. detroit, 1980. the one that i want students to know is that you are the one who told the world that it was going to be george bush that was ronald reagan's running mate and
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not gerald ford, who everybody thought, the co-presidency deal. frank: that is about three quarters true. craig: for washington, that is pretty good. frank: here's what happened. tuesday night, -- in those days, we actually had an order for the convention. today, it is just a four-day tv show. in those days, the first night was the platform, the second night was -- excuse me, the first night was the keynote speech. the second night was the platform, the third night was devoting. the fourth night was the speech by the president and the presidential nominee and the vice presidential nominee.
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so, this was tuesday. there was total chaos on the floor because of all of the commentary, that reagan was going to be ford's running mate. gerald ford goes on television and talks about a co-presidency. craig: the staffs were meeting. coming up with this convoluted -- frank: reagan gives a speech is really what ford had in mind. i thought, my god, we are just going to give this away. there is incredible chaos on the floor. they kept trying to gavel the convention to order. they had this band that just kept on playing. craig: the michigan fight song.
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frank: california, here i come, all those times. craig: because everybody is abuzz about the co-presidency. frank: reagan says, we can do this. number one, get george on the phone. number two, i am going to the convention. the candidate never goes to the convention before he is actually nominated. this breaks president in so many ways. i am one of the floor people. in those days -- i don't know what they have today, but we had walkie-talkies, you had to push this thing. the voice comes from the, it is called a trailer but it was
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really kind of up above the convention. it says, the governor is coming to speak to the convention. the voice is bush. it said, tell your delegates. i get this message and i have got like five delegations that i am in charge of. craig: wisconsin, pennsylvania, ohio. frank: it was a couple of those but that is not how they are seated. i feel like my number one job is to go tell everybody. who is literally like five rows in front of me but chris wallace, who you may see on fox today? a young reporter for nbc. i had never met chris before but i had been at the convention, but this is a good story. i am there the week before the
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convention begins and i am covering one of the platform hearings. chris wallace walks in and he introduces himself to me. he says, i will be a floor reporter. he says, if you pick up anything on the floor, i am around. he seemed like a nice guy. anyway, i see him and i go up to him and say, it is bush. he says, it is who? if he had a microphone, he would have swallowed it. he said, would you go on national television and announced this? my life flashes before my eyes. i said, sorry. i am walking away and i see chris saying to the booth, what do i do with the story?
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apparently, he does break the story. craig: he had a clean beat on the other two networks. frank: they ran promos afterwards that nbc broke the biggest story of the convention. he always gives me credit. he did something very recently and they said, we understand you broke the story. how did that happen? he said, there was this staffer, frank donatelli. all of this is playing out live on national television, everyone in detroit and in the media convinced that reagan and ford will go under the political gun and have this forced joining of a co-presidency. at the last minute, it is not right. frank: i don't think it ever got as close as it appeared on tv? not the co-presidency.
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craig: he was watching on television that night and he saw ford on cbs being interviewed by walter cronkite and walter cronkite says, co-presidency. frank: i don't think ford wanted to do it either but he and reagan never got along. he had a pretty good life at that point. craig: go golfing whenever you wanted to. frank: some things don't change. [laughter]
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craig: he was enough of a party loyalist that i think he would have done it but i don't think he was terribly anxious to do it. so, your question is partly correct, that is what happened. craig: what about the fall campaign? to your point about reagan and the leadership, he is right at the precipice in wisconsin, right at the precipice in detroit, may be a fatal mistake in choosing gerald ford as his running mate. if you want to know how the 2020 campaign is going to unfold, look back on what happened in 1980. you have a similar situation, a president with a strong but limited following and a country that seems to be open to somebody new. the only way the incumbent president is going to win is to --
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craig: destroy the challenger. frank: poke holes in the challenger. that was carter's strategy. it was pretty tough. it was successful. reagan was ahead most of the fall but -- craig: it flip-flopped. frank: after september, he never approached 50. both of these guys are in the low 40's. 44, 41, 45, 42. reagan kind of felt like -- we were worried that we had stalled out because so much of politics is momentum. craig: ford had stalled out at 247 electoral votes.
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so the reagan campaign, same thing is going to happen to us. we are going to stall 247 electoral votes and carter will win reelection. frank: there were not red states and blue states in those days. both were opened to both parties. on the last day of the 1980 campaign, jimmy carter campaigned in austin, texas, ronald reagan campaigned in new york and los angeles. so, more states were open at that time. if you are down in the low 40's. reagan's whole strategy had in to try to buck up john anderson, a candidate that year, on the grounds that anderson is a registered republican --
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craig: he had been a republican congressman, then he switched to independent. frank: his issue stands frank: his issue stands were a lot closer to reagan. carter refused a three-way debate. not only are we stalled in the low 40's, but we have no debate. we felt we could do pretty well. sudden -- it a shows you how reagan was willing to exert leadership. dime and said,a ok, jimmy carter. night prior to the
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election. it had never been so close to the election. >> all the chips were on the table. >> carter does an ok job. happy.ple were pretty he hit all the groups, set all the things. reagan, i think, wins the day by his manner and being cool and calm. and convincing the american people they can trust this guy. injustice to the issues of 1980. carter had a bad couple of years.
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he had recession, stagflation, high interest rates. and high inflation, which economic textbooks said was impossible. >> talk about being hoisted on your own put toward. index was adding together the inflation and unemployment rate, which wasn't good for ford. come 1980, the misery index was double what it was when he took over. why hethe main reason didn't have high popularity. >> bad economy combined with high interest. yeartion of 21% per
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unemployment was spreading. >> we had hostages. >> of course. that as another result of his leadership. >> a primary challenge never helps an incumbent. fight tooth and nail to fight off the kennedy challenge. he's trying to get kennedy to be part of the unity, he literally chasing kennedy around the stage and trying to shake his hand. he gave a very defiant speech. my point he had a lot of problems. >> the killer
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nothing went right for this poor man. his brother causing an embarrassment. taking a liberian loan. frank: and yet, despite all of that, two thirds of incumbents who run for reelection win, right? exactly. so you know, so -- craig: and there were a lot of doubts about reagan. frank: there were doubts about reagan. they hit the mark in many ways. it required, you know, them seeing him personal and up close. that this is somebody they felt they could feel comfortable with. that was his hallmark throughout his eight years as president. every time in his administration, when people had doubts about what he was proposing, he would go on television, he would talk to people, and they would be
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reassured. more often than not, he would get it. that is what is called leadership. getting people to buy into what you are selling. whether you are a football coach, union leader, or professor trying to inspire your students, they have to buy into what you are selling. the difference for a president is it affects the whole country. so you have to really be good at crafting messages and ideas so that, you know, you keep the country moving forward. craig: one thing we should understand is to the point you made about ted kennedy challenging carter, united tend toed conventions lose in the fall, united conventions tend to win in the fall. 64, the republicans are divided, they lose. 68, the democrats are divided, they lose. 1972, the democrats are divided. they lose. 1980, the democrats are divided. they lose.
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frank: that is why conventions are now tv shows. craig: they used to be important. frank: no longer. craig: part of leadership is also maybe issuing statements or phrases that become part of popular culture and the dialogue. you know, churchill was famous. he was so famous for his statements. reagan, the commandment. 1980, the closing summation is now a phrase which is used every four years now in national politics. frank: are you better off than you were four years ago? that misery index is a way of summing up the election.
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something's favored candidate a, something's favor candidate b. the trick is you want more people thinking about the things you want them to think about. that was the message that we wanted to leave with the public. if you think things are going in the right direction now, i guess you will not vote for me but if you think we are off course and we need a new direction, please think about it. we felt that if people, you know, had that question framed in their minds when they went into the voting booth -- carter was very good. frank: and -- craig: and won two out of three with ford in 1976. frank: very disciplined. craig: second and third, he clearly won. very disciplined. carter expected it. -- expected to pummel reagan. frank: he went after him a number of times. craig: they really did not respect reagan. they thought he is a great be
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-- b-actor who is lost without his three by five cards. i think the one thing we didn't want to happen was to make this a trajan negative times. this a trade negative time. because we felt like we had a chance to get back up here, but if all we did was go back and forth on, well, you are this, but you are this, that would have been a wasted opportunity. craig: it also played against carter. his people unnecessarily inflated expectations for him. frank: that's true. craig: in the days before, they were saying carter is going to the press, carter is going to pummel reagan, beat reagan out of town. reagan people were surprisingly disciplined as far as what they were saying about carter as a debater. frank: yeah. look, i mean, when you get to that level, you underestimate people at your peril. right?
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you want to deal with the person in front of you. as i said, if you watch the debate, on answer after answer, i think he does about as well as he can do given the factors that we discussed earlier that are weighing against him. reagan comes back to you, again, and again, and again, the idea that we are the united states. we can do better than this. , as you know,s and you are absolutely right, it is often reduced to an event, a phrase, or a sentence, and carter would forever be known for the one phrase. frank: he clearly mangled that answer. craig: he used this in the practice debate. they said, mr. president, you cannot use that, and he used it anyway, which was -- frank: the question was, what is the most important issue facing the american people? or something like that, and carter said, i was talking to my
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nine-year-old daughter amy, the other night, and she said nuclear weaponry. i had a nine-year-old daughter once, and i never once heard her say nuclear weaponry, let alone asking her what the most important issue is. it kind of came across as silly. craig: and then he said the silly statement to 100 million people. frank: the very next question was -- i forget what the question was. i am sitting next to him -- craig: long time reagan aid. wonderful guy. frank: wiseguy. somebody asked a question to carter. before he answered, lynn leaned over to me and said i wonder what amy thinks about that. [laughter] i don't know that he lost the campaign. craig: reagan won. the polls shifted dramatically and overnight.
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frank: yes, after the debate, i agree with you. i am saying i don't think he lost because of that line. i just think that carter had to convince the country that reagan could not be trusted, and reagan had to convince the country that he was fully in charge and capable and up to the task. craig: he was not a middleman that was going to push the nuclear button and throw senior citizens out in the snow banks. frank: right. i think, in the end, that's reagan's number one priority. won out. craig: again, leadership. frank: it was magnified. they had these instant polls now that the networks say they will not use because they are unscientific. i think it was abc that signed these polls that are reagan won
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by a huge margin. i don't know if it was consistent with what the american people thought. it did feed into the coverage. the last week of the campaign, the crowds were enormous. i mean, we had them in ohio the saturday before. we had bob hope, woody haze. craig: john rickles. rickles was in cincinnati with reagan and ford. take my word for it. he was. frank: ok. was he insulting them or the other guys? craig: he was insulting the iranians as i recall. [laughter] frank: but you could just feel the momentum. everyone was on a high. i really think, after that night, when you read the coverage and talked to people, everybody was -- i felt like we were on the verge. craig: in the intervening week
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between the debates to the election, what are you doing, what is going on? where are you? frank: i am moving around to my states. and we wanted to make sure we were doing all of our voter contact programs again. we actually called people. we had names, addresses, and phone numbers. we had these big call centers. so we want to make sure that they are manned and we are contacting as many people as we possibly could, and then obviously, you know, the president was coming into our state. he came to ohio the weekend of the election. wanted to make sure we had a great crowd. enthusiasm. at this point, it is all a big moment. the proposals have been done. right now, we have got to -- you know, we have got to finish
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strong, get our people out there. i guess, you know, turnout, calling as many people as possible, and making sure that, you know, our events went very well. we go right to the very end, so we are calling election day and urging favorables to turn out and vote for us. not terribly glamorous. about an 1980 campaign. you and i talked about the campaign. it does not get enough credit. reagan's election. in those days, they did evening addresses. reagan does a half-hour -- i don't know if it is on all three networks. i think it was on one of the three networks, but it got a very good share. but it was a very powerful speech. frank: yes, he was -- could not have been on all three because i don't think he could preempt
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monday night football. craig: that's right. it was not abc. i think it was on cbs. frank: i can tell you the owner of the cleveland browns -- he was a reagan supporter and he offered reagan to be on at halftime or something like that. i think abc would not do it. we had that speech to do anyway so that could not have been worked out. craig: the speech itself was -- frank: yeah, it was a closing argument. it was a solid closing speech. one thing we have not said is that, you know, reagan was a relentless optimist. for somebody that, you know, spent a lot of his life in politics, he really tried to see the best and what the upside was all the time. craig: isn't that another ingredient in good leadership? frank: i think it is.
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i don't know that politicians -- craig: roosevelt was chronically optimistic, too. frank: he learned that from roosevelt. he used to be a roosevelt democrat. that is one thing he took away from roosevelt. craig: john kennedy, president was terminally optimistic. frank: today, the rhetoric is so angry, people warning of threats on both sides if policies are not -- i think everybody -- you know, politicians are missing an opportunity for somebody that wants to talk about the positives in america and how we can build on the best of america and not all the things that are wrong with it. optimism, you know, the future being brighter than it is today, is something he always talked about and something he actually believed in very much. he would end a lot of his speeches by saying, as far as america is concerned, you ain't seen nothing yet. craig: right. frank: that was one of his best
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closing statements. craig: where were you election night? frank: i started the day in ohio. went over to the headquarters and made sure everyone was making their calls and everything, and you know, i got back into washington at 5:00, and by then, to the chagrin of democrats everywhere, jimmy carter had already conceded, so you know, i think he meant it in a good sense. he wanted to be a good sport or whatever. craig: but the polls were still open on the west coast. frank: that's right. the theory is that a lot of democrats became discouraged. didn't go out and vote. but anyway, by the time i got back to washington, there was this -- the election was over. carter has conceded. what? so it was not a cliffhanger by any means, but that does not mean it was not a sweet night.
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so i had started on that campaign, march 1, 1979, and i survived three bosses and a lot of turnover in the campaign, so here it was, november 5, whatever it was, 1980, and you know, almost two years of my life, 1976, and everything, had been realized. it is all worth it when you win. when you lose, you are like what the hell did i spend all my time for? [laughter] craig: you went to work in the white house for jim baker. you were the first political director. frank: no, i was the last political director. your next guest was the first political director. craig: ok. where were you? frank: i started off in intergovernmental and public liaison. craig: right, ok.
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frank: i did that in the first term. i left the white house when baker left, but i came back the last two years as political director for intercontinental affairs. that was during iran contra. i think they wanted people who had been there. craig: some stability. frank: so i tried to do that. we finished up pretty strong. reagan finishes his term, his second term, as one of the most popular presidents, so -- craig: yes. some polls had him with an approval rating of 76%. that's ironically among -- under 30 voters, higher than it was for the rest of the population. frank: that is true. believe it or not, a plurality of youngest voters, i think, was under 25, considered themselves republicans. craig: as a result? frank: as a result of the reagan presidency. one of the few times that has ever happened. i went around the country with him in 1988, where he was not
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running himself, but you know, he was running to vindicate his policies, and you know, he had a big interest in seeing his vice president succeed. it was kind of like one big curtain call. honestly, everywhere we went, the crowds were enormous, and you know, he was not a candidate, but i believed that that contributed -- reagan's efforts contributed a lot to president bush's victory in 1988. craig: you worked on the 1984 campaign. was there ever any doubt that reagan was going to run for reelection because he had been shot, tumultuous four years in office, soviet advances, omar gaddafi, and many, many problems. not problems, but he is shot by
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hinckley. the secret service's monitoring other death threats. there is some rumors that misses want himeagan doesn't to run for reelection. any doubt among the staff or on your part that reagan was mine to come through? frank: there was some doubt among the family. 73 years old, assassination attempt. you can understand at some point, you have given enough to your country, but i think the rob political argument is, -- raw political argument is, mr. president, if you do not win reelection, you cannot be sure that your legacy will be secured. the things you've always stood for will stand the test of time. i think that is what gets everybody to run again. so he decides to run again. craig: of course, unopposed in the primaries to beloved by the republican party, which ironically enough, only a few
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years before, after the republican party really had news for ronald reagan. he has not changed. he changed them. frank: he changed them. i talked to many republicans from, you know, mostly from the northeast or the midwest. that said to me, you know, frank, i never knew about this guy. but he won me over, because he did this and he did this and he did this, so that is the way you should run if you are president. you should always be looking to expand through coalition. -- your coalition. craig: which again is about leadership. frank: yes, it's about leadership. you have got to deliver. reagan wins a bare majority. 50.1%. craig: electoral college landslide. frank: a three-way race. craig: he beats carter 51% to 41%. frank: that's right. i am not diminishing 1980. i am using it to say 1984 was even greater.
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he wins 59%. craig: 49 out of 50 states. frank: 49 out of 50 states. craig: but minnesota was interesting. frank: they asked, mr. president, were you there -- craig: were you there when they asked him about minnesota? frank: i think so. was there any disappointment you had in this election? he said minnesota would have been nice. but he had a chance to go to minnesota. the week before, he did not do it. craig: right. it felt like it was piling on. he knew at that point he was going to crush mondale. even so, as i recall, and ed rawlins, and maybe you were there, went to reagan. the mondale campaign and the democrats voted in graveyards and they only won minnesota by 6000 votes. we want to do a recount. reagan just rejected it out of hand. frank: i'm not surprised reagan
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said no. craig: do i have the story accurate? frank: i was unaware of that. ask ed when he is on. i knew that there was some talk of him going to minnesota the last week of the campaign. and he just said no. craig: right. was there any concern about, in 1984, any concern about walter mondale? frank: he was a capable guy. he had been in politics a long time. craig: he was a good man. frank: he was a good man. still is a good man. craig: yeah. frank: and i think, you know, the handicap that he could never overcome was that it was the carter-mondale administration. we use the word carter-mondale so much, the thought was that there was this one guy, first name carter, last name was mondale. you know, so that -- it was inconceivable to us that after
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four years, you know, a pretty good economic record, that they would basically turn back the clock, and so, you know, i think that was pretty much -- i think the only way it could have happened is if the public saw a -- saw reagan as just being too old and out of it and that kind of stuff. which is why the first debate was so concerning. craig: disasters. frank: it was disastrous, yes. it was a terrible performance. and you know, sometimes, people just have an off night. what can i tell you? craig: it was one of the very few debates that reagan lost. frank: he just didn't do very well. well, again, yes. there was a lot of concerns. the rehearsals for the second debate, you know, there was some tension around, you know, it was clear that we had to do a better job in the second debate.
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frankly, it was not as good as his 1980 performance, but it was workmanlike enough, and of course, the famous line, i am not going to use my opponents youth and inexperience against him. even mondale laughed at that. craig: politics reduced to one dimension. what was the line? frank: i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponents youth and inexperience. craig: yes, right. everybody in the hall laughed uproariously. frank: you know, he had a been saying stuff -- this was not the first time he had said this. craig: but he delivered it perfectly. frank: something similar. he would always make -- you know. self-deprecation is another trait that no politician dares utilize today. and i think that is a mistake because it does humanize you a little bit.
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so -- craig: is it an act of self-confidence, which is an extension of leadership? frank: i think so. reagan used to make fun of his age all the time. i remember, he came to uva, to the -- craig: law school. frank: no, to jefferson's monticello. he was giving a speech and he said thomas jefferson once said that government which governs best governs least. he paused. he said ever since jefferson told me that -- [laughter] don't you think better of somebody if they are willing to poke fun of himself? craig: you remember, he said i am going to go back to the ranch. i'm going to put up my heels. i'm going to sit down in a
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rocking chair and take a nap. come to think of it, things want to change all that much anyway. [laughter] craig: he also used to say -- he said, you know, they say hard work never hurts anybody. but i say, why take the chance? [laughter] what i mean, i mean, don't you think a little better of somebody if he has enough confidence to make fun of himself? craig: absolutely. it is very evocative of president kennedy, who could also turn humor on himself. you know, like in 1960, he said about his wealthy father, he said i will be -- if i will play -- will be dammed if i'm going to pay for a landslide. [laughter] frank: anyway, that is my plea to politicians today, do not be afraid to poke fun at yourself every once in a while. craig: election night rolls around, reagan wins one of the three greatest landslides in american history alongside fdr in 1936, lbj in 1964, and nixon
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in 1972. i don't know if it is third or fourth, but it is right up there. where were you that night? frank: i was in washington, and you know, i do not think that it was a big surprise that we were going to win, but -- let me finish. [laughter] but still, you know, you cannot have too many wins like that in your life. craig: it is the super bowl. frank: if you get a top -- a couple of those, it's fantastic. it was terrific. we felt it was vindication, it was a strong endorsement of the new policies he had put in place, trying to make government smaller and trying to make the private sector revitalized and make america stronger in the world. show less text -- in the world. craig: and the soviet threat. frank: the second reagan term, i
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know because of, because of iran contra, that gets the publicity but reagan, outside of that, there were lots of successes in the second term. second terms tend to be difficult in american politics and with that notable exception, there were a lot of successes. craig: tax reform. frank: tax reform. reagan uses the 1984 election as a pedestal to talk about tax reform. it doesn't just appear in a bill someday. he brings the american people and the conversation and talks at length about why tax reform is a good thing. craig: it was really the last time significant tax policy was made in america. the top marginal rate for 70% -- from 70% down to 28%. frank: well, no. the first reagan tax cut went from 70% to 50%.
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craig: right. frank: that was the 1981 act. the 1986 act took it down to 28% so the top or a twist 28%. craig: right. frank: today, even after the tax cuts, it is still, is it 35% now, it is 37%. the top or a. craig: right. when i say reagan and leadership, we have some questions over here. what do you think when i saywhed ronald reagan and leadership? i know what historians say. john patrick diggins and james macgregor burns, how they rank reagan in the monopoly of american presidents. they rate him very high. diggins rates reagan as one of our four greatest presidents alongside washington, lincoln, and franklin roosevelt. craig: --
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frank: i would certainly put him there. leadership is the ability to make people see things your way. i don't mean with strong-arm tactics, i mean sit down and have a conversation. with you. except he talked to the whole country, and he would say, here is the problem. here is what we have to do. these are my reasons for it. i'm asking for your support. if you support me, let your representative no. -- knowl. -- know. that is leadership, and more often than not, he was successful, not always but most of the time he was successful. i just don't think i see that that much anymore. the last president preferred to govern with executive orders, and i don't see that kind of taking the american people into your confidence, telling them honestly what needs to be done, why you believe this. again, giving a lot of advice to politicians today, if you may
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-- made a promise to do that, that would be very well received by the american people. craig: sometimes leadership emerges in the darkest hours and reagan taking ownership and responsibility for iran contra was maybe one of his greatest examples of leadership. he didn't run away from it, he didn't blame staff, do didn't -- nixon tried to hide behind staff. behind the law. reagan waives executive privilege. frank: well, you know, he said it is on me. he said that. craig: even though it wasn't his doing. it happened -- frank: he always denied he knew about it before he gave approval. and that was buttressed his his national security advisor, who said the president was not aware. craig: and his diary entries. frank: he did deny that, but he
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did own up to the fact, to the eye round part. -- the iran part. it was a contra part that the democrats were, he owned up to the fact that he had traded arms for hostages. what he denied was that he used the money to fund the contras in nicaragua in violation of the bauman amendment. the democrats always thought that was the more important part when the first part, nobody is perfect. he made a huge mistake. craig: before we go to students for questions, any final thoughts on reagan and leadership? i don't know, we have talked about it a couple times. the only other thing i would say is that in addition addition, -- in addition to speaking candidly to the american people,
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he always set clear goals. i don't think he ever try to over intellectualize things. i think when he went to the people it was with a specific and he wouldest not take no for an answer. he would stick to his guns. some point,ves at but in virtually every time he went to the american people he was criticized, and had a lot of blowback. that is the other important thing about leadership. doing some things are hard, but if they weren't hard, they would have been done already. so the fact that something is hard to do means, it may be worth doing. it will take somebody with the
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strength of character to go out and try to get it done. he always felt he needed the american people. it is interesting, his use of pronouns. he very seldom used the first-person singular. i can't ever recall him using the word, saying "i." craig: he didn't say my administration, my white house, my generals. frank: he would use the plural, then he would use "you." he was always trying to get the american people to be part of what he was talking about and he always felt that the best way things would happen would not be because he did something, but rather, he empowered the people to do things themselves. craig: i know we have some questions from students. why don't we go ahead. let's go down the line.
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>> thanks for coming in. my question is, do you believe the factions growing out of the larger party, like conservatives now, require a president to solidify and unite the party? frank: that is a good question. i am not an expert on factions except in the federalist papers, but i do believe that a president has a much greater ability to unite his party when his party is out of power. the president has the bully pulpit and the ability, if he works at it, to keep all the factions of his party in line. everybody gets something. if you are out of power, it is kind of a darwinian thing. everybody is sort of struggling to get on top. that is one reason why presidents win reelection, they are able to keep their party together. they are already halfway home. whereas the opposition party is
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fighting furiously among various candidates. then they have to turn around and unite the party for the general election. i don't know if that answers your question. >> thanks for coming to speak to us. my question is, how do you think reagan would fit in today with the gop and with the public and politics? >> that is a great question he doesn't want to answer. frank: you are going to get on the one hand, on the other hand kind of answer. there are still large parts of the republican consensus that reagan popularized. so a lot of the discussion about values, i think tax cuts are still widely agreed-upon by most republicans.
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craig: they are agreed-upon but not understood. reagan -- frank: i will settle for agreement. craig: reagan was more philosophical. in 1981, i think it was at cpac and he was pitching tax cuts and he said, it is about the economy, it is about jobs in -- and this and that but he said it is really about, quote, reordering man's relationship to the state. reagan understood that it was that power was finite. it could be here or there but not every place. if the government had the power to tax, that meant the citizenry had less power and the government had more power and what he wanted to do was reduce the power of the national government and restore the balance by granting more power away from the national government and giving it to the citizenry in the form of tax cuts.
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frank: that is fair. i would say to follow up on that, reagan may have been our most libertarian president ever. who else would give in his first speech, his first, excuse me, his first inaugural speech, make the statement, "government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem"? that was in his first inaugural speech. i can't imagine any politician saying that -- craig: republican or democrat, for the previous 50 years. frank: i think that part of it is similar. i think the big difference today is tone. everybody is so angry, and wants to pick a rhetorical fight with the other side. i don't think, i think reagan
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would have seen this as a huge waste of time. i think he would have tried, i think he might have said something like, "we are fighting amongst ourselves, let's go back to principles and talk about what the american people really need." he might go into an optimistic, upbeat agenda. if that answers your question. >> thanks for taking the time to speak with us. i thought it was interesting to the first 20-30 minutes, we talked about 1976 and how that campaign springboarded him to the 1980 campaign. i was curious in his autobiography, he only mentions it two or three pages regarding the 1976 campaign. why do you think that is the case?
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frank: because he lost. craig: that is right. frank: that is kind of a flippant answer, but -- craig: it is accurate. frank: i think he is not somebody, he was never somebody who was moody over lack of success. he was always somebody who brooded over lack of success, he was somebody who said let's move onto the next thing. he took a shot, and he didn't make it. and i think from his perspective, that didn't work out. let's talk about 1980 and what he was able to do. that is the best answer. craig: the political columnist bob novak was a friend of mine. after the 1980 campaign, he wrote the column where he said, congratulations, governor, third time's the charm. reagan says, the third, what are
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you talking about? novak says, 1976, 1980, 1968. reagan says, you know, i didn't really run in 1968. some people put my name out there but that was -- that was nonsense, he was hardcharging for that nomination. he got 300 votes, he did. like most politicians, reagan chose to focus on his victories instead of his losses. >> thanks for being here. a few days ago, i watched the goldwater speech and [indiscernible] i wanted to hear from you in retrospect, how important was that speech to his political career? frank: it was very important. goldwater, reagan gives the
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speech for goldwater at a time when goldwater has no chance to win the election. he was going to lose the election. and reagan gives it anyway, primarily because he is in debt to goldwater. but i think he also was looking for something else. his movie career had ended a while ago. his tv career had ended. i think he felt he wanted to do more. it was a combination of being true to goldwater, but also, to take a shot in being on the national stage for the first time. his big backers i think really were pushing this because they felt that if he could be exposed to the national audience, who knows what might happen? lo and behold, he gives this
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electric speech and raises goldwater money and people are saying, why isn't reagan the candidate? that was a launching pad for him to run for governor. after that speech, people asked, could he have won the primary ? although it was unlikely. >> and george christopher. frank: there was a republican leader -- craig: 1966, the mayors of new york city, baltimore, los angeles and san francisco were all republican. imagine that. frank: that was a way to kind of, that was his first national exposure, i guess. when i was organizing 16 years
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later in 1980, people would still come up to me and say, boy, i saw that speech and it really hit a home run. craig: the goldwater campaign and reagan's speech were galvanizing moments for a generation of conservatives. frank: i don't think, goldwater prepared the way for reagan. anybody who says they are going to lob one into the men's room of the kremlin -- craig: talking about a nuclear bomb. frank: if senator goldwater [indiscernible] he talked about a lot of issues reagan ran on all those years later. >> thank you again for being here. we are fortunate. i had a question about, from an
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insider perspective, we talked about how jackie kennedy changed the history of the first lady. we see the value that self plays in campaign. and in a president's term in the white house. so from your insider perspective, how did nancy reagan contribute to the campaign and one selected what role did she play? craig: natalie is a veteran of the reagan institute in washington. frank: wonderful. maybe you know this already. she was very important. reagan probably would not have been as successful of a president if it wasn't for nancy reagan. it wasn't primarily policy, she was never really, she never, she wasn't hillary clinton. her number one focus was on her
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husband, to make him president someday. at the very beginning, she is the one that pushed him to run for governor and made a cogent case from that. she came from a republican family. reagan's background was much more democrat. craig: father worked for the new deal. frank: until 1960 he was a democrat. she pushed him in that regard. he always sought her device on things. -- her advice on things. but again, non-policy, she had a good sense of people. she would always keep an eye out for people that she thought were serving her husband. there were two kinds of people for nancy reagan, people who served her husband and people who were in it for themselves. she had an uncanny sense of separating the two. reagan was in many ways too nice a guy.
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he wouldn't read the riot act to staffers. he wouldn't do that and he would try to see the good in people. nancy was much more discerning. she would understand, this guy is bad news and doesn't have your best interest at heart. craig: reagan was more focused on policy and issues than on, whereas nixon was obsessed with his staff and fired people on a whim. frank: that is fair. but she was very important from that perspective. craig: it was once said that if reagan wanted to be a shoe salesman, nancy reagan would make sure he is the best shoe salesman in the world. but he happened to want to be president and she would do everything she could to help him become president.
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frank: behind every successful man is a successful woman. >> hello. i am in the undergraduate program. we talk a lot about how reagan transformed the republican party. i'm wondering if you think the republican party would have been transformed without reagan and if not, what might it look like today? frank: it would be different. parties are constantly changing. so you go back, the republican party during franklin roosevelt's time in the 1940's had been out of power for 20 consecutive years, and it was thought to be isolationist, inward looking and fearful. the result was that 20 years went by and most of that was true, by the way. craig: high tariffs.
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frank: high tariffs. the republican party loses five consecutive elections. finally, dwight eisenhower comes along and drags the republican party kicking and screaming into the cold war and says we can't be isolationist anymore. he made the republican party accept its world responsibilities. that was just half the equation, because after eisenhower, republicans remained a minority in a very, they weren't in broad based party. it took reagan to complete that transformation. he talked about supply-side economics, he talked about growth, he talked about optimism, talked about everybody having a job, being able to go as far as they could go.
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optimistic approach as opposed to, we have to balance the budget and can't go too far in this direction. he talked about things he thought were possible. he expanded the party yet again. it was that construct of the party that existed for 30 years until 2016 and the party is changing again. where would the party be without reagan? had he lost the north carolina primary in 1976, i don't know. the standard i guess would be the standard republican party of nixon. maybe somebody else, maybe jack kemp, would have come along. craig: i would think the republican party would have remained the moon to the democrats' sun. as it had been for those five
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elections where the democrats won the presidency. frank: it takes a special person to change the trajectory of the party and the country, is what i am saying. they don't come along all the time. if reagan was unsuccessful, who would have come along next? i don't know. republicans would bounce forward based on where they had been in -- and maybe somebody else would have come along. that is a big if. craig: i know this is relevant, but it underscores what you are saying, is that in the oxford english dictionary, the term "reaganism" is defined as not lincolnism, not rooseveltism, out of 45 presidents he is the only president so defined in the oxford dictionary. frank: he used to say you know our program is working because they don't call it reaganomics anymore. craig: michael?
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>> all i was going to say was, i was fascinated by your comment about a mother-in-law. i was working for joe lieberman's presidential campaign and his favorite comment was that behind every successful man is a stunned mother-in-law. [laughter] craig: anymore questions? go ahead. >> do you see a difference between the way reagan spoke about being on the right side of history as compared to the way people see it today? frank: maybe to this extent. so one view of history says that there are impersonal forces at
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work and we might be able to hold back but we can't change. that is marxism, that is what marxism says. then there is the american view of history which says, great men and great women turn history. if you have clear goals and you stick to your guns and you talk to the people, do all the things we talked about, great men and women can change history. when reagan says being on the right side of history, he meant it is up to us to make, to force history. what some people say is, well, this is going to happen, there is nothing we can do about it. anybody that says that is different from reagan. in his first inaugural, he says, i do not believe in a fate that will befall us no matter what we do. i do believe in a fate that will
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befall us if we do nothing. frank: you nailed it -- craig: you nailed it. frank: two different views of history. craig: he also said, we will consign soviet communism to the ash pit of history, but he meant that as an active statement, not as a passive statement. we will consign the soviets to the ash bin of history, and we are on the right side of history because the history of the soviet union will end. frank: it is great men and women making history, not just sitting back and worrying about what is going to take place. craig: forcing it, yes. >> i wondered if you could talk about your proudest moment working, or the most difficult moment you had. frank: ok.
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i will tell you one story that kind of made me, it kind of reinforced all the time that i put in working for him, very positive feeling, like, this guy nails it all the time. we were in marine one, which, we were flying to andrews air force base from the white house. you pick up marine one, which is a helicopter, it is like a 10 minute flight. you go to maryland and you go to andrews and you get on air force one. so we were making a flight one day and reagan is looking down
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very intently to some houses below. this is the end of 1988, i think. he was talking about gorbachev. he is looking down intently and i said to him, sir, mr. president, what are you looking at? he says, look at those houses. those belong to working men and women. look how many of them have a pool. that is what freedom can do for you. he says, i'm going to show that to gorbachev when he comes here. craig: and he did. frank: he did. i remember thinking, that is so profound. that is so profound because we are in a battle with another system, which works? is it central planning our -- or freedom? i remember saying, that is why i love this guy.
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and you know, i think, iran contra was difficult because he had clearly, he made an unforced error, he made a mistake. so you have to take your medicine. in the first six months of 1987, those were among the toughest years. craig: and the media was pummeling him daily. frank: i'm not going to say fake media, that is what happens. he made a mistake and we understood that. but we got through it and gradually worked our way up again and in 1988, it was a curtain call. craig: any more questions?
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>> can i get a summary here? , iorked in the white house was one of the people opposed to the malaise speech. the difference in what jimmy carter was doing from 76 to 80 and what 80 -- reagan did from 80 to 88 was that reagan understood that the american people are basically optimistic. tomorrow is going to be tough, but we are going to be better. there's the american dream of people who came here, like my illiterate laborer grandfather who had no idea that his son would do what greg has done and what frank has done. carter never understood that. carter's view, and i want to be careful how i say is, was a very view thatern baptist
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there was -- that you had to admit to your sins, admit to your shortcomings, and that carter in his malaise speech tried to transfer that negativism to the american public. and we could see it in the ,olling that after that speech his number started to drop. because reagan was totally in tune with the american public. that's the difference in the two leaderships. >> any other thoughts? i'm talked out. >> that's a record. >> i cannot thank you enough frank, this has been terrific and wonderful. thank you. [applause] [captioning performed by the
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