In Defense of Lou Cannon

by Steven F. Hayward

In his otherwise spot-on remarks below on Lisa Morales’ pathetic rendering of the ruckus over “The Reagans,” Tim Graham describes Lou Cannon as “the liberal former Washington Post reporter.” I think this goes too far and is unfair to Cannon, who is not an ideological liberal. (He has, after all, written for NRODT a few times.) Lou has some conservative leanings, though he is a bit clueless about conservative ideology and philosophy. (I doubt he has ever read Milton Friedman, let alone Hayek or Kirk.) I have numerous criticisms of Cannon’s work (as does Peter Robison and many other Reaganites), but when you stack up his work against the works of other liberal journalists in the 1980s (e.g., Haynes Johnson, Bob Shieffer, the list is long), Lou’s work is like day to their night.

Lou’s weak spot was not ideology, but the fact that his primary sources during the Reagan presidency were the infamous “pragmatists” who leaked to him relentlessly in their bid to manipulate Reagan through the media. Lou’s most recent book on Reagan forthrightly retracts some of the harsher judgments he made in “Role of a Lifetime.” And this must be said of Cannon: he always took Reagan seriously, starting from the first time he saw Reagan on the stump in California in 1966. Although he indulged some of the Washington-insider attitudes toward Reagan, he never condescended to Reagan the way most of the rest of the press corp did. For this, Paul Laxalt once told me, Cannon was viewed with suspicion by his fellow reporters at the Post and elsewhere.

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