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An introduction to the life of lou cannon and ronald reagan

While this book is primarily about Reagan's time in the White House or at his California ranchCannon begins with a long look at Reagan's upbringing, background, personality, and relationships with others. Cannon was in a unique position to view Reagan as he happened to cover him in Sacramento while he was Governor of California from 1967-1974, but was then assigned to the Washington Post throughout Lou Cannon is and has been one of the foremost experts on Ronald Reagan's life and presidency.

An introduction to the life of lou cannon and ronald reagan

Cannon was in a unique position to view Reagan as he happened to cover him in Sacramento while he was Governor of California from 1967-1974, but was then assigned to the Washington Post throughout Reagan's presidency. Cannon knew and interviewed not only Reagan but just about everyone who knew him during these two time periods.

  1. Cannon makes a solid case for Reagan being the most controlled and stage-managed president of the 20th century, and correctly explains that Reagan viewed his entire presidency as that of one giant movie where he is the leading man and is just following a script that others have written for him. All of his employees were expendable to him.
  2. This provides the perfect opportunity for The Editors of TIME magazine, in conjunction with many highly-regarded and well-respected writers and journalists familiar with Reagan, including Lou Cannon, Jon Meacham, Nick Clooney, Bob Spitz, and more with an introduction by Joe Scarborough, to examine the man, the politician, and the President, and the paradox of an ideological hero who no longer represents the party that he helped to define, or in fact, does he?
  3. Even Nancy Reagan, the person closest to him, admitted that sometimes she could not get past the impenetrable wall that Reagan had surrounded himself with.
  4. Unfortunately, as Cannon repeatedly demonstrates, this trait did not serve Reagan well in establishing relationships with other people.

Cannon's lengthy review of the forces that shaped Reagan as a child are eye-opening. Reagan's father, Jack, was an alcoholic - something that scarred Reagan for life. Reagan saw his dad passed out on the front steps and had to drag him into the house; the family moved around Illinois constantly which resulted in Reagan not being able to establish any roots; he sought sanctuary in being solitary, wandering around the Rock River.

See a Problem?

Reagan was clearly embarrassed by his father's affliction later in his own life, speaking about him only when pressed and even then providing as little detail as possible.

Perhaps to escape this dreary life, Reagan mentally withdrew into himself and stayed there. Even Nancy Reagan, the person closest to him, admitted that sometimes she could not get past the impenetrable wall that Reagan had surrounded himself with. Unfortunately, as Cannon repeatedly demonstrates, this trait did not serve Reagan well in establishing relationships with other people. Invariably kind and genial to everyone, he was close to nobody - often failing to remember names of aides that he frequently saw.

Both he and Nancy ended up with a revolving door of staff as people kept leaving, often because they felt unappreciated by the Reagans, especially Ronald. Reagan made no effort to thank and acknowledge people for doing things on his behalf. All of his employees were expendable to him. One leaves, bring in another.

President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By the time he was President, Reagan had long ago disappeared into his own world and was content to remain there. Cannon is eminently fair - never does this book appear to be a bashing of Reagan. In fact, Cannon tries to show - and succeeds in doing so - that Reagan's legacy is decidedly mixed. He showcases the highlights of Reagan's tenure such as the relentless optimism that he displayed to the American public.

He details the crucial summits that Reagan had with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and rightly gives Reagan credit for helping to move the U. He credits Reagan with understanding that, in 1980, the American people wanted someone who would make them feel hopeful about the future and take pride in who their president was.

But Cannon does not spare any criticism of Reagan or his abysmal managerial style either.

  1. Cannon also provides examples of how Reagan's remoteness and lack of intellectual curiosity caused some major issues for him in his presidency. In fact, Cannon tries to show - and succeeds in doing so - that Reagan's legacy is decidedly mixed.
  2. Unfortunately, that something else was a long chapter about arms control negotiations with the U. Cannon was in a unique position to view Reagan as he happened to cover him in Sacramento while he was Governor of California from 1967-1974, but was then assigned to the Washington Post throughout Reagan's presidency.
  3. Reagan was clearly embarrassed by his father's affliction later in his own life, speaking about him only when pressed and even then providing as little detail as possible.
  4. Cannon neither states that Reagan was stupid or intelligent, but that rather he focused his energies on a few particular things that were important to him the Strategic Defense Initiative, for example and totally ignored everything else.

The lack of ethical behavior, while not by Reagan himself, stemmed from Reagan's not ever making ethics a priority, or even something to be talked about. The internecine staff squabbles were something that Reagan often did not know existed, and even when he was aware of it such as the dislike between Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger he refused to address it. Cannon makes a solid case for Reagan being the most controlled and stage-managed president of the 20th century, and correctly explains that Reagan viewed his entire presidency as that of one giant movie where he is the leading man and is just following a script that others have written for him.

As long as he knows what to say, when to say it, where to go, and when, everything works. But the moment something upsets that direction, Reagan struggles mightily to get back on track, sometimes just falling back on familiar anecdotes that Cannon says Reagan kept stored in his "mental cassette" for use when a certain word or situation caused him to remember the anecdote.

Sometimes the anecdotes would be relevant to the situation, but sometimes not.

Cannon, Lou

Cannon neither states that Reagan was stupid or intelligent, but that rather he focused his energies on a few particular things that were important to him the Strategic Defense Initiative, for example and totally ignored everything else.

He does score Reagan for being intellectually lazy, all too often preferring to watch movies instead of reading briefing books, and for not leading on certain subjects when he clearly could have the AIDS epidemic, where Reagan was extremely slow to recognize and only reluctantly talked about in general terms when he did address it. Cannon also provides examples of how Reagan's remoteness and lack of intellectual curiosity caused some major issues for him in his presidency.

One example is when Chief of Staff James Baker and Secretary of the Treasury Don Regan proposed to switch jobs, Reagan just said that sounded fine and announced the change, never bothering to think about the potential consequences of the switch and whether either man or both were qualified for those positions.

An introduction to the life of lou cannon and ronald reagan

Cannon spends 150 pages discussing the Iran-contra scandal in great detail. While well-written and researched, like the rest of the book, by the end of those 150 pages, it was refreshing to move onto something else. Unfortunately, that something else was a long chapter about arms control negotiations with the U.

Two things that Cannon did not really touch on: He has a photo at the beginning of the book of Reagan sitting in the Oval Office with a pained expression on his face as he is about the address the nation, yet curiously he does not talk about this in the book.

However, on the whole, if you are looking for a comprehensive view of both Reagan the man and Reagan the President, this is a worthwhile book to read.