All posts by CPS

How could a meeting like Trump Jr.’s happen? Easy: Campaigns are circuses. || Washington Post

How could a meeting like Trump Jr.’s happen? Easy: Campaigns are circuses.

What seems inexplicable on the outside looks like just the usual chaos to insiders.

Many years ago, a friend of mine — let’s call him Ed — was managing a congressional race. He was interviewing a young woman for a job with the campaign. While perusing her resume, Ed asked her if she had any special skills. Unhesitatingly, she replied, “Yes. I’m clairvoyant.”

Taken aback, Ed asked if she could give him a demonstration, and again she replied yes, and, as a demonstration of her talents, she said, “I see the two of us in that motel down the street making love this afternoon.”

Ed later told me, “And you know what? She was right!”

When I heard of the meeting Trump campaign staffers had with a Russian lawyer last year, like many of my brethren who have worked in campaigns, I was not surprised.

Weirdos and politics go together like peas and carrots: Strange, bizarre meetings. Strange, bizarre people. Clandestine operations. Inexplicable decisions. Things that in the light of day look strange, but in the heat of the moment seem perfectly rational. People often do things in politics that later can’t be explained. At least not always reasonably.

Years ago, an old campaign operative told me, “In politics, you can be an adulter or a drunk. I chose to be a drunk.” Normal?

My wife Zorine was the finance director for a campaign many years ago that held a fundraiser where Jack Kemp was the special guest. The event, in Arizona, was designed to be a good, old-fashioned western hoedown with dancing and booze. Problem was the fundamentalist holy rollers supporting the campaign objected to the dancing and drinking. So they had the event, but with no booze, no dancing, and no fun. Campaign staffers are often more important than campaign plans.

There are constant gaffes like that in politics: In 1972, George McGovern was campaigning in New York City, where he went into a kosher Jewish deli and ordered a “glass of milk” to go with his corned-beef sandwich. That same year, his running mate, Sargent Shriver, was campaigning in a blue-collar bar and ordered drinks on the house, earning praise from the working-class patrons. That is, until he ordered a snifter of Courvoisier for himself.

Outsiders will never understand what insiders really know about campaigns. The best stories will never be written or see the light of day. “Campaigns are garbage moving in the right direction,” quipped longtime GOP operative Eddie Mahe. If you’ve worked in politics long enough, you’ve seen it all, from candidate’s wives deflowering young male staffers to shysters selling the magic formula for making candidates younger to Lothario candidates who kept inviting female staffers to join them in a hot tub. I was bemused by a recent story written by a longtime scribe for the Weekly Standard giving all sorts of free advice to the GOP. Humph. Reporters like to play-act at being campaign operatives, but until you’ve worked inside a campaign, you will never know what it is really like.

In 1964, the story goes that old man Igor Sikorsky, millionaire founder of Sikorsky Aircraft and a right-winger’s right-winger, was convinced the way to get Barry Goldwater elected president was to stop poor people from voting. He hired a couple of GOP operatives to seed the clouds over Philadelphia so it would rain — the theory being poor people didn’t vote when it rained. The day of the election dawned, and it was bright and clear over Philly. Meanwhile, the boxes of flaky dry ice they’d purchased to seed the clouds had coagulated into chunks. Their plane, a DC-3, took off and chased the few wisps of clouds over the City of Brotherly Love. Out of the cargo hold, they threw the chunks of dry ice at the few small clouds. “Do you think this will work?” said one of the crew. Replied Sikosky’s hire, “I don’t know, but maybe we’ll hit a few.”

The fabled pollster and political consultant Arthur Finkelstein has seen it all over the years. Finklestein always had a bias against using billboards in campaigns. He’s said this up front to many a candidate, often followed by an argument. Candidates love to see themselves on billboards, but one particular client of his agreed with the strategy. This candidate, too, eschewed billboards, but then told his pollster how he would win: “Potholders! With my name on them!”

Years ago, Newt Gingrich thought he’d broken new ground with a mobile campaign office. The young man he hired to drive it around the district quickly discovered he could have afternoon assignations without the cost of a “no tell” hotel room. The Winnebago was often spotted around the district parked in a grocery store lot, its springs bouncing to the beat of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, thus giving new meaning to the old campaign adage, “Politics is motion.”

The failed 1980 presidential campaign of California Gov. Jerry Brown was a movable laugh riot. When not eating raw cauliflower, he was doing things like telling supporters there was no such thing as a free lunch, at the very time he was plying them with… a free lunch. When not campaigning, “Governor Moonbeam” was often seen loitering around a Zen palace in the Golden State.

In 1982, a year after the attempt on his life, Ronald Reagan was on Air Force One on a campaign swing, dressing in his favorite suit, which was charitably described as “purple plaid.” Nancy Reagan hated the suit and began in on her husband, telling him how much she loathed it. She attempted to drag deputy chief of staff Mike Deaver into the crossfire, but he refused, saying, “I’m sick of the subject! I’m sick of talking about it!” Reagan pleaded how much he liked to wear it until Nancy said, “ Oh yeah? Mike, tell the president what the staff says about his suit!” Reagan looked at Deaver and said, “Mike, what does the staff say about my suit?” Deaver replied, “Mr. President, the staff says if you were going to be shot, why couldn’t you have been shot wearing that suit?”

To paraphrase an old educator and philosopher, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, become over-the-top bell ringers.” Many will never know how fun it really is. Or how a silly little meeting with a Russian lawyer could possibly be just that — a silly little meeting and nothing more. The bystanders and alarmists scream the sky is falling, it seems, to give a little excitement to their otherwise mundane and limiting lives.

Stu Spencer, a longtime political adviser to Reagan, once said, “Working in politics is like running away and joining the circus.” And indeed, it is. It’s just not for everybody.

So the Trump campaign hands should pay these critics no mind. They will never know how much fun it is to be in the crazy arena, to know victory and defeat.

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Religious Biographies Spotlight Inspiring Lives || Publishers Weekly

The life of another influencer—this one in politics—is told in Citizen Newt by Craig Shirley (Nelson, Aug.), an authorized biography that examines Gingrich’s work and his Christian faith. Says executive editor Brian Hampton: “We actually signed this book back in 2010, long before Trump entered the political arena.” But with the release of Gingrich’s Understanding Trump (Center Street, June), Hampton says Nelson plans to connect the two books in its marketing: “It will be along the lines of, ‘If you want to understand Donald Trump, read Understanding Trump by Newt Gingrich. If you want to understand Newt Gingrich, read Citizen Newt by Craig Shirley.’ ”

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Debunking the Assertion Reagan Was a ‘New Deal Republican’ || Lifezette

Debunking the Assertion Reagan Was a ‘New Deal Republican’
New book obscures the Gipper’s life journey away from FDR-style, big-government liberalism
 
Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801, said that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
Jefferson went through the first bitter and divisive U.S. election against incumbent President John Adams, so his call for unity was welcomed. What happens, though, when an opinion changes the principle of not just a conservative icon but changes the very meaning of American history and interpretation of America’s future? What happens when that opinion is simply wrong?
Henry Olsen, Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of a new book on Reagan, will find that out soon enough, for he has certainly kicked the conservative hornet’s nest.
Olsen’s new book, “The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism” (Broadside Books, 2017), has an interesting though flawed premise: that Ronald Reagan, champion of American conservatism and American freedom and self-described libertarian, was a lifetime New Dealer, a supporter and inheritor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s massive government policies to jump-start the economy in the 1930s and early 40s.
It is surely a controversial and provocative assertion that will stimulate an intellectual debate about who Reagan was, what he believed, and how he evolved. All legitimate scholarship on Reagan is to be welcomed. And Olsen does recognize Reagan’s intellect, as expressed in his writings, and for this, he is to be commended. At no time does Olsen question Reagan’s vastly underestimated intellect. The writing is often good.
By the 1960s and later, Ronald Reagan was a conservative, a libertarian. He was pro-life, pro-freedom, and pro-individualism. He was pro-market and pro-federalism. He was an intellectual who read constantly while traveling, by train, across the country, quoting freethinkers such as Thomas Paine, Ralph Emerson, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Reagan did not shy away from his support or admiration for Roosevelt, even after his political shift from a “hemophilic liberal” to an American conservative in the 1960s. His oft-used phrase “rendezvous with destiny” — in his endorsement for Barry Goldwater, or in the announcement of his candidacy for president in 1979, or in his acceptance for the nomination a year later — was taken directly from FDR’s speech in 1936 to members of the Democratic Convention. He admitted in his diaries that he voted for FDR in all four of his elections.
In his autobiography, “An American Life,” Reagan admits that his liberalism was so strong that he would have family fights with his brother Neil after the latter became a Republican. 
Reagan says that his support for the New Deal in the 30s and 40s went down “to the core. I thought the government could solve all our postwar problems just as it had ended the Depression and won the war.”
Compare that to his first inaugural address, several decades later, by which time his view of government had drastically changed from that of his youth.
“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” he famously said. One may have difficulty seeing how this relates to FDR’s government control of the economy; the government, as he said earlier, “is our servant, beholden to us,” not the other way around.
Reagan was a vocal opponent of excessive government spending and overreach, perhaps the most vocal opponent in modern United States history. This included such previously beloved programs as the New Deal. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, perhaps Reagan’s biggest enemy in Congress, was a constant annoyance to the President’s beliefs and policies. In 1981, Reagan said that O’Neill “is a solid New Dealer and still believes in reducing the states to administrative districts of the federal government.”
Personal grudges between the two aside, this was a policy issue, and Reagan’s personal diaries showed that the main belief of the New Deal was feds vs. states. Reagan fundamentally disagreed with the notion of making the states almost like subsidiaries of the federal government, emphasizing that “Washington has no business trying to dictate how states and local governments will operate their programs.”
Indeed, during the 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, Reagan quipped, “I was a Democrat; I said a lot of foolish things back in those days.”
In public, Reagan was just as hard on the New Deal. In a Christmas Day broadcast in 1981 on PBS, President Reagan said that “many of the New Dealers actually espoused what today has become an epithet — fascism — in that they spoke admiringly of how Mussolini had made the trains run on time. In other words, they saw in what Roosevelt was doing; a planned economy, private ownership, but government management of that ownership and that economy.”
Right or wrong, Reagan clearly believed that New Deal proponents — not FDR, but those who were close to FDR, admired Mussolini’s fascism and that the two ideologies were best friends, if not one and the same. 
Although some historians can argue that Olsen sometimes misrepresents Reagan, his legacy, or his presidency, there are some further problems with the writing itself. The book strays from its thesis to give unnecessary factoids that, at the end of the day, are not needed for arguing such an unconventional view. That’s not to mention where Olsen also seemingly contradicts himself, as when he said that “Reagan remained firmly against government planning,” If Reagan remained against it, then why would he be for the New Deal?
It is also sometimes repetitive, such as saying several times that Reagan voted for FDR in 1932 — repeated within the first pages of the book. There is some unnecessary writing to set the stage of Reagan’s liberal persona to contrast it with his matured conservative views. There’s explaining the origin of “the Gipper,” which, while cute, is ultimately skippable. And the repeated fact of Reagan’s first vote being for Roosevelt, even as background, bears little support for Olsen’s thesis. Winston Churchill is said to have said that a young man who is not a liberal has no heart and an old man who is not a conservative has no brain.
It is unclear if Olsen interviewed anyone close to Reagan, a big problem for anyone who is interested in the Gipper’s presidency.
And though Olsen uses a primary source such as “Reagan in His Own Hand,” you’d be hard-pressed to find others, since “The Working Class Republican” does not have a bibliography. Those are two other red flags.
A historical analysis of how Reagan sometimes worked with Democrats both before and during his presidency is a book long overdue, but Olsen does not offer this here. He often conflates pre-conservative Reagan with conservative Reagan, believing that if one said something, then the other must have believed it. It is like looking at Saul of Tarsus and later his converted identity as Paul, and believing they are of the same beliefs.
“The historian is a prophet facing backwards,” said nineteenth-century German poet August Wilhelm Schlegel. Olsen is not a prophet, but he is a good man searching for answers, asking questions too few have asked. Reagan was a liberal traveling a long road to conservatism. Why? While Olsen’s book only partially answers this question, at least he has the guts to ask such risky and out-of-bounds queries. All of us fall too often into a simple storyline about a complex man, and Olsen has the temerity to ask the unaskable.
Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan, most recently “Reagan Rising.” He has a political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt,” coming out in August. Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher.

Remembering Robert S. Leiken || Newsmax

Remembering Robert S. Leiken

Earlier this month, on June 7, Robert S. Leiken, esteemed political science professor, enlightened anti-communist, died at the age of 78. He was active in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the most influential people to shape the U.S. involvement in Nicaragua during the Reagan years. And he was a liberal.

During the 1970s, he referred to himself as a Marxist, teaching in Mexico. He soon went to several think tanks, from the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1981 to liberal Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1983. It was in Carnegie where he edited “Central America: Anatomy of Conflict” a year later, which was highly critical of President Reagan’s foreign policies, especially towards the communists in Central America.

It all changed when he visited Nicaragua itself. Since the late 1970s, the freedom fighter group Contras — ragtag but for the most part sincere — were in an active war against the Soviet-backed communist Sandinista government.

The conflict, which only became worse throughout the 1980s, was the flashpoint of U.S. policy in Central America. When Leiken visited Nicaragua in 1984, after communicating with the son of future Contra leader Arturo Jose Cruz, he noticed how poorly the Communist government treated their poor. It was exactly what they promised not to do.

Several years later he said, “Sympathy with the Contras is becoming more open and more pervasive. I was stunned to hear peasants refer to the Contras as ‘los muchachos,’ the boys  — the admiring term used to once describe the Sandinistas when they were battling the National Guard.”

The National Guard were part of the previous Anastasio Somoza regime. Somoza was corrupt and overthrown by the Sandinista’s promising reform. Leiken further noted that the reigning corrupt communist government’s failures “polarized the country, led to disinvestment, falling productivity and wages, labor discontent, and an agrarian crisis.”

Leiken saw through the lies of the Nicaraguan government and its disinformation, as well. He experienced it first-hand. “These thousands of demonstrators were hardly ‘bourgeoisie,’ as the Sandinistas claimed,” he said before Congress. “They were overwhelmingly workers, peasants, and young people.” It was his hands-on experience that swayed the United States. It coming from a self-proclaimed Marxist showed that it wasn’t typical liberal bias.

Ronald Reagan even mentioned Leiken by name during his remarks at a fundraising dinner for the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund, and again a year later at a speech at the Heritage Foundation (in which, Reagan said, Leiken’s conclusion about the Communist government came “much to the distress of some of his liberal colleagues”).

The significance of not just Leiken, but the whole of the Contra insurgency, cannot be understated. The fight over the Contras was the fight of the century.

Before Nicaragua, with few exceptions, Communist governments were sequestered, more or less, across the Atlantic and the Pacific — China, Russia, Eastern Europe. Cuba was, and continued to be, a Communist threat. But Nicaragua represented a new front in their war against freedom, a new threat to America. Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, was different. It not only was the linchpin of Communism close to the U.S., but emphasized the division between American conservatives and liberals.

As one Republican leader, Newt Gingrich said in 1983, “Because they fail to understand the nature of evil, radical Democrats support policies at home that favor the criminal rather than the victim.”

The Democrats, by being against intervention in Nicaragua, intended or not, said that they supported the Communist dictators, and did not care for the freedom fighters.

Leiken fought tenaciously for the Contras and against the Sandinistas and their liberal apologists in America because like Reagan, who compared the Contras to America’s founding revolutionaries, he knew that freedom was not only good, it was spiritual and that communist enslavement was wrong and evil.

As it turned out, Reagan was right, the Contras were right, we were right, Leiken was right and the Sandinistas were wrong and their liberal apologists were wrong.

Just as the left has always been wrong and American conservatism has been right. Leiken had the wisdom to change. Leiken became a great American because he had the courage to change. Robert Leiken, RIP.

Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer. His Books include, “Reagan Rising: the Decisvie Years,” and  “Reagan’s Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan.” He is the founder of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, and has been named the first Reagan scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Rediscovering America: Mark Levin Does It Again || Townhall

Rediscovering America: Mark Levin Does It Again

This piece was co-authored by Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer.

Some years ago an angry and frustrated taxpayer flew his private plane into the Internal Revenue Service building in Texas. Most liberals commentators wrung their hands over the act but failed to ask, “Why?” What did the IRS do to so infuriate this taxpayer into taking his own life to make a political statement? During the American Revolution, this would have been considered an act of courage and monuments would have been made to the man. After all, the Framers believed man was more important than institutions. But now it seems like Americans, mostly on the left, forgot what America should be.

Mark Levin, who hasn’t forgotten what America is all about, long a political heavyweight intellectual of the conservative movement in America, adds another accomplishment to his long resume with the publication of his new book Rediscovering Americanism. It is already a bestseller, but it won’t be reviewed by the perpetually failing Washington Post.

There is an inverse relationship between authors of and about conservatism and the Book Review section of the Washington Post. A good book by a conservative will never be reviewed, but a bad book written by a liberal about conservatism will always been reviewed. Hence, Levin has written another blockbuster, but like all of his previous books, won’t be reviewed by the shallow and corrupt book review section of the dying and embarrassingly wrong newspaper. Hence, liberal Rick Perlstein wrote a heavily plagiarized and shoddy book about Ronald Reagan, yet the Post Book Review section gave it not one, but two favorable reviews. Presumably one for being an ultra-leftist and the second for poor scholarship, even as everybody with an ounce of knowledge about Reagan denounced Perlstein as wrong.

No matter. Levin is now more consequential to the national debate than the Post. He has far more loyal listeners than the Post has subscribers. It should be noted the uber neo con, big government Republican publication, The Weekly Standard, also refused to review either of our books. (The rumor is TWS is coming out for the invasion of Nova Scotia next week.)

In a humble fashion, Levin notes in the opening that if this tome “can open a few eyes it will have served its purpose.” That purpose? To bring back true American beliefs, true American structures. To “rediscover Americanism,” like the Founding Fathers and Enlightenment philosophers intended, where men and women are born free to discover their own future, as designed by God. Levin quotes from the Declaration of Independence, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, even Aristotle and Cicero, to define that –ism that we should seek.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many of the philosophers, statesmen, and civic leaders – not just of America but around the world, both contemporary and ancient – believed in the individual rights of man as endowed by their Creator. This is no clearer than in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This was the prevailing view of the United States during its Founding, where the rights of man trumped all.

Until the Progressives came along in the very-late nineteenth century.

“It is best described as an elitist-driven counterrevolution to the American Revolution,” Levin writes, “in which the sovereignty of the individual, natural law, natural rights, and the civil society . . . would be drastically altered and even abandoned.” The Progressives believed that the American heritage – already a century old – was an impediment to “the pursuit of Utopian ends.” It is a collectivist (read: communist) belief that the group is superior to the individual, that a centralized authority must exist to run the lives of the everyday man and woman. Levin heavily analyzes Herbert Croly’s works, especially his Progressive Democracy in 1914, and how American heroes such as President Theodore Roosevelt admired the philosopher, even taking phrases he coined and putting it into the American lexicon.

This is the start of the unraveling of the American identity. Roosevelt created the Progressive Party, which had “a laundry list of proposed federal programs and policies covering” many parts of American life. Woodrow Wilson, prior to becoming president, authored several essays and speeches criticizing the Declaration of Independence, calling it “theoretical,” and later, as president, flat out said that “our life has broken away from the past.” Forget about history, progressives believe, because the collectivist future is all that mattered.

 So we are introduced to the conflict that has plagued America since, and where our country has come from, what it has become, and where it will go. Levin warns us that if we do not stop the progressivism that is rampant, then we are going to lose the country. “We have no choice,” he says, but to be on the offensive.

Rediscovering Americanism is an short, easy read, designed not for the hefty academics but for the common American, to show that rich or poor, educated or uneducated, rural or urban, we are all Americans, and we all fall under one roof, with the goal to bring back a country that our Founders wanted. Nevertheless, it is packed with analyses and connections only Levin can muster, chock full information. Some of the most important public intellectuals on American conservatism are Dr. Larry Arnn, Victor David Hansen, Newt Gingrich, and Mark Levin.

Levin does a wonderful job of mixing history, politics, philosophy, and conservatism into one book. It cannot be underestimated his importance to the conservative movement, and this book is a worthy piece to be placed in America’s future.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four best sellers on Ronald Reagan, most recently “Reagan Rising.” He has a political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt,” coming out in August. Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher. 

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"There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right." – The Gipper