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Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy Paperback – Bargain Price, February 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an attempt to challenge the legend that has sprung up around Ronald Reagan's presidency over the past decade, Bunch, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, argues that the Reagan myth is dangerous because, unlike other American presidents held up as heroes, like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson, reverence for Reagan did not emerge organically. Rather, the GOP hatched the Reagan myth, feeding it to the news media for purposes that were essentially partisan in nature... pulling off a maneuver that was unprecedented in American history. The result has been a simplified reconstruction of Reagan, from far from universally popular president to the man who ended the Cold War and spurred unprecedented economic growth. Bunch contends Reagan was responsible for neither, at least not singlehandedly. Instead, he claims that the 40th president's real achievement lay in his ability to compromise, an element of his leadership conservatives have ignored since he left office. Neither Bunch's arguments nor his prose are powerful enough to do more than slightly tarnish Reagan's halo, but his book capably puts into perspective an imperfect but fascinating administration. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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*Starred Review* The Ronald Reagan who won the cold war, cut taxes, shrank the government, saved the economy, and was the most beloved president since FDR is a myth, Bunch says. The cold war fizzled out primarily because of Soviet economic collapse. Reagan cut taxes just once, in 1991, and thereafter raised them yearly. He vastly expanded the government and burdened the economy with enormous deficits. Moreover, his approval ratings were just average, reflecting his divisiveness as a political figure. Bunch also shows that however tough-talking, Reagan was a negotiator who achieved nuclear arms reductions by talking with Soviet leader Gorbachev and got into the Iran-Contra mess because he wouldn’t send combat troops abroad. In practice, especially of foreign policy, he was a pragmatist, not an ideologue. The truculent jingoist of the myth was concocted after Alzheimer’s silenced the man and the would-be juggernaut launched by the GOP’s 1994 election triumph crashed and burned before a Democratic president who shrank government and the deficit, balanced the budget, and even racked up surpluses. Bunch names the leading, venal mythmakers and shames the myth exploiters, too. Anyone interested in America’s immediate future should read this book. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416597638
  • ASIN: B004J8HXCC
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,977,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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269 of 311 people found the following review helpful By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ronald Reagan was out of the public eye for the ten years preceding his death. During his time in office, and in his first five years out of office, there was an anti-Reagan backlash. (Even George H. W. Bush had a small hand in that, when he spoke of a "kinder and gentler" America, Nancy Reagan was said to have asked, "Kinder and gentler than who?") Numerous critical books were written about Reagan both during and immediately after his presidency.

After Reagan movingly went public with his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994, negative criticism in print and on the broadcast media ceased - partly out of respect, but mostly because publishers thought negative books on Reagan would not sell. The former president was consigned to the mist of hagiography. By the time he died in 2004, there were serious calls for memorialization such as adding his visage to the dime and even to Mount Rushmore.

It takes time to look back at history with real perspective.

Two books have been recently published which attempt to present an alternative perspective on the Reagan presidency. One, William Kleinecht's The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America, is revisionist polemic and does more to enrage than enlighten. Will Bunch's Tear Down this Myth, however, is a fair and balanced (to borrow a phrase popular with right-wingers) look at the Reagan presidency. Far from polemic, and often complimentary to President Reagan, Bunch attempts to reveal the presidency of Ronald Reagan as it was experienced by those during the era. Many of the negative reviews appearing on Amazon are obviously written by those who didn't read the book.
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153 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Jean E. Pouliot on March 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I first ran into the Reagan mythmaking machine when a family member gushed a few years back about how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. Shocking as this statement was to me, I managed to sputter something about how many presidents -- Democrat and Republican -- had contributed to the win, and that Reagan just happened to be there at the end. But I was always unsettled by the claim.

Now, Will Bunch provides a reminiscence of the story of Reagan's presidency -- both the good and the bad. Bunch reminds us that Reagan was not particularly popular during most of his presidency, and that many Americans had good reason to wonder whether the country was in competent hands. Bunch runs over the Iran-Contra scandal, which came close to ending up in Reagan's impeachment. Far from being a thrifty government downsizer, he added $2 trillion to the national debt and grew the government. Bunch also reminds us that Reagan was the original "cut and run" artist, pulling US troops out of a failed mission in Lebanon within weeks after 241 Marines were killed there in a terrorist attack. We are reminded that Reagan's overtures to Iran to free hostages only resulted in more Americans being taken, and that his economic plans sowed the seeds of deregulation and greed that we are still reaping. We also see Reagan, the man who hated committing troops to war, who was a pragmatist economist who raised taxes when his trickle down theories did not working and whose personal diplomacy with the Soviets came close to riding the world of nuclear weapons.

The second half of the book lays out the players involved in turning Reagan into a poster child for ideas that he did not espouse.
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78 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was a young adult during the Reagan presidency and let's just say I was not a fan. For that reason, I wasn't all that sure I wanted to read this book -- I felt I pretty much "got it" about Reagan, and having lived through the era, could separate myth from reality on my own. I was wrong. This is a fascinating book, whether you remember Reagan as a fan or a foe, or whether you are younger and know him primarily through the legend of conservative purity and wisdom that has grown up around his memory.

Mr. Bunch reminded me of some of the things I disliked about Reagan, but he also reminded me of some things I liked. And I found out about a few things I'd missed at the time and would have liked had I known about them. He also does us a great service by examining how different Reagan the man was from Reagan the myth. In myth: uncompromising. In reality: a pragmatist who would cut a deal to get things done. In myth: the warlike figure who scared the hell out of the Soviets. In reality: a person haunted by the idea of nuclear war and dedicated to arms control and negotiation. In myth: the ferocious tax cutter. In reality: raised taxes every year in office except the first. And so on...

I don't think this book will change your mind about Reagan, exactly. But it will educate you about Reagan, whether you worship him, detest him, or aren't sure. Given how long a shadow the myth of Reagan has cast, essential reading for anyone interested in American politics.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Dan Duncan on August 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a Republican that has been in denial until I read this book. This book is long overdue and, with no doubt, it will be bashed by denying and doting Reaganites who refuse to acknowledge and address the undisputable contents of this defining book on the truth of the Reagan years. I'm so glad that the myth has been exposed.
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