cover image Reagan, in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America

Reagan, in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America

. The Free Press, $30 (549pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0123-0

Ronald Reagan is a puzzle: How, many wonder (and as Shultz puts it in his foreword), could he know so little and accomplish so much? The editors of this volume (two former Reagan advisers [Anderson and Anderson] and a historian [Skinner]) believe the question can be answered through Reagan's own writings. Associates describe Reagan as constantly writing, whether at home or in a hotel room, in a car or on a plane, recording his thoughts on the issues of the day. The product was almost always some form of public address, written and edited by hand. A collection of these manuscripts is presented here, just as Reagan wrote them, including his corrections and notes. With a few exceptions, they are very short radio commentaries delivered during the pre-presidential period (1975-1979), focusing mostly on foreign policy and the economy, and framed in terms of the general issue of government and freedom. There are no surprises; whether one sees Reagan as the great communicator, articulating deeply held convictions through the expression of simple but profound truths, or as the not-too-bright actor, painting a complex world in the reductionistic tones of black and white, one's expectations will be confirmed. In foreign policy Reagan is the essential Cold Warrior, understanding the world in terms of an ""ideological struggle"" between Communism and the proponents of freedom. In domestic policy he is the committed capitalist, always suspicious of government regulation and critical of taxation, and not above propagating theories of Communist conspiracy. Indeed, the uniformity of his outlook is quite remarkable, and whether one considers this a strength or a weakness this volume drives home the single-mindedness of the former president. (Feb. 6) Forecast: Given Reagan's enduring popularity, this could find a broad market, and a five-city author tour may pique readers' interest. Primarily, however, the book will appeal to serious students of history trying to put Reagan's ideas and ideology in historical context. First serial to the New York Times Magazine.