Hoover Media Fellows Compare Reagan and George W. Bush Presidencies

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

In a "Tale of Two Presidents: Comparing Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush" Lou Cannon, Reagan biographer, and his son Carl Cannon, reporter with the National Journal, exchanged views on the two presidents on at a media fellows seminar on March 27.

Lou Cannon, a former reporter with the Washington Post and a Reagan biographer, analyzed the relationships of the two presidents with neoconservatives. "Ronald Reagan used the neocons," Lou said, "George W. Bush is used by them." He noted that the neocons have grown cool on the current administration but that "in the run-up to the 2004 election George W. Bush was hailed as both the legacy and disciple of the Reagan revolution." The neocons, Lou said, underestimated the problems in Iraq.

What, he asked, would Ronald Reagan have done? Although no one can be sure, Lou suggested that Reagan, influenced by the bombing of a military base in Lebanon during his administration, relied on negotiation more than force in his dealings with foreign leaders. He concluded that Reagan would not approve of the direction that Bush has taken the country in pursuing the war against Iraq. Lou has written five books about Reagan, including the acclaimed President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, a Book of the Month Club main selection when it was first published by Simon and Schuster in 1991.

Lou worked 26 years for the Washington Post before joining the California Journal, an acclaimed nonpartisan magazine published from 1970 to 2005, first as a contributing editor and then as chief executive officer.

"After 9/11 Bush emerged as a leader," said Carl Cannon, the White House correspondent for National Journal, "but Iraq has overwhelmed his presidency, which he doesn't seem to realize." That President Bush continues to pursue his domestic policy during a war is surprising, Carl said. He pointed out that, after the 2004 election, President Bush spoke of spending the political capital he had gained as a result of the election but that that is now all gone. The duration of the Iraq war has lowered the President Bush's approval ratings, Carl said, and warned that the ratings could go even lower.

Before joining the National Journal in May 1998, Carl worked for six newspapers over a 20-year span. Before coming to Washington during Reagan's first term, he covered police, courts, local and statewide politics, education, and race relations during stints at newspapers in Virginia, Georgia, and California.

The event was sponsored by the William and Barbara Edwards Media Fellow Program of Hoover Institution and the Stanford Alumni Association.

The Edwards Media Fellows Program allows print and broadcast media professionals to spend time in residence at the Hoover Institution. Media fellows have the opportunity to exchange information and perspectives with Hoover scholars through seminars and informal meetings and with the Hoover and Stanford communities in public lectures. As fellows, they have the full range of research tools the Hoover offers available to them. More than 100 of the nation's top journalists have visited the Hoover Institution recently and interacted with Hoover fellows on key public policy issues, including

  • Helle Dale, Heritage Foundation (in residence March 20–25)
  • Reginald Dale, International Herald (March 20–25)
  • Peter Gosselin, Los Angeles Times (March 13–17)
  • Phil Terzian, Weekly Standard (March 13–17)
  • Caroline Daniel, Financial Times (March 6–10)
  • Mary O'Grady, Wall Street Journal (March 6–10)
  • Aaron Zitner, Los Angeles Times (March 6–10)