tv History Bookshelf Craig Shirley Reagan Rising CSPAN August 31, 2020 2:04pm-2:54pm EDT
tonight gettysburg college professor timothy shannon examines diplomatic ties between european settlers and the iroquois confederacy. eastern lakes region. he describes what treaty meetings may have looked like, the role of interpreters and the importance of exchanging gifts. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. enjoy american history tv. this week and every weekend on cspan 3. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. c-span3 created and brought to you by your television provider. up next on history book shelf, craig shirley chronicles ronald reagan's early political
career and influence on american servantism. his book "reagan rising:the decisive years." we recorded his remarks at the gaithersburg book festival in gaithersburg, maryland. >> good afternoon, welcome to gaithersburg book festival. i'm member of democrat central committee encompassing district 16 which encompses the city of gaithersburg. welcome. gaithersburg is a city that proudly supports the arts and humanities. we're pleased to bring you this fabulous event thanks in part to our sponsors and volunteers. when you see them around and walking around here, please take time to say thanks.
appreciate that. please take time to say thanks. we would appreciate that. i would like to get right to this event here, but first a few announcements. please, silence all your devices. i'll wait. i'll wait. go ahead. silence all devices. thank you. and if you're on social media today and we hope that you are, please use the #gbf, gaithersberg book festival. gbf. your feedback is really valuable to us, so there will be surveys available here at our tent and on our website. but by submitting a survey, you'll be entered into a drawing to win a $100 visa gift card. so i encourage each one of you to enter into that survey. at the end of this presentation, mr. shirley will be signing books and copies are on sale in this tent and around the grounds here. so make sure you take advantage of having renowned author such as mr. shirley here. take advantage. a quick word about buying books. this is a free event, but it does and i emphasize does help, the book festival if you buy a
book. the more books we sell at our event, the more publishers will want to send their authors to speak with us. purchasing books from our partners helps support great independent bookstores and supports local jobs and benefits our economy. so if you ep enjoy this program, and you're in a position to do so, please buy some books. let me introduce this esteemed panel that we have here. tackling the familiar or that which we believe to be familiar, is a challenge for even the most seasoned author. the task is even more daunting when the familiar is an icon and a hero to many. done well, the best books often illuminate a subject which we are really familiar with. i'm sorry let me try that again. illuminate a subject which we are already familiar, they provide texture, context, nuance. the really good ones transcend genre and speak to the soul. noted reagan bog raph, craig
shirley, "reagan rising" is that book. son of charter members of new york state conservative party, he comes by his love of reagan and conservatism honestly. "reagan rising" offers compelling glimpse into the life of one of our country's most celebrated personalities. more than a mere biography, "reagan rising" chronicles the journey of a man just suffered a devastating defeat in 1976 picks himself up and becomes leader of a new brand of conservatism achieving improbable and overwhelming victory four years later. trump's presidency perhaps offers the perfect backdrop which to study reagan's asen dance. republican party struggling to define itself, "reagan rising" offers meaningful insight into the development of a philosophy served as a touchstone for conservatives across the country. reagan's optimistic and unifying conservative philosophy still inspires to this day. as a special aside researching what i would say in this introduction, i learned that mr. shirley played an instrumental role in having the sport of lacrosse designated as the state
sport of maryland. for that, he'll always have a special place in the heart of all marylanders. gaithersburg join me in welcoming mr. craig shirley. [ applause ] and interviewing mr. shirley today will be juan williams, a man who almost needs no introduction but we're going to introduce him any way. emmy award winner and fox news contributor since 1997, celebritied author in his own right. mr. williams has been prolific chronicler of civil rights and black experience in america in particular. selected titles include eyes on the prize, american civil rights 1954 to 1965, and thurgood marshall an american revolutionary. a ton more but for the sake of time i truncated to those two. finally, as the treasurer of the montgomery county democratic party, i'm pleased to announce the democrats announce 3-1 majority over registered republicans in our county.
so, juan, welcome to friendly territory. [ laughter ] >> if you ever need a respite from fox news, we welcome you here with open arms. gaithersburg, please join me in welcoming juan williams. [ applause ] >> thank you. great pleasure to be here with craig shirley, who i have known since the reagan white house. >> early '80s. >> early '80s. >> yeah. >> i did not know about lacrosse. that is fabulous. but i wanted to start with a very basic question for the people who have been so kind to come into our tent here at the gaithersburg book festival and ask, why did you write this book because you've written extensively about reagan before? >> well, first, thank you. first of all, i guess, if you're
in friendly territory, i'm behind enemy lines. >> there you go. not quite. >> well, i'm retired from all that any way. but i did think that for making us wait, we ought to rename his tv show "the four." i wrote this because it's an important part of american history, an important part of reagan history because it's never been explored before. like winston churchill, martin gilbert was -- >> i'll pull this a little closer. >> all right. i thought i had a big mouth. martin gilbert, who is winston churchill most important biographer and most famous wrote a dozen books on churchill, various aspects of his life and one was called "the wilderness years" the time in the late '20s and early '30s churchill was cast away by the conservatives in england, great britain and embarked on a new career of writing and doing radio commentary and lecturing and mirrors reagan in many ways
because reagan in '76, as you pointed out, had been cast aside by his party. churchill was warning about spending most of his radio commentary and his columns warning about the rising threat of adolph hitler and naziism, a thing that most people in england at the time were ignoring or poopooing. reagan spent his wilderness years writing, doing radio commentary, warning about the rising threat of the soviet union. there's a lot of parallels between churchill's wilderness years and reagan's wilderness years. there are many, many issues we can get into later it's serendipitous but because he forced them issues to the fore, issues like proper 13 in california, the a panama canal treaties, other issues you were covering. i was involved with.
that came to the fore and helped produce his election in 1980. so, that's why i wrote it. you know, doug brinkley, who terrific historian and edited the reagan diaries, the realm of reagan scholarship is just beginning to open up. i think every time i sit down to think about ronald reagan, i think of a new aspect of his life and his career and his times that has been either underreported or hasn't been covered at all. >> so let's get to put you in friendly territory behind these lines and talk about the elephant -- pun intended -- in the room, which is donald trump. so when i -- >> no. no. no, no, no, no. i mean, no is the answer to his question. >> i see. you've seen into the crystal ball. but here is the question: people say, well, gosh, how would you compare --
>> i wouldn't. >> -- reagan to trump. and then they say, what has come from republican ideology and conservatism from reagan to trump. >> let me turn it around. >> you covered the reagan white house for how many years? >> four. >> four. and the reagan campaign in '84. >> yeah. >> let me ask you, is there anything about donald trump that reminds you remotely of ronald reagan? >> no. and so this is -- [ laughter ] >> okay. >> you saw into the crystal ball. >> yes, i did. >> but i must tell you so many people in the republican party really hold ronald reagan up as inspiring -- >> and with good reason. >> a conservatism and say they are now with trump. >> that's just a matter of practicality. >> okay. >> you can be with reagan, but you can also be in the modern age and say, you know, i'm for trump because he wasn't hillary or i'm for trump for whatever reasons he's taking on the bureaucracy or whatever else.
but comparing the two individuals, there is no -- my wife is looking at me. >> are you guilty? >> yeah, of course. i've been guilty for 35 years. >> i know. >> look, is that reagan was an intellectual. reagan was thoughtful. reagan was an american conservative. reagan was kind. he was gentle. he was thoughtful. even in his diaries, he wouldn't swear. he wouldn't write -- he would write d -- instead of writing damn. that's how gentile he was. there's a story that when he was president, you know, he had one of the first, second female secret service agents. and he kept standing aside as he was walking through the door to
let the secret service agents go first. he said, my mother told me ladies always go first. and the head of the treasury department had to sit down and say, mr. president, she is not a woman. she is an agent. she is a professional. and you have to allow her to do her job. but reagan was very reluctant. i can't imagine anybody ever saying anything like that about donald trump. reagan was a populist. he was an american conservative. he was committed to his principles but also flexible. he was kind. he was thoughtful. not always particularly thoughtful, but more so than most men. and i think -- look, don't turn to me for evidence of reagan's importance to american history. john patrick diggens, who in many ways was the official historian of the american left in the 20th century, he wrote books about the labor movement. he wrote books about the civil
rights movement. >> yep. >> he wrote books about the environmental movement. his last book -- and actually he had been at berkley in the '60s and done battle with then governor reagan over the whole free speech movement and the riots at berkeley -- done rhetorical battle, not physical battle. but his last book is called "ronald reagan: fate, freedom, and the making of history" and in this book, this liberal historian, rates ronald reagan as one of our four greatest presidents. he compared him to washington, abraham lincoln and franklin roosevelt because they saved or freed many, many people. and he said that is the best definition of greatness is that did an american president save or free many, many people. >> craig, when we think about reagan and the republican party, conservatism, i think i go back to barry goldwater, to '64. >> sure, right. >> to reagan's famous speech. >> right. >> so for the sake of this audience, before we take him
into the wilderness, which is where you take him here, explain to us how he comes to being. one of the great distinctions between reagan and trump is that reagan has a strong political history before he challenges the party establishment. >> that's right. that's right. well, he had already had a lot of executive experience as head of the screen actor's guild. you know a couple years ago, reagan negotiated the residuals which became important to a lot of old, retired actors and actresses who were out of work, who were still getting stipend and residuals from work they have done in tv and movies years ago. because the studios would pay -- the previous system was the studio would pay actors and actresses one time to appear in tv or movie, something like that, then they could
rebroadcast it and pocket all the royalties with impunity. reagan in his last term negotiated residuals so that they weren't just -- their images and their voice and their acting wasn't sold without compensation to them. reagan was the one who did it. i was having lunch with fred barnes a couple years ago. he was in one of those washington movies, had a little role in one of -- i think it was "dave." he was telling me about the movie had been rebroadcast in hungary or something like that and he got a residual check for $12.98. and i said, you know why you got that check? and he said, no. i said you got that because of ronald reagan negotiated that with the studios. so all these -- so, any way, my point is that he had very good executive skills and very good negotiating skills long before he even ran for governor. but, of course, his movie career had faded. he liked hollywood. he loved hollywood. but by 1962, '63, pretty much over.
he only made one movie after that called "the killers" which was an adaptation of hemingway's novel. he hated the movie so much, he never saw it. he did 57 movies, i think. it's the only time in 57 movies where he was depicted as a bad guy. and he slaps angie dickinson in the movie. he really hated that. he hated that. and so he wouldn't -- he would never see the movie. but he was kind of -- he himself was in the wilderness several times, including after '63. and he's kind of like a professional host in southern california interviewing -- introducing political candidates and various things. and he is starting to develop a speech, which became known as the speech. for local candidates but mostly for goldwater in '63, it actually started in the fall of '63. my parents were actually members of it. they came here to washington, went to the draft goldwater
convention. walter brennan kissed my mother. does anybody remember walter brennan? >> sure. >> oh, okay. the real mccoy. good. excellent. excellent. >> it's odd to think of the walter brennan in my mind kissing your mom. kind of an old man. >> but so any way, he's developing this speech, and finally a group of southern wealthy southern california businessmen go to reagan and his brother neil. neil was an ad executive in southern california. and they say to reagan, we want to put this speech on television to help goldwater. so they put up the money and it was broadcast on nbc and it was an enormous hit. it raised millions of dollars for goldwater campaign and the republican national committee. and, of course, goldwater loses in historic landslide, but david
broader wrote for the washington post, our old friend, the once ray of sunlight in other dismal campaign was reagan's speech and of course goldwater's defeat is devastating for the republican party. i mean, there's -- the republicans are in the minority in the house. they're in the vastly in the minority in the house and senate. they have very few state houses. they have very few governorships and in many ways the republican party is functionally dead. it doesn't have a coherent philosophy. and so, reagan now is embarking, is traveling to california and he says a group of businessmen, come to him, same group, we want you to run for the senate. no, i don't want to run for the senate. i don't want to run for congress. what about governor? and that piqued his interest. he began going around the state, taking soundings, doing local business groups and civic groups and other organized groups and
getting feedback. and the feedback from the people was good. so, that's when he decided to run for governor of california. so, he now is just completely broken from hollywood. now he's full time. but he called himself not just a politician but a citizen politician. >> so let's go forward from a time to choose, which was the title of this speech which remains an amazing speech. go on youtube and watch it. very clear. there's a landslide for johnson over goldwater. we come forward in time then through his the time he spends as governor in sacramento. >> right, right. >> and now we're in the nixon era. and here comes ronald reagan to challenge the party at a moment when the party is shaking and things aren't clear but they want gerald ford. he's the establishment candidate. >> right. >> and in this book you take us through some of these very difficult shows for a man who is popular, who says that he is in keeping with the real conservative ideology of the time.
>> right. >> but finds his party is somewhere else. >> the party is still in the -- somewhat in the wilderness, juan. the republican party kind of from 1932 up until the late '70s doesn't have a coherent philosophy. the democrats have a coherent philosophy, and they're also the party of optimism, the party of hope, the party of the future. frankly roosevelt runs for president, you know, and happy days are here again, and john kennedy says we need to get this country moving again. the democratic party from '32 until basically '76 and beyond is the party of hope, optimism of the future, and the republican party is the green eye shade, eat your spinach, balance the budget party. >> right. >> and their message is basically me too-ism. that was what lot of
conservatives he accused of modernivity of the me, too-ism. we can manage government better than the democrats. we'll just do it better. that was their pitch. it wasn't very inspirational pitch, obviously. which is why they're in the minority from '32 up until '68 and even beyond actually because '68 was an aberration. so, but reagan comes forward and the early leaders of the conservative movement like bill buckley and others have a coherent message that was based on the framers, based on the founders, based on the constitution, which had been kind of cast aside, or at least put on the sidelines from '32 on. but we're reaching an era. i have to go backwards. from '32 to the '60s most americans believe that government is working and government is working for them. it didn't solve the great depression, but it did a good effort and people appreciated it. but it did defeat the empire of japan and did defeat nazi
germany and defe germany, and build the interstate highway system and build roads and bridges and public education. at one point we had the finest public education system in the world in the '40s, '50s and '60s. but by the '60s, government is starting to fail. government doesn't save john kennedy, president kennedy. president doesn't save martin luther king jr. and robert kennedy, senator robert kennedy. then in the '70s government can't win the vietnam war, stop hyper inflation, high interest rates and the gas lines. it seems -- carter runs in '76 as basically an -- was an outsider and was not wed to the idea of big government. he's a reformer. he's going to clean up washington. he's going to go after the corruption. he's going to cut taxes. he's really much more of a populist, some would say almost a conservative, who sees that
people are frustrated in the '70s. they don't believe government is working for them anymore. but reagan also sees this. so carter attacks it from somewhat of the left but not really. reagan is on the right. which is why they emerge as the two most interesting candidates of 1976. reagan, to come to the convention, loses the nomination to gerald ford by 69 delegate votes out of 2,269 cast in kansas city. and is that if -- for a lot of reasons the mississippi delegation, the ohio delegation, the new york delegation, reagan is convinced that ford has not stolen the nomination but not won it entirely legitimately. and now we're getting really down in the weeds. but this really whets reagan's appetite to run again, even though at the time he's 65 years old. a lot of people said, look, ronald, you've been around the track twice. you've lost twice. you gave it your best shot.
you gave it the old college try, but now it's time to step aside for 1980 and let some new, young, fresh blood run for the '80 nomination. and reagan said no. no, we're running. >> well, you didn't mention ford in much detail here. >> sure, sure, sure. >> tell me what is his view of gerald ford? is ford simply the establishment? >> first of all, ford and reagan don't much like each other. and mrs. reagan and mrs. ford can't be in the same state with each other. that's how little they liked each other. gerald ford, of course, ascends to the presidency by way of the 22nd amendment when nixon picks him after spiro agnew resigns for taking kickbacks in maryland as governor of maryland and still taking kickbacks when he was vice president of the united states. so nixon needs somebody who is going to placate all elements of the party but yet somebody who is not going to threaten him,
not going to cause him to look over his shoulder. so he quickly deduces that gerald ford fills the bill. gerald ford, his lifelong dream was to be speaker of the house and by 1974 that's never going to happen, so becoming vice president is a nice capstone to his career. >> yeah. >> but then the smoking gun tape is revealed in july of 1974. nicks orrin -- i mean, it's all in the news now. i don't have to explain it, right? >> i said there's an elephant in the tent. >> yeah, that's right. that's right. i say smoking gun, you know six months ago people would have said what .45 colt you talking about? they know. any way, nixon is revealed ordering the cia to try to halt the fbi investigation into watergate, and that now spells the end of richard nixon. gerald ford ascends to the presidency. but gerald ford has no
republicans made a psychic investment in gerald ford. nobody outside of one congressional district in maryland has voted for gerald ford. his hold on the republican party is very tenuous. and he wants to run for '76, but he confuses nixon's appeal with nixon's policies and he was by and large he was fairly conservative, although not as conservative as reagan. is that for trump? >> i don't know. just sent the train through. so he pursues all of nixon's policies. he continues detente. he continues his fiscal policies. he continues appointing liberal jurists to the bench. and this creates an opening for a conservative challenger for '76 and some looked at it but reagan was the only one serious about it. >> but then the reality is that carter beats ford by a narrow margin. >> extremely, less than 2%.
>> right, so -- >> and ford gets 240 electoral votes. >> right. >> he carries ohio. >> he would have had it. >> ohio -- carter carries ohio 1976 by 6,000 votes out of over 3 million cast. he carries -- of course the teamsters are headquartered in ohio. so there's a lot of suspicion that the teamsters kind of -- they wouldn't do that, would they? >> no. and daly wouldn't do it either. >> daly wouldn't do it either. >> let me quickly say, the fact that ford came so close. >> right. >> would seem to indicate there's a shift. >> yes. >> but reagan now definitely in his wilderness in your book persists. >> yes, he does. yeah. he immediately creates a political organization, citizens for the republic, to advance his conservatism and to help candidates running for office. he embarks on a radio -- he restarts his radio career and is doing five-minute radio commentaries five days a week
and literally recorded them at the corner of hollywood and vine in los angeles. harry o'conner studio. and he records five-minute commentaries that go out to hundreds of radio stations on either reel-to-reel tape or on 45 record albums. you know, this is before the day where you could send out a sound bite via the internet to 1,000 radio stations. these are five-minute radio commentaries. at one point, 55 million people every week are listening to ronald reagan. plus he's got twice a week column, which is being carried by hundreds of newspapers. so, in the mid to late '70s, you have to be under a rock and not know about ronald reagan. >> did it work? >> sure. sure. i mean, he becomes after ford loses, reagan becomes -- in fact, that's a good question. he becomes the de facto leader of the republican party.
of course, one of his big issues, as many of us remember, is the panama canal treaty. he developed it as an issue in '76. the panama canal is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. my grandmother, i remember she was so furious carter was going to give away the canals to the republic of panama. i didn't realize how important it was to her. she grew up with the canal. this is a great example of american exceptionalism. we succeeded, the french failed. it's very important psychically to my grandmother and millions of americans like her, the idea that carter is going to turn over control of it to the panama is just infuriating. and this is also at a time where america is waning in its influence. we lost vietnam. we're losing to the soviets. america's day is over. plus we have all our problems at home here. so it just comes at a terrible
time. reagan, of course, is campaigning against first gerald ford and then jimmy carter giving away the canal treaties. reagan is out there starting in north carolina in '76. he's pounding the lectern and saying we built it. we paid for it. we're going to keep it. his audience goes crazy over this. so he keeps it up as an issue even as carter becomes president, he's still going to continue the ford policy of transferring control of the panama canal's zone. and he goes -- carter goes on national television to make the case to the american people why it's important to give over control of the panama canal. and he singles out for criticism private citizen ronald reagan. the president of the united states singles out one person, goes out one out of 240 million people, he singles out reagan. he's just a private citizen. and so, the next day cbs news
calls private citizen ronald reagan, and they say, would you like a half hour of national broadcast time to respond to the president of the united states? i mean, it would never happen today, right? >> no. >> so reagan, of course, jumps at the chance. he goes on and gives a half hour speech responding to the president of the united states attacking him over the panama canal treaties. >> let's shift from him attacking the president to his fight then again with the republican establishment of the time embodied in george h.w. bush. >> right. well, is that the party is split. it has been split since the '50s. in '52, eisenhower or robert taft. eisenhower represented the establishment. senator taft, mr. republican, represented the conservative outsiders.
then nixon and lodge, goldwater and rockefeller, and then again nixon and then rockefeller. but there's always a split inside the republican party between the conservative outsiders and the more moderate insiders. this, of course, happens again in 1980. reagan represents the conservative outsiders and bush represents the more moderate insiders. and this is the fight over the nomination, the future of the party boils down to these two individuals. >> well, tell us about it. >> well, it was a seesaw battle for a while, because reagan kind of coasts. reagan is at his worst when he's not challenged. reagan is at his best when somebody is challenging him. he was competitive. mike deaver once told me he was the most competitive s.o.b. he ever knew. but reagan needs to be challenged, otherwise he kind of doesn't rise to the occasion. so he doesn't take the george bush challenge seriously. and he ends up losing the iowa
caucuses in january of 1980, which was a stunning, stunning upset to the political world. it's enormous. it's huge. reagan had been a radio broadcaster in iowa all through the '30s. he was from nearby illinois. he's a local hero. and george bush is from new england or texas. he has, you know, less ties to new england than he does to any prep school -- >> you mean iowa. >> iowa, yeah. less ties to iowa than any prep school in new england. and so he beats reagan. and this is -- that night tom pettitte of nbc goes on national television and says we have just witnessed the political funeral of ronald reagan. reagan is out. that's it. and five weeks later he scores
an enormous comeback in the new hampshire primary. and we all remember the debate the famous national debate, i'm paying for this microphone, mr. green, even though his name was breen, reagan said green. and that begins -- that starts the beginning of his comeback against bush. but he goes to detroit. the party still divided and so he needs to pick bush to unify the party as they always have. nixon picks lodge. eisenhower picks nixon. nixon picks agnew, in order to unify the party. that was the ticket splitting that both parties practiced to perfection in the '40s, '50s and '60s and into the '70s and unifies the party. but it goes through 30 primaries and state conventions is that the primary or the nomination is not just reagan's for the asking. he's got to fight the street fight of his life to beat george bush to get the nomination. >> and that's -- that fight is the source of the term voodoo economics. >> that's right. reagan was pushing kemp roth. he had been developed as an
issue in '78, doing radio commentaries about it. and then kemp roth tax cuts become one of the centerpieces of his '80 campaign. and it's really bedevilling bush because he can't match it. he came up with his own tax plan but it was more focused on business and less on the individual, whereas reagan was more focussed on the individual and less on business. and so bush unwisely goes out and starts attacking a very popular plan of reagan's, that reagan is scoring well politically with, and he calls it voodoo economics. and reagan was so furious over that. he almost didn't pick bush for -- in fact, it was a big sticking point with reagan why he didn't want to pick bush as his running mate in detroit in 1980. >> so let's move beyond this because we're about out of time. we want to invite the questions from the audience. so please have your questions prepared.
i want to come back to this because we started talking, craig, about trump, reagan. >> yes. >> reagan actually gets a tax reform plan done. >> two. two. '81 and '86. >> and he's able to do business with democrats, with tip o'neal, people on the hill. >> yeah. >> he has success in terms of moving things forward. >> yes. >> despite intense criticism at times not only from democrats but from fellow republicans. >> and the washington establishment. >> that's what i'm trying to say. >> right, right, right. >> okay. >> so here comes trump -- >> i didn't know if you were going to mention "the washington post." >> i'm glad to. i'm glad to. [ laughter ] >> craig shirley definitely likes to skewer. so you get a situation now where people say, well, here is another populist outsider challenger specifically to the republican establishment.
>> right. >> but you say the analogy does not hold water. i'm thinking is it in your book a result of the fact that one guy could get things done in washington, and so far the other cannot? >> i think the parties have changed. there were a lot more conservative democrats in 1981 than there are today. a lot more liberal republicans than there are in washington or in the republican party today. but ultimately politics is personal. you've been writing about it for a long time. you see it. politics is about the personal. reagan was able to work with democrats. like dan rostenkowski won the '86 tax bill. he actually deserves mostly credit for getting the '86 tax reform act through congress more than o'neal because o'neal was getting ready to retire. but reagan -- but go back to what i said is that there were a lot of conservative democrats
known as boll weevil so that reagan could bring them over to the republican fold. but i think also is that, you know, look at rang's speeches. look at reagan's commentaries. look at reagan's q & a is that he didn't come to washington to declare war on the media. is that he had attacked the bureaucracy, that's for sure. but he didn't -- he realized he needed democrats to get his program through. he realized he needed the media to at least be open to the idea that he had -- i tease you about "the washington post," but "the washington post" editorial was often very supportive is that they said after he got the nomination, he said reagan has brought a new intellectual revolution to american politics and that's something to be thankful for. >> yep. >> and reagan put that into practice. i think it was personal. i think it was philosophical. i think the parties have changed. is that we're at the end of jimmy carter, and jimmy carter i will defend and always say is a good man who came to washington
with the best of intentions. but jimmy carter failed as president, because he didn't ultimately understand washington. but we had the recession. and so democrats knew they needed to do something. so they're willing to take a chance on reaganomics on kent roth. >> but get back to trump. [ laughter ] >> look, you know, is that the reason -- let me answer it as diplomatically as possible. is that there were a lot of people in the '80s who thought reagan was going to be a failure. he left office with very high approval numbers but even so, american historians weren't rating him very high. now they are going back and looking at the reagan presidency, and he's now rated, i think, last poll of american historians had him 13th, which i
think is too low. but he's been steadily going up over the last 30, 40 years. is that i don't have the newspapers of eight years or four years from now to tell you about donald trump. i can tell you reagan approached the presidency differently. reagan was a different man. reagan had different style. reagan had -- he was -- there's no comparison except that both were outsiders and both were threats to the political system. but that's the only thing i will say to compare the two men. >> but when people inside the republican party -- >> right. >> -- say, oh, no, trump is the inheriter -- >> that's not true. >> no is the answer again? >> no. no, trump is not the inheriter -- to the extent that any republican is the inheriter of the previous republican's base of support inside the party. he's the inheriter, but he's also the inheriter of the bushes, too. of h.w. and w as far as the coalition they put together to win the nomination. >> i don't think that trump would say that he was comfortable being described as an inheriter of george w.
>> you know what, there's a lot of things trump is not comfortable with. but it's obvious. you know, is that there are certain type of republican primary voter that issues may change, they may change somewhat their philosophy, but essentially the republican primary voter who voted for richard nixon in the republican primaries in 1960 is very similar to the republican primary voter who voted for donald trump in 2016. >> you mean the silent majority concepts. >> exactly, yes. silent majority was coined by richard nixon. >> right. >> then reintroduced by donald trump. >> and you think then that when you look at people like paul ryan -- >> yeah. >> when you look at people, i don't know, mitch mcconnell, are they the true inheriters of the reagan legacy, or is it someone else? am i missing something? >> no, i don't know if there's
any one inheriter, juan. i'll tell you one thing, though. i saw mike pence give his speech today at grove city college. he was terrific. it was a reaganesque speech. it was a very, very good speech. and i think somebody is going to write a contrast between his speech, write a column, or an op-ed or piece contrasting his speech with trump's at the coast guard academy. but it's -- begs to be written. it begs to be written because it was a terrific -- i mean, if you haven't seen it, i would urge you to go on youtube tonight or whatever and take a look at it because it really was a speech for all americans. >> so i get the impression you didn't think much of mr. trump's speech at the coast guard academy? [ laughter ] >> he uses first-person pronouns like he's eating breakfast. >> let's go to the audience here in gaithersburg.
we have a question right here. hang on. i think there's a microphone coming for you. >> so speaking of inheritance, would you say that ted cruz and the freedom caucus are political legatees of reagan's? >> i think anybody who -- reagan was motivated by certain things. freedom. individuality. and the future. he was a romantic. he believed, you know, in the philosophy of the enlightenment. he quoted emerson. he quoted payne. and so much of the enlightment is about those elements. reagan by the time he's an adult, he's got a fully-formed philosophy that is. centered on the maximum freedom -- he said maximum freedom consistent with law and order, privacy, dignity for the
individual. so anybody who articulates that or understands that is the heir to the reagan philosophy, whether it's ted cruz or mike pence or mcconnell. anybody who tries to advance individual rights and freedom and privacy. >> we have a question in the back. >> many republicans now join liberals in questioning the war on drugs and its aftermath, the human toll it's taken. if reagan was alive and mentally well today, do you think he would have some of the same reservations? >> that's a tough one. it really is. that's a tough one. reagan was in many ways a libertarian. he did an interview with "reason" magazine in 1975 in which he said libertarianism was the fundamental basis for american conservatism. but he was also a
traditionalist. i'm sure he would have devised -- yes, i think we should control the distribution and use of drugs, but by localities, not the federal government. i think that's the closest of the blending of his philosophy of libertarianism but also a traditionalist. >> i think this is a powerful question at the moment, given what we're seeing from the attorney general jeff sessions. sessions wants to go back to the war on drugs, but you see many republicans -- including some republicans that might surprise you, hard-liners -- who say we've got too many people incarcerated in the country. it's not economically rewarding. it's cheaper to send them in college than put them in jail. i'm just wondering if when you hear this question you think, again, this is a departure from ronald reagan's attitude, his
willingness to work with others, respond, work with situations. >> there's a lot of departures. reagan was -- i think he was for a strong border. he said strong borders are important for national identity. but he also -- i think the issue came up to about walls and he kind of poo-pooed it a bit in the republican primary in 1980. >> stay on this point. he says build a wall and have a big door in the middle of it. >> but everything that ray began do reagan does, it has to be judged in the hshadow of the cold war. reagan does, it has to be judged in the shadow of the cold war. it was to build a more solid free market system in the west to procerepel soviet advances. he wanted a strong western
hemisphe hemisphere. he wanted them as degree and prosperous democracies. same with the caribbean basin initiative too, it was to build strong prosperous democracies in the caribbean to fend off soviet advances. >> so we don't have time for another question i'm told. craig shirley's book, reagan rising, the decisive years. and very lively, very topical and has power in this moment. so craig, thank you so much. >> thank you.
week nights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span3. tonight, gettysburg college professor timothy shannon exams ties between european settlers and the iroquois confederacy, the role of interpreters and role of exchanging gifts batch tonight at 8:00 p.m. and enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. every saturday, at 8:00 p.m. eastern, on american history tv on c-span3, go inside a different college classroom and hear about topics ranging from the american revolution, civile rights and u.s. presidents to 9/11. >> thanks for your patience and for logging into class. >> with most college campuses closed due to the impact of the
coronavirus, watch professors transfer teaching to a swrirnvi setting. >> gorbachev did most of the work, but way begreagan met him supported him. >> and freedom of the police, madison called it freedom of the use of the press and it is freedom to print things and publish things.freedom of the u and it is freedom to print things and publish things.madise use of the press and it is freedom to print things and publish things. >> lectures in history on c-span3 every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. lectures in history is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. up next, a look at president reagan's foreign policy toward the soviet union during the 1980s. t marcus witcher