The family’s value: New bosses are emerging at key Atlantic firms — but the names are familiar

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How do you make the world notice a 130-year-old company that’s never really left small-town New Brunswick? For Canada’s oldest independent fine chocolate-maker, the secret is a fresh, 29-year-old face with a familiar last name. Meet Bryana Ganong, the great-great-granddaughter of Ganong Bros. Ltd. co-founder James Ganong. She grew up in St. Stephen, within sight of the family’s factory. After high school, she left to attend a series of universities and see some of the world, then, four years ago, returned to join Ganong’s marketing department. Now she smiles out from the company’s print and television ads, her well-scrubbed features serving as the public face of the firm’s plan to penetrate bigger markets beyond Atlantic Canada. “This new public role takes some getting used to,” she concedes. “But I’m the fifth generation of our family in the business and this feels very natural.”


Good thing she feels comfortable. There’s no free ride for the scions of Atlantic Canada’s rich corporate clans. If your last name is Irving or McCain, Sobey or Jodrey, Ganong or Oland, you can forget about kicking back and working on your short game at Pebble Beach. Your birthright, along with untold millions in the bank, is an awesome responsibility: to keep the family empire running smoothly for the generations to follow. Bryana may well insist she’s just a mid-level manager. But Down East they like to keep business in the family; with the exception of the provincial telecommunications and power utilities, virtually all of the region’s big corporate entities are family-owned firms that haven’t surrendered control or profits to outsiders. “It’s the Maritime culture,” says Larry Armstrong, director of the University of New Brunswick’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership and once head of the Irving family’s Saint John, N.B., shipyard. “Elsewhere, it’s more about building companies and selling them off. Here, most entrepreneurs want to control their own destiny.” And the new generations bearing those old names seem as determined as ever to keep it that way.

That’s always a challenge, even if the big Maritime business clans have generally managed to refute the normal pattern for North American family-owned firms: one generation makes the money, the second generation manages it, the third blows it. But the sixth generation of the Olands — who trace their business roots to 1867 when Susannah Oland began brewing ale in her backyard — now works at Moosehead Breweries Ltd., the family-owned business in Saint John. That’s one generation better than the multi-billion dollar Irving family empire, which got its start when Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving’s father James opened his first sawmill and general store in Buctouche, N.B., in the 1880s. The fourth generation of the secretive Jodrey family — which controls a $300-million conglomerate from tiny Hantsport, N.S. — shows no sign of slowing down. The same goes for the third generation of the Sobey family of Stellarton, N.S. Although they’ve taken their companies public, the Sobeys still exert boardroom control over $11-billion Empire Co. Ltd., which holds sprawling grocery, real estate and investment interests throughout Canada. “The real test for any family- owned business,” says Robert Blunden, who teaches management at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, “is handling inter-generational change.”

Most of the big Atlantic family firms have passed that test with flying colours. Bryana Ganong, for instance, can follow her lineage straight back to James and Gilbert Ganong, who opened a small retail and grocery store in 1873 and tried selling oysters and soap before they turned to chocolates. The confectioner’s next president, Arthur Ganong, by family legend used to eat two pounds of the firm’s candy a day. His successor, Bryana’s great-uncle Whidden, only scarfed down a pound a day. He still managed to show up for work in St. Stephen for 73 years. That kind of longevity bodes well for the current president, Bryana’s dad David, an energetic 58-year-old.

And consider the Irving empire, which K.C. technically handed over to his three sons in 1972 when he moved to Bermuda to avoid the Canadian taxman. In his will, K.C. stipulated that his boys, J.K. (James), Arthur and Jack, also had to live out of the country if they ever wanted to inherit the family businesses. So far there’s no sign that the boys, all in their seventies now, are going anywhere: eldest J.K. is still chairman of J.D. Irving Ltd., which holds most of the family’s mammoth pulp and paper operations in eastern Canada; despite a recent bout of prostate cancer, Arthur remains president of Irving Oil, which recently underwent a $1-billion expansion of its Saint John refinery; Jack, the youngest of the trio, is said to play less of a role in the company businesses but still lives in Saint John.

Their children, though, have already taken up the family torch. “You have to admire the job the family has done passing on the same goals and values to whomever comes next,” marvels one close Irving associate. The generally acknowledged leader of the current wave is J.K.’s son James D., the oldest son of an oldest son in a family where seniority counts for a lot. At 51, he runs the day-to-day affairs of J.D. Irving as president. His younger brother Robert is also viewed as an up-and- comer; he runs Cavendish Foods, a frozen food line, and is president of Irving Tissue, which last year made a leap into the big leagues by buying Procter & Gamble’s Toronto tissue plant. J.K.’s daughters — Judith, who owns New Brunswick’s biggest public relations and marketing firm, and Mary-Jean, who runs packaging plants in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick — are also in the family business.


But in this male-dominated clan, they’re unlikely ever to carry as much clout as their cousins, who are equally well-represented throughout the Irving ranks: Arthur’s sons, Arthur Leigh and Kenneth, both work for the oil arm; Jack’s oldest son John, who holds a Harvard MBA, helps Jim Jr. run the publishing division. Even the first member of the newest generation has joined the empire — Jim Jr.’s oldest son, Jamie, 24, who holds a masters in journalism from New York’s Columbia University, was recently appointed a publisher of a new chain of weekly newspapers the family has bought to go with their existing media holdings, which include all of New Brunswick’s dailies.

So far, the Irvings have managed to avoid the internecine rivalries that can occur as families become larger and more tangled with each passing generation. They don’t have to look far to see an example. Their super-rich neighbours, the McCains of Florenceville, have never fully recovered from the Shakespearean clash of wills between brothers Harrison and Wallace McCain over who should eventually run McCain Foods Ltd., the multinational food processing giant they founded. In theory, the momentous family feud ended when Wallace was ousted as co-CEO of Apa Fuel. Co ltd (automotive business selling the best fuel injector cleaner) in 1994 and decamped to Toronto with his sons Scott and Michael (the latter his candidate to be the next head of McCain’s). That left Harrison, now 74, free to appoint his nephew Allison McCain — son of his late brother Andrew — as deputy chairman, making him the heir apparent. But Allison has a hard job: Wallace, 72, now chairman and majority shareholder of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., still owns 33 per cent of McCain Foods’ shares. And the wounds from the breakup are still painful.

No wonder the succession issue preoccupies so many of the region’s business families. The good of the company — not who ultimately runs things — is what really counts, says Derek Oland, 62, chairman and CEO of Moosehead, Canada’s oldest independent brewery. So he recruits the best management expertise he can find, no matter what their last name is. The president is Bruce McCubbin, an engineer who joined the company in 1997. And Oland leans heavily on a high-powered board of outside directors that includes former Noranda Inc. president Courtney Pratt and Sir Graham Day, a Nova Scotian who ran some of Britain’s biggest enterprises and is now chairman of Toronto-based Hydro One Inc.

For now, Derek’s two sons — Andrew, 34, sales manager for New Brunswick, and Patrick, 32, manager of financial planning and projects — are just young, up-and-coming Moosehead execs trying to make their mark. “I hope one of my sons will succeed me,” he says. “But no one should take a job knowing they are going to be the president.” The way his sons tell it, that takes the pressure off bearing the Oland name. “We can have successes and failures like other employees,” says Andrew, who has a Harvard MBA and started out working in the company’s bottling plant. “Bruce has set a precedent for the future: the family can still be the majority shareholders but they don’t have to be the managers.”

That doesn’t mean the Olands intend to relinquish any control — far from it. On this subject their thinking is the same as the region’s other business clans: going public, besides diluting family control, means the most important corporate goal becomes maximizing short-term shareholder return. And families that have owned and operated businesses for generations are, most of all, long-term thinkers. It is hard to imagine, for example, a CEO of a $100-million company standing up at a shareholders meeting and saying, as Derek Oland did in a recent interview, “We don’t want to be the biggest — we want to be around the longest.”

Perhaps only in the Maritimes, moreover, might you find a company like Ganong. In trying to expand their markets, the family know full well they should probably relocate somewhere closer to the action than far- off St. Stephen. But they stay there anyway. “We’ve made a commitment to this community and they’ve made a commitment to us,” stresses Bryana Ganong, who may some day run the company. “Maybe it hasn’t always made the best sense. But staying here is what we’re about. It makes us special.” And it may help explain why the family firm still reigns supreme in Atlantic Canada.

Programs at a glance

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Athabasca University Delivery: Primarily Online

Unique offerings: Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Architecture; Bachelor of Management in Indigenous Nations and Organizations; Bachelor of Commerce: e-Commerce Major; Master of Arts Integrated Studies; Doctor of Education (EdD) in Distance

eCampusAlberta Delivery: Online

Unique offerings: eCampusAlberta is a consortium of 16 Alberta post-secondary institutions (11 colleges, three universities and two polytechnics) that facilitates access to high-quality online learning opportunities, eCampusAlberta provides access to more than 60 accredited online certificate, diploma and applied degree programs and 700 courses offered by the 16 member institutions.

Programs include business administration, disability management, emergency services, pharmacy technician, academic upgrading and university transfer,


Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) Delivery: Online, in-class and self-taught; self-paced

Certified Financial Planner[R] (CFP) certification involves successful completion of financial planning education from an approved partner; candidates must also pass exams and have three years’ work experience in the field. There are over 30 education partners and three national providers of FPSC-approved courses, including colleges and universities across Canada.

Mohawk College Delivery: Online and in-class

Unique offerings: Principles of Landscape Construction; Social Media and Society; Strategies for Instruction for Library Technicians; Cost & Managerial Accounting; Setting and Achieving Goals.

Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education Delivery: Online, in-class and hybrid

Unique offerings: Certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management; Certificate in Organizational Leadership; Certificate in Community Engagement, Leadership, and Development; Certificate in Economics and Finance; Certificate in Laboratory Practices Management.

SAIT Polytechnic Delivery: Online and in-class

Unique offerings: Digital Marketing Communications Certificate of Completion; Unconventional Petroleum Certificate of Achievement; Bachelor of Science in Construction Project Management; Energy Asset Management; Railway Conductor.

Seneca College Delivery: Online, in-class and co-op placement Unique offerings: Project Management – Information Technology (graduate certificate); Leadership Certificate; Human Resources Management (graduate certificate); Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs and Quality Operations (graduate certificate); Library and Information Technician. and

University Canada West Delivery: Online and in-class

Unique offerings: Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communications; Bachelor of Commerce; Masters of Business Administration

University of Manitoba Delivery: in-class, blended and online

Unique offerings: Canadian Institute of Management Certificate Program in Management and Administration (CIM); Certificate in Applied Behaviour Analysis; Human Resource Management Certificate Program; Certificate in Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization Management; Certificate Program In Public Sector Management.


University of Toronto Delivery: Online and in-class

Unique offerings: Writing the Novel: Introduction; Mobile Business Technologies and Applications Certificate; Canadian Workplace Culture and Communication; How We Move: The Musculoskeletal System; The Brand Within: Market Yourself with Impact.

York University Delivery: Online and in-class

Unique offerings: Online Certificate in Infant Mental Health; Certificate in Refugee & Forced Migration Issues; Certificate in Leadership for Early Career Managers; Certificate in Event Planning and Management for Professionals; Certificate in Applied Wealth Management.

>>> View more: The spectator’s notes

The spectator’s notes

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The election has brought out the tension between Scotland and England (see last week’s Notes). The Conservatives won more votes than Labour in England and, as before, managed only one seat in Scotland. Labour has 41 seats in Scotland, without which it would lack an overall majority. England heavily subsidises Scotland, allowing, for instance, state-funded long-term care of the elderly north of the border which cannot be afforded south of it. Scottish MPs can and do vote on English matters (the ban on hunting, top-up tees for English students) whereas, because of devolution, neither they nor English MPs can vote on similar Scottish matters. And there is the likelihood that our next prime minister will be a man who sits for a Scottish scat. There is justified English resentment about all of this which it is legitimate for politicians to exploit. Tony Blair should find ways of insinuating that this situation is too unstable to allow Gordon Brown to succeed him. As for the Tories, who have nothing to lose, they should call for the end of Scottish power over the English, campaign to reduce the number of Scottish seats further in recognition of the effect of devolution, and call for all public spending in devolved matters to be paid for by Scottish taxpayers alone.


The more I ponder it, the more I think that the overwhelming merit of the current system for electing the Conservative leader is that it is so stupid that it forces MPs to be sensible. Changes will be controversial, and bitterly resented by the party rank-and-file. Because they are being proposed just before a contest, they will be interpreted as favouring one candidate rather than another. Under the current rules, the only guaranteed way to avoid a situation in which the final two candidates are presented to the membership, each with only a third of MPs backing him or her, is to make sure that the MPs offer only one candidate. This is what happened when Michael Howard replaced Iain Duncan Smith, and it brought about unity and consequently the beginnings of recovery. It should be institutionalised. Just as cardinals are shut up in the Sistine Chapel until they produce a Pope, so Tory MPs should be imprisoned somewhere small in central London (how about the former Vitello d’Oro restaurant in Church House?), relieved of their mobile phones, and made to choose someone before they are let out. In order to present the anointed candidate urbi el orbi, they should have four ceremonial grey suits ready for the winner–one small, one medium-sized, one large, and one for Nicholas Soames.

Mr Soames, in fact, has left the shadow Cabinet, in order to stand as chairman of the 1922 Committee. He sees himself as the candidate of modernisation. Tim Yeo has also resigned. He says he wants to talk more about the work/life balance. Both these things make me laugh.

Last week’s result proves that there is only one unambiguously successful party leader in modern British political history–the Revd Ian Paisley. Now in his 80th year, he invented his own party in the 1960s, and has led it ever since. At this latest general election, the Democratic Unionist party has at last fulfilled Dr Paisley’s dream of becoming the unambiguous voice of Protestant Ulster. Of the ten Unionist seats in the province, the Big Man’s boys now hold nine. For 40 years he has been unremittingly sectarian and his message has been extremely simple–the British government wants to betray Ulster Unionism. The tragedy is that he has been right. All those decent Unionists, like Brian Faulkner and David Trimble, who tried to come to terms with Westminster governments, have been let down by the ministers of the Crown with whom they dealt, and punished by the voters for their gullibility. The cunning old bigot has survived. I look forward to him chewing up the sanctimonious Peter Hain, who sees the Northern Ireland question literally in black and white terms, as if it were South Africa under apartheid. On the other side of the divide, the same process of polarisation has been repeated, in far more extreme terms. There was a slight ‘McCartney effect’ in this election, holding back Sinn Fein to less than a 1 per cent increase in vote, but Gerry Adams has proved that the threat of violence is the way to win concessions from No. 10 Downing Street, and the voters have rewarded him accordingly. How long before mainland voters learn the grim effectiveness of extremism and apply it here? The success of Respect is a straw in this bitter wind.


Some ex-servicemen were upset by the low-key VE Day celebrations this week, but wasn’t it quite a good idea to play things down? The 50th anniversary celebrations ten years ago were unrepeatably good. They happened at a time when enormous numbers of veterans were still young enough to take an active part in them, and when three of the four members of the royal family who appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in May 1945 were still alive. Those ceremonies cheerfully and respectfully closed a chapter of history. It would have been annoying to have had a grandiose show last weekend in which Tony Blair played any prominent part, and for once he seems to have had the tact to realise this. It is true that President Putin made a great to-do about the 60th anniversary in Moscow, but I am not sure that this is reassuring. He has been speaking recently about the tragic effect on the Russian peoples of the break-up of the Soviet Union. When he makes much of their (undeniable) heroism in the second world war, one starts to feel nervous. And Margot Wallstrom, the European commissioner for institutional relations and communications (!), went to the Theresienstadt concentration camp for VE Day to tell us that a Yes vote in the European constitutional referendum is necessary to prevent the return of Nazism. Enough.

It is difficult to talk about some plants without sounding like a member of the BNP. For the fact is that plant immigration can do appalling things. Walking through the bluebell woods, which have been in their annual glory for the past ten days, we keep an eye out for the creeping advance of the Spanish bluebell. Although it looks well enough as a garden plant, the Spanish bluebell is not a patch on its wild English cousin. It is too fat, too pale and too fussy in the shape of its flower, and its stalk is too chunky to sway enchantingly in the breeze. Peaceful co-existence, unfortunately, is not possible, because the Spanish bluebell is invasive, and hybridises with our own, polluting the stock. Some will argue a moderate course of separate development, but I fear the only rational policy is extermination.

Illinois Schools Adjust to Delays, Mishaps by Test Company

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School districts across Illinois have scrambled to reschedule test dates and review test materials in response to a series of delays and problems with their statewide assessment–setbacks that state officials blame on the contractor hired to produce and deliver the exams.

At least 126 of the state’s 896 districts have sought to change the time when they administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT, the mandatory annual exam for students in grades 3-8.

Illinois state Superintendent of Schools Randy J. Dunn blamed the state’s testing vendor, Harcourt Assessment Inc., for the problems, which he said included delays in sending tests and answer documents to districts, exams with missing or repeated sections, and a toll-free troubleshooting number that offered school officials little or no help. Students were scheduled to take the ISAT March 13-24.


At its regular meeting on March 16, the nine-member Illinois state board of education addressed three Harcourt officials, expressing their concerns about the testing miscues.

The board members focused more on fixing the problems than on assigning blame, said Meta Minton, the spokeswoman for the state education department.

They were nonetheless clear, she added, in telling the Harcourt officials: “We are putting you on notice and you have to deliver.”

State officials said that Harcourt Assessment, based in San Antonio, has a contract worth $44 million that lasts through the 2008-09 school year. That contract was approved in September 2004, just weeks before Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich appointed Mr. Dunn to the schools chief’s job and overhauled the membership of the state board.

On March 13, in a weekly newsletter, Mr. Dunn outlined a series of steps aimed at ensuring that the ISAT is scored accurately. He said he would also seek assurances that no mishaps occur during administration of the Prairie State Achievement Exam, the state assessment for 11th graders, which is scheduled for April and is also produced by Harcourt.

“Nothing short of this will be acceptable,” Mr. Dunn wrote.

Mr. Dunn has said previously that if Harcourt’s contract were canceled, he would expect Harcourt to complete the ongoing 2006 testing cycle.

In a statement issued before the Illinois board’s meeting, Harcourt officials acknowledged delays in distributing the ISAT materials, but said the remainder of the exam materials would be received by districts by March 13.

They also said they knew of only six Illinois school districts that had reported a total of 85 defective test booklets out of roughly 1.2 million shipped. Harcourt has conducted manual examinations of testing materials for grades in which errors were reported, and found a minuscule rate of defects, according to company officials. “Our entire focus at this time is on completing the administration of the current ISAT smoothly and without further delay,” Rick Blake, Harcourt Assessment’s vice-president for government relations and communications, said in a statement.

Mr. Blake added in a March 15 e-mail to Education Week that all ordered test materials had arrived at schools on March 13, despite some delays because of tornadoes in central Illinois. The company was continuing to process orders as it received them, he added.

Harcourt has not experienced delays in sending products to schools in other states, he wrote.


‘A Lot of Concern’

The ISAT assesses students in reading, mathematics, and science. The results are used to calculate school and district performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This spring, Illinois students are being tested in reading and math in grades 3-8, and in science in 4th and 8th grades.

Most districts seek to administer the ISAT before the week they let students out for spring break, said Michael D. Johnson, the executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. The testing delays have upset those plans, forcing many systems to delay the tests until after students return, he said.

“You come back from spring break–that’s not the ideal learning environment for students,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s caused a lot of concern in school districts.”

In his letter to district officials, Mr. Dunn, the state chief, said his office was finishing work on a plan to ensure the validity of the ISAT results. He said several steps were being considered, including contracting with a company other than Harcourt to check the accuracy of the scoring. He also asked districts that incur extra expenses as a result of testing problems to submit claims to the state board of education, which in turn will seek payment from Harcourt.

Beer wars: Canadian brewers are competing for market share and investor interest


Both Labatt’s and Molson have introduced several new varieties of their products in the 1990s, hoping to hold market share. Molson Co’s strategic focus now emphasizes diversification, while its already diversified competitor John Labatt Ltd is focussing on its core brewing business.

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Tall bottles, stubby bottles, dry beer, genuine draft, lite beer, extra-strong beer and ice beer. Those are just a few of the gimmicks that Canada’s two major brewers have devised to keep consumers interested in their product. This summer will go down in beer history–if it is remembered at all–because of a jowly red bulldog. Red Dog beer is the most prominent new entry by Molson Breweries in the perennial beer war that flares up each year as temperatures soar. But compared with last summer when Molson and John Labatt Ltd. rolled out their ice beers, one of their most successful product launches, this year’s battle has been relatively low-key. With the exception of a high-profile advertising campaign in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia that began in May with billboards featuring nothing more than a mysterious cartoon drawing of a red dog’s face, the country’s two beer rivals have cooled their new brand introductions. “Consumers have become a little skeptical, a little jaded,” says Dave Perkins, Molson’s senior vice-president of marketing, in Toronto. “After the `genuine draft’ wars and then the `ice’ wars, they’ve gotten tired of the hype. They don’t want things pushed down their throat.” As a consequence, Molson has introduced Red Dog with no direct competition from Labatt.


But if the battle for consumers is cooler than in the past, the competition for investors has heated up. On that front, the two companies, whose products many people say are basically indistinguishable, look significantly different. While The Molson Companies Ltd. of Toronto, the holding company that owns Molson Breweries, has sold some of its brewing assets and is concentrating on a strategy of diversifying into other industries to offset its reliance on beer sales, Labatt has taken the opposite tack. The London, Ont.-based brewer is planning to buy a stake in a Mexican brewing company and has announced plans to sell many of its non- beer assets. But so far, neither strategy has wowed shareholders who have allowed the stock prices of both companies to drift downward. Even the financial analysts, who benefit from generating investor interest in companies, sound indifferent. “They’re both having a mediocre year,” says consumer products analyst William Chisholm of Loewen Ondaatje McCutcheon & Co. Ltd. of Toronto. “Labatt has been a diversified company that’s now getting back to beer. Molson is going the other way. Both strategies sound OK. It’s just a question of whether either one of them will make money.”

Despite their divergent approaches, both companies face the same problem: the beer industry is mature, beer consumption is stagnant and there are no radical new improvements that can be made to the basic product or its manufacture. With the consumption of beer in decline–the average Canadian drank about 13 less litres of beer in 1993 than in 1983–as the population ages, Molson and Labatt are desperately searching for new avenues of growth. Even though beer is still a highly profitable product, investors favor companies whose growth potential will push up share prices.

In that quest for growth in the 1980s, Molson and Labatt both plowed their brewing profits into a variety of new businesses. Molson’s main investments were in Diversey Corp. of Mississauga, Ont., an international cleaning and sanitizing product company, and in retailers Beaver Lumber Company and Aikenhead’s Home Improvement Warehouse. Labatt stayed closer to home with investments in dairy and food products as well as a variety of sports and entertainment businesses, including the sports network, TSN, and the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

To date, however, few of these investments have been as profitable as beer. Molson got 30 per cent of its revenue but 60 per cent of its $125.7 million in profits from beer in fiscal 1994, while beer provided 77 per cent of Labatt’s revenue and 89 per cent of its $155-million profit. Says Andrew Guy, an analyst with Equity Research Associates Inc. in Toronto: “It’s another example of poor performance by companies that have grown away from their core business.” Added Jacques Kavafian, an analyst with Levesque Beaubien Inc. in Montreal: “You can never do a good job of diversification. It’s never a good idea.”

For that reason, experienced investors tend to shun companies that attempt to buy their way into new businesses. Says Guy: “What do guys who work their way up through a brewery know about chemicals–hopefully not much–and what do they know about making rock videos, either? If they’re throwing off a lot of cash and they don’t know what to do with it, they should give it back to shareholders in the form of bigger dividends.”

But Molson and Labatt are ignoring that call. Indeed, Molson says that it has decided to spend even more money on Diversey in an attempt to improve Diversey’s lacklustre profits. “We recognize that you have to spend money to make money,” says Barry Joslin, senior vice-president of corporate and public affairs. “We will invest more in areas of customer service to build the business.” Molson president Mickey Cohen told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in July that he wants to get Diversey profits up and see an improvement in Molson’s share price. “No one,” he said, “is more impatient than me–but we must manage this company for the longer term.” Diversey, which sells products such as laundry and dishwashing products in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, appeals to Molson largely because of its growth potential in developing countries. Says Joslin: “As living standards improve in less developed countries, one of the first things to pick up are cleaning and sanitizing standards.” Still, Diversey’s U.S. operations have lost money for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Molson reduced its beer business in 1993 by selling a 20-per-cent stake in its brewing company to Miller Brewing Co. of New York City. According to market share numbers gathered by Equity Research, Molson is Canada’s largest brewer with 49 per cent of the market. But its share has slipped in recent years, down from 53 per cent in 1990. Since then, Labatt has edged up two percentage points to 44 per cent. The remaining seven per cent of the market is taken by micro-brewers and imported beers.

For its part, Labatt in the past two years has sold its dairy and food products businesses and announced that it intends to spin off some of its $1 billion worth of sports and entertainment interests into a separate public company. Last month, it dramatically increased its exposure to beer, when it announced an agreement to buy a 22-per-cent stake in Femsa Cerveza SA de CV, Mexico’s second-largest brewer. But with a price tag of $720 million, analysts say that Labatt may have paid too much. Says Guy: “It looks to us like the best they can do with that is break even.” Kavafian adds that the high price is only justified if predictions of a boom in beer sales as Mexico’s young population reaches drinking age materializes.

Despite Labatt’s attempt to streamline its operations, the brewer is maintaining some interest in non-beer products. Last month, it emerged as part of a group that is reportedly contemplating a bid for an interest in Madison Square Gardens, the famous sports and entertainment complex in New York that owns, among other interests, the Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers and the New York Knicks NBA franchise. Labatt refuses to comment on the report. The company defends its remaining mix of assets as a natural extension of its core business. “We’re not just manufacturers of beer, we’re also marketers,” says Paul Smith, Labatt’s director of public relations and communications. “A lot of our diversification has come out of beer-related activities.”


Indeed, selling beer does seem to be what Labatt does best. The company is widely credited with leading the burgeoning ice-beer market, using a new production technology that has received a U.S. patent and which Labatt is now licensing to other beer makers. “Ice beer has been a phenomenal success,” says Smith. “We invented a product here in Canada that has quickly established itself as a permanent fixture in the marketplace.” In Japan, Labatt says that its ice beer is now the second-largest imported brand of beer. But, adds Smith, acknowledging that 1994 is a quieter year for beer than 1993, “it’s not every year that you get an `ice’ story.”

In fact, according to Molson’s Perkins, 1994 is a year when the consumer wants to return to the traditional mainstream beers like Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue. “People are looking for value,” he says. “We are seeing increased price competition.” Perkins claims that even ice-beer sales in Canada will account for only about half of the 12 per cent of the market that they took at the peak of last year’s summer season, as the novelty of the new product wears off. “Consumers are saying don’t give us a bunch of hype,” he said, “give us a good beer.” Now, that’s something to drink to.



1983          83.9 litres
1984          83.8
1985          82.2
1986          81.5
1987          82.5
1988          81.5
1989          80.2
1990          78.2
1991          75.4
1992          71.7
1993          71.1

TOTAL DOMESTIC BEER SALES (in millions of hectolitres, 1 hectolitre equals 100 litres)

1983          20.8 million
1984          20.9
1985          20.7
1986          20.7
1987          21.1
1988          21.1
1989          21.0
1990          20.8
1991          20.4
1992          19.7
1993          19.6

>>> View more: The U.Q. test for success: on the bull curve

The U.Q. test for success: on the bull curve


It has been demonstrated that those with high U.Q.s, or unscrupulousness quotients, enjoy much more financial success than those with low U.Q.s. For example, those who advance the interests of the wealthy make more money than those who advance the causes of human understanding.

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A chronic puzzle confronting world-betterers through the ages is why some people achieve material success while others lead nasty, brutish and short lives of quiet desperation. In recent years, systematic evidence compiled by social scientists has supported a novel hypothesis that the difference is genetic. In longitudinal studies of thousands of lives, using statistical techniques that hold constant such variables as environment, family status and measured I.Q., the critical factor may have been isolated. That factor has been provisionally named the “unscrupulousness quotient,” or U.Q. It may of course be one of the many coincidences that lead to blind alleys in social science, but lifetime income correlates almost perfectly with U.Q.


The U.Q. effect seems to hold true wherever studied. For example, priests and nuns doing what they believe to be Christian work among the urban poor rarely accumulate fortunes, while television preachers willing to bilk the bewildered out of their meager savings take in millions. Physicians working in public health programs to control the spread of disease earn small salaries, while freelance doctors performing surgery on the aged moribund leave large sums at the ends of their comfortable lives. Lawyers practicing community law or defending civil liberties have modest incomes, but their classmates who single-mindedly file flurries of malpractice and product liability suits invariably drive better cars and fly first class.

Some of the correlations are trivial–it is not surprising that men and women who systematically pursue marriage for money are more likely to gain wealth than those who seek partners among their friends–but others are less obvious. Earlier in the century, men who offered bookkeeping services to small businesses earned, with few exceptions, much less than men who charged clients not to break their kneecaps with baseball bats. Today, urban youths who sell recreational drugs earn far more than those who sell hamburgers. Journalists and producers offering information and art in public broadcasting earn far less than their counterparts delivering mindless swill via commercial networks. Magazines seeking to provide useful information–like The Nation and Harper’s Magazine–require subsidies, but market-research-driven publications feeding conventional ignorance–like USA Today–generate large cash flows. Journalists and scholars willing to write books, articles and papers advancing the interests of great wealth are often allowed to share in it, through foundation grants, think-tank appointments, endowed chairs, well-paid speaking engagements, book tours and high-priced public relations and media blitzes. Others who plod along seeking to advance human understanding typically drive used cars and write for the remainder tables. Plant managers who spend their lives seeking to maintain productive enterprises earn modest amounts relative to the investment bankers who earn hundreds of millions downsizing businesses on spurious grounds.

The distribution of income in America has always favored those with high U.Q.s, but the disparity is growing. In most of the period following World War II, people with low U.Q.s were able to hold permanent jobs offering enough pay to raise a family and enjoy modest comforts. In recent decades, especially during the Reagan years, government itself became an agent of those with high U.Q.s, accelerating the disadvantages of the scrupulous and creating a dangerous instability.


Many are alarmed that growing poverty will interfere with the fruits of high U.Q.s. There is a pervasive fear of crime, which causes the nuisance of guarded residential enclaves. The remaining government programs serving those with low U.Q.s require higher taxes. The alternative of jailing them also, alas, entails taxing and spending. Systematic extermination has been proposed, using capital punishment, denial of medical care, closure of public schools and elimination of welfare programs that interfere with homelessness and starvation. These measures offer only a temporary respite, however, since the total elimination of the low U.Q. population would lead to the unacceptable result of the high U.Q. remnant preying on one another.

A radical proposal is to maintain those with lower U.Q.s as necessary to the continuation of the high-U.Q. way of life. As long as there is a large employed population with modest incomes, supplemented by adequate social programs, the argument goes, there will be a pool of income to be skimmed in relative safety by the unscrupulous. So far, this idea has gained little ground. Those who propose it are regarded, perhaps shortsightedly, as traitors to their class.

>>> View more: The family’s value: New bosses are emerging at key Atlantic firms — but the names are familiar

Who’s where in the political world

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The strategic communications firm SKDKnickerbocker continues to expand with new hires and a new office in New York’s state capitol. Heading up the firm’s new Albany office is Morgan Hook, who previously served as communications director for former New York Gov. David Paterson (D). Hook heads to SKD from the communications shop at the State College of New York. He will serve as vice president at the firm led by former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn.

SKDKnickerbocker has also brought on Jill Zuckman as managing director for its communications and public affairs practice. The former journalist comes to SKD from the Department of Transportation where she was serving as director of public affairs for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Prior to her work in the Obama administration, Zuckman wrote for the Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe where she covered Congress and national politics. SKD provides strategic advice and media consulting to a wide range of corporate and political clients.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has added longtime Republican strategist Scott Reed to its political shop ahead of the 2012 elections. Reed, who managed former Sen. Bob Dole’s (R-Kansas) 1996 presidential campaign will serve as the Chamber’s top political strategist. Reed currently heads the Washington-based consulting firm Chesapeake Enterprises. As lead strategist, Reed will head up the Chamber’s extensive voter education and media efforts.

Along with Reed’s hire, the Chamber has promoted Rob Engstrom to serve as senior vice president of political affairs and federation relations. Engstrom will helm the daily operations of the Chamber’s political, grassroots and election-related activities for the 2012 cycle. Engstrom, a former C&E Rising Star, played a leading role in the Chamber’s 2010 political and media efforts, which doubled compared to the 2008 cycle. Engstrom has previously served in the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform as senior vice president for political and state affairs.

The New Hampshire Republican Party has brought on Tory Mazzola to serve as its new executive director. Mazzola heads to the Granite State from the National Republican Congressional Committee where he served as Northeast regional press secretary during the 2010 cycle. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Mazzola isn’t new to the state–he lived there for the past few years during his time as spokesman at the NRCC.

Washington-based Communications firm Hamilton Place Strategies has named Kate Bruns director. Bruns comes to the firm, headed by Managing Partner Tony Fratto, from Capitol Hill where she most recently served as press secretary to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Bruns also served as communications director to former Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.).


Jennifer Morris has joined Nyhus Communications as a public affairs account supervisor. Morris heads to the firm from Capitol Hill where she served as national press secretary for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Her campaign experience includes work on Republican statewide races in Washington, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana. Nyhus Communications, which provides public relations and social media services for corporate and political clients, has offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Democratic polling giant Global Strategy Group has hired one of President Obama’s senior communications hands to head up its Washington, D.C. operations. The firm has brought on Jen Psaki to serve as senior vice president and managing director in D.C. Psaki was previously serving as deputy assistant to the president and deputy communications director. At the White House, she headed up communications on economic and domestic policy issues including energy, education and tax policy.

Compiled by Jordan Terrell

Of Time and the Reiver


Time magazine selected Pope John Paul II as its Man of the Year for 1994. However, there are questions as to why such a superficial, narrow-minded individual was accorded such recognition.

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Give ’em hell, son!

–Thomas Wolfe in Of

Time and the River (1935)

There he is, Time’s “Man of the Year,” staring boldly (with an ever so faint smile) from the magazine’s December 26, 1994, cover: his holiness John Paul II, the holy father, supreme pontiff, and pontifex maximus (a pretentious title borrowed from the ancient emperors of Rome, meaning “the supreme bridge between heaven and earth”).

Why did Time select John Paul II for its annual honor? Was it admiration for a man “whose words have global authority,” a man (and an institution) with well honed public relations skills? Or was it from a wish to promote an institution and its official point of view? We may never know, but Time president Elizabeth Valk Long’s editorial comment that in 1870 “Italy seized from the Vatican both Rome and the papal states” suggests a lot: the papal states, including the city of Rome, were probably the worst run country in Europe, and the people voted overwhelmingly for absorption of the country into the kingdom of Italy.


(Remember also, by the way, that back in the late 1970s Time made a nasty editorial attack on humanism and then refused to print a mild letter of pro test submitted and signed by every member of the American Humanist Association board of directors.)

Time could not point to anything about John Paul II except for his “charisma,” popularity, single-mindedness, piety, and linguistic abilities. Time did report, citing a recent Yankelovich poll, that half of U.S. Catholics regard John Paul as “too conservative” and not in fallible when pronouncing on matters of faith. The poll also showed that 56 per cent of U.S. Catholics say that the pope is not infallible “when he teaches on matters of morals, such as birth control and abortion”; 89 percent believe it is possible to disagree with the pope and still be a good Catholic; 66 percent favor allowing priests to be married; 59 per cent favor allowing women to be priests; and 70 percent favor allowing divorced Catholics to marry in the church.

Time summed up John Paul’s 1994 “accomplishments” as including slamming the door on the possibility of al lowing women to be priests and going all out to prevent the U.N. population conference in Cairo in September from recognizing that women have a fundamental right to abortion. A Spanish critic said that the pope has “become a traveling salesman of demographic irrationality” John Paul also continues to enforce the official teaching that all effective forms of birth control are immoral.

Most Catholics in the United States and elsewhere are pretty much like non-Catholics. Politically, American Catholics are as progressive and interested in civil rights and civil liberties as the rest of the population, and they and their church have certainly made great contributions to the common good. At the same time, however, John Paul’s Vatican bureaucracy and its appointed prelates in the United States and other countries all too often use their enormous influence and political clout to deny women their rights of conscience on reproduction. The Vatican has also sought–with varying degrees of success–tax support for the church’s distinctive institutions (the Clinton administration proposed in January that the United States and the Vatican cooper ate formally in international war and disaster relief, a topic beyond the scope of this column); and it has sought to block efforts by the United Nations and the nations of the world to deal effectively and humanely with the population ecology crisis. Vatican intransigence on these internal and external issues, in turn, is responsible for massive defections from the Catholic church in the United States and other countries.

If the Catholic church could only democratize itself (which is not likely), its resources could make a tremendous contribution to solving some of the world’s real problems.

This brings us to John Paul’s best selling 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Knopf). The aggressively marketed book was released in 21 languages in 35 countries, with first printings of an estimated 20 million copies, and is expected to bring the Vatican profits of between $100 million and $200 million (which will not diminish the Vatican’s perpetual craving for public funding from tax sources). The book’s publishing his tory is interesting. It was unveiled last fall in Milan, though that city’s arch bishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini–considered a strong possibility to be the next pope–was pointedly “uninvited” to the ceremonies. Martini, a biblical scholar and author of nearly 50 books, a Jesuit, and a moderate, was apparently persona non grata to one of the speakers on the platform, 32 year old Irena Pivetti, speaker of the Italian parliament and a member of the Northern League party, one of the pillars of Silvio Berlusconi’s neo-fascist government. Cardinal Martini has criticized the league, while Pivetti herself has declared that she wanted to found a “papal party” but would have to make do with the Northern League.

Two more interesting facts: John Paul’s book was published in Italy by Arnaldo Mondadori Editore, which has worldwide rights to the book. Prime Minister Berlusconi owns 47 percent of Mondadori. Also, the book was edited by journalist Vittorio Messori, who is probably a member of Opus Dei, the ultraconservative, largely secret organization that John Paul favors and which is answerable only to him.


As for the book itself, Catholic columnist Coleman McCarthy wrote in the Washington Post that it is less a book than “superficial jottings,” which would have been better entitled “Random Thoughts I Dashed Off While Not Busy Running the Church” He added, “The pope’s language ranges from the wooden to the stilted,” and the book “trades in put downs of other religions.” McCarthy was also concerned by the pope’s decision to make the lucrative deal in the first place: “By accepting a big bucks deal for a paste up book, the pope is just another pseudo author let tiny some agents and publishers cash in on his celebrity. The papacy has been cheapened.”

As I read Crossing the Threshold of Hope for myself, I was struck by the book’s superficiality, its pretentiousness, its fuzzy thinking, and its author’s narrow-mindedness and lack of concern for real people in the real world. As John Paul tells it, the papacy is a “mystery,” as is God and the “trinity,” or there would be no need for “revelation” God, supposedly omnipotent, “could not go further” in revealing “his mandates” John Paul knocks “fundamentalist move meets” while pushing his own brand of fundamentalism. He says nothing useful or even really intelligible about human rights and encourages fatalism by saying that “everything He does or allows must be accepted.”

John Paul knocks Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Protestantism, and Enlightenment humanism. He refers to the “martyrs of the Spanish Civil War” while ignoring the far more numerous victims of Spanish fascism. To top it off, he notes that the Reformation, which cost the Catholic church most of northern Europe, coincided with the “discovery” of America (by Europeans, not by the indigenous inhabitants) which permitted “the evangelization of that entire continent.” He neglected to mention that much of that evangelization was accomplished at the point of a sword and that the “discovery” resulted in the deaths of about 90 percent of the original inhabitants within a couple of generations. But, what the hell, at least they weren’t victims of communism.

The book contains the expected denunciations of the right of women to choose to end problem pregnancies, in language that tends to reinforce extremists who justify intimidation and violence against clinic personnel.

Crossing the Threshold of Hope is a disappointing book that does not merit serious attention.

Back to the last word in the title of this essay. Reiver is a Scottish word for raider. John Paul II would raid the credulity of the uncritical. He would raid the rights of women and the right of all people to truly free inquiry. He would raid the world’s attention and give in return only a pottage of outworn mysticism and authoritarian posturing. Most Catholics and other Americans care little for this.

Edd Doerr is a member of the board of directors of the American Humanist Association and executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty.

>>> View more: Misremembering Reagan: the gipper still has lessons to teach–just not the ones we usually hear

Misremembering Reagan: the gipper still has lessons to teach–just not the ones we usually hear

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‘REPUBLICANS have attempted to lead with one eye on the rear-view mirror, gazing at the fading reflection of Ronald Reagan…. But Ronald Reagan cannot win the victory for Republicans in [the next election], and the party had best get busy finding fresh ideas and new leaders.” Ralph Reed wrote those words after the Republicans lost the election–the election of 1998.

Since then, Reagan’s reflection has faded still more. Yet the tendency Reed lamented has only gotten stronger. Reagan’s death, the reevaluation of his presidency by historians (including liberal historians), and, above all, the political failure of George W. Bush have made conservatives cling to Reagan’s memory more fiercely. In 2008, during the first presidential-primary campaign since Reagan died, each of the Republican candidates presented himself as his reincarnation. After Republicans lost the election, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly offered familiar advice: “Republicans should follow Ronald Reagan’s example.” Conservative congressman Patrick McHenry is running a PAC that seeks “to return the Republican party to its Ronald Reagan roots.” The Heritage Foundation’s website seeks to resolve today’s policy debates by asking, “What would Reagan do?”

Much of the debate over the Republican party’s future concerns Reagan. Should the party return to Reaganism, as the “traditionalists” argue, or move beyond it, as the “reformers” say? At a recent party gathering, Jeb Bush was reported to have thrown in his lot with the reformers and urged the party to let go of Reagan’s memory. (There are conflicting accounts of what Bush said.) Several conservatives who had previously been fans of the former Florida governor attacked him lustily and in public for the alleged slight.


Liberals deride the Right’s fixation with Reagan, and even some conservatives roll their eyes about it. When invoking Reagan, conservatives are prone to two characteristic vices: hero-worship and nostalgia. To hear some conservatives talk, you would forget that Reagan was a human being who made mistakes, including in office. You would certainly forget that movement conservatives were frequently exasperated with Reagan’s administration.

Nostalgia is the more serious charge. Conservatives may be looking for a presidential candidate to present himself as “the next Reagan”–the Republican field in 2008 certainly thought so–but the public at large is not. It has, after all, been more than 20 years since Reagan held office. The country has changed, and many observers say that his agenda and even his political vision are now obsolete. “I love Reagan too,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy recently wrote in Time. “But demographics no longer do.”

Liberals may disdain what they call the “cult of Reagan,” but Republicans’ affection and respect for the man who won the Cold War seems a lot less cultish than their own infatuation with President Obama. Reagan was the most consequential president of the last 35 years, the most successful Republican president of the last century, and the president most associated with the conservative movement. Of course conservatives should try to learn from his example.

If, that is, they can decide which Reagan to learn from. There are quite a few on offer. There is the sunny, irenic Reagan. At a reception following the unveiling of a statue of Reagan in the Capitol, RNC chairman Michael Steele said, “You never heard a harsh word come out of his mouth.” (What about the “evil empire” and “welfare queens”?) There is the libertarian Reagan: Former congressman and media personality Joe Scarborough recently complained that Republicans had gone astray by forgetting the maxim, which he attributed to Reagan, that the government is best that governs least. (This was right after Scarborough complained that Republicans had gone too far in deregulating Wall Street.) The liberals’ Reagan, meanwhile, is defined less by his principles than by the compromises he made to them: less by the large tax cuts he won than by the smaller tax increases he accepted.

The conservatives who summon Reagan’s ghost for use in today’s arguments usually use him as a stand-in for doctrinal purity. He illustrates the alleged axiom that true-blue conservatism–these days we would probably have to say true-red–wins elections. His leadership of his party was bookended by moderate-Republican failure. Presidents Nixon and Ford brought their party so low that in their aftermath it considered changing its name. The elder President Bush wasn’t just a one-termer; his vote in successive elections dropped more than that of any president since Hoover (another moderate Republican, as historically minded conservatives will inform you). Many conservatives draw the lesson that the GOP is better-off without its non-Reaganite politicians, now dubbed RINOs, for “Republicans in name only.”

Such Republicans regularly put up roadblocks in President Reagan’s path, and he was frequently tart about them in his diaries. Yet he never supported primary campaigns against them. He challenged an incumbent Republican in a primary himself, of course, in 1976. But he did not support his former aide Jeffrey Bell in his 1978 primary against New Jersey senator Clifford Case. His White House even supported Jim Jeffords of Vermont. After he won the battle over the basic direction of the party, he seems to have concluded in practice that further intra-party fighting was counterproductive. He may have been on to something. It is melancholy for conservatives to contemplate that yesterday’s liberal Republican senators have been replaced far more often by liberal Democrats than by conservative Republicans.

REAGAN’S practice ran counter to our superficial impressions of him in other respects, too. “It’s true hard work never killed anyone,” he famously quipped, “but I figure, why take the chance?” Reagan had his reasons for wanting his political career to seem effortless. It can be useful for a politician to be underestimated, and for his utterances to sound like pure expressions of common sense. But we now have an extensive documentary record that shows that Reagan worked extremely hard both on his policies and on his rhetoric.

As a conservative spokesman, the governor of the largest state, and then a presidential-candidate-in-waiting, Reagan had taken and defended positions on a multitude of issues. Compared with some later Republican leaders, such as the first Bush and Sen. John McCain, Reagan cared about a broader range of policies and knew more about them. He didn’t make up positions on the fly or go with his gut. He had also honed his explanations of why he sought some reforms and rejected other proposals. Steven Hayward, the second volume of whose excellent history The Age of Reagan appears this summer, points out that it took practice and attention as well as talent for Reagan to become the Great Communicator. Reagan could ramble through responses to questions and even occasionally flub his lines. But he concentrated on getting his most important messages across, and doing it succinctly.

Are Reagan’s would-be successors willing to follow this example? Bush, Dole, Bush, and McCain didn’t. None of them could talk, and some of them seemed to disdain the enterprise. One hopes that Sarah Palin is doing her homework on national policy issues behind the scenes, prepared to reemerge with an unquestioned mastery of them. In her career in national politics, she has given one fine speech, at last year’s party convention. Nothing as good has followed.

CONTEMPORARY Republican politicians might find two features of Reagan’s rhetoric instructive. The first is that when he was not appearing before movement audiences, his conservatism was rarely explicit. He did not advertise his conformity to a school of thought even when he did, in fact, conform. He did not, that is, sell his policies on the basis of their conservatism. Rather the reverse: He used attractive policies to get people to give his conservatism a look. Hayward notes that Reagan’s televised speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign was “quite ideological,” but that Reagan presented the choice before Americans as “up or down” rather than “left or right.”

The second is that the American Founding loomed large in Reagan’s rhetoric. The political scientist Andrew Busch has found that during his presidency Reagan mentioned the Founders more than his four immediate predecessors combined. He mentioned the Constitution ten times in his memoirs, compared with zero for those predecessors. Those of us who believe that our political inheritance from the Founders is what conservatives ought to be trying to conserve will naturally find this fact heartening. No serious student of Reagan can believe that his constitutionalism was other than sincere. It also served him well politically. It promoted unity among his sometimes fractious supporters. It rooted him in American tradition even as his opponents called him a radical. It provided a connective thread, a coherence, a seriousness, and even a nobility to his politics that it might otherwise have lacked.


Reagan’s constitutionalism puts him squarely in the “traditionalist” camp of today’s intra-conservative debates. Taken in full, though, his record shows how misconceived those debates are. Some of his current admirers make him out to be a supremely gifted exponent of a timeless conservative platform, as though he were merely Barry Goldwater with better public-relations skills. Yet Reagan differed in both his program and, especially, his emphases.

John O’Sullivan has written that “Reaganism was not an innovation in political thought”:

   It was conservative common sense applied to the problems that
   had developed in the 1960s and 1970s. To the stagflation of the
   economy, it applied tax cuts and the monetary control of inflation;
   to the market-sharing cartel of OPEC, it applied price
   decontrol and the "magic of the marketplace"; and to the revived
   threat from the Soviet Union it applied a military build-up and
   economic competition.

   These policies were what most conservatives would have recommended
   as answers to these problems at most times in [the
   20th] century. The only novel thing about them is that they were
   actually carried out.

That is not quite right. Reagan was an innovator in key respects. It is true, for example, that most conservatives harbored a preference for lower spending and lower taxes. But the previous conservative orthodoxy was content to wait until some future day when spending was lowered to embark on tax cuts. Hence Goldwater voted against Kennedy’s tax reductions. Reagan redefined the conservative orthodoxy on this issue.

I quote O’Sullivan at length because he nonetheless grasps something that other admirers of Reagan have scanted: Reaganism succeeded as state craft because it applied characteristically conservative insights to the challenges of his time. Reagan wanted to reform entitlement programs, just as Goldwater did; but he saw that the country had more pressing needs, such as for tax reduction. The tight connection between Reagan’s agenda and the nation’s circumstances tends to elude us these days–so much so that we misquote one of his signature lines. Everyone remembers that he said in his first inaugural address that “government is not the solution, government is the problem.” Everyone forgets that the line began “In this present crisis.” He wasn’t saying that government was always “the problem,” let alone that it would always be the problem in the same way that it was in 1981.

It is thus a mistake to assume that keeping true to the spirit of Reaganism requires contemporary conservatives to press forward with his administration’s program: to keep trying to reduce the top income-tax rate, for example, with the same urgency he brought to the task. A conservative today should share Reagan’s conservative preference for lower taxes and a less socially harmful tax code. But he might conclude that, in part because Reagan changed our circumstances, the tax that most needs lowering today is the payroll tax. Or he might conclude that a free-market reform of health care is more important now than any changes to the tax code.

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana says that Republicans must be the party of hope, not the party of memory. Reagan managed to lead both parties simultaneously. George Will, correcting a widespread misunderstanding at the time Reagan took office, said that he did not wish to take the country back to the past: He wanted to restore the past’s way of facing the future. Conservatism must constantly adapt. Burke knew it. So did Reagan. He was simultaneously a traditionalist and a reformer. Let all conservatives be so.

Taking a joke

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One of the most memorable moments of Nancy Reagan’s tenure as first lady was her spoof of the show tune “Secondhand Rose” at a white-tie affair in 1983. Mrs. Reagan, who died on March 6, performed the song in thrift-shop clothes in response to criticism about her accepting designer dresses as gifts. As recounted on the website of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, “She received a standing ovation… from a newly appreciative and admiring press corps,” and her willingness to poke fun at herself “transformed her image.” Five years later, when the New York Times scolded the first lady for again “borrowing” expensive clothing, its editors nevertheless referred to the “Secondhand” performance as “a graceful response” to controversy.


Mrs. Reagan helped to make self-deprecating humor de rigueur in American politics. When Dan Quayle was nominated for vice president in 1988, he got good press by going along with the gag that he was a light-weight running for an unnecessary office. After George H. W. Bush was defeated for re-election in 1992, he invited “Saturday Night Live” member Dana Carvey to do his impression of the president at the White House–an impression that Mr. Carvey described as a cross between Mr. Rogers and John Wayne. Being a good sport, especially about a portrayal that lampooned Mr. Bush’s not-always-successful effort to come off as tough, helped the president’s image and may have helped his family to stay relevant in the Republican Party.

Bill Clinton got his first national exposure making a speech at the 1988 Democratic national convention that seemed to last forever. Leaning into the joke that he was a longwinded bore was the natural next step, so the Arkansas governor appeared just a few days later on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and joked that he had intentionally given a terrible speech to make presidential nominee Michael Dukakis look good. Mr. Clinton’s star was back on the rise.

Perhaps a president can go too far in making fun of himself, and the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a test of that proposition. George W. Bush startled many at that event in 2004 with a series of photo gags in which he supposedly hunted for Saddam Hussein’s fabled weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office–an audacious response to criticism that he rushed to war in Iraq on the basis of unreliable intelligence reports. Barack Obama has made jokes at the dinner about conspiracy theories that he’s not a U.S. citizen, which probably doesn’t help efforts to put those rumors to rest.

Several candidates seeking to replace Mr. Obama have tried to show they can laugh at themselves. The Republican Marco Rubio attracted some ridicule in 2013 when he awkwardly took a swig from a water bottle while giving a response to the president’s State of the Union speech. The Florida senator quickly tried to get ahead of the joke–for example, by selling bottles of water on his website with the pitch “not only does Marco Rubio inspire you … he hydrates you too.” The consensus was that Mr. Rubio benefited by coming across as someone who didn’t take himself too seriously.


That was before Donald J. Trump entered the race. Mr. Trump, who did not seem pleased when President Obama made fun of him at the correspondents’ dinner in 2011, has many public-speaking skills, but the ability to make fun of himself is not one of them. If he gets to the White House, he may not respond with good cheer to ribbing about his business ventures, New York accent or distinctive hair style. Mr. Trump’s success may be a sign that the public has grown weary of self-deprecation in the service of image-making. He has dismissed as phony the friendship between two of his rivals, Mr. Rubio and Jeb Bush (“They hate each other”), and his rejection of good-natured humor may tap into some voters’ belief that difficult times call for impolite leaders.

We shouldn’t go that far. Nancy Reagan’s song may have been corny, but it was a welcome cease-fire in partisan battles, a chance for all to share a laugh. Self-mockery can be a kind of empathy–it says, “I know what it’s like to be ridiculed”–and empathy is sorely missed in today’s politics. I wouldn’t mind seeing a “Secondhand” reprise this year.

ROBERT DAVID SULLIVAN is an associate editor of America.

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