Ronald Reagan's Legacy by His Biographer Lou Cannon

Monday, October 24, 2005

Calling Ronald Reagan "a transformational president," Media Fellow Lou Cannon spoke of the former president's contributions in "What Reagan Wrought: Living Legacies of our 40th President" at a luncheon hosted by the Hoover Institution on October 19. Cannon is considered by many to be the foremost biographer of Reagan. He has written five books about Reagan, including the acclaimed President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.

"Not even his sternest critic could deny that he was a popular president," Cannon said. He noted that immediately after Reagan's presidency ended scholars give him low marks but that subsequently his ratings have risen. Cannon went on to review four areas of Reagan's record, including inspirational leadership, economic policy, foreign policy, and political legacy.

In regard to his inspirational leadership, Cannon recounted that Reagan said he knew when he was elected in 1980 that his first task was to restore American confidence. His economic record, Cannon said, is more complicated. He noted, though, that Reagan succeeded admirably in reducing inflation, which led to an era of prosperity. In the area of foreign policy, Cannon said that the world was fortunate to have Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev come along at the same time. The peaceful conclusion of the Cold War, Cannon pointed out, was not a foregone conclusion.

The last area Cannon discussed was Reagan's political legacy. Reagan, he said, provided political leadership for the conservative movement. Cannon pointed out that Newt Gingrich's Contract with America in 1994 contained many ideas that began with Ronald Reagan.

Cannon worked 26 years for the Washington Post, where he won many awards and was considered a "reporter's reporter" by his colleagues. Next he was a contributing editor and then chief executive officer of California Journal, a nonpartisan magazine. Among Cannon's other books is Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. Cannon has also written articles for Smithsonian, National Review, and George and op-ed pieces for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers.