For the past week, I've been spellbound by Craig Shirley's new book about the 1980 presidential campaign, Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America. It's 650 pages, filled with so many fascinating facts that it prompted Mark Levin to comment: "I was part of the Reagan Revolution and I didn’t know 80 percent of this stuff!"
Craig Shirley explains that, as much as Reagan's 1980 landslide seems inevitable in retrospect, it sure as heck wasn't "inevitable" at the time. Thanks to the arrogant high-handedness of some of Reagan's advisors -- especially campaign manager John Sears -- Reagan nearly lost the GOP nomination to George Bush. However, as Shirley makes clear, it wasn't just Sears who was to blame for that near-disaster. Reagan himself was at fault, demonstrating his human weakness by being inattentive to the inner workings of his own campaign.
It was only due to the intervention of a dedicated few (including such previously unsung heroes as Jerry Carmen, Reagan's independent-minded New Hampshire state campaign manager) that Reagan staved off defeat. Shirley's book names names and tells shocking secrets, none as surprising as Chapter 28, entitled simply "Corbin." (Here's a hint: The Kennedy clan never cared much for Jimmy Carter.)
Honest, folks: As highly as I recommend all the books in our Holiday Book Sale, nothing you can read will improve your understanding of recent American political history as much as Rendezvous With Destiny.
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