From master storyteller and New York Times bestselling Historian H. W. Brands comes the definitive biography of a visionary and transformative president
In his magisterial new biography, H. W. Brands brilliantly establishes Ronald Reagan as one of the two great presidents of the twentieth century, a true peer to Franklin Roosevelt. Reagan conveys with sweep and vigor how the confident force of Reagan’s personality and the unwavering nature of his beliefs enabled him to engineer a conservative revolution in American politics and play a crucial role in ending communism in the Soviet Union. Reagan shut down the age of liberalism, Brands shows, and ushered in the age of Reagan, whose defining principles are still powerfully felt today.
Reagan follows young Ronald Reagan as his ambition for ever larger stages compelled him to leave behind small-town Illinois to become first a radio announcer and then that quintessential public figure of modern America, a movie star. When his acting career stalled, his reinvention as the voice of The General Electric Theater on television made him an unlikely spokesman for corporate America. Then began Reagan’s improbable political ascension, starting in the 1960s, when he was first elected governor of California, and culminating in his election in 1980 as president of the United States.
Employing archival sources not available to previous biographers and drawing on dozens of interviews with surviving members of Reagan’s administration, Brands has crafted a richly detailed and fascinating narrative of the presidential years. He offers new insights into Reagan’s remote management style and fractious West Wing staff, his deft handling of public sentiment to transform the tax code, and his deeply misunderstood relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, on which nothing less than the fate of the world turned.
Reagan is a storytelling triumph, an irresistible portrait of an underestimated politician whose pragmatic leadership and steadfast vision transformed the nation.
This biography by Brands (The Man Who Saved the Union), a historian at the University of Texas at Austin, is a reminder of how difficult it is to construct a clear historical portrait of Ronald Reagan and his wide-ranging career. Reagan remains an extremely polarizing figure; sympathetic authors tend to soften his rough edges, while others willfully ignore his successes or vilify him outright. Brands generally falls in the former camp. He admirably summarizes Reagan's life and times; the writing is clear and the progression of events moves swiftly. Worth noting is how Reagan, "a radio man himself," learned from F.D.R.'s fireside chats. As governor of California, Reagan effectively employed divisive language in dealing with student protesters "cowardly little bums" and, as president, successfully wrangled with both Mikhail Gorbachev and the White House press corps. But Brands's apologetic tone can muddy the issues at hand. For instance, when addressing the film industry's blackballing of those who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he writes that "creative work suffered when fear ruled. But the risk was worth taking, for the good of the country." Is this Brands's opinion, or that of his subject? This is a thorough overview, but it adds little to the existing narrative of Reagan.
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Full of “fluff”
If you don’t know anything about 20th century events. Read this. If you want to know everything about Reagan’s life or political machine, read something else!!! The author felt it necessary to quote every major speech OTHER people made during Reagan’s lifetime. This weighs the book down. He also doesn’t speak about how Reagan built up a campaign staff or who those people were in his California gubernatorial run. Trash meant for red necks.