RONALD REAGAN: His Life and Rise to the Presidency by Bill Boyarsky

RONALD REAGAN: His Life and Rise to the Presidency

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Frank van der Linden's The Real Ronald Reagan (p. 344) is a lightweight book, by a reporter on national politics, that's mostly about Reagan's campaigns; this is a lightweight book, by a California newsman (and author of The Rise of Ronald Reagan, 1968), that's mostly, when it's semi-serious, about Reagan's governorship. Van der Linden writes banalities about Reagan the man, and considers them compliments; Boyarsky writes banalities too, but you might just wonder what's in his mind: ""Reagan is the ultimate suburbanite""; ""He is an unpretentious, commonplace man,"" ""a small-town boy from the Midwest,"" etc. From the pappy chapters on Reagan's early life (""A Humble Beginning,"" ""College Hero,"" ""Hollywood""), you get a couple of definite, relevant impressions-that he developed an early liking for making speeches, that he was indeed the ""square"" he called himself but not entirely on the up-and-up (some inflation of his wartime service, for one thing). ""The Liberal Years"" brings the non-news that Screen Actors Guild prexy Reagan, though ""an articulate spokesman,"" was never a ""bleeding-heart liberal"" (another subsequent exaggeration). ""A Time for Choice"" shows the fading movie star reborn as M.C. of television's G. E. Theater, as a ""corporate image,"" and--on the advice of G.E. chief Cordiner to ""get yourself a philosophy""--as a conservative opponent of social welfare and big government. Once Reagan is elected to the California governorship in '66, Boyarsky's text becomes somewhat less platitudinous, somewhat more factual. And a little more critical. Reagan learned to compromise with his foes--""and then hail the compromise as a complete victory."" He changed ""the idea of welfare back to temporary aid for the most needy""--""But what if there are no jobs for the unskilled?"" On his handling of campus activism, on his throttling of academic dissent, Reagan gets bad marks; on the environment, Boyarsky deems him protectionist-by-circumstance--""But by the time he became President, the political situation had changed."" And so it goes, issue by issue--aimed to anticipate Reagan's performance in the White House, not imparting anything really new, probably not far wrong, totally unexciting.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Random House