BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Kiron Skinner, co-editor of "Reagan In His Own Hand," what do people get if they buy this book?
Professor KIRON SKINNER,Co-EDITOR, "REAGAN IN HIS OWN HAND:" They see unvarnished Ronald Reagan, long before the presidency, writing, reading, thinking about every major issue facing the United States, and also drafting a strategy, quite surprisingly for many, to end the Cold War peacefully without a major hegemonic war.
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you ever heard of all this?
Prof. SKINNER: What do you mean, the radio broadcasts, his writing?
LAMB: The radio broadcasts, where you--you got yourself involved in it.
Prof. SKINNER: I was working in the Reagan Library. I'd written Nancy Reagan, I believe it was in 1996; I wrote her a--a letter about my research on the end of the Cold War, and I said, `I'm deeply fascinated by the American side of the story. Most of the research in the 1990s that I saw in the scholarly literature focused on the Soviet side and on Eastern Europe and, you know, for good reasons. The revolutions were fascinating to people, and all of a sudden documents were opening up that scholars had never seen before. But I was interested on the American contribution. So I wrote her...
LAMB: What were you doing at the time? What were--what were you...
Prof. SKINNER: I was a post-doc at UCLA and I was a fellow at the Hoover Institution. And so I wrote her and said, `I'm interested in the American side of the story. I don't think there's enough reporting on it, and I'd like to look at the president's private papers.' I didn't know what would be there, but I thought there might be something to help me to unravel the American contribution. And so she granted me access to the papers and hundreds of archival boxes. Into the project I came up--upon a few boxes, actually storage boxes, filled with hundreds, really--literally thousands of pieces of paper of Reagan's handwriting.
And it took a while to figure out what it meant. Some of it was disorganized. Some of it was organized in file folders, but not all of it. And it was fascinating. It was...
LAMB: Wh--where are you from originally? Where's home?
Prof. SKINNER: I was born in Chicago, but I grew up in the Bay Area, so I have to claim the Bay Area. I moved there at age three, so I grew up near Stanford. First San Francisco and then in a little town called Redwood City, a few miles from Stanford--I would claim that as my childhood home.
LAMB: And where did you get your undergraduate degree?
Prof. SKINNER: Spelman College in Atlanta and...
LAMB: In what subject?
Prof. SKINNER: In political science. And my master's and PhD from Harvard.
LAMB: And where are you getting your interest in political science along the way? Where did it come from?
Prof. SKINNER: Probably having parents that were civil rights activists in the '60s in the Bay Area. That was probably my initial interest. I saw their activism, and that was important. But also, I think I became interested in international affairs at Spelman, in particular for s--from some courses that I took, and then Harvard was a wonderful place to study international relations. The end of the Cold War story became important to me later on in my graduate career when I took a job, to the dismay of my dissertation adviser, to do the research for George Shultz's memoir and--out at Stanford.
LAMB: Why--why to the dismay?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, because it was such a huge project for some--someone who was working on her own dissertation, to take on another project, and--but I thought it was a great opportunity.
LAMB: How did that happen?
Prof. SKINNER: In 1989, I moved out to California to work with Condi Rice, who was my outside reader on my thesis committee, partly, and also to be in the Bay Area, and she got a job in the Bush ad—the first Bush administration, and so I just happened to meet Shultz one day and asked him if I could interview him for my research. And he'd just left the Reagan administration, and he was allowing students to interview him. And so he allowed me to interview him, and it led to me working for him to do the research for his memoir.
LAMB: Now how did Condi Rice become your--What?--outside of what s...
Prof. SKINNER: My reader.
Prof. SKINNER: Yeah, the--an outside reader on the dissertation, but from another university.
LAMB: But from UCLA.
Prof. SKINNER: No, at Harvard.
LAMB: At Harvard. OK.
Prof. SKINNER: Yeah. She--we met just, I think, through the field. I met her at Stanford and she would come to Harvard and give talks, and so I thought she would be a good person to--to work with.
LAMB: Now are you political along the way? Do you have strong feelings about anything?
Prof. SKINNER: No, but the press has made a big deal of the fact that I'm a registered Democrat and I--you know, I've done this book on Reagan. But I've not really been actively involved in politics. When I was younger I had internships, one in Washington for Pete McCloskey, who was a Republican, but the main reason I worked for him is that he was very supportive of a school I went to in East Palo Alto, an elementary and high school, and he--he offered me the job. So that's the--the reason. But I've never really been involved in politics at any serious level.
LAMB: Now what was the George Shultz experience like?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, it was wonderful. And I think it really, in some ways, led to this book, because I became interested in the American side of the story, and the Soviet side, but particularly the American side, because I got to see the end of the Cold War from the s—vantage point of central decision makers, which scholars rarely do. I got to work with him very closely, got to read his files and interact with him as he drafted chapters. And so it was a wonderful experience to have. And it led me to have a great interest in--in Ronald Reagan.
LAMB: I think what we ought to do, before we talk a lot more about it, is to play one of the many pieces that are in here. Before we do--and it--and you--it's on a CD that w--you brought with you.
Prof. SKINNER: Right.
LAMB: Basically, what's the--the meat of this book? What are people reading?
Prof. SKINNER: The--the--the heart of the book includes radio broadcasts that Reagan gave between 1975 and the end of 1979. After he stepped down as governor--and you'll remember this, I think--at the end of '74, he went into private life, but not really. He wasn't in elective position but he worked very hard in the public space. He decided to give a radio broadcast to support himself. It was daily, five days a week, about three minutes a day. He gave over 1,000 in the late 1970s. He would stop them to campaign for the presidency in late '75 and '76. When he was defeated by Gerald Ford at the Republican Convention in '76 he turned back to the radio broadcasts and continued them until the fall of '79.
He also had a newspaper column, which you may remember; first Copley News Services and later King Features syndicated those columns, and they were biweekly by the late '70s. The radio broadcasts were—many of them were written by Reagan. We found over 670 in his own handwriting in the archives. He could--he probably wrote more. That's what we found in the archives that--they were saved.
LAMB: So when you opened that box up, those first boxes, that's what you were looking at.
Prof. SKINNER: That's what--that's what I saw. But then there were other things as well. There's a section in the book titled Other Writings. It includes childhood writings, but interestingly, speeches, which constit--constitute strong policy documents on the economy, on foreign policy, during the presidency, before the presidency and during the 1980 presidential campaign. Some of that's in the book as well.
LAMB: By the way, I have one question. It does--you didn't cover it in any of the intros or anything. Where are the tapes of the radio addresses?
Prof. SKINNER: That's a great question, and we have the tape here today. They're at the Hoover Institution Archives. And this project could not have happened without both archives. The radio broadcasts, the handwritten versions, and all of the private papers are at the Reagan Library, although they are not controlled by the library. There's not a deed of gift. They are controlled by the Reagans. They're private papers that happen to be housed there. So that's one place where Reagan material is.
The second place is the Hoover Institution, which controls the tapes. It was able to get hold of the tapes. Harry O'Connor was the producer of Reagan's radio broadcasts. In fact, he was in Hollywood at the time, in the '70s, and suggested the radio broadcasts to Reagan as his governorship was coming to an end. He gave those to the Hoover Institution, and the Hoover Institution, as a result partly, I think, of this book, has had the old crumbling tapes and vinyl records from the '70s converted to CD so that they will be preserved.
LAMB: So they're all on CDs now?
Prof. SKINNER: They're--they're all on CDs.
LAMB: How many of them are there?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, gosh, there are, you know, over a thousand. So they're every...
LAMB: Over a thousand radio broadcasts.
Prof. SKINNER: Broadcasts, and they've all been saved. And so that's a--just a great project. And I think it--our book really--it--it works well with the radio broadcasts to see what he wrote. You see the original draft. The radio--the actual broadcasts are slightly different, if you read along, because that was a final version, and he might change a word or two.
LAMB: It--it strikes me that if you hadn't asked for this, they would have--we wouldn't know this.
Prof. SKINNER: A lot of luck, serendipity, has gone into this project at every turn, and I can tell you, you know, some of these stories--meeting the Andersons, and they became crucial to the--to the project, and...
LAMB: Who are the Andersons?
Prof. SKINNER: Martin Anderson and Annelise Anderson. They are economists at the Hoover Institution who worked with Reagan in the '76 and '80 campaigns, very closely with him. Martin traveled with Reagan on the plane, was a close adviser. And I saw his name quite often in the archives, and Annelise's as well. They're fellows at the Hoover Institution, and so since I was there, I could go to them and show them documents, and they helped me understand what I was seeing. And so that collaboration became central, because Reagan--as you notice, looking at the book, he covered every--almost every issue facing the US, domestic and foreign: abortion, Africa, arms control, weapons systems, taxation, regulatory policy. He was doing this all by himself. But we as scholars, most of us focus narrowly on a single area that we specialize in. And so the Andersons and I really needed each other for this story. They could do the domestic and economic, and I could focus more on the foreign-policy side, and then we did joint parts together. So there's a lot of luck that happened at every turn with this book. And--and they also had the confidence of Mrs. Reagan.
LAMB: But is it a surprise to you that if you hadn't asked Mrs. Reagan to s--to--to get into this, that that box would have never--maybe never been looked at for a long time?
Prof. SKINNER: That's the beginning of the story, if I had not asked for it, and--but the--I think there are other things as well. Most scholars who look at big outcomes in world history, especially in t--in the US context, tend to look at the diplomatic record, at the official diplomatic record, at government documents. What's interesting about this book is that there's not one government document in the book. These are all private writings, before the presidency or during the presidency, writings that did not make it to the official government channel as a government document.
LAMB: Let's listen to this first one that you brought along with you.
Prof. SKINNER: OK.
LAMB: Which one is it?
Prof. SKINNER: It's called "Looking Out a Window," and it was broadcast in th--at least taped in January 1978. It's an important one. It's not a policywonk document, as many of the--of them are, but it's important because it gives Reagan's philosophy about the American people, his--his great confidence in their judgment and who they are, and also the fact that he does not see himself as distant from the people. He sees himself as one of them and he identifies with their daily lives.
LAMB: As we do that I want to show the cover of this. Where is this picture, by the way, on the cover? Do you know where it was taken?
Prof. SKINNER: It was in an office somewhere or a study of his. It was a--it was a study. And I think that is one--I think it's before the--the presidency.
LAMB: Let's listen to it. This is how long, by the way?
Prof. SKINNER: They're no more than three minutes.
(Excerpt from radio broadcast)
Mr. RONALD REAGAN: It's nightfall in a strange town a long way from home. I'm watching the lights come on from my hotel room window on the 35th floor. I'll be right back.
I'm afraid you're in for a little bit of philosophizing, if you don't mind. Some of these broadcasts I must draft while I'm out on the road traveling on what I call the mashed-potato circuit. A little while after I write them, for example, I'll be speaking to a group of good people in a banquet hall. Right now, however, I'm looking down on a busy city at rush hour. The streets below are twin ribbons of sparkling red and white. Taillights on the cars moving away from my vantage point provide the red, and the headlights of those coming toward me the white. It's logical to assume all or most are homeward bound at the end of a day's work.
I wonder why some social engineer hasn't tried to get them to trade homes. The traffic is equally heavy in both directions, so if they all lived in the end of town where they worked they'd save a lot of travel time. But better forget I said that, and don't even think it, or some bureaucrat will try to do it.
I wonder, though, about the people in those cars, who they are, what they do, what they're thinking about as they head for the warmth of home and family. Come to think of it, I've met them--oh, maybe not those particular individuals, but still, I feel I know them. Some social planners refer to them as the masses, which only proves they don't know them. I've been privileged to meet people all over this land in the special kind of way you meet them when you're campaigning. They are not the masses or, as the elitists would have it, the `common man.' They're very uncommon; individuals, each with his or her own hopes and dreams, plans and problems, and the kind of quiet courage that makes this whole country run better than just about any other place on Earth.
By now, thinking of their homecoming, I'm counting how many more hotel room windows I'll be looking out of before I'm in the rush-hour traffic heading home. And yes, I'm feeling a little envious of the people in those cars down below. It seems I've said a thousand goodbyes, each one harder than the one before. Someone very wise once wrote that if we were all told one day that the end was coming, that we were living our last day, every road, every street and all the telephone lines would be jammed with people trying to reach someone to whom we wanted simply to say, `I love you.'
But why wait for such a final day and take the chance of not getting there in time? Speaking of time, I'll have to stop now. Hello, Operator. I'd like to make a long-distance call.
This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.
(End of excerpt)
LAMB: What was your reaction the first time you heard that?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, it was emotional. I've heard it ma--a few times now. We've played it to audiences as we've discussed our book in the last couple of months, and it's a--it's an emotional one, because you also see Rea--Reagan as a--his kind of emotional side. And it's authentic Reagan. It's just who he is and how he thought, and it just, I think, gives a lot of credibility to the--the book, because you see him writing as he's talking. You see him thinking, looking out of a window, thinking about, you know, the fact that he has to write these things. He's really writing this as he's watching the cars, so I think it's wonderful.
LAMB: Now did--did you go into this project with a certain idea of who Ronald Reagan was? And have you changed your mind?
Prof. SKINNER: I didn't, and so I didn't go in with a certain view. I think had I--had I had a s--fixed view of Reagan, I don't know that I would have even asked for the papers. I was much more interested in the American side of the end of the Cold War, and I knew from what I'd done in Shultz's work that Reagan was an important figure and that he wasn't just a puppet. But I wasn't really trying to prove that. I really wanted to understand what I saw as the strategy, on the one hand, of trying to evince an interest in mutual cooperation with the Soviets, al--while at the same time deploying military strength to make that happen. And that was the kind of puzzle that I was interested in. I learned a lot more about Reagan in doing this book, but I never intended to be a Reagan scholar, and I guess I'm well on my way to becoming one now.
LAMB: This book went to the best-seller list.
Prof. SKINNER: New York Times and to about five other best-seller lists as well: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Publishers Weekly. It--it's still, I think, on Publishers Weekly now, and Amazon...
LAMB: Are you surprised?
Prof. SKINNER: Yes, I am. And I didn't have the easiest time, the Andersons and I, getting a contract for the book with a big publisher. I don't think most of them thought there was anything there to publish, just some old radio broadcasts by Reagan. And so it took a while, and so this is a surprise.
LAMB: How did you do it?
Prof. SKINNER: Hard work.
LAMB: Well, first of all, it's published by Free Press.
Prof. SKINNER: By The Free Press. Simon & Schuster is the parent company. A lot of hard work selling the book, selling the idea, believing in it, and really working with the documents and trying to present them in an interesting way. And I think what was most convincing to people--and that's why I brought a copy of the—the actual yellow sheets, or a draft of it, so that you could show it...
LAMB: This is a legal-sized yellow sheet that's...
Prof. SKINNER: He wrote most of them on yel--on legal size, though some on letter size. Most of his speeches, his--his radio broadcasts, drafts of letters to people, that was his--his--his--his working copy. What was convincing to editors eventually is the actual drafts, when they saw Reagan's writing, when they saw the range of issues that he thought about, when they saw the sources he was using, his notes in the margins, and the clarity of his thought. That's what eventually got a book contract for us. Reagan sold the book.
LAMB: Go back to 1996 again. You wrote Mrs....
Prof. SKINNER: Mrs. Reagan.
LAMB: ...Reagan a letter. Have you met her, by the way?
Prof. SKINNER: Only a couple of times. I've met her--I met her soon thereafter, and--but not many times, no.
LAMB: Did you interview her? I mean, she's interviewed for the book.
Prof. SKINNER: She was interviewed. Martin Anderson conducted that interview for the book. And--and that was--it was the great confirmation of--of what we'd been finding in the archives. We thought it was important to interview those who were around Reagan in the '70s, and so she was one of the most important people.
LAMB: So you're at the Reagan Library, Simi Valley; who brings the boxes to you? How's that work?
Prof. SKINNER: The archivist. Have you ever been there?
LAMB: Yes. Yeah.
Prof. SKINNER: OK. The archivist brings them out. And they're private papers so they're--they're handled a bit differently than the other papers at the library that--you know, that are open to the public, but--and I just would sit there and go through them.
LAMB: Where were you located in the library?
Prof. SKINNER: At a table, just at a table in the archives, just like everyone else.
LAMB: Do they--do they trust you with these? I mean, what's the attitude about having outsiders come in and look at them?
Prof. SKINNER: They really don't have outsiders coming to look at them. The--it's restricted access, so Edmund Morris had access to those files, and then I was the first scholar that I know of to get access to the--the papers after him, and I don't--they're not open now. They're--they're still private.
LAMB: So he had access to these same radio broadcasts. Did he use them in his book?
Prof. SKINNER: I don't think so. He had access to most of the private papers that I know, but this was not something that was a big focus in his project, you know.
LAMB: So as you're first looking at these, and tha--was it--what year did you actually first look at them?
Prof. SKINNER: I can't remember. I know I got access in '96, but sometime in--in the next year or so I saw them.
LAMB: What did--what was the next thing you did that--that furthered this project along?
Prof. SKINNER: Well, I had to pause from my own work on the end of the Cold War to figure out what to do with these, and I went to the Andersons and we decided to join forces and produce this book, that it was so important. We all had major projects on our own that we were w--were working on, and we decided that this was such a special set of documents that we had to bring it to light. And I think, at least on my part, I was motivated by the fact that the assessment of Reagan is so bad, but the paper trail seems so different, that it would be important to bring this material forward. And the Andersons--I think they brought a special quality to the project because they'd worked with Reagan. They'd seen him write. But even they were surprised at the breadth and diversity of what he was writing. So we were both coming at this in some--somewhat different ways, but with j--we both recognized that we had something that would be important, not necessar--necessarily a best-seller, but important.
LAMB: There's a quote in here that you have from--I wrote it down; I've got to find it...
Prof. SKINNER: OK.
LAMB: ...from Bud McFarland, who was one of his foreign-policy advisers.
Prof. SKINNER: In the foreword that George Shultz wrote.
LAMB: Yeah. He--this is a quote from Bud McFarland: "He knows so little and accomplishes so much." What's the--what's the origin of that s--that statement?
Prof. SKINNER: Secretary Shultz wrote the foreword to--to this book, and--and--and that was wonderful for us, because he was by Reagan's side for six and a half years and for one of the most important events of the 20th century: the beginning of the end of the Cold War. And so, Shultz wrote that himself and--from a meeting--they came out of a White House meeting with Reagan, and--and I guess McFarland was shaking his head and--or was just surprised at how much Reagan accomplishes. I think this book explains why they're so much surprise, the fact that Reagan was associated with big outcomes, like the end of the Cold War. Reagan wrote privately and he never talked about it. He thought and he read privately and he didn't try to expose it. He never told people that he'd done all of this work before the presidency. And if you look at some of the headnotes that we wrote, we tried to link things that Reagan wrote about before the presidency to actual things he did as president, and s--but he never told people about it. He just felt that they either knew, they heard him on the radio, and he felt no reason, no need to brag or ex—or expose his intelligence. So I think it fueled the assessment that he didn't know very much.
LAMB: You--you quote Nancy Reagan in the introduction as saying, "Nobody thought that he ever read anything, either, but he was a voracious reader. I don't ever remember Ronnie sitting and watching television. I really don't. I just don't. When I picture those days, it's him sitting behind that desk in the bedroom, working."
Now the image that we had of him was always watching television.
Prof. SKINNER: Right, and you see the cover of the book in a room, with just--in--writing.
LAMB: But what--what's missing in this thing, though? I mean, are you convinced that he did write all that, all these...
Prof. SKINNER: Absolutely. When you read what he wrote in the margins and when you listen at what he said, it--it's really authentic Reagan. And we interviewed so many people--Peter Hannaford, those who were around him. Many of--of--of your listeners won't know—viewers won't know the names of these people, but they were with Reagan all the time. And then many of the speechwriters during the presidency, they know this story; it just never came out. And one thing that Martin Anderson did in the interviews with Nancy Reagan and some of the others for the introduction--at the end of the interviews he would say, `Who has asked you these questions?' And for the most part, they would say, `No one's ever asked us about this, about his writing life, about his thinking life, about his reading life.' So it's--it's not a surprise to those who know him.
LAMB: Now, Edmund Morris found--and you have one or two of them in the back--the early writings when he was in high school...
Prof. SKINNER: Right.
LAMB: ...in a box out there, and then you found this. There were the letters that Doug Brinkley wrote about in The New Yorker...
Prof. SKINNER: Right.
LAMB: ...to the lady, I think, in Philadelphia or someplace like that.
Prof. SKINNER: It was a--his--a fan that he corresponded with for decades.
LAMB: Did you look at those, by the way?
Prof. SKINNER: Some of those, but not too much. There's also Nancy Reagan's `love letters' book, which has become a best-seller, and then when you look at Lou Cannon's biography of Reagan and some others, people mention he wrote this speech, he wrote that speech. There's--you know, there are anecdotes all over the place, but no one kind of put it together as a coherent story.
LAMB: Do you know whether he has a personal diary?
Prof. SKINNER: Well, during the presidency there was one. I've not seen it, but Edmund Morris refers to it. And that's--it's--but I've not seen that. But I don't know if there was one before the presidency. I'd love to see that if there was one.
LAMB: OK. Go back again to--to how this all came together. You got together with Martin Anderson and his wife...
Prof. SKINNER: Annelise.
LAMB: ...Annelise Anderson, and the three of you--how did you make the proposal to a publisher?
Prof. SKINNER: We had a--we wrote a small proposal and we attached some of--copies of some of the documents, and that's what—initially we just sent out proposals, but that wasn't enough. They really had to see Reagan's writing, 'cause I don't know if everyone believed he was doing this work, and given the reputation that he's had, especially in the media and among scholars. So we sent some of the documents and we just kept pressing our case.
LAMB: How much of this--Michael Korda has been here, who is the—the big editor at Simon & Schuster, and he was the guy that put together the book that Ronald Reagan wrote, or he didn't write it, but he told the story right here about how they would come to meetings, and Ronald Reagan didn't write it and other people wrote it for him. Do you think that had something to do with impacting people that he wasn't much of a writer?
Prof. SKINNER: I think so. What Martin has said before, and--and I think it's a--a good way of describing this book--this is the first book by Ronald Reagan. We know that in earlier books that his name was attached to, like his o--official biography and an earlier one, they were ghost-written or co-written. But this is really Reagan's writing. So it was never intended for publication. It's a--but it ends up being a coherent body of work on policy issues in the late 1970s and some before and after. So it is unique. It is his first book.
LAMB: In the acknowledgments, you acknowledge three people I want to ask you about...
Prof. SKINNER: OK.
LAMB: ...somebody named Byron Skinner, somebody named Gloria Skinner and somebody named Ruby Skinner. Who are those people?
Prof. SKINNER: Byron Skinner is my father, and I'm somewhat of a namesake. I'm Kiron Skinner. I was supposed to be a boy, and when I wasn't they made up a name that rhymed.
LAMB: How do you like that, by the way?
Prof. SKINNER: I think it's fine. And so at least I'm not Byronetta, which was another choice. I don't think I'd like that very much, though I--I've been told I have a cousin with that name.
Prof. SKINNER: Yes. He is a historian of American history, of Afro-American history. He got his PhD at Berkeley, but he spent most of his career in academic administration. And I think he wishes that he'd done more as a writer, and he's really proud of this book. And he s...
LAMB: Where is he now?
Prof. SKINNER: My parents are retired in Southern California, in Victorville, and he spent much of his career in the community college world. He was president of San Jose City College; at one point in the early '80s at University of Maine at Augusta. I believe he was the first black person to be president of a state university or a university in that--in Maine. And then he ended his career at Compton College in Southern California.
LAMB: And who is Gloria Skinner?
Prof. SKINNER: My mother. And so I had somewhat of a stage mother who--she's also very proud of the book, but she encouraged me in not only academics but public speaking and drama and other activities. And...
LAMB: What did--what was her career?
Prof. SKINNER: She sometimes was a homemaker; a lot of times she worked in child care, in that field, and that's what she did for most of her career. She ran a day-care center, a very successful one, that she started. She's extremely independent, so she started her own business and--and--and that worked well for her.
LAMB: And you say they were both civil rights activists.
Prof. SKINNER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Now did they have any problem with you getting close to Ronald Reagan on all this?
Prof. SKINNER: No, because--I think especially because they see this as a scholarly project, but then I think they would--wouldn't mind what I would do if I was doing it from an informed standpoint. But I think they're pleased with the scholarly nature and that it's not a polemical book. And we worked really hard in our own writing, in both the introduction and what we wrote in the headnotes, not to goad the reader in one direction or another or try to make the case for Reagan. It's not a victory school piece at all. And so I think that they were pleased that it was done as an objective piece of--of work with real documents and evidence. And I think that's the key to why the book is working and it's become a best-seller.
LAMB: Who's Ruby Skinner?
Prof. SKINNER: She is my sister, and she's finishing up a surgery residency in the Bay Area right now, and she's going into the field of trauma surgery and moving to University of Pennsylvania in a couple of months.
LAMB: Any other siblings?
Prof. SKINNER: Just the two of us. That's it.
LAMB: The--you also say that you had strong support from someplace in New York called Hamilton College.
Prof. SKINNER: Hamilton--I taught there for a year, and it was a wonderful place. That's actually where this all began. I--by--I'd left UCLA as a post-doc and it was my first teaching job, and it's a wonderful liberal arts college in upstate New York. And I started presenting my ideas to students there about Reagan and carrying big archival boxes around and starting some of the research.
LAMB: You mean they saw the boxes?
Prof. SKINNER: They saw--I couldn't bring the actual boxes but, you know, drafts of things or mainly typed scripts that, you know, were easy to take away and use for--in--in a more public setting.
LAMB: What's the reaction of the students when they see you working on this?
Prof. SKINNER: I now teach at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and I've had great support from faculty and students. They've been supportive. They like it. They think it's entert--interesting. Many don't like Reagan. They're very surprised. But I think they appreciate the way in which the project was done, and I think that's important to me.
LAMB: And then you had support from the Olin Foundation...
Prof. SKINNER: Yes.
LAMB: ...which, if I read correctly, is a conservative foundation.
Prof. SKINNER: It has that reputation, but it gives lots of money to scholars at Harvard, at University of Chicago, in all fields, in social science and in law and economics, so it's very much a respected foundation among researchers.
LAMB: They support you in this? Is that...
Prof. SKINNER: They supported my faculty leave to complete this book.
LAMB: But then on the other side of it's the Council on Foreign Relations.
Prof. SKINNER: And the Council on Foreign Relations, where I am a fellow. And Les Gelb brought me on there. He's the president of it. And--and the council's been very supportive of--of what I've been doing this past year. And so there was no attempt to try to look balanced; it's just the life that I really am leading.
LAMB: So at--at what point in this process, from '96 until today, did this thing look like it was really going to take off?
Prof. SKINNER: We...
LAMB: When'd you get the contract?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, God, it wasn't very long ago. We got the contract in the fall of '90--the--we actually completed the contract in February of 2000 and turned the book in at the--the end of August of 2000, and then it came out a year later.
LAMB: So you worked on it for about three or four years without anybody saying they're going to buy this.
Prof. SKINNER: Right. The Hoover Institution Press was going to publish it if we wanted to, and we, in fact, had a contract with Hoover. It has an archival series, which is excellent, on--on—on documents and books related to revolutions and th--of the 20th century. But I thought it would be good to mo--go with a publisher that could bring it to perhaps a wider audience and have wider distribution. And once it became a best-seller, that was a--a good thing, because they--we're--the book is in its fourth printing, although it was published on February 6th.
LAMB: Now did--did--did this get wides--for those people who've never heard these broadcasts, did they get widespread listenership back in the '70s?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, it did. It was an--on over 300 radio stations. And so I met Harry O'Connor, the producer and distributor, last week for the first time at the Reagan Library, and--which was holding an event for the book. And he said--I think he said maybe 380 or 350, but I know at least 300 from the archives. So it was reaching—Reagan says the--in the archives in a letter--in several letters that between the radio broadcast and his newspaper column, which went to, at its height, I think, about 200 newspapers, he was reaching 20 million Americans a week.
LAMB: Do you get any sense of what impact this kind of a book will have on the legacy of Ronald Reagan?
Prof. SKINNER: I think it changes everything. And what's surprising is how fast the--the reassessment has--has--has started--begun. It really does change our understanding of Reagan, because the--the idea, the notion that he didn't know very much, that he didn't do very much, that he was handled by advisers now means we've got to look at—look at him differently, his mode of operation, and so it changes our understanding of him and, I think, also of the American presidency. And we can talk about that a little bit if you want to.
LAMB: Yeah. How does--how do you think it changes the American...
Prof. SKINNER: I think that what's interesting about this book is that it's about the presidency, in a way, but there are very few documents from the presidential period. We look at the period of his--right before the presidency, that five years when I've watched television programs, specials on Reagan, that said, `Oh, in the late '70s, he was at a Santa Barbara ranch chopping wood, relaxing.' I think it makes it--it suggests that we begin to look at--at different periods to understand what a president will do and--and follow his paper trail very closely.
Most scholars have not looked at Reagan's activities when he was not in office. The g--gubernatorial years have been mined and the presidency not has--hasn't been completely mined, but there's work there. But this sheds light on the presidency in a period where Reagan wasn't in office. We looked in much the way that social historians do in a kind of bottom up way. We're looking at the documents that are out--outside of the government channels that Reagan wrote himself that are in his private possession, to understand him. And I think we get a sense of his mode of operation, how private he was, how contemplative he was, and we did that without focusing on the presidential year and the big events that happened.
LAMB: You get a sense that, in reading--and I know you edited the foreign policy section--that he always wrote off of something. I mean, there were--like the Rostow, Eugene Rostow's...
Prof. SKINNER: Right.
LAMB: ...speech. Explain that. I mean, you have as many as, I think, six different...
Prof. SKINNER: I--I put those in there intentionally. We--we really worked hard at presenting a sampling of the documents.
As I mentioned to you, before we got started, that we--what we present in this book is just a small portion of what we found in the archives. I mean, the book is 549 pages. We couldn't have done any more in one volume and kept readers going. But he wrote so much that we had to make decisions about what--what to print. And we printed—basically we tried to find something from every year during the '70s, some early ones, some later ones, that covered all the topics he was writing about and interested in. That was our basic methodology.
I included the Rostow ones to just show how he could take a speech or a document or a piece of material and work with it and--and—and develop a story. And so he did on the foreign policy side. He would really rely on experts, and you'll see a lot of that. He does on Rostow on one case, but others as well. He's mentioning them throughout--Paul Nitze and others. So he's relying on them to help him make the case he wants to make.
LAMB: Let--let me just bring out on that Eugene Rostow thing. He was a liberal Democrat, as he points out in this.
Prof. SKINNER: Right.
LAMB: How often did you find him, say, taking somebody who was on the opposite side of him politically to prove his own point?
Prof. SKINNER: Quite often. He went everywhere and he would use almost any source that he felt was credible, but that was helping him make his point. And so, you know, he joined the committee on Present Danger, which was led by neoconservative Democrats in the late 1970s, and that they actually came to his camp, Kampelman, Max Kampelman and others who then served in the Reagan administration. So he was--he...
LAMB: Max Kampelman was a good friend of Hubert Humphrey's here in town.
Prof. SKINNER: So--right. And so his--and so I've actually interviewed him in the past when I was just starting this m—this project.
But--so Reagan would use sources from all over the place, and not just conservative sources. He does cite Human Events, as you notice in the book, and National Review and--and those conservative publications, but other things as well, The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, of all things, but also government documents. And I think that was surprising for many who've seen the book who were even close to Reagan.
He--NCS 68, National Security Council 68, was a centerpiece document of containment for the US in the Cold War, drafted by Paul Nitze and others at this policy planning staff in the State Department to 1949 and '50 presented to President Truman. It was declassified in 1975. Reagan devoted two radio broadcasts to NSC 68. And I actually went back and looked at that huge government document and--to see what Reagan was quoting, and he was quoting from all over that document, trying to talk about what rearmament--what mean in peace time and why it was important and what the Soviet threat was like.
LAMB: Do you get any sense of how he got it?
Prof. SKINNER: I did and I couldn't find--I initially found a document to suggest that Richard Allen provided him with NSC 68, and I didn't cite that in the book. I--I couldn't find it as--as we were finishing. We did this book very quickly in--a year ago. And so I couldn't find the original letter from Richard Allen, so I refused to cite it without that. But Richard Allen provided him with it.
Around '78, Richard Allen came on as a foreign policy adviser to Reagan. So he did have more people helping him by the late '70s and giving him advice, but he put these things together in his own voice the way he wanted to. And some of the most important radio broadcasts were written in '75 right when he started r--started them s--a few months after he stepped down as governor, like the one titled "Peace" in the philosophy section at the beginning of the book. This is Reagan without advisers. He's just mapping out his own philosophy, his own understanding of world politics, of democracy, of domestic life and that--those were important ones and we put them in.
LAMB: Where did he write them? And you said earlier that--usually on a legal yellow pad.
Prof. SKINNER: A lot of them, right.
LAMB: But where did he write them and how many did he do at a time?
Prof. SKINNER: He wrote about 15 at a time. He would--every three weeks, he would go into a taping studio in Hollywood at Harry O'Connor's outfit, and go through 15 of them so that that would last for three weeks. And he made a commitment, Peter Hannaford said, who helped Reagan with all of these; he was crucial during these years to Reagan. Peter Hannaford said last week at the Reagan Library that Reagan early on, he and b--O'Connor said this, made a commitment to arrange his life around his taping schedule. So although he was giving 10 speeches a month around the country on behalf of conservative causes, he was always in the radio sta--the studio to do the broadcasts. So he would write them on planes, at the ranch, in the back of cars, wherever he could write them. And I don't know if you'd like to play the second one, but he describes how he writes them in his final radio broadcast in the fall of 1979, the very day that he announces he's going to run for the president of the United States.
LAMB: And this is also--I mean, this is from the O'Connor collection. It's at the Hoover...
Prof. SKINNER: Right. It's at the Hoover Institution that's now preserved on CD.
LAMB: Yeah. Well, let's--let's run this one, OK?
Prof. SKINNER: OK.
Mr. REAGAN: (From radio broadcast) For the last time, I'm cleaning up my desk with a few items you should hear. I'll be right back.
Believe my, my friends, I speak to you today with mixed emotions and maybe it's fitting that I make it the final desk cleaning day. The first item is, in my opinion, very serious for all of us and another indication of how far we are straying from the very basics of our system. The Mountain States Legal Foundation has filed a suit with the federal government claiming the constitutional rights of several states are being violated. When Congress voted to extend the time for states to ratify the equal rights amendment, it refused to allow several states to change their position and rescind the approval they had given earlier.
A few weeks ago, the US Department of Justice, which, above all, should be the defender of constitutional rights, filed a motion with the Idaho court where the case is being heard. The motion was to disqualify the judge appointed to hear the case. Now hear this: The Justice Department wants him disqualified because of his religion. He is a member of the Mormon Church. I leave it to you to imagine what such a precedent could do to our entire system of justice if judges can be either assigned or disqualified on the basis of religion.
These next few items may make you laugh, but you will hurt a little, too. A former California superintendent of education, Dr. Max Rafferty, has uncovered a few items having to do with extremes in the battle of the sexes. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare has discovered that in one public school system, more boys than girls were being spanked. If the school system doesn't want a million dollars in federal aid to be withheld, it will henceforth spank girls and boys in exactly equal numbers.
In Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the City Council has ruled that from now on those metal-covered holes in our streets we've long called manholes will henceforth be known as person holes.
And in Missoula, Montana, a Peeping Tom ordinance is now a `Peeping Person' law.
Well, that's all the desk cleaning for today. And as I indicated when I began, it's been my last such chore. This is my final commentary. I'm going to miss these visits with all of you. I've enjoyed every one. Even writing them has been a lot of fun. I've scratched them out on a yellow tablet in airplanes, riding in cars, and at the ranch when the sun went down.
Whenever I've told you about some misfortune befalling one of our fellow citizens, you've opened your hearts and your pocketbooks and gone to the rescue. I know you have because the individuals you've helped have written to let me know. You've done a great deal to strengthen my faith in this land of ours and its people. You are the greatest.
Sometime later today if you happen to catch me on television, you will understand why I can no longer bring you these commentaries. This is Ronald Reagan. And from the bottom of my heart, thanks for listening.
LAMB: Do you know how old you were when those were around?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, I don't want to think about that. I was a t—a teen-ager.
LAMB: Did you ever hear them when you were that age?
Prof. SKINNER: No, not at all. I didn't hear them, didn't see the newspaper columns.
LAMB: What do think of wha--the way he says things?
Prof. SKINNER: He has an incredible knack with words and language and--and it's--it's--he just really draws you in to listen to him. And he has a--he has a great voice and it's--I'm--I'm impressed by how clear and powerful his voice sounded then, strong and...
LAMB: Do you have any old friends at Spelman College who say, `Kiron, you're getting hooked on it. You--you're get--you're getting used on this stuff'?
Prof. SKINNER: I have not--no one has said that to me, surprisingly. And a couple of people have asked similar questions, but I have not been asked that. But I'm not sure what you mean by `used.'
LAMB: Just, you know, that you--former Democrat or a Democrat at one time, a father and mother involved in the civil rights movement and--and often those people who have been involved in the—civil rights activists don't like Ronald Reagan.
Prof. SKINNER: Uh-huh. No, I haven't had that really as--as a--as a focus of--of this project at all. I thought there might be some of that, but no one's really kind of focused on that point as--as the—as the center of what I've been doing.
LAMB: If he were running right now, could you vote for him?
Prof. SKINNER: Sure. And if you look at what he's--he's saying and--in the--in the--in the broadcasts, especially, for me, on the foreign policy side, the fact that he's--was so committed to ending the Cold War without having a major nuclear war and that he thought it was possible and--at a time when the Cold War was seen as status quo, and--and the fact that he thought detente was not the way to get to mutual cooperation. It took a lot of strength and determination and bravery, actually, to make the set of arguments that he made, the way that he did, at that time in the '70s. He was going against his own party.
You know, he does challenge Jimmy Carter quite a bit, President Carter, in the broadcasts, but he's really also talking about the Nixon-Kissinger grand design of detente, and he saw it as a peacement. Others said it, conservatives at the time, both Democrats and Republicans, Ross Dowe said it and--and others, but Reagan was unique in the way he put the pieces together. He kept saying, `We want to have mutual cooperation with the Soviet Union and peace, but that means that that system has to fall apart, because it's--it's squashes freedom of every sort internally and it's illegitimate as a result. If we make it clear to the American people we agree with what we th--what I think is their preference to end the Cold War from the strategy that we have to implement to make that happen, which is peace time rearmament. If we make it clear as leaders that we're doing one thing to achieve the other, I think they'll support it. It can't happen through detente.'
When you look at the writing, the scholarly writing at that time and you look at the influence of Kissinger and others who were much more on the side of detente, Reagan just seems to be a really clear, dissident thinker about Grant's strategy in international relations. And so I could definitely support him on that, as well.
LAMB: This is not your section. It's domestic and economic policy and it's September 21st, 1976. But I--I wanted just to read out loud what he said, and I wonder whether you could do this today. He said...
Prof. SKINNER: What's the--which--what's the title of that one?
LAMB: The title is "The Hope of Mankind."
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, I read that one. Go ahead. It's great.
LAMB: Well, actually, I want you to read it. I--there's no sense in me reading it. Just--I just want you to read that--this paragraph right here where I have underlined.
Prof. SKINNER: That's--well, you've underlined a lot. OK. `I love America because people accept me for what I am. They don't question my ancestry, my faith'--I just read this by--actually, the--the other day and was quite moved--`my faith, my political beliefs. When I want to move from one place to another, I don't have to ask permission. When I need a needle, I go to the nearest store and get one. I don't have to stand in line for hours to buy a piece of tough, fat meat. Even with inflation, I don't have to pay a day's earnings for a small chicken.'
LAMB: Do--was there ever a time, when you read this--these radio broadcasts w--as you were going through your research, where you said, `This is just off the mark. He missed it on this'?
Prof. SKINNER: I--in what way?
LAMB: In any way? In other words, he--he--he...
Prof. SKINNER: Yeah. Oh, sure. That one is a--is a good statement. I think he's contrasting our free system with closed political systems and totalitarian regimes, clearly. And--but--and--and I--and I don't think he missed it; I think he really believed that personal freedom was so important, and I've had long discussions with Annelise Anderson about that 'cause she--she really helped choose those documents. And--and we have a--a copy of it there.
But there are--are ways that he missed the mark, and--and we do say so at times. We--we try to point out some contradictions in things that he said in the broadcast in the '70s and things that happened later in the presidency, and we provide examples of that. I give one where he--he talks about, in very negative terms, US ambassador to the UN Andrew Young's visit to Southern Africa, where he met with Samora Machel, the leader of Mozambique. And he talked about, you know, this Marxist-oriented leader that--that Andrew Young is meeting with, and then I put in the head note, `But years later, as president, Reagan had one of his most convivial meetings with a foreign leader with the meeting he had with Samora Machel in the White House,' and--just to point out some things there.
He didn't have everything right. We say in the introduction of the book, `He functioned as a one-man think tank.' He did not have time to master the nuances of every foreign and domestic and defense issue that he wrote about,' and very few political analysts or writers or pundits can predict the future and come out with a perfect record.
On the section on Southern Africa, and South Africa in particular, where he talks about apartheid, you know, he thought sanctions wouldn't work; he was making that argument very clearly in the 1970s; that it wouldn't work to get rid of apartheid. And he did say that, `We find apartheid to be morally repugnant.' But he didn't see the direction that the American people would go in the 1980s on that, so he didn't see the future in--better than--than--than most people who--who do this kind of work. But he did seem to understand the big game of the Cold War story better than most.
LAMB: And what has happened to you since this has come about? And you're making all the--the tour and speeches and television appearances.
Prof. SKINNER: Just my life is about the same. I have so much research and writing to do that nothing really has changed. It's great to--to do television and radio programs and talk about the book, but it's much more fun to do the work. So the Andersons and I have a--a--another book that we're doing of Reagan's writing. As I mentioned to you, this is just so small a fraction of what we found. We--we're doing a follow-on book with The Free Press on Reagan's letters and correspondence before the presidency, decades before, right up to the campaign, during the campaign and throughout the presidency, during the White House years. And those are pri...
LAMB: Where are you getting those?
Prof. SKINNER: Again, they're private papers that the Reagans—that the Reagans are giving us access to.
LAMB: Is this how, I mean, it works? Since you've been successful with this, and they say, `Well, we want to take it further with you'?
Prof. SKINNER: We pr--we pr--really presented that project because it's such a natural--it's a kind of a follow-on to this project, and it shows--to me, it's going to be, in some ways, more illuminating than this book because it shows Reagan writing things that were, really, never int--intended, in a way, to be broadcast. But they're--they're not inconsistent with what he says publicly: things on race, on--on religion. There's some letters where he's in debate with ministers and theologians about his understanding of s—Scripture and his belief in intercessory prayer. So I think that the public will enjoy seeing this material. But...
LAMB: What's the timetable on that?
Prof. SKINNER: We have to have that book--I think it will be out not this Christmas, but the Christmas after, 2002.
LAMB: And how are you two--three of you going about doing this? How do you work together?
Prof. SKINNER: We haven't figured out how we're going to divide up the labor for the next book, but, again, it's diving into the archives and letting the--really, doing a bottom-up story, letting the empirical record influence how we put the material together.
LAMB: `The Making of a Movie Star'--page 433, Des Moines Register.
Where did you find this? 1937.
Prof. SKINNER: That's really Marty--Marty Anderson's handiwork of being in touch with someone in Los Angeles, who--who collects Reagan posters, who knew about these essays, really, that r--Reagan wrote, very long ones, not letters to the editor, but...
LAMB: Irv Leftofski...
Prof. SKINNER: I think that's who Reagan...
LAMB: ...collector of movie posters.
Prof. SKINNER: That's--and so Reag--and--and Marty was in touch, and Marty knew about these, and we got hold of them. And we couldn't print all of them, and we pr--printed the first one. But Reagan--interestingly, he was 26 years old, leaving Iowa on his way driving to Southern California to begin his new life with his—his first movie contract and studio contract. And he's describing--he set this up, and he says he--he didn't get paid for it; set it up to write back Sunday--special Sunday pieces for the newspaper on his new life. And it was a great piece of self-promotion and wrote these early on. So we just thought we had to put one in the book to show what he was writing and thinking back then.
And I--you can just envision him, if you--if you read them, as this young man driving to Southern California, being stopped by police along the way, trying to get out of getting a ticket, meeting beautiful women once he gets there, having fun. And so it was just--it was great to read it.
LAMB: Now you put in--the last thing you put in, in this, is the letter that he wrote to the nation about his Alzheimer's disease.
Prof. SKINNER: Right, which has been printed before, but we...
LAMB: Yeah. What--what--what was the reason that you wanted to close out this with that letter?
Prof. SKINNER: Because I thought it--we thought it was an interesting way to kind of punctuate what we had done, because we start in the other writings with some of his childhood writings, and then here's his last kind of public letter to the country as he moves into another phase of his life. And it--it just was so clear and powerful and emotional in the way that the radio broadcast that we just listened to, "Looking Out A Window," was. It was consistent with his own emotions and his--his dreams for the country and his feelings, and we thought it just really showed him in a way that nothing else did at that time. And we wanted something from the post-presidency period, and that was the p--the perfect document.
LAMB: Now how many pieces do you actually have in the book?
Prof. SKINNER: We have aro--around 270; 220 radio broadcasts and then, you know, a couple dozen others in the--in the--in the other s--writing section of the book. The bulk of the book is--is just 220 radio broadcasts.
LAMB: What if people want to see them all?
Prof. SKINNER: Well, we have some news on that front. What we have done is--they're not all available, but all of the radio broadcasts that we present in the book have been--preservation copies have been made of them, and they are now at the Reagan Library for scholars to look at and make use of. So the...
LAMB: To listen to or just to look at?
Prof. SKINNER: To--to look at. The--you know, the tapes are at—at the Hoover...
LAMB: At Hoover.
Prof. SKINNER: At--at Hoover. And...
LAMB: What about that part of it? Can people listen to them?
Prof. SKINNER: I don't think those are open yet, and I think that there'll be some work to figure out what to do with the--the audio versions. But the--it is, I think, very important that we have now a set of files at the Reagan Library that scholars can see that show material from his private papers, really some of the first material to be released to the public from those private boxes. So you can see what we did.
LAMB: Are--are you a--I don't know what word--a heroine to the—the Reaganites, the people that always thought he deserved better, now that you've done this? Do you find people getting very supportive of you now?
Prof. SKINNER: I think there are people who are very supportive of the book and very--and have thanked all of us for doing this book and said that they knew that there was more to Reagan. And so I think that it's natural that supporters of Reagan would embrace this book. But what's interesting to me is that critics of Reagan have embraced this book. If you look at the dozens and dozens of reviews that have been written, many in the, quote, unquote, "liberal press"--I mean, The--The New York Times has done two pieces, and it was serialized in The New York Times Magazine, given front coverage in a Book Review in January, and it's been in other papers as well. The subject of editorials all over the country--is that Reagan critics are interested in the evidence and that there's a way in which, in this information age, real evidence still matters. Had he done this on a computer, it wouldn't have worked. We wouldn't have been able to--to do this book with the--the kind of authenticity that we've been able to do it.
But I think the fact that we've produced Reagan in his own hand, with his own drafts, not trying to protect him in any way, clean up the material--some people said, `Don't present drafts. You'll see the spelling errors and you--his strikeouts, things he didn't intend to--to put on the air. You shouldn't do that--his notes in the margins.' The fact that we did that, I think, has brought a lot of Reagan critics into saying, `No, we don't agree with his views on all of these issues, but the fact that he was working through them, that he was reading sources widely and thinking is--is important to the way we understand the presidency.'
LAMB: What is your own personal life's goal now?
Prof. SKINNER: Oh, just to keep doing all the work that I've been doing; to do more work on the end of the Cold War. I have a book I'm working on, with the University of Michigan Press, on the breakdown of detente in the '70s. It's the same time period as this book--much of this book. But now I think there'll be a Reagan to--dimension to it where there wasn't one before. But to keep doing my research, teaching. It hasn't changed my goals at all.
LAMB: Any--any interest in getting into a government situation at some point and being involved in foreign policy?
Prof. SKINNER: Not necessarily, maybe on a--in doing some consulting, but not as a full-time job. There's just too much to do in the archives.
LAMB: Our guest has been Kiron Skinner. She is a co-editor of "Reagan In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision For America." Thank you very much for joining us.
Prof. SKINNER: Thank you.
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