Ronald Reagan's rise from lifeguard and sportscaster to movie star, governor and president, seen through the eyes of a fan.
Morrell (Shackleton’s Way, 2001) presents the former president as the man of many mentors, maker of countless speeches and endlessly cultivated contacts, with boundless positivism as he worked his way up from Midwestern obscurity. The author, briefly a staffer, is clearly still in Reagan's thrall and cannot write a disparaging word about the man. At worst, he had a bad day, as in the first presidential debate with Walter Mondale. At his best, he learned to perfectly elucidate what was in the hearts and minds of his broad base of supporters, always with an eye on the crowd to see what played. Morrell is most at home describing her subject's formative years, and his eventual branding of himself as the affable and ever-positive leader with steely American convictions. The presidential years fly by in a maze of Swiss-cheese history, with whole epochs ignored or barely mentioned. The most historically enduring Reagan utterance, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," pops up with little context. Always the Gipper abided, and then with a smart salute exited the public stage from its pinnacle. Each chapter ends, somewhat jarringly, with a self-questionnaire to help readers emulate the Reagan method. This may provide difficult for those who lack his charisma and oratorical perfect pitch.
Fodder for ardent admirers of the former president; otherwise, slim pickings.