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To be fair, this could serve as a reasonable introduction to Reagan's presidency for readers not already familiar with the basic events. But essentially, Pemberton (History/Univ. of Wisconsin, La Crosse) has produced an abridged encyclopedia of Ronald Reagan. On one hand there is an apparently Herculean effort to use every available written source, from unpublished papers to first-person accounts to scholarly secondary works, in a brief yet comprehensive survey of the major events of Reagan's adult life. On the other hand, there is the predictable result that not a single event receives satisfactory attention. Pemberton's perspective is balanced and serious throughout, but even objective description can be misleading when it is too brief. Devoting less than a single page to such complex events as the origins of the savings-and-loan fiasco or the evolution of the 1986 Tax Reform Act can create the impression that a topic has been addressed even though essential information is missing. Even where details are added to the narration, the presentation is unsatisfying. For example, Pemberton describes Reagan's post-inaugural signing of an order to freeze hiring of governmental employees as evidence of his mastery of symbolic politics. However, throughout the book we are told that Reagan himself rarely made decisions, and never about details. Was he the author of this action, then, or simply a performer? Without addressing this question, the description has little depth.
In an arena already crowded with juicy first-person exposés and academic diatribes, a detached, surface-level survey isn't going to generate much interest.
Posted June 8, 2004
Pemberton has captured a Ronald Reagan not seen in news media reports during Reagan's lifetime. The research that went into this book was indepth and highly detailed. By taking a centrist approach, Pemberton has managed to present a slightly different viewpoint of Reagan's true legacy and predicts what history will ultimately say after the passage of time. With both the highs and lows presented in a somewhat non-judgemental book, Pemberton tried to show that Reagan had a lot more substance than generally given credit for. Pemberton also picks up on the true strenghts of Reagan....the core values that did not change with the weather and the fact that Reagan was very popular with the regular folks in the middle of the road. Pemberton also touches on some of the things that others have put front and center in Reagan's legacy..... Iran-Contra and the deficit due to the arms race. Pemberton seems to start with a clean slate and does not follow the thinking that Reagan was the 'amicable dunce' that others made him out to be. This is a must read for those who want to gain a better understanding of Ronald Reagan beyond the headlines.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.