Journalist Lou Cannon, a biographer of Ronald Reagan, sets the record straight in today’s New York Times: Despite what David Brooks and James Taranto seem to think, Reagan’s appearance in Neshoba, Miss., near Philadelphia, was a huge issue in the 1980 presidential campaign. Cannon writes:
In the wake of Neshoba, Mr. Reagan’s critics pounced. President Carter’s campaign operatives portrayed Mr. Reagan as a divisive racist. At a money-raising event in Chicago, Mr. Carter told his audience: “You’ll determine whether this America will be unified, or, if I lose this election, Americans might be separated black from white, Jew from Christian, North from South, rural from urban.”
Cannon’s purpose is to absolve the charge that Reagan was a racist, or that his 1980 victory was based on racist appeals to white voters. In doing so, however, Cannon confirms that Brooks and Taranto are wrong to claim such accusations are a recent invention of liberals aimed at tarring Reagan’s memory.