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Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power Hardcover – September 16, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 579 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (September 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586480308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586480301
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #773,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...a remarkable chronicle of the events leading up to the Reagan presidency. It provides fascinating reading and a rich account...." -- Ed Meese, National Review, November 10, 2003.

"...it's amazing how much fresh detail he breathes into a story that many Californians probably think they know by heart..." -- San Francisco Chronicle, October 21, 2003.

"A lucid account...Governor Reagan is a welcome achievement..." -- New York Times Book Review, November 19, 2003.

"Cannon [writes]... with skill and grace, painting a vivid portrait of a formidable politician in the process of becoming." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review), July 28, 2003.

"Cannon's book could not be timelier, now that another actor has conquered Sacramento." -- Hollywood Reporter, October 23, 2003

"In Governor Reagan, Mr. Cannon demonstrates...why he's so consistently lauded - and why his subject is so consistently underestimated." -- New York Observer, October 15, 2003.

"Mr. Cannon - arguably Reagan's most thorough biographer - paints a many dimensional picture of the ex-actor's Sacramento years." -- Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 2003

"a welcome contribution to the political bookshelf." -- Boston Globe, October 26, 2003.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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What's great about Cannon's work is that he seems to take an even-handed approach to his subject.
Thomas Stamper
The book describes Reagan's six-year campaign for the his first presidential nomination in 1980 and ends with his electoral victory in 1980.
Steve Fast
Overall though if you are interested in Reagan or California history this is a great start to that history.
Lehigh History Student

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Governor Reagan is a well-crafted book by the biographer that seems to know Reagan best. Since Cannon has already written an in-depth book on the Reagan Presidency (Role of a Lifetime), this book serves as a perfect lead into that one. Surprisingly, there's a good deal more about Reagan's early life and Hollywood career than the title would lead you to believe. We don't get to the Governor's race until page 129 and the last 100 pages of the book are about Reagan's post Governor days including the challenge to Ford in 1976 and his 1980 campaign win. In essence, this becomes the Reagan Presidency prequel.
What's great about Cannon's work is that he seems to take an even-handed approach to his subject. That's uncommon for writers who usually give Reagan a heavy diet of adulation or scorn.
Cannon contends that Reagan's experience as a union leader gave him the ability to find compromises through negotiation. It helped him a great deal in California with an Assembly led by the opposition. He was ideological sure but Reagan also wanted to accomplish something. He was willing to concede certain points to win the bigger ones. This is a good point that probably isn't made enough when discussing his success.
I found Reagan's six years between offices and how he nearly (and probably) won the Republican nomination in 1976 the most interesting. It was a tough decision to challenge the incumbent President of his own party. He didn't want to alienate fellow Republicans or hurt his future political chances. Therefore, the challenge was full of drama and Cannon writes a roadmap from primary to convention.
The book ends with the 1980 Reagan campaign and his becoming President Elect. If you're interested in Reagan you won't find a more thorough account of his political career before Washington.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Brooke276 on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
First off, I am a liberal. This is important to know because despite my political leanings, I loved this book not because it bashes Reagan, but rather because it is fair and takes the good with the bad, of which there are plenty. After reading Cannon's "President Reagan," I expected a well-researched, exhaustive account (relying heavily on cabinet minutes and interviews) with this volume, and I was not disappointed. Still, the title is a bit misleading as the book begins as a traditional biography (at least 150 pages of back story leading up to the 1966 run), and ends with Reagan's 1980 run for the White House.
As such, this is not a "liberal" book, nor is it a right-wing puff piece. The Reagan of Cannon's sketch is flawed to be sure, but also savvy, intelligent, and ambitious. And, to my surprise, Reagan was much more pragmatic and flexible as governor than people seem to remember. Many bills he signed (including the largest tax increase for any state in U.S. history, as well as a bill liberalizing abortion law) are contrary to his image and are even more left-wing than his predecessor Pat Brown.
Overall, an engaging read that never plays favorites and doesn't try to rewrite history to anyone's advantage. Reagan is far from the simplistic boob his critics portray, but he was not a saint either. Above all, Reagan was a political animal -- always striving for the next step, which makes his "outsider" status a bit silly. He was never completely "of Washington," but he lived for politics and he never gave up in pursuit of his vision.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Having worked on Governor Reagan's staff in Sacramento, I was very interested to read Lou Cannon's new book. I was happy to find an excellent analysis of the times and events, based on Cannon's first hand observations and interviews (many with persons who are now deceased). What makes this book especially insightful is that Cannon analyzes particular events which have been remembered and written about in different ways, and comes up with what he considers the most valid explanation of what really happened. Sometimes his conclusions differ from accounts he had written previously, but he forthrightly explains why his opinions have now changed.
The book is a particularly interesting read today, of course, in light of recent political events in California. Those advising Arnold Schwarzenegger would find some interesting lessons here, and reading the book could be quite helpful to the Governor-elect himself! For the rest of us, it is fascinating to see how circumstances in California influenced the development of one actor-turned-governor, and speculate on how things may turn out for the second.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Harrison on October 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a lifelong Californian pushing 50, I remember Reagan's '66 and '70 campaigns and two terms as Governor very well. Mainly I remember his seemingly extreme right-wing rhetoric from the broadcast and print reporting of the time.
Yet Lou Cannon's new Reagan biography, focusing on those years, offers valuable and surprising insight. Primarily, that Reagan, at least Governor Reagan, was nothing like the rigid far-right ideologue that his friends, enemies, and Reagan himself, based on his rhetoric, would have us believe. In fact, this book convincingly makes the surprising case that for liberals (by today's definition at least) Reagan was a much better governor than either of the Browns who preceded and followed him. Today's Republicans would have probably tried to recall this guy.
Some of the evidence: Seeing the need for a massive tax increase after taking office in '67, he teamed with Democratic legislative leaders to jam one through. He narrowed welfare eligibility a bit but significantly increased benefits. He helped pass and signed what was then the most liberal abortion rights law in the nation. He did enact the first "tuition" (in quotes because the use of that word was as controversial as the real question of whether students should pay for college) at the University of California, but also greatly increased state funding for higher education and financial aid. (My generation was the first to pay "fees" to attend UC, in the early 70s, and as a result, we campus liberals considered Gov. Reagan a demonic figure--his face was on a dart board in my dorm room). He blocked dam building on scenic wild rivers, and acted boldly to preserve a vast stretch of threatened Sierra wilderness that I've visited and enjoyed repeatedly in the decades since.
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