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on May 24, 2007
I have not finished reading this yet, but I can't put this one down. You get an incredible insight to President Reagan's thoughts and hopes for the country as well as an understanding of how deeply he loved his wife.

I have also come to realize how humble a man he really was. For example he seemed shocked that whenever he went someplace (even if just for a short trip in D.C.) there was a change of clothes waiting for him. He was also amazed that when one of his children was on TV one evening the staff video taped it for him.

The most enjoyable entries to read are the ones where he talks about simple things like setting his clocks ahead in the sping, or riding a horse at Quantico.

There are also more serious entries where he writes about the Russians and his hopes for peace in the middle east.

The amazing thing is because this is a personal diary, it was never intended to be published. You get (I feel) the real thought and feelings of one of our greatest Presidents.

One reviewer gave this book only one star and his review is less a review of the book and more an attack on the former President. I do not think you need to be conservative to enjoy this book. You just need to want to see the daily thoughts of the man.
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VINE VOICEon May 29, 2007
This edited volume of President Reagan's diaries is memorable more for preserving the distinctive voice of this fundamentally decent man than for any momentous new insights into his eight years in highest office. The first three years of entries mainly log his daily activities, but on January 18, 1984, Reagan decides he is doing "wrong" because "those schedules are all in the archives." At this point, the president makes more of an effort to include analysis and opinions. However, the tenor of the entries remains matter-of-fact and schedule-driven.

Here is a scattering of comments this reader mentally asterisked:

-- As early as March 19, 1981, Reagan already worries about Secretary of State Alexander Haig: "Al told me he felt he was being undercut by other agencies etc. I worry he has something of a complex about this."

-- When the air traffic controllers struck, Reagan notes he gave them "48 hrs. in which to return & if they don't they are separated from the service." He reminded them of their oath "'that he or she will not strike against the U.S. govt. or any of its agencies.'"

-- Referring to the memorial services for the American troops killed in the Lebanon suicide bombing, Reagan writes on Friday, November 4, 1983: "One little boy, 8 or 9, politely handed me a manila folder saying it was something he'd written about his father. Later when I read it I found it was a poem entitled 'Loneliness.'"

-- During his April '84 trip to China, Reagan comments on his meeting with Deng Xiaoping: "...he really waded in critical of our mid-east policy, our treatment of the developing nations etc. & our disarmament failure. He touched a nerve -- when it was my turn I corrected him with facts and figures & I meant it. Funny thing happened -- he warmed up although he did bring up Taiwan (the only one who did). I told him it was their problem to be worked out -- but it must be worked out peacefully."

-- A few words about the famous Reykjavik meeting with Gorbachev: "Then began the showdown. He wanted language that would have killed SDI. The price was high but I wouldn't sell & that's how the day ended."

-- On July 2, 1987, the president has this to say about Iran-Contra: "Top Secret is call I got from Howard last night. He has learned North in his private testimony said he had kept all news of diversion of Iran funds to Contras from me & no one else had told me."

-- The day after the November elections in 1988, Reagan mentions victor Bush: "George & I had a little one on one & I asked him to continue my custom or returning military salutes. He's for it."

Douglas Brinkley, who edited these diaries, reproduced the entries in this book exactly as Reagan wrote them, misspellings, grammatical errors and all. That's a good editorial decision because, again, it brings the reader closer to the exceptional, optimistic-at-heart head of state who jotted these thoughts and records down in longhand for himself and for posterity. President Reagan preserved -- with a sense of humor and unusually little animosity or ego -- something of his resolute stances regarding the vital issues of the 1980s.

THE REAGAN DIARIES is an historical document worth one's time. For those who lived those years, it is also a day by day reminder of the events that shaped our lives. For those to whom this book is purely history, all the more reason to sample the daily record of a very significant American chief executive.

Four and a half stars.
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on June 5, 2007
The Reagan Diaries were written in the White House every evening that Ronald Wilson Reagan occupied the office of President. Reagan writes his innermost thoughts in a clear, concise and closely observed witness to history. Only a few presidents such as John Quincy Adams; James Knox Polk and Rutherford B. Hayes took the time to keep diaries of their tenure in the most powerful office in the free world.

Anyone interested in American history; the US Presidency; the life or Reagan or how modern power politics will benefit for the hours it takes to read these many pages (the book is 700 pages). The diaries have been edited by noted historian Douglas Brinkley of the University of New Orleans. A later two volume edition of the unedited diaries is planned for the future. Brinkly gives concise notes on all the activites Reagan enaged in on a particular day. He has done an excellent job in his editing work. He did so with the cooperation of Nancy and the Reagan family.

In my perusing of these diaries my estimation of Ronald Wilson as a patriotic American seeking to do the best for his nation and freedom has risen several notches on the Richter scale! Reagan will be known for such historical benchmarks as:

1. Reaching detene with the Soviets and standing up to Soviet negotiators. He handled Gorbachev with strength and dignity. His foreign policy with the Soviets will live forever in American memory.

2. In the last few years of his second term Reagan got into deep trouble over the Iran-Contra snafu.

3. Reagan sought to lower taxes and raise the profile of the military. During his term their was the invasion of Granada; the murder of the Marines in Lebanon and continuing conflict in the Middle East. He worked hard and was knowledgable on foreign policy.

4. Reagan's record on Civil Rights and poverty issues is weak. Ironically the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was passed into law during his term. Personally he had no prejdice against minority groups. His environmental policies were mediocre. He often supported very right wing politicians.

5. Reagan often considered Democratic leaders as demagogues and thought liberalism was a mistake. Ironically he was once a Democrat voting for FDR and Truman.

5. Reagan sought reduction of nuclear arms working hard for SALT agreements and seeing the end of the Cold War against the Russians.

6. Reagan often sought the wisdom, advice and frienship of his good friends Margaret Thatcher British PM and Brian Mulrooney of Canada. His working with other world leaders is something our leaders should seek to restore in the future.

7. On a personal level:

a. Reagan had a deep and abiding love for Nancy! He often alludes to how lonesome and miserable he is when his spouse is out of town. Theirs is one of the truly great love matches in all of Presidential history.

b. Reagan had trouble with his children Ron and Patti (the children by Nancy) getting along better with Maureen his daughter with first wife Jane Wyman, He also had difficulties with his adopted son Michael. (these children had problems and he is not always to blame!).

c. Reagan was a deeply religious man who believed in God. He was a committed Christian believer.

d. Reagan had a great sense of humor; hated to fire staffers and was kind.

e. Reagan loved to go to his California ranch to renew himself following tense and long days in Washington D. C. He was an expert horseman; enjoyed ranch work and sought time to play golf. He was an addict of old Hollywood films. Reagan and Nancy kept up with their old Hollywood friends and were noted for their entertaining skills. Old movies as well as newer films were often screened in their home in California, Camp David and the White House.

f. Reagan gives a great deal of attention in his diaries to his many health problems most notably his recovery from the assassination attempt on his life on March 30, 1981.

g. Reagan worked long and hard as Chief Executive. I was amazed how full a day is for the President! Constant domestic and foreign travel! Difficult political and diplomatic nuts to crack are challenges only a strong person could withstand. Reagan was in his 70s yet was up to the challenge of giving America a strong leader and restoring respect for the United States throughout the world.

Take him all and was a great leader. Opiniated! Conservative! Old School but nevertheless I am glad he once led the land of the free and home of the brave. His accomplishments are many and profound.

The book may be read with pleasure and insight from cover to cover or browsed through but it is a book which will always demand a secure place in getting into the mindset of Ronald Wilson Reagan.
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on May 30, 2007
What a humble man! I have been a huge Reagan fan. The book is a great insight to a wonderfully, warm, loving and humble man that puts God, his wife, his country and his family before himself. His daily thoughts and take on things is refreshing and a far cry from what we have seen in recent years. President Regan makes me proud to be an American with his words and patriotism. This book is a great insight into the mind of a Great President. The book is an easy read and a great history lesson. I love the way his mind works. He had a very smart but yet simple way of looking at life and situations. He had a great deal of compassion and respect for the sick, the disabled and even for those who wronged him. Recommended read. I have loved every page.
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on July 1, 2010
First, this is not the kind of book the Amazon "Five Star" system is meant for. It is a diary, a collection of daily journal entries from the former President. It's not a question of style, political theory, or presentation of ideas, story, or arguments. "It is what it is," not the often acid or rosy-glow stained pages of far too many autobiographies and memoirs. So, while I give this book "three stars," please consider that a reflection of the fact that it's not the kind of work you can critique in the normal sense of the word.

President Reagan apparently developed the idea of keeping a journal early in his life. For his time, this would not be all that unusual. Journals and day books, for those who could afford the time and materials, were once far more common than they seem to be today. And, the writing in these books most often tended to be sparse, to the point, and not inclined to embellishment. Further, a focus on prosaic and "day to day" details was also a common feature of this writing style. Reagan, being a product of his age, follows this style faithfully. The thing I found most surprising is that he could manage to retain that kind of flatness as President of the United States, a position that must provoke all manner of emotional stressors. But, I thought he resisted whatever inclination to hyperbole he might have had admirably. In this, the daily life and a few daily thoughts of Regan the man manage to come through, and not, refreshingly, as homily to self or the crucifixion of perceived foes. These kind of unguarded, candid glimpses into the minds of the powerful are rather hard to come by, so while many of the entries might be terse and even dull, even the "dullness" is, of itself, remarkable. And a few of these notes do reveal a man who was not ignorant of the tragedy and humor going on in the nation he governed, just as they, in my opinion, reveal a man whose mental powers slowly diminished as time was going by, a clear harbinger of the dreadful illness that finally killed him. The tonal changes are subtle, but definitely there.

In a superior editing job, the text is embellished or punctuated only by very brief, bracketed comments that explain what was going on at the time Reagan wrote a particular entry. These comments are clear, concise, and to the point, and of great assistance to the reader.

No revelatory bombshells explode in these pages, no fireworks whizz and detonate. It's not that kind of work, and not meant to be. And read as what it is, it allows, perhaps, a tiny window to open in one powerful man's thinking. It will not change anyone's mind about Ronald Reagan, but it will allow a little closer understanding of him, far closer than anyone usually gets to the American President. And, for anyone interested in that subject, this is a "must have."

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on May 31, 2007
Douglas Brinkley has done a masterful job organizing and annotating what have to be one of the best organized diaries of all time. The book is a feather in the cap of Douglas Brinkley, who although he is a democrat, and therefore a surprising choice, appears to have left in place many zings Reagan throws at Carter and other heroes of the liberal side. Clearly, when the godmother of the conservatives, Nancy Reagan, needs an author to separate fact from fiction, quality from mediocrity, she turned to a liberal, not a conservative. Sean Hannity and Oliver North can eat crow.

It is organized by year, 1981, 1982, etc. Of course, some day someone would reorganize the data by themes and topics but that is called a biography and this is certainly not one. For that reason, it does appear to be daunting to read, and at times slow, and it is not a match to 'Reagan In His Own Words.' But it is makes for a better read than any biography of Reagan, and even better than the autobiography of Bill Clinton. The reason may be because it is in his own hand, contemporaneous and personal. In style, it almost feels like Ulysses Grant's autobiography, which proved to be the bestseller of all time (adjusting for inflation) because it is so clearly in first person. The book is also redeeming of Reagan, much like 'Reagan In His Own Words' was. Here was a president who was reputed to be out of it but instead appears to have had memory, knowledge, writing skills and passion.
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2007
Taken from the Presidents personal diary, this book contains a compilation of our late president's daily thoughts while he served his two terms in office. It shows you the man behind the office. We can see his traditional values, his strength of character, his thought process and his core beliefs. He wrote about everything from the normally every day thoughts we all have to how he would make the planet a safer place. We can see how Ronald Reagan did not switch from being a Democrat to a Republican, but his party left him. He was still an FDR Democrat in his thoughts and values. What was important was right and wrong, not left or right. You can tell he truly loved his country and would do what he could make it safe. This book is a must read for everyone, especially now when the USA seems to be tearing itself apart. Everyone running for office loves to invoke the man's name, but so far no one in any party lives up to his values.
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on June 5, 2007
I thought Ronald Reagan was a great President, but to know he wrote every single day an accounting of his days in the White House is astonishing. Few people keep diaries, but to have our President do it?! Wonderful! Personal histories are so rare and with the media so bent on...bending, it's great to read something that's real and honest.

I found it interesting that he appeared at functions, or presented medals or simply did the job he signed up for, when others before him couldn't be bothered. He made a lasting and positive impression. And the deep, pronounced, unashamed love he had for Mrs. Reagan is heartbreaking and lovely at the same time. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have that kind of devotion to anyone or anything?

I felt in much better hands when Reagan was at the helm. Today, I wish this wonderful cowboy could be here to help us now....
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on May 27, 2007
I just picked up "The Reagan Diaries" yesterday, and have finished most of 1981. Being part of the tail end of "Generation X" I have no personal recollection of President Reagan and his administration. In fact, I was born only a few days after his inauguration. I looked forward to this book as a chance to gain insight into the often emulated and often maligned former president, and a chance to view the life of our country's leader from the inside.

I have not been disappointed. What has surprised me the most is the clarity of character that shines through Reagan's concise entries. Even in his own private writing he is never self-congratulatory and sticks to the facts. The facts he chooses to include however, are not the facts of a political opportunist, but of someone who could very well be your family member or neighbor. I've come away with the feeling that he was one of the rare people that wake up every single morning wondering what they could do better today.

Regardless of your feeling regarding Reagan and his administration, and I do recommend both supporters and detractors read this book, those that are interested in the inner workings of presidential life will be fascinated by the glimpse afforded here. This is more insightful than the typical "day in the life" documentaries usually are, and much more personal. Given that so few US Presidents kept a strict daily diary, this is a very worthwhile read.

The book itself is a hefty 700-ish pages. The index and glossary are extensive but not overwhelming. I personally very much appreciated the glossary, which includes very short descriptions of the people and politicians that Reagan mentions. The editor's notes within the text are useful, insightful, and not a distraction. Portions of the diaries that were excised for security reasons or on Nancy Reagan's personal request are clearly indicated.

Overall, I am very pleased with this purchase, and believe it would make an important addition to the library of anyone with an interest in US history or politics.
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on May 23, 2007
The Reagan Diaries is an excellent compilation of our late president's own daily reflections during his two terms in office. It is a glimpse into President Reagan's soul and shines a bright light into the depth of his character, intellect and philosophy. From the mundane (e.g. how he hated Mondays) to the earth-shattering (e.g. the end of the Cold War), readers are treated to the personal point of view of one of the 20th Century's most significant leaders. While many current GOP politicians claim to be cut from the same cloth as President Reagan, this book makes clear that none of them even come close. For historians and those nostalgic for the Reagan years alike, this book is essential reading.
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