Wednesday, April 20, 2005

beer and laphroaig on the campaign trail

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of talking with Craig Shirley on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Craig is the author of the very informative and highly entertaining book, Reagan's Revolution : The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All. I would encourage anyone with in interest in political campaigns, the rise of conservatism in America, or Ronald Reagan to read it.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from "Reagan's Revolution".

-Standing in the wings before a speech in Tallahassee with the candidate and Mrs. Reagan, Reagan asked Keene what he should say to the waiting crowd. Keene replied, "Well, Governor, you have two options: You can go out there and follow the Eleventh Commandment and lose your ass, or you can kick the s*** out of Jerry Ford and win this thing."

-At the end of a hard day on the campaign trail, Reagan and Laxalt were surprised when a messenger delivered a telegram to the motel that was signed by GOP elected officials telling Reagan to get out of the race. Laxalt recalled in his memoirs. "Instead of intimidating him, the message had just the opposite effect. In profane terms, which he rarely used, he told us what the Republicans politicians could do to themselves."

- [John] Wayne hosted a fundraiser for Reagan at his home in California and proceeded to have a few cocktails. When a reporter for NBC News approached him and asked why he would support Reagan over Ford, Wayne replied, "Because Jerry Ford is too f***ing dumb to be President."

The times change, but the labels don't:

-Sometimes the young staffers Reagan and Ford would run into each other at a Washington watering hole where the Ford kids would refer to the Reagan kids as "right-wing nut jobs" and young Reaganites would call the Ford kids "geeks."

-An unsigned memo was generated in the Ford White House, analyzing the Texas results....The memo concluded, "We are in real danger of being out-organized by a small number of highly motivated right-wing nuts."

Hmmm...Sounds sorta familiar doesn't it?

A huge difference between 1976 and today was the way the booze flowed freely on the campaign trail. As Shirley explained during the interview, drinking was considered a normal part of politics at that time.

-Despite the arduous schedule, [Michael] Deaver remembered it was, "the most fun I ever had on a campaign. We stored quarts of whiskey and gin in the back of the bus."

John Sears, who would run Reagan's 1976 primary campaign, shows up for what essentially is a job interview:

Sears' first meeting with the Reagan team in 1974, at the invitation of Walker, did not go according to plan. He flew across the country on the day of the planned dinner and on the plane ride had a few drinks too many. By the time he got to the Firehouse Restaurant to huddle with Meese, Nofziger, and company, he was pretty well smashed and, in the words of Hannaford, "just babbled."

-Hours after Ford had eked out his win in New Hampshire, Sears "broke out the booze," according to Charlie Black, and his team met to discuss a new rhetorical direction for the candidate.

The media played their part as well:

On May 4, the night of the three primaries, the President Ford Committee invited reporters to its D.C. headquarters to watch and report on the results and ply them with alcohol.

Morton [Ford's campaign chair] was also photographed looking askew in front of a table filled with half-empty bottles of liquor, which was sent out to all the wires and published in both the Washington Post and Washington Star. The photo was unfair, as the media, according to Jules Witcover, had consumed most of the liquor.

Finally, I'll close with a quote on government health care that is vintage Reagan:

What the nation does not need is another workout of a collectivist formula based on an illusion promoting a delusion and delivering a boondoggle.


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