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President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination Hardcover – December 20, 2005

3.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Celebrated journalist Reeves (President Nixon: Alone in the White House) takes the same vivid, fly-on-the-wall approach he's previously applied with such success to Nixon and Kennedy, and uses it just as skillfully to take us inside the administration, mind and character of Ronald Reagan. As usual, Reeves's omniscient form of narrative requires him to delve deeply into oral histories and other first-person accounts from key participants, mining them for details concerning scores of meetings, negotiations, pranks and tragedies. Reeves is particularly strong at portraying Reagan's almost organically intuitive approach to management. Here we have the Gipper's artful delegation of details along the road to fulfilling his short list of grand goals: the destruction of world communism, the downsizing of taxes and government, and a revival of nearly jingoistic American patriotism. Reeves detects the subtle craft of a shrewd actor within Reagan's apparent wide-eyed naïveté: the wily political performer playing a carefully calculated role—innocent patriot, Boy Scout grown big, the model Mr. Smith going to Washington. This is the imagined president, the facade emerging triumphant after eight years in office, affecting the sense—more contrived, some said, then real—of great battles won and great beasts slain.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In the first major biography published after Reagan’s death, Richard Reeves sticks to the same modus operandi used in his earlier biographies of Kennedy (President Kennedy: Profile of Power) and Nixon (President Nixon: Alone in the White House). Eschewing traditional biography, Reeves endeavors to understand his subjects through a close examination of how their administrations functioned on a day-to-day basis. It’s a microscopic approach that provokes irritation (and yawns) from some corners. But with over 900 books about Reagan on the shelves, that most critics find something of value in President Reagan attests to Reeves’s accomplishment. Of course, any book about a divisive figure yields its share of reviews based on ideology instead of critical theory. President Reagan is no exception, but where objectivity prevails, reviews are generally positive.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (December 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743230221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743230223
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,619,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Richard Reeves is a self proclaimed liberal. A funny thing happened to this author while writing this book, he learned to like and respect Ronald Reagan. In the end he wrote a fair and intriguing portrayl of the 40th U.S. President.

The first biography written using recently released records from the Reagan White House, Reeves compiles a revealing portrait. Reeves debunks the popularly accepted myth that Reagan was driven by his wife and his staff. The book shows a President who knew what he wanted to acomplish and how to get there. He dreamed big dreams and pressed those that worked for him to get them done.

The most exceptional revelation is that he often overuled the First Lady in her concerns and objections. He stubbornly dismissed her repeated calls for him to fire Chief of Staff Don Regan during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Reeves also debunks some of the pro-Reagan myths including his promise to reduce the size of the federal government and the deficit while both grew by leaps and bounds during his two terms. He also shows that both Reagans were disciples of astrology long before the assasination attempt on his life.

I have read many Reagan biographies including the mis-guided DUTCH and the previuosly definitive book by Lou Cannon. Reeves' work on Reagan is now the ultimate biography of this President exploring every facet of his Presidency and presenting a balanced and thorough review of his eight years in office.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author's work on two previous presidents(Kennedy & Nixon)were gripping in their readability and sense that one was reading a new slant on old facts. This one reads like a collection of NY Times articles--indeed he seems to rely on the Times coverage for much of the book, listing the headlines on a half dozen occasions. It is not 'slanted' in a harsh way, Reeves makes clear that he is writing as a liberal but he doesn't neglect the obvious appeal Reagan had for Americans across the board. There is a lot on Iran/contra--maybe too much and one wished for more about the situation in Poland and Reagan's influence there along with that of John Paul II. However, it is good to be reminded that not all the "experts" really understood what happened in 1986/7 when Reagan and Gorbachov had their meetings.One(George Will) even suggested the Cold War was "lost" during these meetings--which looks now like nonsense. Not his best presidential book, not as multifaceted as Wills' "Reagan's America" but not a dud either.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a really well written "day in the life" biography of Ronald Reagan, focusing on specific dates throughout his presidency. Now that I've read this book, I plan to read his other biographies on Kennedy and Nixon.
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Format: Hardcover
A local candidate for the city council here in Colorado Springs announced that he was running as a "Reagan Republican." Frankly, I was somewhat perplexed by what he meant by that. Did this mean that he was running as a "mainstream" centrist Republican or did it mean that he is running as a conservative Republican well to the right in the political spectrum? It's hard to know these days since Reagan re-defined the GOP. When Reagan stumped for Goldwater in 1964, he was regarded as a right wingnut. Even during his tenure as Governor of California, he was perceived as being well to the right within the ranks of his party. Nowadays, he is viewed by most political observers as representing the "centrist" faction of the Republican Party.

This is a testament to the Gipper's profound influence on the GOP. He clearly moved his party well to the right. Reeves begrudgingly acknowledges that, despite his own personal animosity toward the policies of Ronald Reagan, that he defined Republicanism as we know it today.

Some facts need to be ackowledged from the get-go. First, Reeves is no fan of Ronald Reagan. He states quite frankly his own distaste for most of Reagan's poliicies. Second, his task was an awesomely difficult one; to capture the essence of a man that virtually everyone agrees is impossible to know. Ronald Reagan, by all accounts, was a personally remote and self-contained individual. Efforts to capture "the real Reagan" are doomed to failure. Reeves does the best that he can, given the nature of his subject.

The author has been criticized for his heavy reliance on already published secondary sources written by disgruntled former Reagan staffers. It is true that his source material is not original.
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Format: Paperback
Nice, not great. This is 30,000 ft fly by of the Reagan presidency. I was a bit surprised by it's lack of depth in some story lines but you can't put everything into one book. I know there is a liberal basis to the book and that was ok with me since I see myself as an independent. I didn't want to read a pro or con book about Reagan, just some interesting facts. That's about all you'll get, basically press releases from all 8 years of the Reagan administration. One thing this book did for me is motivate me to read other books to get a different perspective. So, for that I am thankful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An honest and balanced biography of Ronald Reagan whose years in the White House reveal an imbalance between his public image and the failures of his presidency. He might be best described as amiable style without credible substance. The author's conclusions about President Reagan are validated by his thorough research. Direct, verbatim quotes from legitimate sources throughout the book add significant credence to the apt Reagan profile description as a man with style but not substance.
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