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Inside the Beltway: Trump, ‘master of the medium of his time’

By Jennifer Harper | December 1, 2018

Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS, has a new book out, and the title tells all: “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.”

Indeed, Donald Trump’s actual presidency has been a boneshaker for journalists who were unprepared for a billionaire commander-in-chief who is a canny denizen of the media and entertainment realm, and unafraid to push back.

Mr. Garrett — who has covered the executive branch for 17 years — noticed.

“His goal was to sift through the mountains of distracting tweets and shrieking headlines in order to focus on the most significant moments of Trump’s young presidency, the ones that Garrett believes will have a lasting impact,” explains St. Martin’s Press, the publisher.

The Washington Post calls Mr. Garrett’s book “an early draft of our current history,” while Kirkus Reviews cited the author’s analysis of Mr. Trump’s own “coarsening effect on political dialogue.”

Mr. Garrett also notes the president’s place in it all.

“Whatever you think of Trump as a person or president, he is the most media-savvy president since Ronald Reagan,” the author wrote.

“The media savvy reference was to Trump’s social media skills — the point being Reagan was a master of the medium of his time, network television, and Trump is a master of the medium of his age — Twitter, Facebook and the like,” Mr. Garrett tells Inside the Beltway.

Trump’s Twitter habits have evolved slightly and remain a dominant voice in his presidency — driving news coverage and revealing his state of mind. That remains catchy and compelling. The news media sifts all tweets and treats them as the news events they are but continues to struggle in weighting its coverage of tweets against other long-lasting changes Trump is bringing about, specifically in deregulation, nominations/confirmations to federal courts and administrative changes to Obamacare and immigration,” he says.

“In future years, I predict the news media will conclude it was preoccupied with tweets and less focused on structural Trump-generated changes. That is likely to reinforce my point that Trump was a master of the medium of his time,” the author says.


Fred Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute offered thoughts on the death of George H.W. Bush — deeming him a “true gentleman who embodied the nobility of public service.”

The productive team of Reagan and then-Vice President Bush were in office together eight years.

“They forged a remarkable partnership. As they reignited the U.S. economy, battled tyranny across the globe, and restored America’s pride and purpose, President Reagan relied on his vice president’s calm, strength, loyalty, and wisdom. In all that the administration achieved, President Reagan once remarked, “no one has been closer to my side and has contributed more to our success than George Bush,’” says Mr. Ryan.

“As president, George Bush built on this legacy, steering America through challenging times at home and abroad. Respectful of others, thoroughly devoted to service, and gracious even in defeat, he also solidified his reputation for integrity and decency,” he notes.

Presidential historian and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley also recalls the legacy of George H.W. Bush.

“When I think of him, I am reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Every step of his life was well-lived, was a new adventure, was a new challenge. He never shirked or turned down a difficult assignment but met them all, faced them all and made the most of them, always with grace and courage. George Herbert Walker Bush was a hero for our time and for all time,” said Mr. Shirley.


Rows of numbers reflecting TV ratings can get tedious. Sometimes, headlines are more revealing. Consider just a few for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”:

“‘Saturday Night Live’ Ratings Slip With Host Claire Foy” (Deadline Hollywood, Dec. 2)

“Weekend Update: Why ‘Saturday Night Live’ has lost its Trump-bump glory” (USA Today, Nov. 30)

“‘Saturday Night Live’ ticks down” (TV By the Numbers, Oct. 14)

“How ‘Saturday Night Live’ Became a Grim Joke” (New York Magazine, Oct. 1)

“‘SNL’ Struggles to Find Its Identity in the Era of Trump Fatigue” (Vanity Fair, May 17)

Rob Schneider Says Alec Baldwin’s Trump is Hurting ‘SNL’” (Hollywood Reporter, April 27)


“For eight nights, Jewish families and friends will come together to engage in the lighting of the menorah. This special tradition started more than 2,000 years ago during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which followed a trying period when Jews were persecuted for practicing their faith,” President Trump says in his message for Hanukkah, which began Sunday.

“Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred, and bigotry around the globe. We remember all those from the Tree of Life — or L’Simcha Congregation — whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this past October. As one Nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families, and the community, and we pray that the victims’ families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season. Over the coming days, may the warming glow of each candle on the menorah help fill homes and hearts with love and happiness. Together, we reaffirm the truth that light will always break through the darkness. We send our very best wishes for a blessed and happy Hanukkah,” Mr. Trump says.


56 percent of U.S. voters say building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border should be a priority for Congress; 77 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

55 percent say building a border wall is not an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 34 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

31 percent say building a wall is an important enough issue to prompt a government shutdown; 49 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

15 percent are undecided about a shutdown; 17 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,957 registered U.S. voters conducted Nov. 15-18.

• Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

Statement by Reagan biographer Craig Shirley on the passing of President George H.W. Bush

Craig Shirley today said, “George HW Bush’s stately ship of state has now sailed into a new life, there to be met by his devoted soulmate Barbara and daughter Robin and his ever loving Lord.”

“When I think of him, I am reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Every step of his life was well lived, was a new adventure, was a new challenge. He never shirked or turned down a difficult assignment but met them all, faced them all and made the most of them, always with grace and courage.”

“George Herbert Walker Bush was a hero for our time and for all time.”


Was Ronald Reagan a Democrat into his mid-50s? || PolitiFact

Kevin Nicholson: “Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

By D.L. Davis 

President Ronald W. Reagan is regarded by many as the founder of the modern conservative movement, and experts cite his continuing influence on generations of Republicans.

“Without a doubt, he is the most influential American conservative of the 20th and yes, even into the 21st century,” said Craig Shirley, a historian and author of four books on Reagan and the first Reagan Scholar at Eureka College (Reagan’s alma mater), where he taught a course titled “Reagan 101.”

Reagan was elected in 1980 and left office in January of 1989.

That means about 38% of the people in the United States were born after Reagan’s time in office ended, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

They and others may not know the finer points in the history of “The Gipper,” who was a movie star, president of the Screen Actors Guild and governor of California before ascending to the White House.

That led us to take a look at a claim made by U.S. Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson.

Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and U.S. Marine veteran, was the first announced Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the 2018 election. On Sept. 7, 2017, state Sen. Leah Vukmir of Brookfield also entered the GOP race.

Nicholson was once president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. He referenced his own political conversion — and that of Reagan — in an Aug. 6, 2017, interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” the WISN-TV public affairs program.

“Ronald Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s, I think, potentially his late 50s,” Nicholson told Gousha. “It was the experiences that he saw, the things that he lived, things that he did that ended up making him the most influential conservative voice of modern America because he had seen the other side.”

Let’s take a look at Nicholson’s claim about when Reagan switched parties.

The Reagan library

Reagan’s career in the public eye began in 1932, when he graduated from Eureka College and worked as a sports announcer for regional radio. He moved to Hollywood in 1937, where he starred in several films, including “Knute Rockne, All American,” “Kings Row” and “Bedtime for Bonzo.”

He had a long career with the Screen Actors Guild, the labor union for actors, serving as a board member and president in the 1940s and 1950s.

During this time, he was an active Democrat, as evidenced by a 1948 radio broadcast of Reagan supporting Democrat Harry Truman for president and Hubert Humphrey for Minnesota senator posted on YouTube. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, making him about 37 years old at the time of the broadcast.

An Encyclopedia Britannica biography of Reagan mentions the 1948 radio broadcast on behalf of Democrats, but notes that his politics were gradually growing more conservative. After initially supporting Democratic senatorial candidate Helen Douglas in 1950, he switched his allegiance to Republican Richard Nixon midway through the campaign.

Reagan supported Republican Dwight Eisenhower in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956, and in 1960 he delivered 200 speeches in support of Nixon’s campaign for president against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He officially changed his party registration to Republican in 1962. He would have been 51 at the time.

“Reagan became a conservative, though, before he re-registered as a Republican,” said Shirley.

The foreword of Shirley’s book “Reagan Rising, The Decisive Years, 1976-1980″ notes the Reagan movement quickly spread, championed by emerging conservative leaders and influential think tanks.

It’s worth noting that Nicholson is not the only Democrat-turned-Republican who has cited Reagan’s switch as a basis for his own.

In August 2015, Donald Trump discussed Reagan’s political history in a TV interview.

“It’s sort of easy to explain — now one of the things I always start with — Ronald Reagan was a Democrat, and he was sort of liberal,” Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News’ “Hannity” program. “And I knew him. I didn’t know him then, quite, but I knew him. And I knew him well. He liked me, I liked him. He was like this great guy.

“And he was a Democrat with a liberal bent, and he became a great conservative, in my opinion,” he said. “And a great president and a great leader. He had something very special. But if you think of it, he was a little less conservative, actually, than people think.”

Our rating

Nicholson said “Reagan was a verified Democrat until his mid-50s.”

The 40th president’s past an entertainer, labor union leader and politician is known to historians as well as many Americans of the baby boomer generation. His transition from Democrat to Republican is also well documented, with the formal party switch coming at age 51. (Though experts note he was becoming conservative before that point.)

We rate Nicholson’s claim True.


On Ronald Reagan’s birthday, here’s his gift to you || Conservative Review


By: Craig Shirley, Scott Mauer | February 06, 2017

Today marks the 106th birthday of President Ronald Wilson Reagan. The former actor, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, former governor of California, and former president certainly has left quite a legacy for the American people, even as the current administration has, in some ways, reverted back to “Big Government Republicanism.”

And Reagan has left a legacy for the Washington establishment.

Throughout both his failed 1976 campaign and his successful 1980 campaign, Reagan was attacked not just from the Left but also from the Right, and from the center. He was “too conservative,” both Democrats and Republicans complained. He was simply “that actor” who had no experience, critiques which deliberately overlooked his two successful terms as governor of California. Not much of a political resume, they said. He would start wars; he would undermine any progress with the Soviet Union (no matter how much of a failure the containment and détente policies were); the list of fears went on and on and on. They charged he would upset the apple cart.

For the establishment of the nation’s capital, those fears would become true.

“You know you don’t have to spend much time in Washington to appreciate the prophetic vision of the man who designed all the streets there. They go in circles,” Reagan quipped in Wyoming in 1982. For President Reagan, the muddling of bureaucracy and the federal government was a main source of contention with the Republican president. This was a platform he ran in 1976 as well, and he prided himself in being the “outsider,” as when he said, “I am not a part of the Washington establishment and I don’t consider that a disadvantage.” He often and accurately called D.C. a “buddy system,” in which D.C. only protects D.C. It has become more intrusive, more coercive, more meddlesome, and less effective.

Reagan’s policies of supply-side economics and anti-federal government dependence, of course, hit close to home for many of the elite. His inaugural address said as much: “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” One of his first targets was the Volunteers in Service of America, a fifteen-year old federal-funded organization which the Christian Science Monitor called “the domestic version of the Peace Corps,” supposedly with the goal of helping all in need in the United States. In April of 1981, Reagan announced that the funding would gradually be cut off, receiving only a third of its 1981 funding within two years. The Monitor noted pointedly:

While Mr. Reagan actively encourages voluntarism, the President objects to the ideological image VISTA has evolved over the years: one of social activism that bucks the establishment and promotes changes often perceived as liberal. Indeed, early VISTA volunteers tended to be young, white, middle-class, college-educated idealists — the kind of Berkeley types who booed Reagan when he was governor of California.

Reagan was similarly critical of ACTION, the federal domestic volunteer agency formed under President Richard Nixon. Aided by Jim Burnley, Tom Pauken and Mark Levin, President Reagan tore it into a thousand shreds. Reagan would have done the same to the Department of Education and the Department of Energy — two Jimmy Carter agencies he despised — but the Democratic Congress and supplicant neocons wouldn’t budge.

Some might say that no, he did not change the federal government enough. He did not go to war with Congress enough; he did not debase the elites enough. Newly-appointed Chief of Staff, Howard H. Baker Jr., said in 1987, “I think there has indeed been a Reagan revolution, but I don’t think it is an anti-Establishment revolution.” But Reagan distinctly changed the outlook and Americans’ view of the feds. We haven’t trusted the Washington establishment since 1980, even during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

When Ronald Reagan won the nomination in 1980, many from both sides of the aisle predicted that this was the end of the GOP. “Carter could beat Reagan more easily than he could Bush or Baker,” said I. A. Lewis, director of the Los Angeles Times Poll at the time. But it was the exact opposite: the GOP did not die under a landslide Reagan victory, but only reinvigorated itself as a hard-identity party of real American conservatism. At his announcement in November of 1975, Reagan bearded the establishment lion right in its den, at ground zero at the National Press Club. “In my opinion, the root of these problems lies right here — in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital has become the seat of a “buddy” system that functions for its own benefit — increasingly insensitive to the needs of the American worker who supports it with his taxes.”

And then Reagan let the Washington Establishment have it, right between the eyes. “Today it is difficult,” he said in his announcement for the presidential candidacy in 1975, “to find leaders who are independent of the forces that have brought us our problems — the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyist, big business and big labor. If America is to survive and go forward, this must change. It will only change when the American people vote for a leadership that listens to them, relies on them and seeks to return government to them. We need a government that is confident not of what it can do, but of what the people can do.”

It was the first salvo launched against Washington and corrupt centralized authority since the first stirrings of the New Deal. From 1933 forward, all Democrats and many Republicans believed government was good and more government was better. Reagan began a fierce intellectual debate which continues on to this day. We now look at Washington with mostly contempt and look to ourselves more. This is good as this was the way the framers and founders intended our system to be.

Reagan, who left the presidency in early 1989 and left this earth in mid-2004, has given an ongoing present to us for his birthday. The fight for American liberty and American conservatism and American freedom, dignity and privacy, which he jump-started, lives on, and will continue to live on. This was Reagan’s birthday gift to us.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. He is the author of four Reagan biographies including the forthcoming “Reagan Rising” due out in March of 2017.

Scott Mauer is Mr. Shirley’s research assistant.


Carrier Deal Mirrors Reagan’s Pragmatic Conservatism || Lifezette

Carrier Deal Mirrors Reagan’s Pragmatic Conservatism

Trump demonstrates an understanding that opportunity is created in the absence of bureaucracy

by Craig Shirley | Updated 09 Dec 2016 at 11:50 AM

Several years ago, a garden-variety liberal columnist asked me to lunch to help him understand American conservatism. Over the course of our conversation, I illustrated how the Louisiana Purchase was a good, though misunderstood, expression of American conservatism. Thomas Jefferson, in acquiring the vast tract of land from France, effectively diminished the reach and authority of the national government, while doubling the size of the nation. The deal enlarged freedom and thus conservatism.

“A free people [claim] their rights,” Jefferson said, “as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” Fifty years later, he described the excess of government as “too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”

The scribe did not comprehend my point, even as I patiently explained it several times. For one delicious moment, I told this unreconstructed liberal: “You don’t understand.” Priceless.

Other conservatives, including the framers of the Constitution, have understood that American conservatism is mostly the absence of government and bureaucracies. Not laws, mind you — but the absence of bureaucracies. The American Constitution is unique because it says what government cannot do. It is the near-perfect expression of non-governance. Government cannot regulate speech or assembly, cannot occupy a person’s private property, and cannot infringe on a person’s right to own guns. The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 were God-inspired geniuses. Thomas Paine, the great American thinker, wrote in his 1795 work “First Principles of Government” that “in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.”

Ronald Reagan also understood this. In his famed speech “A Time For Choosing” in 1964, he said that the “idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique [sic] idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.” He was mostly successful in limiting the growth of government, but he was wildly successful in growing the national private economy.

If one limits the growth of government, pulls back regulations and spurs substantial economic growth, then by definition one shrinks the authority of the state over private individuals. The citizen becomes the master of the state, rather than the slave. Freedom and bureaucracy cannot occupy the same space.

Reagan, courtesy of Jack Kemp, embraced Enterprise Zones for distressed areas as a means to spur economic growth through the exemption of taxation and regulation. “A record number of blacks, some 10.6 million, now have jobs,” Reagan said in 1985. “Since Nov. 1982, the black unemployment rate has fallen by 6.5 percentage points, and nearly one of every five new jobs generated went to a black man, woman or teenager. Blacks have gained an average of 45,000 new jobs every month for the past 31 months — twice the job gain rates of whites.”

If the Democratic Congress had given Enterprise Zones to Reagan, that record would have been better still. It was through Enterprise Zones that, Reagan believed, the absence of oppressive government would allow the free economy and freedom to flourish.

Donald Trump is not a philosophical conservative, but he revealed an intrinsic understanding of conservatism in his deal to keep Carrier’s Indianapolis plant inside the United States. Yes, it is a good thing for over a thousand families, but just as important (and what Sarah Palin does not understand) is that Trump did so by following a conservative philosophy — not violating it. Carrier said the main reason they were leaving was because of the thicket of federal regulations and heavy taxation. Even Reagan supported loan guarantees to Detroit because he perceived the various auto makers were the victims of Washington regulation and unfair competition from Japan.

Trump set out to remove those barriers for the Carrier Corporation.

This deal was simply the practical application of Reagan’s Enterprise Zones. Reagan believed in the “miracle of the marketplace” if left alone. But sometimes government has to intervene, if only to stop government or pull back unfair bureaucratic intervention. This is welcomed thinking after the stale anti-pragmatism of Obamaism and Bushism.

Trump, like Reagan, identified government as the problem.

Besides, if liberal favorites Apple and the NFL don’t have to pay any federal taxes, it seems only fair that Carrier’s tax and regulatory burden be reduced.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and the forthcoming books “Reagan Rising” and “Citizen Newt.”