President Ronald Reagan’s key to success was his ability to be clear, direct, and steadfast, says longtime adviser Edwin Meese. The former U.S. attorney general also said Reagan believed in maintaining friendships with those he might disagree with, such as the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
But the 40th president never forgot his roots, Meese recalls in an exclusive Newsmax interview in advance of what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday on Feb. 6. Meese’s recollections also will be featured in a special Reagan commemorative issue of Newsmax magazine in February.
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Meese began his long association with Reagan in 1967, when he joined the staff of the then-California governor, eventually rising to chief of staff. Meese counts among Reagan’s gifts his ability to be direct, to make clear what his policies were, explain them to the public, and then hold on to them.
“That was why he was so effective with the Soviet Union and of course in that case was able to bring the Cold War to an end with the forces of freedom and the West winning . . . Ronald Reagan was very clear when he said that the Soviet Union was an evil empire,” Meese says. “He wanted to make it clear that we were engaging on a moral plane as well as on a diplomatic and a military plane.”
Reagan “always believed in being friendly — even to those people with whom he might disagree on policy,” Meese says.
In addition to the Massachusetts Democrat Kennedy, Reagan also was friends with and Democratic House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr., despite their political rivalries.
Despite traveling in global circles, Reagan never forgot his roots and would often try to help those who had fallen on hard times and had written him, sometimes even sending them some of his own money, Meese recalls.
“His whole idea was that he himself and his family had been in pretty tough straits when he was a young person and this was his way of showing that he had an interest in giving back, if you will, to those in need,” Meese says.
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