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Book compares presidential legacies

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George W. Bush followed former president Ronald Reagan’s example but forged his own path during the current presidents term, Lou Cannon said, speaking before a group of invited guests at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on Thursday in a speech that discussed his latest book, “Reagan’s Disciple.”

“Reagan prided himself by having a cabinet of differing opinions, but Bush did not have such a group of people,” Cannon said, illustrating one of the stark contrasts between the two men.

Lou Cannon spent 36 years of his life covering Ronald Reagan, as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and later as a Washington Post White House correspondent.

“If you really want to understand Ronald Reagan, Lou Cannon has the best knowledge and insight there is to offer,” said Timothy Naftali, director of the recently federalized Nixon library.

What makes the book different, and also a fresh breath of air is the amount of calm and relaxed way it approaches the comparison, without going into the mindless Bush bashing or defending and instead brings up an honest comparison between the two men.

Any Republican seeking office in high places has always in one form or another, compared himself to Reagan, whose charm and ability to communicate made way to a boom in GOP strength in the political world and the current president Bush was no different.

Both men had similar problems facing their early days, including the impression that they were not worth much in the political spotlight.

“Reagan was underestimated by many people. Reagan was underestimated by the media and Gorbachev,” Cannon said.

In the book, Cannon wrote that in terms of taxes, immigration, energy policy, judicial appointments and nominees, Bush had it spot on. However, Cannon also adds that the Iraq War is not something Reagan would have wanted and would have avoided, and will be the likely chief cause of the sinking of President Bush’s legacy after he leaves office.

The personalities of the two are also in stark contrast with one another.

Reagan had the tenacity to get things done, and was mindful of public opinion, while Bush had a rather aloof view on what the public thought of him.

In a time where many GOP frontrunners are likening themselves to Reagan in order to feed off his spirit and energize the conservative base to join them, Cannon’s book becomes a text in which one has to understand that even though you can claim to be Reagan, there will never be another one exactly like him.

Dan Sayles can be reached at

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