President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By Lou Cannon | Go to book overview

5
OFFSTAGE INFLUENCES

Washington needs new men and new ideas. By your appointments, you can give the country a sense of excitement, hope and drive to government which we have not seen since FDR.

RICHARD NIXON, MEMO TO PRESIDENT-ELECT REAGAN,
NOVEMBER 17, 1980

THE DIVERSE SUPPORTING CAST that accompanied this performing president to center stage was assembled in an unusual manner. Reagan was sixty-nine years old on November 4, 1980, when he was elected the fortieth president of the United States by an electoral landslide. He had bypassed traditional paths to the presidency. Because he had entered public life as a celebrity at the age of fifty-five, Reagan lacked the network of alliances and friendships normally forged by politicians as they scramble up the career ladder. California had been Reagan's home for almost half a century and was the entire source of his political experience. Washington was the strange, faraway seat of "guvment" where Reagan's only significant tie was his friendship with Paul Laxalt of Nevada, a U.S. senator since 1974 and one of the few elected politicians who knew Reagan well enough to call him "Ron." Except for William J. Casey, few other members of the Reagan entourage had any Washington experience. Most of Reagan's friends were wealthy entrepreneurs who were totally mystified by the ways of Washington. The cadre of aides who had stuck with him since Sacramento--most notably Edwin Meese and Michael Deaver--also knew little about how the world worked in what the president- elect had long described as "the puzzle palaces on the Potomac." But neither Reagan nor his aides seemed troubled by their inexperience nor anxious to rush the presidency by trading California's mild climate for a Washington winter. After the election Reagan vacationed at his mountaintop ranch northwest of Santa Barbara, then flew to Washington on November 17 to meet congres

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President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Lou Cannon ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the 1991 Edition ix
  • Preface to the 2000 Edition xi
  • 1 - Back to the Future 1
  • 2 - A Reagan Portrait 16
  • 3 - The Acting Politician 20
  • 4 - The Acting President 31
  • 5 - Offstage Influences 45
  • 6 - Heroic Dreams 66
  • 7 - Halcyon Days 78
  • 8 - Kidding on the Square 95
  • 9 - Hail to the Chief 115
  • 10 - Passive President 141
  • 11 - The Loner 172
  • 12 - Staying the Course 196
  • 13 - Focus of Evil 240
  • 14 - Freedom Fighters 289
  • 15 - Lost in Lebanon 339
  • 16 - An Actor Abroad 402
  • 17 - Morning Again in America 434
  • 18 - Turning Point 488
  • 19 - Darkness at Noon 521
  • 20 - Struggles at Twilight 580
  • 21 - The New Era 663
  • 22 - Visions and Legacies 711
  • Notes 765
  • Bibliography 820
  • Acknowledgments 835
  • Index 843
  • About the Author 885
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