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What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era Paperback – October 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noonan left a job as writer for Dan Rather at CBS-TV to join Reagan's White House as a speechwriter; later she helped Geoge Bush defeat Michael Dukakis, devising such catch phrases as "a thousand points of light." Part political memoir, part autobiography, this conversational, effusive, anecdotal reminiscence offers a reverential portrait of ex-president Reagan ("probably the sweetest, most innocent man ever to serve in the Oval Office") that at times borders on embarrassing, schoolgirlish adulation. Not surprisingly, perhaps, she gives us Reagan's view of himself instead of detached analysis. She discusses White House in-fighting, the 1984 presidential campaign, key speeches she wrote or helped shape, her clash with Don Regan, the drive to win public support for the contras. There are cameos of Pat Buchanan, Larry Speakes, Andy Rooney, Bill Moyers and others, along with an extended defense of conservative ideology and policies. First serial to New York Times Magazine, Mirabella and Saturday Evening Post; BOMC altenate.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A welcome oasis in the desert of political memoirs... likely to be the most honest, lucid and enjoyable look at the Reagan White House that we’ll get.”
The Dallas Morning News

“An engaging book, the story of how a plucky and talented young person literally wrote her way into a previously all-male domain.”
The Washington Post Book World

“Noonan has written the funniest, most richly textured, nervously self-effacing and deftly observed political memoir...to come out of the 1980s.” —Time
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969894
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Michael Albert Riccardi on March 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Peggy Noonan's political coming-of-age memoir is a delight for anyone, liberal or conservative. Noonan, a resolutely middle-class product of Long Island, New Jersey and Fairleigh Dickinson University, wrote first for Dan Rather, the CBS anchor, and then Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
She offers a wonderful recounting of her flirtation with and eventual repulsion from the American left, most vividly in her description of a bus trip to a Washington antiwar protest. It's a dim echo, really, of the intellectual journey taken by her political hero, Reagan.
Her recollection of the Reagan speechwriting shop is as compelling as any scene from Toby Ziegler's office in TV's "The West Wing." It rings true and its very exciting reading, even to this day. Also, her practical advice on political speechwriting is useful and valid whether you are a Democrat or Republican.
Working in that speechwriting shop, Noonan gave Reagan some of his most successful emotional appeals: The D-Day anniversary paean to "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc," the tribute to the Challenger astronauts. She followed that up with one of the most effective political attacks in US political history, George H.W. Bush's evisceration of his 1988 opponent, Michael Dukakis, at the New Orleans GOP convention.
I dock the book one star because of Noonan's lack of objectivity regarding Reagan, whom she loves like a kindly, if remote, grandfather. However, "What I Saw ..." is very much her best work. Her later books are either polemics or treacly valentines. Too bad, because she's such a wonderful memoirist.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By dcreader VINE VOICE on March 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Peggy Noonan's memoir of her years in the Reagan White House is beautifully written and highly entertaining. She details the constant struggle between Reagan's speechwriters and his policy drones (the NSC staff is a particular nemesis) to shape the message. In the end, though, Reagan's views come across as his own. It is clear that although he had speechwriters to help him, he was more highly engaged in the speechwriting process than some (see "reader from Atlanta") would have you believe. There are also plenty of examples of where Reagan overruled his timid advisors and spoke out boldly, examples being his Berlin Wall speech and the "Evil Empire" speech. Overall, Noonan's memoirs is a great portrait of some of the pettiness of those who work in government and will makes you yearn again for a President who was "simple" enough to know what he believed without needing a pollster to tell him on every subject from whether to sign a welfare reform bill to where he and his family should take their summer vacations.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'd read this terrific memoir shortly after it came out and really liked it. So having recently read Dutch (see Orrin's review) and wanting to get a more positive spin on the Gipper, I figured this was as good a book as any. But as I reread it I found something really unexpected and stupefying; to a remarkable degree Dutch appears to have been plagiarized from Peggy Noonan. At first I thought it was just the chatty tone and Noonan's habit of imagining scenes from Reagan's life. But then I got to the point where Noonan has a throw away line about Reagan that struck me as awfully familiar and I recalled that Morris uses it as the central metaphor towards the end of his book. Noonan says that a Reagan aide told her that: "Beneath the lava flow of warmth there is something impervious as a glacier". As I noted in my review of the Morris book, he seizes upon this image of Reagan as a glacier, and while I think he uses it to somewhat dubious effect, what really jumped out at me was that he used it at all, and as near as I can tell it's unattributed. Now to give him his due, he claims that in this instance he was merely reproducing his own diary entry from 1998 (Noonan's book didn't come out until 1990) and I suppose he could be the unnamed source of Noonan's quote, but by that point the similarities in the two texts were just getting to be too much for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
One central theme that they agree on seems like it may be a puzzle to biographers and historians for years to come, the question of who Ronald Reagan really was. On this point, though she has nearly a schoolgirl crush on him, Noonan is no more forgiving than Morris. The portrait she paints, though generally positive, is of an affable but fundamentally unapproachable figure.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Danielle on April 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Peggy Noonan's account of life in the Reagan White House is clever, insightful and inspiring. Her vivid descriptons of the West Wing and Executive Office make you feel as if you are sitting right beside her as she crafts the speeches that for many defined the Reagan Presidency. In addition, I enjoyed the autobiographical elements of this book--which included Ms. Noonan's background and formation of her political ideology. In a straightforward, unpretentious style, both Ms. Noonan (and her former boss)remind us that there is still an American dream worth achieving.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Yalensian VINE VOICE on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
What an amazingly wide-ranging memoir Peggy Noonan wrote! Read this book if you want to know--

* what it was like growing up in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies,

* what it was like to work at a major news network (CBS) as it made the awkward, transition from radio to TV,

* how the White House speechwriting process worked,

* what went on inside the Reagan administration,

* what it was like to be a woman in a field dominated by men,

* what it was like to be a working-class, Fairleigh Dickinson-educated Jersey girl in a town populated by the old boys network and the Ivy League,

* what Reagan was like in person,

* how elements of the conservative movement fought and cooperated in the White House, and

* much, much more.

Having come to Reagan administration from CBS (where she worked for Dan Rather), Noonan spent only a few years at the White House in the mid-1980s -- long enough, though, to write some of Reagan's most memorable and moving speeches, including the Challenger and D-Day speeches -- but she saw, and participated in, so much. She describes her experiences with wit and humor and candor -- and, of course, the wonderful writing for which we've come to know her.

Despite her own conservative politics and love for Reagan, this is not hagiography. Even as she stands clearly in awe of the president, he remains a mystery to her, a distant enigma. She is uncertain whether Reagan's aides are actually manipulating him, or whether it's Reagan who's really doing the manipulating of his aides who seem always to be at odds.
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