cover image President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination

President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination

Richard Reeves, . . Simon & Schuster, $28 (571pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-3022-3

Celebrated journalist Reeves (President Nixon: Alone in the White House ) takes the same vivid, fly-on-the-wall approach he's previously applied with such success to Nixon and Kennedy, and uses it just as skillfully to take us inside the administration, mind and character of Ronald Reagan. As usual, Reeves's omniscient form of narrative requires him to delve deeply into oral histories and other first-person accounts from key participants, mining them for details concerning scores of meetings, negotiations, pranks and tragedies. Reeves is particularly strong at portraying Reagan's almost organically intuitive approach to management. Here we have the Gipper's artful delegation of details along the road to fulfilling his short list of grand goals: the destruction of world communism, the downsizing of taxes and government, and a revival of nearly jingoistic American patriotism. Reeves detects the subtle craft of a shrewd actor within Reagan's apparent wide-eyed naïveté: the wily political performer playing a carefully calculated role—innocent patriot, Boy Scout grown big, the model Mr. Smith going to Washington. This is the imagined president, the facade emerging triumphant after eight years in office, affecting the sense—more contrived, some said, then real—of great battles won and great beasts slain. 100,000 first printing; first serial to Reader's Digest. (Jan.)