Fox News anchor Baier (Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, 2017, etc.) makes a cheerful case for Ronald Reagan’s single-handedly talking the Soviets out of being communists.
Reagan liked to be thought of as a political outsider, but “he wasn’t really.” He had governing experience as the two-term chief executive of California and a network of supporters within the federal government, and he “had evolved as a public persona who could articulate the issues of the day.” After a difficult period of folded-arm posturing back and forth between his White House and the Kremlin, with a few results hard-won at the arms-reduction talks in Reykjavik, Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, developed something of a working relationship by which long-closed doors opened up. One of them came in the form of an invitation to Reagan to speak to an audience at Moscow State University; in the speech he delivered on May 31, 1988, he spoke hopefully, as was his wont, of new possibilities: “Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists.” Baier’s three-days narrative trope doesn’t stand up to close examination, and his suggestion that the Iron Curtain began to rust away the minute Reagan stepped off the podium is a little too pat; he sometimes seems to forget that, after all, Gorbachev was doing his part to end the Cold War, too. To his credit, the author does note the considerable amount of shuttle diplomacy that extended from Reagan’s second term into the incoming administration of George H.W. Bush, a skilled player on the international stage. Still, a more evenhanded and altogether better account can be found in Richard Reeves’ President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (2005) and H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life (2015).
Popular history in a triumphant mode, of interest largely to Reagan partisans.