During last weekend's annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the Intercollegiate Studies Institute sponsored a colloquy between Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, and Craig Shirley, author of the books Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America (2009), about the 1980 presidential campaign, and Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (2005), which is about the 1976 campaign. Shirley is president and CEO of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs and a longtime political operative who has worked on a number of high-profile campaigns.
The forum, which took place in a smaller conference room while the bulk of CPAC attendees were in the main ballroom at the Wardman Park Marriott were listening to a speech by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and a panel discussion on freedom of speech on college campuses moderated by Ron Robinson of the Young America's Foundation (which, perhaps ironically, now owns the Reagan Ranch).
Perhaps 100 or 125 people were lucky enough to hear Shirley's presentation and Barnes' perspicacious questions, which stimulated an entertaining and informative conversation punctuated with funny anecdotes and the retelling of famous Reagan quips (such as his reply to a questioner who asked how a meeting with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu went: "Tutu? So-so").
I posted a small snippet of Shirley's recollections of Ronald Reagan a couple of days ago. That was just an appetizer. Here is the main course.
Part I includes an introduction about ISI (founded in 1953) and of the speakers:
Part II covers Reagan's self-deprecating sense of humor:
Part III includes the discussion about Reagan's libertarianism and the Briggs Initiative:
In Part IV, Fred Barnes asks about the Carter briefing books that were stolen and provided to the Reagan campaign before the most-watched presidential debate in American history:
In Part V, Barnes asks, what is it that Reagan had that Republican candidates running for president now don't seem to have? Answer - "He was genuine":
In Part VI, Barnes reminds us about the top figures of the Republican Party -- Howard Baker, John Connally, Phil Crane, George H.W. Bush -- who were seeking the 1980 nomination, and asks how Reagan was able to get them to "eat his dust":
In Part VII, you can hear me ask a question about the effect of the debate with John Anderson, the one Carter refused to participate in. (At 2'20", this is the shortest of the nine segments posted to YouTube.)
In Part VIII, an audience member asks for more Reagan jokes, and Fred Barnes answers that there is "an inexhaustible supply":
Finally, in Part IX, an audience member asks about the contentious relationship between future President Reagan and future President Bush and how they patched up their animosity. Shirley notes that ill-will between the two of them dated at least to 1978, when Reagan endorsed George W. Bush's opponent in a Texas congressional race, irritating George H.W. Bush:
My short, introductory comments before each video segment are meant only to give the flavor of the conversation. There is a lot more substance to be found in listening to the whole hour.
More video from CPAC 2010 can be seen here and here.
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