Category Archives: Commentary

Paul Laxalt, Reagan’s ‘First Friend,’ Dead at 96 || Lifezette

Paul Laxalt, Reagan’s ‘First Friend,’ Dead at 96

Former Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt died Monday at the impressive age of 96 at a health care facility in Virginia. Through his near-century of life, Laxalt always championed American causes and conservatism, while embodying what it means to be an American and believing in underdogs when others didn’t.

I remember interning on Capitol Hill in the summer of 1977 and, as I was walking down the hall of the Russell Senate Building one day, another intern nudged me, pointing to Laxalt walking toward us and said, “there is the nicest guy in the Senate.” He was right.

On that sweltering day, Laxalt was the picture of cool, wearing a seersucker suit and black cowboy boots. In later years, we became friends and he took a deep and abiding interest in my books about President Ronald Reagan and was always helpful.

Laxalt first became acquainted with the future president when the two men were neighboring governors Laxalt in Nevada, Reagan in California. There, they hit it off and formed what became an alliance and friendship that endured as long as both lived.

During their gubernatorial tenures in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they worked together to create the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to protect the beautiful Lake Tahoe. Though the agency’s results were “mixed,” according to biographer Lou Cannon, “Reagan and Laxalt gave it a chance.” Typical. They were both eternal optimists.

While Reagan retired from politics after declining to seek a third term as governor, Laxalt went national; he was elected in 1974 to the Senate as his state’s junior senator by fewer than a thousand votes, defeating then-Lt. Gov. Harry Reid in 1974.

Laxalt won that race despite disgraced President Richard Nixon’s scandals draped around the Republican Party. Laxalt’s victory was almost a miracle, with Watergate and Republican corruption and incompetence hanging over the heads of every candidate the party fielded. Paul was re-elected again in 1980 with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

<p style=”text-align: left; padding-left: 30px;”>Paul Laxalt is both Reagan’s closest friend and most trusted adviser</p>

Laxalt’s friendship with Reagan never faltered. Even as president, when Reagan sent  Laxalt a letter, he always signed it “Ron.” And Reagan made many, many references to their friendship in his speeches, diaries and other writings.

“Paul Laxalt is both his closest friend and most trusted advisor,” said one aide. Indeed, Laxalt unabashedly supported Reagan in his 1976, 1980, and 1984 presidential runs, and regularly took on causes close to Reagan’s heart.

Laxalt provided the essential first push that conservatives needed to mount a counter-offensive to the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, the single most important issue for America in that year. Reagan, again, was by his side.

Though the treaty was approved by one vote in the Senate, Laxalt and Reagan mounted an impressive grassroots-inspired campaign that hit at every American’s hearts. Laxalt was the linchpin for it all.

Throughout Reagan’s three presidential runs (1976 being a loss by the slimmest of margins, beaten at the GOP convention by the unelected chief executive, Gerald Ford), Laxalt, who served as national chairman of all three campaigns, was constantly by Reagan’s side, giving much-needed and often-heeded advice.

It was an unbreakable bond; there’s a reason why his nickname was “The First Friend.” When President Jimmy Carter halted dozens of federal water projects in the Western states, which were designed to bring water into arid farming land, Laxalt quickly went to the phone, dialed Reagan, and with prescience, said, “I just met a one-term president.”

How close were the two men? At the 1980 GOP convention in Detroit, both Reagan and his wife Nancy wanted Laxalt for the vice presidential slot. They both detested the idea of picking George H. W. Bush (the obvious and best choice) and fought tooth and nail  with aides for Laxalt. Only at the end did the Reagans reluctantly settle on Bush.

When Reagan defeated Carter in that November 1980 landslide victory, no small part of the credit went to Laxalt’s friendship and sage advice. Laxalt admitted that, because of their closeness, he could criticize and advise “Ron,” as he still called the chief executive – in ways that others in politics could not.

Sometimes, he personally delivered bad news, instead of other aides who feared presidential anger. And sometimes their friendship almost got Reagan into permissible misfortune.

According to the Washington Post in early March of 1982, “Laxalt is President Reagan’s closet elected friend, and Reagan thinks so highly of him that during the transition the president wanted to institutionalize the friendship by giving Laxalt a separate office and staff in the Executive Office Building. That ran up against the constitutional dictum on the separation of powers so, instead, Laxalt has become Reagan’s Ambassador-Without-Portfolio to the Senate.”

When there was a brief boomlet to draft Laxalt for president in 1987, I was proud to have been involved in the planning and execution. I never, ever remember anyone bad-mouthing Laxalt, something many had by then come to think impossible in post-Watergate Washington.

Laxalt was proud of his daughter, Michelle, his long-time confidant, Tom Loranger, his grandson, Adam, (a graduate of the Navy Academy and now a candidate for governor of Nevada) and, of course, his lovely wife Carol. Their home was always open to strangers and they held a big Christmas Party each year to gather gifts for “Toys for Tots” with the US Marine Corps.

Throughout his life, Laxalt remained loyal to conservatives, even in the face of disappointment. When Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona ran unsuccessfully in 1964 for president against the popular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, he faced a withering barrage of Democratic accusations of war-mongering, nuclear-warfare, and racism.

Nevertheless, Laxalt stood fast with Goldwater to the end, insisting when the Arizonan passed away in 1998 that “[Goldwater was] one of the giants of 20th century American politics. Goldwater blazed the trail for the type of conservatism that has dominated government for the better part of three decades.”

So, too, was Laxalt. Although he typically remained behind the scenes, Laxalt helped form, pitch, and win many championships for the GOP. I’ve lost a good friend and America has lost a war hero, a veteran of World War II, and a great national leader.

Paul Laxalt, RIP.

Craig Shirley is a New York Times best-selling author and presidential historian. He has written four books on President Ronald Reagan, along with his latest book, “Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative,” about the early career of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and is the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College in Illinois, the 40th president’s alma mater. He also wrote the critically acclaimed“December 1941.” 

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Statement on the Passing of Paul Laxalt

Paul Laxalt was one of Ronald Reagan’s closest friends and advisers, going back to the days when Reagan and he were governors of California and Nevada. But Paul was much more than that.

He was one of the few elected officials in the country to support Reagan’s revolutionary challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976. And of course, he was national chairman of Reagan’s historical 1980 campaign for president. Reagan later asked Paul to serve as national chairman of the Republican Party.

The son of Nevada sheepherders, he was a veteran of World War II, a successful businessman and a stalwart and loyal conservative. In the 1970s, no meeting of conservatives was complete without the presence of Paul.

He was also one of the most decent men in American politics. He was kind, thoughtful and gentle, right down to his ever-present cowboy boots. Each year, for years, he and his wife Carol raised money and collected gifts for “Toys for Tots,” working with the US Marine Corps.

I interviewed Paul many times and each time was a joy, as he always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

Another page in the history of American conservatism and the life and times of Ronald Reagan is turning.

Paul Laxalt, RIP.

Next book, “Honored Madam,” has been submitted to the publishers

From Craig Shirley:

After four years of work and a library’s worth of books, newspapers, memoirs, and letters from the Founding Father, George Washington to the unknown Fredericksburg resident, Mary Ball Washington, his mother, I’m happy to report that my next book, “Honored Madam,” has been submitted to my publisher, Harper Collins. This is the first complete and definitive biography of Mary Ball Washington—arguably the most important woman in American history—and how she and her son shaped the country as it exists today. Thanks so much to my stalwart researcher, Scott Mauer.

Updates to come in the following months.

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Why Are Liberals So Violent? || CNS News

Why Are Liberals So Violent?

Craig ShirleyScott Mauer

By Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer | July 3, 2018

“I’m going to find the Congressman’s kids and kill them.”

These words weren’t written in a novel from some evil villain, hell-bent on destroying a politician’s life. They weren’t said in a movie where the FBI or CIA track down some domestic terrorist.

They were allegedly said by a man named Laurence Wayne Key, from Florida. The target were the children of House Representative Brian Mast, Republican.

The motive? Purely political: Key continued, allegedly calling Mast’s office, “If you’re going to separate kids at the border, I’m going to kill his kids. Don’t try to find me because you won’t.” It’s an ironic twist of fate that he would be worried about the children of illegal aliens, since he volunteered at a local Planned Parenthood for much of his time. Of course, maybe that explains everything. Apparently, to Key, killing children is no different from killing a fly.

Senator Rand Paul was assaulted by his next door neighbor, not for the way he trimmed his hedges, but for his conservatism.

Last week, the congresswoman Maxine Walters called for leftists to get out and “create a crowd, and you push back on them [the Trump administration]. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” She claimed she did not urge them to do violence, but does anybody doubt she in fact was?

Can anyone forget the ugly and twisted look on the face of the female college professor, calling for some “muscle” to get rid of someone she disagreed with? On a public campus?

Such is the modern Democratic and liberal party, where violence trumps dialogue, where calls for the heads of politicians and their kin are more than just words, they’re actual threats.

You could write a book on the violence of liberalism, going back centuries. The French Revolution of the 1780s, which saw the overthrow of the near millennium-old monarchy, quickly turned from a noble cause, inspired by the success of the American Revolution, to a violent slaughter. The appropriately-named Reign of Terror saw the deaths of nearly 17,000 people in one year’s time. Anyone remotely suspected of being a Loyalist, or even not actively supporting the Revolution, were sentenced to death: beheading, hanging, drowning, any means to silence the non-revolutionary cause. Catholic nuns and priests, seen as nothing more than the religious elite and arm of the French Crown, were murdered. Some of them fled, especially to the newly-formed United States of America, which looked at the bloodshed with horror from such a recent ally. Leader Maximilien Robespierre saw nothing wrong with it: “Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice,” he said.

Fast forward, and the Reign of Terror continued in other left-leaning countries. The Soviet Union, the supposed beacon of communism and workers’ rights, where the dictatorship of the proletariat was to rule over the dictatorship of the bourgeoise, was directly responsible for millions of deaths. All for “counter-revolutionary” activities, which included anything from criticizing the state to worshipping an unsanctioned god (which was them all; in an atheistic society, there is no god except the State). Joseph Stalin, the paranoid madman, personally saw to the Great Purge, killing his own officials and about a million others deemed undesirable. Though the worst was behind them, the policies of the Soviet Union more or less continued until its dissolution in 1991. Millions, sometimes for the most mundane reasons, or no reason at all, were tried in a kangaroo court and shipped off to gulags, places where no human was to live, for slave labor. If you didn’t meet your quota for the day, you had a cut in your already-depleted rations, which, ultimately, made you lose your quota again, which saw a further depletion. The so-called “workers’ paradise” hardly seemed that way for its inhabitants. Socialist countries around the world – Cuba, Venezuela, China, the Iron Curtain states, you name it – had this same procedure: arrest, jail, execute anyone who dare criticized the communist state or ideology.

And we know all about Hitler, the National Socialist, who institutionalized violence against anyone who earned his ire to an art form, at least in Nazi Germany.

But hey, nothing like that can happen here, right?

Well, blame it on the President himself, the rise of anti-intellectualism, the “me generation” and obsession of victimization, but it certainly can. Antifa, the band of hooligans, justify their own vandalism, their own assault on persons and rights, for their “anti-fascist” ideology. Wherever they were, so too were riots. Graffiti at the University of California, Berkeley College appeared everywhere: “Kill Trump” was one of the more prominent messages displayed on buildings.

A history lesson for any members of Antifa reading this: If your protests end up looking more like Kristallnacht in 1938, then you aren’t “anti-fascists” at all.

Let’s face it, most liberals are perpetually dyspeptic, perpetually unhappy that the world is not following their edits. Deep down, they know collectivist is a failed ideology, which makes them even more angry.

Let’s list other instances of American “tolerant” liberalism through the decades. There’s Lee Harvey Oswald, the failed Soviet asylum seeker and murderer of President John Kennedy. There’s the eco-terrorists like the Unabomber, the antiwar Weathermen, responsible for bombings, including the U.S. Capitol in February 1971. There’s James Hodgkinson, who attempted to murder on a beautiful June day several Republican congressmen, nearly killing Steve Scalise. He had been a crazed supporter of Bernie Sanders (is there any other kind?) so it was no secret what his motives were. There’s Floyd Lee Corkins, who in 2012, taking his cue from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation, broke into the Family Research Council, guns blazing.  And now there’s Maxine Waters, who said the following: “[I]f you see anybody from that cabinet [the Trump administration] in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Both individual and state-sponsored terrorism and murder and violence is nothing new, but there’s something to be said when an ideology places the collective over the individual. To place the group before the individual is to deny the humanity of the person, where the means of achieving a “utopia” is justified. Violence, murder, slave labor – all is right in the collectivists’ minds.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four bestsellers on President Ronald Reagan, his latest being “Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980.” He also has a political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt.” Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher.

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