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Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader Paperback – February 23, 1999
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Dinesh D'Souza rates America's 40th president as one of its greatest, right below Washington and Lincoln. He makes a forceful case for this rank, probably the best yet and perhaps the best possible. In the process, he analyzes Reagan's leadership style with remarkable clarity and subtlety. Reagan seemed ordinary in so many ways, still, millions of people believed in him and followed him. Moreover, he is the patron saint of the modern conservative movement--something that he did not create, yet nonetheless came to embody. Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader is for readers already well-disposed toward the former California governor. It may not change minds, but it will deepen the appreciation felt by Reagan's many admirers, who seem to miss the leader more with each passing day. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
A former domestic policy adviser in the Reagan administration and author of the controversial The End of Racism (Free Pr., 1995), D'Souza argues that Reagan was not merely a successful president but "a truly great president who belongs in the elite company of Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt." To make that claim credible, the author ignores the Iran-contra scandal, dismisses the massive budget deficits accumulated during the Reagan years, overlooks a series of missteps by the administration, and simply gets his story wrong (e.g., Reagan's role in the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos). Attempting to show that an ordinary man became an extraordinary leader, D'Souza fails to make a key distinction between "leader" and "president." Reagan was a successful leader who mobilized a conservative movement and reshaped the terms of debate in the United States. He was, however, a less successful president who made a series of mistakes and blunders largely ignored by the author of this disappointing book.?Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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We are frequently told that Reagan was a doting "pawn" of other more intelligent powers. But D'Souza reminds us of 1976 when Reagan challenged the incumbent president - a bold move within either party. Having lost the first five states his campaign manager unilaterally established a withdrawal meeting with Ford. But Reagan, under tremendous pressure to pull out, even from his wife, refused, stating he would take his ideas all the way to the convention, even if he lost every state. Then he started to win and Ford narrowly escaped. In `82 Reagan was vilified with media prejudice (see Bernard Goldberg's "Bias") as Paul Volker (a Carter appointee) restricted the money supply, while Reagan himself signed the biggest tax cut in history. Keynesian's - advocates of centralized government intervention - shouted for Reagan's head. These actions would produce nothing they said, as tax cuts provided money to spend while shrinking the supply took it away. Who would not have changed course given the economic downturn from already depressed levels? Reagan defied pressure again with defense spending - accepting enormous deficits, as Democrats and Republicans were not willing to exchange their social programs (and associated votes) for his defense promise. Clear about financial and political costs, to Reagan, defeating the Soviets with technological strength vs. weakness was worth the price. Finally, Reagan refused Gorbachev when he tried to trade away Star Wars at Reykjavik - a deal Reagan nearly bought with his strong desire to end the Cold War, eliminating nuclear weapons. Again Reagan took a terrible beating in the media.
We find Reagan a simple and practical man. He saw the world in uncomplicated ways that our elite emphatically state the world can no longer be seen in. To Reagan there was good and evil, right and wrong. He focused on larger pictures of his intent with little or no concern for details, infighting, insults, meetings or defections. While Billy Graham pronounced he had caviar everyday in Russia and John Kenneth Galbraith, among so many intellectuals, noted the success and permanence of the USSR, Reagan could not believe it. To him it simply violated common sense to think that the communist system would motivate, inspire and succeed with human nature better than capitalism and democracy. Even the master international diplomat, Richard Nixon, derided Reagan for not accepting the USSR as it was and always would be, writing insultingly about Reagan for years.
Actions noted do not match the definition of "pawn". Nor was Reagan simply stubborn. Reaganomics worked, reducing Carter's inflation from 12% to 3%, interest rates from 21% to 9%, leading to the greatest economic expansion since World War Two. (Unable to disconnect the economic rocket from Reagan's guidance, the next tactic, now so worn, was to snivel, "but not all Americans are doing equally well." They were supposed to be?) In ten years of Détente nine nations fell into the Soviet sphere and seventy percent of South America was communist or socialist. By the close of Reagan's administration 90% of South America was democratic and nine other countries fell out of Soviet influence with Berlin's Wall tumbling down under the hammers of freedom. Reagan and Thatcher changed the world into the global economy we see today - with all its problems they are not that of dictators, KGB and nuclear holocaust.
As we discover, contrary to fashion, Reagan was focused with a determined conviction. His ideas were no accident or implant. After years of writing, meeting people across America through his position at GE and a life experience showing how hostile big government was (is) to everyday Americans, Reagan sensed the country was ready for his message. Reganomics turned out to be a revolutionary insight, not irresponsible idiocy. Time after time he defied pressure and won the biggest prize since World War Two. The economic impacts of Reagan's defense debt, according to economist Lawrence Lindsey, has been a "fantastic payoff - the best money we ever spent".
Apparently, today's vogue position on Reagan is intended to discount him, adopting politically correct propaganda promoted by his opposition. The same opposition he kicked out of university buildings commandeered by force and violence by the hypocrisy laden 60's "peace" generation. The same opposition who rode 20th century orthodoxy, stating that government should regulate, escort and pamper its citizens. Reagan ran against the 20th century and fundamentalist movements born in the 60's. For that they never forgot him, determined to bury his success under the suffocation of revisionist history. Fortunately for some, still open enough to challenge modern dogma, D'Souza has a book to read.
D'Souza makes a very strong case for considering Reagan one of our great presidents, trying to re-revise the revisionist histories that overlook all that Reagan accomplished. D'Souza focuses often on his critics and their predictions of doom - not only those on the left, but many conservative critics who thought that Reagan was bumbling through his presidency. However, D'Souza shows how they were usually wrong and Reagan was usually right - and how the results prove it: a strong economy, an emasculated Soviet Union that soon fell completely, and a restored faith in America. D'Souza also discussed the contradictions of Reagan: he was loved and affable by the public, but had no close friends; he believed in family values, but was divorced and had troubled relationships with his children.
D'Souza finally concludes that Reagan succeeded because he had a clear vision of what he wanted, the strength to work toward it, and optimism in himself, America, and the American people. Reagan wasn't poll-driven; when something he wanted was unpopular, he would often ignore his advisors and speak directly to the American people and convince them. He focused on the big ideas and allowed his staff to deal with the details. In this way, he was a true leader.
D'Souza tells this story through the eyes of those who criticized and disagreed with Reagan, even those on his staff. He also fills the book with many anecdotes and one-liners that illustrate his points and bring smiles to the reader. But he doesn't shy away from the low-points of Reagan's presidency, discussing the Iran-Contra scandal and using the Bitburg cemetery controversy to show how Reagan tried to lead and not be swayed by his critics.
In the end, D'Souza successfully shows that Reagan was a brilliantly simple man, often underestimated, even in hindsight, driven by his own optimism and will.