MODERATOR> Welcome everyone. Lee Edwards is our guest today and will discuss Edmund Morris' new Reagan Biography. Mr. Edwards is a professor of political science at Catholic University, Senior Editor at "The World and I" magazine, and is most recently the author of "The Conservative Revolution: The Movement That Remade America."
SupplySider> When was your biography of Reagan written? Is it still in print? If not, can copies be obtained anywhere? (BTW, I enjoyed your Goldwater biography as well as your history of the Heritage Foundation).
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> I wrote my first bio of Reagan in 1967 and then revised and updated it in 1981. Alas it is out of print.
chalcedony9> Overall, what is your opinion of Morris' accuracy in regards to verifiable facts?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> He's uneven and unpredictable. Morris's account of the attempted assassination in 1981 for example is excellent. But he gives only two pages to the 1980 election which was the beginning of the Reagan Revolution.
SupplySider> How and why was Morris even selected for the job?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Good question. It is my understanding that Mike Deaver and Nancy Reagan wanted Morris because of his prize-winning bio of T. Roosevelt. But Morris simply does not understand conservatives or conservatism. He makes no reference to F.A. Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" which Reagan read and was strongly influenced by.
Sophia> In your article, you predict that a historian will soon be picked to write a REAL Reagan biography? What about you? Would you be willing to write a new, updated one?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> I would be honored. But I think it more likely that a mainstream author like David McCollough will be approached.
Angus2> Mr. Edwards, I can't help but think that Morris's book is nothing more than a hit piece on RR! What do you think?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> It's more complicated than that. Morris clearly likes, admires, even is awed by him. His description of Reagan's letter to the American people about his Alzheimer's is moving. But Morris I think does not want to be too pro-Reagan for fear of alienating the non-conservative or even anti-conservative people he spends time with.
Hickory> Mr. Edwards, in his various television interviews, Mr. Morris seemed to indicate he wasn't trying to write about the politics of the Reagan Era -- there have been other books to do that -- but rather to try to understand a very enigmatic man. Do you think he understands Reagan at all?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Morris clearly is bored by politics and economics. And he says in one place that he is not an historian. He was trying to get at the essence of Reagan and came up with the device of a fictional Ed Morris to do so. I think he gets part of Reagan but he over-analyzes--Reagan is in many ways a very simple man-- a patriot, a conservative, anti-Communist, a Christian, who like George Washington grew and grew all his life into a reflection of the American character.
SupplySider> Do you think that Reagan's greatest asset was his understanding of human nature? What do you consider his greatest source of wisdom?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> He certainly understood American nature--the optimism, the can-do, the middle-classness. He was able to look at a very complicated issue or set of issues and penetrate to the heart of it. For example, he told Dick Allen in January 1977 that his foreign policy was very simple--we win and they lose (referring to the communists).
chalcedony9> Your book "The Conservative Revolution" focuses on 4 conservatives.... Would you say that Reagan was the greatest of those four?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Absolutely. Followed by Goldwater, Taft and Gingrich in that order.
APSEC1> Mr., Edwards, as to Reagan's legacy of Supply Side Economics(co-opted by `Liberal' NON-thinkers) wasn't that a pretense for any/all present anti-societal destabilzations-e.g.speculative looting etc.
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> No. We are enjoying prosperity today because of Reagan's Tax Reform Act of 1981.
Hickory> It seems to me that Morris was trying to solve the mystery of how a man so ordinary in many ways could be such an extraordinary leader. Mr. Edwards, do you think Reagan is simple to understand, or an enigmatic person, as Allan Gotlieb says on page 641 of "Dutch"?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Do we ever really solve the mystery of anyone? I do not believe in psycho-history. I believe in looking at what a leader did at certain times and under certain conditions and trying to explain why he so acted. I do not for example believe that Reagan came up with SDI because he read Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Princess of Mars" when he was 18--as Morris suggests.
SupplySider> Do you think Reagan's simplicity and clarity of focus confounded the intellect of Morris?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> In part yes. Morris is an intellectual. Reagan is not an intellectual although he is quite comfortable with ideas.
chalcedony9> Mr. Edwards, what, in your view, was Reagan's greatest accomplishment?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> If I had to name one, it would be ending the cold war without an open fight with the Soviets. Followed closely by his persuading the people to look to themselves once again to solve their problems rather than automatically turning to the federal government.
Pat> Reagan was often accused of being an 'airhead' and unsophisticated. Was this only because of his simple straight-forward style? Or do you think if he had wrapped his message up in more 'post-modernist' jargon that this would be different? Or, is it just the things he stood for that so confounded liberals.
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Reagan was simple but not simplistic. He couldn't have and wouldn't have used post-modernist jargon or he wouldn't have been Reagan. But I think you're right that liberals simply cannot bring themselves to admit that conservative ideas are good ideas and they will use all kinds of methods to undercut the messenger and the message.
BlackSheepOne> Mr. Edwards, we have all at one time or another lamented the loss of Mr. Reagan. Do you see ANYONE on the field today ANYWHERE capable of take up President Reagan's sword and regaining the country?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Someone like Ronald Reagan comes along only in a generation or perhaps a century. I truly believe him to be a great president. So like the Democrats after FDR, conservatives will have to look for a different kind of leader. George W., S. Forbes, even J. McCain all have their strengths. Look to the states also. We have lots of leaders out there too.
bobandnancy> Do people still look to themselves to solve their own problems? Or since Reagan's departure have we reverted to looking to the federal government first?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> I sense a slight reversion to Washington on the part of some, but I am encouraged by the continuing efforts of most GOP governors to cut taxes, control spending, keep the welfare reform going.
serferdude> Would you say that Reagan's greatest mistake was believing the Democrat Congress when they agreed to cut spending if Reagan agreed to raise taxes?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> He trusted them but failed to verify.
Hickory> Mr Edwards do you think the Republican majority in Congress is living up to the Reagan legacy (they sure talk about it enough!) or have they squandered their opportunity to shrink government?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> It took 40 years to build the welfare state, and it will take at least half that long to reduce it meaningfully and without hurting those who have grown dependent on it. With a margin of only 5 seats in the House at present, they can do only so much. We must be patient, but not too patient.
Mark3> Mr. Edwards, the spin coming from this administration and the coordination with the Democratic Party is incredible. Was there a similar "ability" during the Reagan years? I don't remember it as so, but I was much younger then.
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> The Democrats are much more coordinated today because they have a remarkable conductor in the White House. It's difficult for the Congressional leadership to sing the same song without someone leading them. Wait until 2001.
SupplySider> In a way, isn't it a blessing that Morris did a botch job? I don't think Reagan would have gotten so much publicity without it. Do you concur?
SPEAKER_Lee_Edwards> Yes, we can thank E. Morris for not writing the definitive bio of Ronald Reagan. Thank you all very much. Keep asking questions.