A top advisor to Ronald Reagan once remarked of his boss: "He knows so little and accomplishes so much." Reagan, in His Own Hand
will show that the 40th president knew far more than some people have given him credit for. It collects Reagan's recently discovered writings from the late 1970s, when he delivered more than a thousand radio addresses. He wrote about two-thirds of these himself, in longhand on yellow legal paper. "In writing these daily essays on almost every national policy issue during the 1970s, Reagan was acting as a one-man think tank," suggest the editors. This edition reproduces everything faithfully, right down to the spelling mistakes and crossed-out words. And it offers a compelling look at the ideas and principles that animated one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. In one address, Reagan describes his contribution to a time capsule:
I wrote of the problems we face here in 1976--The choice we face between continuing the policies of the last 40 yrs. that have led to bigger & bigger govt, less & less liberty, redistribution of earnings through confiscatory taxation or trying to get back on the original course set for us by the Founding Fathers.... On the international scene two great superpowers face each other with nuclear missiles at the ready--poised to bring Armageddon to the world.
Often his rhetoric is admirably forthright: "Calling a communist a liar when he is one is pretty frustrating. How do you insult a pig by calling it a pig?.... Fidel Castro is a liar." And there are frequent glimpses of his later achievements, such as the foreshadowing of his desire to build the Strategic Defense Initiative: "If the Soviets should push the button our magnificent warning system would immediately detect the launch of their missiles.... But there is no defense against them--no way to prevent nuclear devastation of their targets here in the U.S."
The bulk of the book comprises these radio addresses, but a concluding section includes everything from a short story Reagan wrote as a school assignment when he was 14 (it earned him a B+) to his memorable letter in 1994 revealing his Alzheimer's disease. This book will enthrall Reagan's devotees, and even his toughest critics will concede he had a way with words. No wonder they called him "The Great Communicator." --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Ronald Reagan is a puzzle: How, many wonder (and as Shultz puts it in his foreword), could he know so little and accomplish so much? The editors of this volume (two former Reagan advisers [Anderson and Anderson] and a historian [Skinner]) believe the question can be answered through Reagan's own writings. Associates describe Reagan as constantly writing, whether at home or in a hotel room, in a car or on a plane, recording his thoughts on the issues of the day. The product was almost always some form of public address, written and edited by hand. A collection of these manuscripts is presented here, just as Reagan wrote them, including his corrections and notes. With a few exceptions, they are very short radio commentaries delivered during the pre-presidential period (1975-1979), focusing mostly on foreign policy and the economy, and framed in terms of the general issue of government and freedom. There are no surprises; whether one sees Reagan as the great communicator, articulating deeply held convictions through the expression of simple but profound truths, or as the not-too-bright actor, painting a complex world in the reductionistic tones of black and white, one's expectations will be confirmed. In foreign policy Reagan is the essential Cold Warrior, understanding the world in terms of an "ideological struggle" between Communism and the proponents of freedom. In domestic policy he is the committed capitalist, always suspicious of government regulation and critical of taxation, and not above propagating theories of Communist conspiracy. Indeed, the uniformity of his outlook is quite remarkable, and whether one considers this a strength or a weakness this volume drives home the single-mindedness of the former president. (Feb. 6)Forecast: Given Reagan's enduring popularity, this could find a broad market, and a five-city author tour may pique readers' interest. Primarily, however, the book will appeal to serious students of history trying to put Reagan's ideas and ideology in historical context. First serial to the New York Times Magazine.
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