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-