The Reagan Diaries

Ronald Reagan, Author, Douglas Brinkley, Author, Douglas G. Brinkley, Editor , edited by Douglas Brinkley. HarperCollins $35 (784p) ISBN 978-0-06-087600-5

The diaries our 40th president kept while in office—edited and abridged by historian Brinkley (The Great Deluge )—are largely a straightforward political chronicle. Reagan describes meetings with heads of state and antiabortion leaders, reflects on legislative strategy and worries about leaks to the press. He often used his diary to vigorously defend his polices: for example, after a 1984 visit with South African archbishop Desmond Tutu (whom Reagan calls "naïve"), the president explained why his approach to apartheid—"quiet diplomacy"—was preferable to sanctions. Reagan sometimes seems uncomfortable with dissent, as when he is irked by a high school student who presents a petition advocating a nuclear freeze. And he often sees the media as a "lynch mob," trying to drum up scandal where there is none. Reagan's geniality shines through in his more quotidian comments: he muses regularly about how much he appreciates Nancy, and his complaints about hating Monday mornings make him seem quite like everyone else. Brinkley doesn't weigh down the text with extensive annotation; this makes for smooth reading, but those who don't remember the major political events of the 1980s will want to refer to the glossary of names. Reagan's diaries are revealing, and Brinkley has done historians and the broad public a great service by editing them for publication. (May 22)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
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