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Ronald Reagan: The American Presidents Series: The 40th President, 1981-1989 Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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"Weisberg takes his historical duties seriously, laying out Reagan's actions with an admirable lack of pop psychology. . . . This concise biography makes a good case that Reagan was the second most important president of the 20th century after Franklin Roosevelt."―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group and the former editor of Slate magazine. Weisberg is the author of The Bush Tragedy and is the creator of the "Bushisms" book series. He previously worked for The New Republic and was a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and a columnist for the Financial Times. He lives in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book explores his childhood and youth in some detail. His family context is a part of his development. We see him develop as a student at Eureka College in central Illinois. Early after graduation, he had a chance to broadcast baseball games in absentia for a Davenport radio station. Later, on to Hollywood.
He was a fixture in B movies, never really making it to the big time--but able to make a good living. Later, he had a career in television. We do see his distance from family as he married and had children. People close to him would often feel a distance, a gap keeping them from knowing him better. His transformation from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican is told pretty well.
Later, the move into politics and his service as Governor of California. After he completed his two terms, he began to wonder about the presidency. He gave it a try in 1976, but could not unseat then President Gerald Ford. 1980? There were a number of Republicans trying to win the nomination. Reagan triumphed here.
Of course, the tale of his presidency is at the heart of this slender volume. We read of his strengths, such as an ability to articulate a vision of the United States that many people bought into. He had a political vision--small government, lower taxes, a stronger military, less regulation of business. The crux of the matter, according to the author: his vision was fragmented, filled with internal contradictions. Another problem: He would set out a general vision and hoped for actions to move toward it, but then leave working toward that goal for others. He was in large part a "hands off" president, and this him great problems in his second term (think Iran-Contra). Further, as the people whom he knew and trusted departed government, they were replaced by people with less loyalty to him, and they often created problems. And Reagan had a difficult time "disciplining" people.
Foreign policy. . . . Reagan thought the Soviet Union to be an "evil empire." At some point, he conceived that increasing the military budget and developing new weapons systems would lead the Soviet Union to match the US--and, in the end, Reagan felt that this could lead to an implosion of the Soviet Union. The story of his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev is also well told.
During the second term, the author notes that incipient dementia began to manifest itself. This sometimes created problems when he was "out of it" on occasion. Still, there were moments: "tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachev!"
The book has a quite negative cast to it, a little too much for my taste. Still, an interesting telling of the presidency of Ronald Reagan.