Earlier today I had the pleasure of attending the weekly blogger's briefing hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Conservative activist and public relations consultant Craig Shirley was the featured guest, and he spoke about his new book "Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America."
Shirley noted the remarkable parallels between the Republican Party that Reagan and the conservative movement revitalized in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the situation facing conservatives today.
Then as now liberal Democrats claimed the presidency and liberal ideology seemed ascendant following the tenure of Republican presidents who expanded the size and scope of government (Nixon) and/or were inept (Ford). Now as in the late 1970s, it is conservatives standing outside the establishment who can be the revitalizing and reforming force for the GOP and more importantly the country.
During a roughly 30-minute Q&A session, Shirley answered a series of questions from bloggers in attendance, and shared among other things the following observations:
- The legendary friendship between Reagan and then-Speaker Tip O'Neill is just that, a myth. The Massachusetts Democrat was as fiercely partisan as Speaker Pelosi is today. Indeed, O'Neill even remarked in his memoirs that he considered Reagan's election as president a "sin."
- Despite its biases, the mainstream media coverage of Reagan in the 1980 campaign did produce some solid, fair and balanced journalism, something Shirley argues is missing today from the mainstream media at-large. On the other hand, Shirley noted, the media universe is larger and more diverse today, offering readers more alternatives to the biased mainstream media.
- The 1970s saw Reagan's evolution into a more optimistic conservative even as it was the decade where big government policy scheme failures made clear to Americans big government was the problem, not the answer.
- Jimmy Carter's politicization of the Iranian hostage crisis in his 1979 primary battle with Sen. Ted Kennedy was so crass that even liberal media outlets like the Washington Post called him out on it.