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Starred Review. A professor of history at the City University of New York Graduate Center, Diggins (The Rise and Fall of the American Left) provides an original reappraisal of Ronald Reagan from the conservative perspective. Throughout, Diggins discovers nuances that have heretofore escaped notice by most other Reagan scholars. For example: in appraising Reagan's reaction as California governor to '60s radicals, Diggins is the first writer to acknowledge the extent to which the onetime movie star shared common ground with rebels on campuses nationwide. Reagan, with his reverence for Thomas Paine and passion for limiting the reach of government, was—on at least one level—more than sympathetic when Berkeley protesters chanted, "Two, Four, Six, Eight, Organize to Smash the State!" Although a fan of Reagan's, Diggins doesn't hesitate to be critical—as when he discusses Reagan's attitude as president toward environmental issues, which Diggins characterizes as "puzzling" and "disastrous." (Diggins notes that Reagan's record as governor of California, where he allied himself with old guard Republican conservationists, was far more environmentally-friendly.) Overall, Diggins does a superb job of tracing Reagan's intellectual development from old school New Dealer to thoughtful, Emersonian libertarian, and also firmly establishes Reagan's credentials as a major architect of communism's final collapse. 13 photos. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Because Reagan has been misinterpreted by both the Right and the Left, his legacy in American political history has been distorted and undervalued, according to Diggins, author of The Rise and Fall of the American Left (1992). Contrary to liberal opinions, Reagan was no philosophical lightweight, nor was he the moral absolutist lauded by conservatives. He was a man of consistent beliefs, forged during the cold war. In his efforts to end the cold war, he was closer to liberals who always thought it possible than to conservatives who didn't believe it could ever be done. Reagan was "the only president in American history to have resolved a sustained, deadly international confrontation without going to war," defying liberal expectations of him personally and conservative expectations of the value of diplomacy. Reagan rejected the authority of religion as much as government. By convincing Americans to believe in themselves, Reagan demonstrated the duality of American political culture, that it is both liberal and conservative. This is a thoughtful book for both Reagan admirers and critics. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
By far the most challenging biography of Reagan, John Patrick Diggins was not a conservative necessarily, but a fair-minded, opinionated intellectual, who dug deeply into Reagan's... Read morePublished on May 3, 2013 by crafty lefthander
There is already a vast amount of literature on the life of Ronald Reagan, and it shows no sign of abating. Read morePublished on October 14, 2007 by Graham Cooke
The dust jacket of this biography claims that John Patrick Diggins is one of America's "most interesting intellectual historians". This description gets two things right - Mr. Read morePublished on August 25, 2007 by Amazon Customer
Dr. Diggins seems to be an erudite, intelligent man who put some serious time into researching his book. Read morePublished on August 8, 2007 by Jonny T
I never thought I'd give a five-star review to a book with which I had disagreed in so many places. But this is just a fantastic book; original, provocative, magnificently... Read morePublished on June 10, 2007 by Odysseus
It is good to see serious scholarship on the Reagan years emerging, the problem I had here was this book reads much more like a college political science class textbook than a... Read morePublished on May 30, 2007 by Jeffrey T. Hammill
Most authors who try to write an insightful book about Ronald Reagan eventually say in frustration, "It's impossible to get to know the man! Read morePublished on May 17, 2007 by M. Strong