The Role of a Lifetime
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 In this monumental (752-page) review of Reagan's White House years, veteran Washington Post correspondent and Reagan-watcher Cannon (Reagan, 1982; Ronnie and Jessie, 1969) cements his reputation as one of the fairest and most knowledgeable reporters on the former President of his legacy. Although adhering primarily to a sympathetic view of the Great Communicator as an American visionary, Cannon still presents Reagan warts and all. From his first political victory, a landslide win over Pat Brown for governor of California, Reagan, Cannon shows, demonstrates his knack for reading an audience and being able to deliver a script. Elected President, he had the additional good fortune to arrive in Washington with a dedicated corps of aides who could prepare him, and protect him, extremely well. Patterns established in Reagan's earlier stint in public office survived the transition to the White House, with the nuts and bolts of governing delegated to trusted advisers such as Jim Baker, Michael Deaver, Ed Meese, and others, while the President was called in for policy decisions, to offer Hollywood anecdotes or touches of ``the vision thing,'' as then- Vice President George Bush referred to it, or to function as arbiter in the event of a dispute between factions-the result of which was invariably a compromise intended to mollify both parties. During his second term, Reagan's increasingly loose hand on the tiller, whether caused by disinterest or the ravages of old age, created crises large and small, the Iran-contra debacle among them. The historical highlights ranging from supply-side economics, deregulation, and tax reform to Nicaragua, Lebanon, and the Evil Empire are assessed by Cannon in detail, through published and private accounts and interviews recorded at the time and after the fact, with all major participants receiving the same insightful, objective attention. Complementing Garry Wills's Reagan's America (1986), this is a generous and informative commentary of a presidency that will not soon be forgotten. (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for July)

Pub Date: April 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-54294-X
Page count: 752pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991


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