Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism


Based on extraordinary research: a major reassessment of Ronald Reagan's lifelong crusade to dismantle the Soviet Empire–including shocking revelations about the liberal American politician who tried to collude with USSR to counter Reagan's efforts

Paul Kengor's God and Ronald Reagan made presidential historian Paul Kengor's name as one of the premier chroniclers of the life and career of the 40th president. Now, with The Crusader, Kengor returns with the one book about Reagan ...

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Based on extraordinary research: a major reassessment of Ronald Reagan's lifelong crusade to dismantle the Soviet Empire–including shocking revelations about the liberal American politician who tried to collude with USSR to counter Reagan's efforts

Paul Kengor's God and Ronald Reagan made presidential historian Paul Kengor's name as one of the premier chroniclers of the life and career of the 40th president. Now, with The Crusader, Kengor returns with the one book about Reagan that has not been written: The story of his lifelong crusade against communism, and of his dogged–and ultimately triumphant–effort to overthrow the Soviet Union.

Drawing upon reams of newly declassified presidential papers, as well as untapped Soviet media archives and new interviews with key players, Kengor traces Reagan's efforts to target the Soviet Union from his days as governor of California to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of what he famously dubbed the "Evil Empire." The result is a major revision and enhancement of what historians are only beginning to realize: That Reagan not only wished for the collapse of communism, but had a deep and specific understanding of what it would take––and effected dozens of policy shifts that brought the USSR to its heels within a decade of his presidency.

The Crusader makes use of key sources from behind the Iron Curtain, including one key memo that implicates a major American liberal politician–still in office today–in a scheme to enlist Soviet premier Yuri Andropov to help defeat Reagan's 1984 reelection bid. Such new finds make The Crusader not just a work of extraordinary history, but a work of explosive revelation that will be debated as hotly in 2006 as Reagan's policies were in the 1980s.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this hagiographic account, political scientist Kengor (God and Ronald Reagan) makes the familiar case (made most recently by John Lewis Gaddis in The Cold War) that Reagan played a decisive role in ending the Cold War. Reagan was troubled by communism well before he arrived at the White House. As a young man in Hollywood, he railed against the red threat, and as early as 1967, he called for the destruction of the Berlin Wall. As president, Reagan engaged in "economic warfare," invaded Grenada and proved that the Soviets couldn't win an arms race against the U.S. Though "those enslaved by the Soviet Communist state" didn't find freedom until after the Reagan administration, Dutch gets the credit. And what of other major figures who contributed to the Cold War's end? Gorbachev, of course, figures prominently, and John Paul II makes significant appearances Kengor credits the pope with helping turn Reagan's attention to Poland. Ted Kennedy, on the other hand, emerges as a sneak and a dupe, willing to undermine U.S. foreign policy and make nice with the Russians. The book's structure is somewhat stilted each chapter is broken up into short chunks, so it feels as though one is reading not a sweeping narrative, but an annotated time line of Reagan's presidency. While the book is workmanlike, the chronology is useful and the footnotes reveal an impressive amount of research. (Oct. 17) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061136900
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/17/2006
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Crusader

Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism
By Paul Kengor

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Paul Kengor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061136905

Chapter One

Rock River Rescuer

Stepping out of his house the morning of August 2, 1928, Ronald "Dutch" Reagan was expecting another scorcher. As he walked across the street to the Graybills' to catch his ride to the river, he noticed that it was yet another muggy Thursday in Dixon, Illinois. It was a typical midsummer afternoon in the Midwest, humid beyond any reasonable expectation, and with the advent of air-conditioning still years in the distance, the best form of escape could be found in a Ford automobile with windows open amid a breezy drive to the river at Lowell Park.

At Lowell, there were shady trees, cool water, and people, all kept under the watchful eye of seventeen-year-old Dutch Reagan. Already tall, he hovered above the swimmers in a ten-foot-high chair perched on the grassy banks, making himself a beacon for all to see. His height was emblematic of his swimming prowess, and a key factor in his swimming successes. At the YMCA in January, Reagan had sprinted to victory in the 110-yard freestyle by a half-length of the pool. When competing in the annual Water Carnival at the Rock River on Labor Day, he took first in the longest competition--the 220-yard River Swim.1 He still holds the record for swimming fastest from the park entrance to the river's farthest bank and back. So adept were hisswimming skills that he was allegedly approached by an Olympic scout who invited him to work out with the team preparing for the 1932 games--an offer Reagan said he refused because he could not give up his summer pay.2

On this August day, the river's rough waters and undertows were particularly active. Scattered throughout the choppy waters were hundreds of swimmers, and through the spectacles that rested atop his nose, Dutch gazed at the clusters of people, aware that he could not slack off for a moment. Reagan's regular pattern for patrolling the waters was tested on such a chaotic summer afternoon. According to the Dixon Telegraph, on a day like this Ronald Reagan often single-handedly watched over 1,000 bathers at a time, with no assistant.3

His most difficult concerns were toddlers who ventured too far out (there were legions of them) and adults cocky enough to think they could conquer the depths of the treacherous river. Toddlers that failed to listen were an easy nab for Reagan, who was vigilant in pulling them back right away before they disappeared into the murky water. Dutch always followed with a quick lesson to the child about wandering out.

Unfortunately, the adult swimmers were not as easy. They were bigger and stronger. If not secured in the right position, they tended to pull and grab, putting the lifeguard's own life in peril. A panicky six-foot-frame was the worst foe. Among them, the end of the summer brought brawny farm boys to the water, just finished with the annual harvest; they invariably underestimated the river, not giving it the respect Reagan learned to grant it. Once in the death grip of a current, they became exhausted, went vertical, and began struggling and clawing frantically. On more than one occasion, Dutch belted them with a right cross to the jaw in order to facilitate a safe rescue.4 The unorthodox method was effective: Reagan never lost one.5

On occasion, there was another type of swimmer, a more unusual "rescue"--young girls who "accidentally" found themselves in peril to try and catch Dutch's eye.6 "I had a friend who nearly drowned herself trying to get him to save her!" said one woman, recalling an occurrence that was not infrequent. "He was everyone's hero," said a Reagan schoolmate. "Every girl was in love with him. He was a handsome young man, built like Mr. Perfection, tanned to the hilt."7

On afternoons like this August 2, Reagan felt like the burning sun would never set. Mercifully, it finally obliged, quickly growing dark until the swimming section, which was surrounded by tall, full trees and lush, thick hills was covered in shadow. This meant that the area Dutch surveyed got darker quicker than the rest of flat, open Illinois.

With nighttime upon the beach, it was now officially after-hours. A party of four, two girls and two boys, were looking to have some fun. They giggled as they surreptitiously slipped into their bathing suits down shore. They entered the beach area from the side and quietly made their way into the deceptively gentle surf, in defiance of beach rules. Among them was Dixonite James Raider, who was not the proficient swimmer he figured.

It was 9:30 PM, the end of another very long day, and Dutch and Mr. Graybill were closing up the bathhouse when they heard splashing in deep water: James Raider had been sucked under. Another member of his group tried to save him but could not and was forced to abandon efforts when he, too, almost drowned in the swift current.

Dutch sprinted to the water and dove into the darkness. With only the stars to light the way, Reagan relied on himself, on his inner eye, the one that knew the way better than anyone else. There was a major struggle in the black water. Witnesses recall noisy splashing, some yelling, and arms flailing in the air. Suddenly, a mass of human appendages began moving in their direction. The lifeguard wrapped one arm under the victim's arms and dug water profusely with the other, kicking his feet under the current as rapidly as he could. Raider was brought ashore. Young Ronald dragged him onto the grass.

Artificial respiration was started. The party was no longer in a partying mood; the festive tone had been muted by a sense of horror. They watched, hoped, and probably prayed. Raider responded, and there was a collective sigh of relief. An exhausted Raider was transported to his home with an unexpected new lease on life. Ronald Reagan headed home as well. When his parents, Jack and Nelle, asked about his day, he might have shrugged that it was not especially unusual. It was, after all, the second near drowning in two weeks.


Excerpted from The Crusader by Paul Kengor Copyright © 2006 by Paul Kengor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2006



    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    Never have I seen such a polarizing book!... I actually think this book would have been better had it not been a complete and total hagiography! As for the other dissenter, your name-calling detracts a litte from your review. Reactionary idealogue? Maybe... sure, but senile? Give him a break! Anyways, the problem is that reading the book, one gets the impression that Reagan is a messiah who had he not been president durring those terms, would have meant that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact would have remained and Gorbachev possibly would have been succeeded by a new Stalin. Propaganda like this is not limited to work like this. Even textbooks seem to portray Reagan as a lone superhero. Orwell said that he who controls history controls the present, and while the Left and Right accuse eachother of historical revisionism, the fact is the centrist 'left' and 'right' agree on a common historical bias in the textbooks. While I am obviously no fan of Reagan, he was definitely not the worst president! Looking over the last century the three worst by far would have to be William McKinnley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson (Wilson being by far the worst, but T. Roosevelt was nearly as bad). Harry 'Nuke 'Em' Truman also gets honorable mention among the worst presidents of the 20th century. Reagan is certainly no worse than Bush, Clinton, or Bush II. In criticizing this book's over-exaggeration of Reagan's role in the process, I am not insulting him personally, nor am I praising the Soviets. However, by hailing Reagan as the hero who brought down Bolshevism, everyone is undermining their argument that Communism was inherently destructive and inefficient, that it would collapse under its own brutality and ignorance. Likewise, it is unfair for me to attack Ronald Reagan for being jingoistic, militant, and aggressive in his stance, given that the nature of the Cold War probably demanded such attitudes. That the Domino Effect was a serious threat. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union in the 1980's was hardly the expansionistic monster it was under Stalin (except for the Afghanistan thing) and was already in decay, on the verge of breakdown. In the end it was debateable whether Reagan or Gorbachev (who was actually in charge of the USSR and knew it had to give up) had more to do with the Fall of Communism, but the roles of both these leaders in ending the final nightmare of the 20th century was miniscule compared to the actions of ordinary people like you and me. For a retired actor to 'save the world' via the Oval Office, he had to be in the right place at the right time! Being in command of the United States (Deathstar I), the most powerful political entity, the destruction of Deathstar II (USSR) is not too challenging. Some actually think that the left was pro-communist. Actually if you ask me about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, good riddance I say! If I said I regret the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union it is because I regret there having been a Soviet Empire to collpase in the first place, not the collapse itself. Had the birth of the Soviet Union (and Bolshevism) been prevented, then there would be no Red Menace there to die, and any statesman who could have solved this geopolitical crisis before it started would have been a true hero! (Incidentally, the rise of Marxism-Leninism occurred durring Wilson's presidency, so by enabling the USSR to form (among other things), Woodrow Wilson is the single worst president.) Anyways, enjoy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2006


    Ronald Reagan was no hero, and he was NOT to thank for bringing down communism! Pardon my name-calling, but by his presidency, Reagan was a senile old reactionary ideologue. To find the real heroes of the Cold War, google Solidarity, the Polish labor union. It was millions of workers and commoners oppressed by the Marxist-Leninist system who were responsible for ending this 20th century nightmare. Even Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet premier, had a greater role in this process than Reagan. The author of this book clearly believes in the Great Man Theory of History, an idea which is not only ultra-elitist, but largely discredited. For the most part, history is not made by 'great leaders' but by masses of ordinary people like you and I. Why then, is the hero-worship cult of Reagan as alive today as ever? This is because conservatives wish they could have a figure like Reagan who at least represented their ideology, rather then the quasi-populist (sometimes quasi-fascist) Neocons of the Bush dynasty.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2006

    Gorbachev was consigned to the ash bin of history

    The book is outstanding. Documents how much Ted Kennedy hated America and was willing to kow tow to the left wing communists to derail peace. Reagan's place in history is very much deserved. Reagan forced the ultimate demise of communism and the left as evidenced by other reviews just can't stand it. Thank You Mr Kengor

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2006

    A True Leader

    This book is an eye-opening account into the true driving forces behind one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century. While Reagan was not the only cause for the Soviet demise, he most certainly was the right leader at the right time for this country. This book is a well-researched look into the man and his most important foreign policy decisions. It also sheds light into the liberal news media that blasted Regan throughout his presidency and ended up wrong in the end, as usual. It is a lesson for anyone who devotes too much to the editorials of today as they are oftentimes proved extremely incorrect and biased by the truth that is revealed by objective historians of later generations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2006

    The KGB and Teddy

    A powerfull documentation of just how far Kennedy went against Regan. This is a KGB document. This isn`t fantasy.. You won`t hear a word about this on CBS,CNN, NBC and ABC . Finally Brit Hume picked the story up on FOX News tonight. Where is Hannity ????? This is a magnificant and totally researched work by Dr. Kengor. Thank God for him and Grove City College.

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