Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power


In Governor Reagan, Lou Cannon offers--through recent interviews and research drawn from his unique access to the cabinet minutes of Reagan's first years as governor of California--a fresh look at the development of a master politician.

At first, Reagan suffered from political amateurism, an inexperienced staff, and ideological blind spots. But he quickly learned to take the measure of the Democrats who controlled the State Legislature and surprised friends and foes alike by ...

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Governor Reagan His Rise To Power

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In Governor Reagan, Lou Cannon offers--through recent interviews and research drawn from his unique access to the cabinet minutes of Reagan's first years as governor of California--a fresh look at the development of a master politician.

At first, Reagan suffered from political amateurism, an inexperienced staff, and ideological blind spots. But he quickly learned to take the measure of the Democrats who controlled the State Legislature and surprised friends and foes alike by agreeing to a huge tax increase, which made it possible for him to govern for eight years without additional tax hikes. He developed an environmental policy that preserved the state 's scenic valleys and wild rivers, and he signed into law what was then the nation's most progressive declaration on abortion rights. His quixotic 1968 presidential campaign revealed his higher ambitions to the world and taught him how much he had to learn about big-league politics.

Written by the definitive biographer of Ronald Reagan, this new biography is a classic study of a fascinating individual's evolution from a conservative hero to a national figure whose call for renewal stirred Republicans, working-class Democrats, and independents alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Baltimore Sun
For anyone wishing to understand the Reagan phenomenon, Governor Reagan is factual, objective, and ultimately, indispensable.
Boston Globe
A welcome contribution to the political bookshelf.
Christian Science Monitor
Mr. Cannon - arguably Reagan's most thorough biographer - paints a many dimensional picture of the ex-actor's Sacramento years.
Hollywood Reporter
Cannon's book could not be timelier, now that another actor has conquered Sacramento.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Cannon, who began covering Reagan before he became California's governor in 1966, manages to unwrap the riddle-cum-enigma as well as anybody ever has."
Los Angeles Times Book Review
The Reagan riddle may never permit...a definitive biography, but this is... thoughtful enough to be worth the argument.
National Review
"Lou Cannon's insightful knowledge of his subject, his entertaining writing style, and his excellent research make Governor Reagan an invaluable book about a remarkable man."
Ed Meese
New York Observer
In Governor Reagan, Mr. Cannon demonstrates...why he's so consistently lauded - and why his subject is so consistently underestimated.
New York Times Book Review
A lucid account...Governor Reagan is a welcome achievement...
San Francisco Chronicle's amazing how much fresh detail he breathes into a story that many Californians probably think they know by heart...
The Washington Post
In the end, however, Cannon demonstrates that Reagan was neither a fool nor a fire-eater but an articulate, even eloquent, spokesman for the conservative cause. Reagan had a vision for where he wanted to go. He developed the skills that allowed him to lead. And these abilities produced a string of successes and a record on which he could run for president. Governor Reagan is an important if not altogether original book. It not only identifies the ingredients that made Reagan's success possible; it also offers a window onto the fascinating world of civic life in California -- a window that, in turn, offers an expansive view on the ferments behind our politics at large. — Matthew Dallek
Washington Post Book World
"This is a well-written book. It tells a fascinating story, and, most of all, it goes a long way to explain the secrets of Reagan's success."
Publishers Weekly
Author of President Reagan: Role of a Lifetime, journalist Cannon is considered by many to be the leading contemporary Reagan biographer. Here he does a stellar job of recounting Reagan's first two terms in higher office as governor of California. In 1966, during his campaign against Democratic incumbent Edmund G. Brown Sr., Reagan spoke out against campus radicals and welfare cheaters, and won the governorship by a margin of nearly one million votes. Throughout the first six of Reagan's eight years in Sacramento, he was confronted by an unfriendly Democratic legislature, but nevertheless made inroads when it came to reforming welfare and expanding higher education. In fact, Cannon points to welfare reform as a capstone of Reagan's governorship. Alarmed at the rapid escalation of welfare costs, Reagan in 1971-near the start of his second term-proposed a comprehensive welfare and Medi-Cal reform package, the latter a more liberal version of the federal Medicaid program. Reagan's recipe proved a huge success. In practice, it dropped the number of welfare recipients overall, increased benefits for those still covered by more than 40% and saved the state of California millions. Cannon also details Reagan's victories with regard to higher education. By the end of Reagan's second term, support for the University of California system had more than doubled over what it had been when the former actor assumed office. Cannon recounts all this-together with the tangled tale of Reagan's doomed, quixotic 1968 bid for the presidency-with skill and grace, painting a vivid portrait of a formidable politician in the process of becoming. Illus. not seen by PW. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586482848
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lou Cannon covered Reagan for thirty-six years, first as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, later as The Washington Post White House correspondent. He is the author of four other books on Reagan including Ronnie and Jesse: A Political Odyssey, Reagan, and President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, widely regarded as the definitive biography and as "the best study of that enigmatic presidency " (New York Times Book Review). He lives in Summerland, California, near Santa Barbara.

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Read an Excerpt

Governor Reagan

His Rise to Power
By Lou Cannon


Copyright © 2005 Lou Cannon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 158648284X

Chapter One

The most systematic record of Reagan's apprenticeship as governor of California is contained in the minutes of his meetings with his staff and executive directors during the first two years of the governorship. This record, known as "cabinet minutes," was the work of Austrian-born Helene von Damm, secretary to William P. Clark, Reagan's first cabinet secretary. Clark instructed the meticulous von Damm to "write it all down," and she produced minutes that show Reagan and his inner cabinet without promotional gloss.

The Reagan who emerges from these minutes acknowledges ignorance without embarrassment and tells stories at his own expense. While discussing California's role in a scientific project, Reagan related that he had been offered a ride in a submersible then exploring the continental shelf. He declined. The person who proposed the underwater trip persisted. "I kept telling him that I had claustrophobia, and he said, 'you don't have to go down deep, we can find a place only 60 feet deep.' He doesn't know that I have claustrophobia when I draw the curtains," Reagan said.

Taken in their entirety, the early cabinet minutes reveal Reagan as a self-assured governor who did not shrink from decision-making. He is as comfortable as on a movie set, breezily discussing myriad issues and punctuating his comments with outbursts of anti-government rhetoric. When informed of a prospective $29 million deficit in Medi-Cal, California's version of the federal-state Medicaid program that provides medical care for the poor, Reagan exploded. "Those damn state governments," he said. "They pass legislation without knowing what it costs." But later in the same meeting Reagan talked approvingly of a government plan in which doctors would take a lesser fee for their Medi-Cal services, comparing this to a personal experience:

"You know, years ago before there was help available like this, I was in the hospital with a smashed leg. My bill was $10,000. At the same time there was a truck driver with identical injuries as mine in the hospital, treated by the same physician, but his bill wasn't anything like mine. And I knew then that part of my payment was to take care of services the doctor rendered to the truck driver. Bills varied [according] to persons' ability to pay-that's the way it worked."


Excerpted from Governor Reagan by Lou Cannon Copyright © 2005 by Lou Cannon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Part I The Rise of Ronald Reagan
1. California 3
2. Optimist 10
3. Lifeguard 17
4. Storyteller 24
5. Announcer 37
6. Actor 51
7. Family Man 62
8. Politician 82
9. Company Man 103
10. Visionary 115
Part II Governor Reagan
11. Candidate 129
12. Winner 149
13. Adversary 162
14. Novice 171
15. Pragmatist 185
16. Conservative 206
17. Leader 226
18. Survivor 238
19. Noncandidate 256
20. Regent 271
21. Conservationist 297
22. Incumbent 322
23. Reformer 348
24. Salesman 368
25. Achiever 380
Part III The Pursuit of the Presidency
26. Challenger 393
27. Contender 416
28. Heir Apparent 437
29. Debater 451
30. President 477
Notes 513
Bibliography 548
Index 557
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