The Right Coast

June 11, 2004
Barnes on Reagan
By Mike Rappaport

Andrew Sullivan quotes Fred Barnes's criticism of Ronald Reagan for allowing Donald Regan and James Baker to swap jobs:

Reagan swallowed without a moment's reflection the job swap that sent James Baker to Treasury and Regan to the White House. Regan lacked the political skills to be an effective chief of staff, which might have occurred to Reagan if he'd taken the time to think about it. Regan also let the president take the one big risk of his second term, the arms sale to Iran, and it was a dumb one. Baker wouldn't have allowed it.
A fair point in retrospect at least. Ronald Reagan did have a hands off quality to his leadership, which had its costs. But it is important to recognize the positive side to that as well. Ronald Reagan was tremendous at holding a coalition together. And part of that was focusing on the big picture, and allowing subordinates to work on the details.