The Campaign Spot

If We’re Going to Emulate the Reagan Temperament, Let’s Remember It Accurately

Former congressman and current MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough tells the world via Twitter, “Conservative leaders must follow Reagan temperamentally, not just ideologically. Ronald Reagan didn’t hate.”

That’s about half right. My first thought was, “No, Joe, he hated tyranny, injustice, and waste, and acted accordingly.”

But there’s a bit more to it; Reagan had a temper, and while expressions of fury were rare, they always seemed to find a worthy target. From Michael K. Deaver’s A Different Drummer, p. 66:

The Ford ad simply played on the fears that many Americans had toward Reagan at the time, that he was a cowboy with an itchy trigger finger. “Governor Reagan couldn’t get us into a war, but President Reagan can,” the ad charged. A nervous advance man boarded the plane when we landed, pulled me aside, and handed me notes that outlined the commercial. After he left, I told Reagan what happened in California. He went into a rage slamming his fist into the bulkhead wall of the aircraft. He believed that his integrity was being questioned, and he knew it came from a close friend who knew better. “That damn Spencer’s behind this,” he said, accurately . . .
I was just starting to relax, thanking the good Lord for getting us through the media session, but just as we turned our back, an NBC reporter asked Reagan about the California ad. Reagan spun around on one heel so fast that he literally sent poor [Reagan economist Martin] Anderson into a wall. The rage was back. Fists didn’t fly of course, but he went into one of those endless let-me-tell-you sort of sound bites that make any campaign manager’s hair stand on end. The rosy cheeks and luring smile were gone, replaced by a purple tide and a quivering lip. The scenes of Reagan pointing to the reporter were shown on local and national television almost immediately. Reagan knew he had blown it and said as much behind closed doors . . .
. . . Reagan would fight until the end if he believed in something. He didn’t care if his opponent was a sitting GOP President like Gerald Ford, as long as personal attacks were off the table.

So, yes, avoid hate if you can, but don’t be afraid to harness a righteous anger when the circumstances warrant it.

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