Everything that the Reagan administration has done--to hurt the poor and help business, to torpedo dÉtente and heat up the...


ON REAGAN: The Man and His Presidency

Everything that the Reagan administration has done--to hurt the poor and help business, to torpedo dÉtente and heat up the arms race, etc.--was ""in consistent service to its leader's ideology,"" contends LBJ-scourge Dugger (The Politician), and might have been anticipated from his five-day-a-week, five-minute pre-presidential broadcasts. . . the transcripts of which were concealed by his staff ""to present him to the voters in 1980 as a moderate."" This last is a plausible charge, and Dugger himself had some difficulty obtaining the transcripts (though the Democrats appear to have had a set). But transcripts or no, Reagan's views were widely known in 1980, and no one has professed surprise at what he's done in office, ""serious right-wing ideologue"" or not. Apropos of the ""mystery"" of liberal Reagan's rightward shift, Dugger centers on his marriage to ""strong-minded, prudish, conservative"" Nancy, supplemented by his eight-year GE stint--factors which every commentator notes. The bulk of the book, however, has to do with Reagan's pernicious actions as president: the corporate types he's surrounded himself with; ""the war on social security""; the support of ""business against environmentalists""; the backpedaling on progressive taxation; the contributions-from/favors-to oil and other big-business interests; the backdown on health and safety regulation; the negative attitudes toward blacks and women; the revival of domestic spying and other ""black arts""; the ""terrible record on most civil liberties""; the curtailment of direct aid to the poor; the saber-rattling abroad; etc. This is not only the common coinage of Reagan criticism, other indictments have been far more discriminating. It's questionable, for instance, that Reagan's support for nuclear power hinges on ""his specific alliance with Bechtel."" It's not true that a fiat-rate income tax is merely a regressive, Reaganite proposal. It's less-than-just to affix a McCarthy label to Reagan on the basis of his calling the anti-nuke movement Communist-inspired. Here, too, we have Dugger's one clearly independent stand: how could Leu Cannon have said that Reagan has called no one a Communist ""other than those who have proclaimed their own communism""? The final chapter, on nuclear arms, is a partial exception to the scattershot, overheated norm--and all the more damning. There follows, in the last 150 pages, a selection of critical newspaper columns (Molly Ivins, Carl Rowan, Anthony Lewis) and a selection of those notorious transcripts, the contents of which are by no means unknown. But they are also, at this point irrelevant: whether or not Reagan wanted to do what he said, Dugger has shown that in many cases he wasn't able to. From almost any standpoint, the book misses the mark.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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