Reagan defied stereotypes, campaign manager says

Lauren Florence

Despite the stereotype as a “dumb actor,” former President Ronald Reagan’s greatest legacy was advancing the end of the Cold War, according to Reagan’s former campaign manager.

At the Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft on Tuesday, Thomas Reed, former Secretary of the Air Force, gave insight into Reagan’s “immensely active and smart” mind.

“The most hard to believe, hard to comprehend thing about Ronald Reagan was his mind was immense, and it would rapidly process information at a pace you could not believe,” Reed said.

During Reagan’s gubernatorial campaigns in the mid-’60s and early ’70s, Reed served as Reagan’s campaign manager, and later, in the ’80s, as a special assistant to Reagan for national security.

According to Reed, Reagan was devoid of political ambition and found the perks of power humorous. Reagan’s ambition came from his wife, according to Reed, and without her, he never would have been president.

“He basically didn’t have this burning desire [of] ‘I’ve got to be governor. I’ve got to be president,’” Reed said. “He knew what he believed, and he decided he felt that he needed to display leadership. And yet, amazingly, the reverse of that coin is, once in a contest of any sort, losing was absolutely unacceptable. He was the toughest competitor that any of us ever saw.”

History graduate student Emily Whalen said, despite Reagan’s domestic and foreign policy achievements, her biggest takeaway from the lecture was what Reed really experienced during the Reagan administration — the beginning actions that precipitated the end of the Cold War.

“I think a lot of analysis now of Reagan does sort of play into that ‘dumb actor’ narrative, so it is really refreshing to hear a different perspective and to hear that he was really actually a very engaged and deep thinker,” Whalen said.

Government sophomore Jeremy Cana said he thinks Reagan’s personality and charisma helped influence his success as president.

“A lot of [Reagan’s] policies led to a lot of what the country’s facing today, but I recognize that there’s a lot to learn from him,” Cana said. “He was a great, charismatic figure. He inspired people to do a lot things — that in itself is important, I think, the ability to inspire.”