REAGAN by Deborah Hart Strober


The Man and His Presidency
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From the Strobers (Nixon, 1994; Let Us Begin Anew, 1993), the third in a series of oral histories of modern American presidencies, consisting of a savory stew of narratives and musings on Ronald Reagan’s momentous administration, by insiders, foreign leaders, and other observers. After briefly recapitulating Reagan’s pre-presidential career as a movie actor, union activist, Republican spokesman, and California governor, the authors let their interlocutors examine both controversial and mundane aspects of his two terms in office. The authors have weighted their account with the thoughts of administration insiders and allies; these include William Clark, Lyn Nofziger, Michael Deaver, Ed Meese, Caspar Weinberger, and foreign admirers like Margaret Thatcher. However, some Reagan adversaries, like special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, gay activist Larry Kramer, and Sandinista Miguel D’Escoto, get to contribute their views, as well. The Strobers explore in detail issues like the air traffic controllers’ strike, the administration’s combative response to world terrorism, its tepid response to the AIDS crisis, and its reaction to the Jonathan Pollard spying affair, while the authors devote an entire chapter to the Iran-Contra scandal, which emerges as a product of Reaganite management at its hubristic and disengaged worst. By contrast, what many would regard as the president’s greatest foreign policy achievement--his triumphant management of America’s Soviet policy during the collapse of Communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc—receives a relatively brief treatment. While the commentators offer some insight into Reagan’s management style and personality, little seems controversial: Both administration insiders and foreign allies repeatedly emphasize his sunny, straightforward personality, his consistent, unsubtle conservatism, and his legacy as a “great communicator” of traditional moral values and conservative ideas. Not a seminal work of scholarship, but like the Strobers’ other works, a valuable contribution to the study of the modern presidency.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0-395-77193-5
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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