At Reagan's Side: Insiders' Recollections from Sacramento to the White House

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In At Reagan's Side, Reagan scholars Jeff Chidester and Stephen Knott compile excerpts from interviews of top Reagan officials. Through the Miller Center's Ronald Reagan Oral History Project, Chidester and Knott show readers the life of the "Great Communicator" through the eyes of both famous and lesser-known administration insiders like James Baker, Edwin Meese, Peter Hannaford, Caspar Weinberger, and Joanne Drake. At Reagan's Side offers unique, behind-the-scenes glimpses into the candidacy and election of Ronald Reagan, chronicling his run for and subsequent election to public office as Governor of California, and later, as President of the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Steven F. Hayward
The force of Reagan's character and outsized personality has made us overlook the important role and knowledge of his supporting cast. Jeffrey Chidester and Stephen Knott have performed a valuable service in synthesizing the extensive oral histories they compiled over the last decade. At Reagan's Side will become a standard reference work for future historians of Reagan.
Paul Kengor
Stephen Knott and Jeffrey Chidester have produced a balanced, insightful, rare gem of scholarship on Ronald Reagan, drawn from the people who knew the man and worked closely with him. The primary-source information in this book is a treasure trove of must-read material on President Reagan. . . . Knott and Chidester rightly appreciate the impact, importance, and influence of the Reagan person and presidency . . . in an engaging, readable style.
Charles Walcott
Drawing upon interviews with some of Ronald Reagan’s closest associates, Chidester and Knott present a fascinating political and personal portrait of our 40th president. These recollections recall the major events of Reagan's political career and elucidate the remarkable strengths—and, occasionally, the limitations—of a president whose leadership qualities were controversial in his day and still are. The authors make a strong case for Reagan’s ranking as a 'near great' president. The book is a worthy addition to the literature on Reagan and is a sheer pleasure to read.
The Washington Times
Beginning in 2001, scholars of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia conducted an oral history of Ronald Reagan's political years, beginning with his first campaign for governor of California through his last public speech in 1993...Mr. Knott and Mr. Chidester...intersperse their narrative with quotations — short and long — from the oral history interviewees. These comments provide colorful, lively texture to the Reagan story. Here are insights into his thinking, his character and his management style...At Reagan's Side is good reading from cover to cover and adds positively to the Reagan library.
Publishers Weekly
Using dozens of interviews with Pres. Ronald Reagan's closest advisors, historians Knott (Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth) and Chidester attempt to circumvent what many labeled Reagan's "wall," to find the man at the heart of the (carefully calibrated) presidential image. Because this charmingly "opaque" politician didn't publicly ponder on his presidency (even in his autobiography), Knott and Chidester depend on those around him. With both fondness and a clear effort at objectivity, the authors largely let the interviewees speak for themselves, including high-ranking officials like Caspar Weinberger, Edwin Meese and James Baker. Discussion is candid, but often contradictory; indeed, the most interesting and revealing moments of the book come from the discrepancies, invariably tied to the era's most famous controversies: SDI, Iran-Contra, the Cold War. (Further, many advisors use their spirited defense of Reagan's legacy in order to pin blame on other advisors.) For all the insider stories, none actually goes behind the wall of the 40th president-the subjects, in fact, labor to reinforce that wall-and Knott and Chidester's own synthesis is thin, unable to answer the overarching question of Reagan's success, concluding that he was "too decent" to be great.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Whatever Ronald Reagan achieved during his political career, he did not achieve it alone. Knott (national security studies, U.S. Naval War Coll.) and Chidester (Miller Ctr. of Public Affairs, Univ. of Virginia) have put the focus on Reagan's associates, presenting excerpts from oral histories gathered by the Ronald Reagan Oral History Project, overseen by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in cooperation with the Reagan Library. The excerpts, drawn here from 46 interviews with such figures as Howard Baker, James Baker, Michael Deaver, Alexander Haig, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Edwin Meese, Lyn Nofziger, George Shultz, and Caspar Weinberger, are arranged by chronology and skillfully knit together by the editors' own unobtrusive narrative to achieve a kind of overview of Reagan's career from the 1960s to the end of his presidency. The book is full of insights into Reagan's character and principles and the achievements and failures of the Reagan years. It also offers behind-the-scenes surprises, such as a moment of praise from Reagan for Jesse Jackson. A little high priced, but many will find it useful. (Some of the transcripts are available online at the Miller Center's web site.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742566255
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen F. Knott is associate professor of National Security Studies at the United States Naval War College. Jeffrey L. Chidester is Chair of the National Discussion and Debate Series for Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Preface Chapter 2 Introduction Chapter 3 1. Mr. Reagan Goes to Sacramento Chapter 4 2. Governor Reagan Chapter 5 3. "There is No Substitute for Victory" Chapter 6 4. Mr. Reagan Goes to Washington Chapter 7 5. From Evil Empire to Iran Contra Chapter 8 6. The Man Behind the Wall Chapter 9 7. Tearing Down the Wall Chapter 10 8. "The Sunset of My Life" 11 Appendix A. Ronald Reagan Oral History Project Scholars 12 Appendix B. List of Interviews Conducted 13 Bibliography 14 Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2009

    The Real Ronald Reagan

    Passage of time often brings perspective and clarity to our history. At Reagan's Side offers candid, even-handed reporting by those who worked with him on the victories as well as the challenges and frustrations of his political career and his presidency. Initially suspicious that the book would cannonize Reagan, I enjoyed reading this informative and very human portrait of a man determined to do his best for his country.

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