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President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

5.0 1
by Lou Cannon, Louis Cannon

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In President Reagan, Lou Cannon explores and analyzes the subtleties and contradictions of the off-stage actor who sought to remake and rearm America and bring an end to the Cold War.

Updated with recent assessments from many quarters, including the comments of former U.S. and Soviet diplomats, Nancy Reagan, and former independent counsel Lawrence Walsh,


In President Reagan, Lou Cannon explores and analyzes the subtleties and contradictions of the off-stage actor who sought to remake and rearm America and bring an end to the Cold War.

Updated with recent assessments from many quarters, including the comments of former U.S. and Soviet diplomats, Nancy Reagan, and former independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, this masterwork probes the achievements and failures of the Reagan presidency with critical detachment. It examines the reasons for his political success, explains his economic policies, and exposes the roots of the Iran-contra scandal. President Reagan, is an incisive portrait if one if American's most Important presidents.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
No journalist enjoys a closer working relationship with Ronald Reagan, his friends, and advisors than Cannon, who has covered the Reagan beat for a quarter of a century. Combining scores of interviews, including three with Reagan, with authoritative journalism, Cannon has written what may be the best contemporary political history of the Reagan years. Unlike most modern presidents whose frame of reference is analytical and political, Cannon reveals how Reagan was shaped by his acting career. Far from being a Hollywood refugee, Reagan is credited with reviving national confidence and not being the demagogue that his opponents perceived him to be. While Reagan succeeded at establishing the national agenda, numerous ethical scandals, the savings and loan debacle, and the unraveling of foreign policy proved the presidency to be beyond Reagan's abilities. Transcending the many self-serving kick-and-tell potboilers, Cannon's absorbing, informative account will be the basis for all future studies. Highly recommended for most public and academic libraries.-- Karl Helicher, Upper Marion Township Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
From the Publisher
New York Times, January 9, 2011
“Authoritative… If Obama actually read Cannon, his comeback could have legs. It’s full of leadership lessons that will be particularly useful in outfoxing political adversaries who seem not to have consulted so much as a picture book about the president they claim as their patron saint.”

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:

Meet the Author

Lou Cannon covered Ronald Reagan for more than twenty-five years, first as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and later as the Washington Post White House correspondent. Cannon is the author of two previously published books on Reagan and, most recently, Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. He lives in Summerland, California, just five miles outside of Santa Barbara.

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President Reagan; The Role of a Lifetime 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lou Cannon was anything but a conservative, but his treatment of one of our most conservative presidents is fair and affectionate
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is widely considered to be the best biography of the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It shows his many actions, both successful and failed, and in the end he emerges as one of America's great or near-great presidents. His work on the grand stage to confront the Soviet Union and then, with Gorbechev, to put into place the end the cold war, really stands out as bold and forward-thinking. I do not understand the other comments that say this is a democrat-written book, because I did not get that impression at all. Lou Cannon is the Reagan biographer and wrote a complimentary book about Reagan's early years as governor of California. Maybe the reader does not understand that all reputable biographies go into great detail beyond the TV image.
Dr_Wilson_Trivino More than 1 year ago
When President Obama went on holiday in Hawaii, a list of books was released by the White House that he had taken along. One of these books was President Reagan: The Role of A Lifetime by Lou Cannon. Cannon a former reporter and prolific writer on Reagan has capped off the definitive book on the life and times of our former President Ronald Wilson Reagan. Another reason to look into this work is that in less than a month a centennial birthday celebration of Reagan will commence on February 6. With a generation since the Reagan years upon us, now is the time to revisit his true legacy. In 948 pages, Cannon does the unthinkable and that is to explore the man behind the smiling face. His conclusion into the psyche was that "Reagan may not have been a great president, but he was a great American who held a compelling vision of his country." Reagan brought optimism back in vogue when America was going through an identity crisis. The book starts with the final hours of the Reagan administration and the transition to the forty first President George H.W. Bush. Well researched with significant notation of sources, it takes the reader into an insider's view of the highs and lows of Reagan's public career from his days as an actor, spokesman, governor, and President. While current conservatives hail Reagan as right wing saint, he was more a pragmatist who led with simple convictions and optimistic expectations. His use of humor and charm set the course for the comeback 80s that led to the roaring 90s. His strengths also opened the gap to his weaknesses as a leader as detailed in the chapters "darkness at noon" and "struggles at twilight" that delves into the Iran-Contra debacle. The question of this scandal was what did the president know and when did he know it? Did he authorize arms for hostages and the funneling of funds to the Contras? Unfortunately we never get an answer and it could go any way. Reagan did not remember and with the onset of Alzheimer's disease in later years it begs so much into question. What was definitely was that over zealot underlings took it upon themselves to initiate activities that were beyond legal or unethical. Many tend to be nostalgic for the glory days of the Reagan years, but as always the case, the past is not as great as we tend to remember and the present not as bad as we think. However the future is full of hope and opportunity and that can be attributed to American's greatest cheerleader, Ronald Wilson Reagan. President Reagan: A Role of A Life Time by Lou Cannon is a must read for any student of history and politics. This book captures the human essences of this celebrated American icon, Ronald Reagan.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I suffered through about half of this until I fully realized the insidious intentions of the author's attempt to bolster the lame years of the Carter presidency, and at the same time disqualify the successes of one of America's greatest leaders, in the guise of objectivety. A totally leftistly biased waste of money!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, and should definitely be read. Reagan was a unique president and like all others had flaws. While not being patronizing, Cannon manages to expose these flaws gently, yet contrasting them with the more positive qualities, those that everyone saw and deeply admired. Contrary to what the other reviewer said, this is a definitive read on Ronald Reagan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cannon's Biography of Reagan pretends to be an authoritative bio on the surface, but just a bit into it and the bile surfaces in passage after passage. His interest here is not in telling Reagans tale. It is far more insidious than that. He comes out with grinders trying to chip away at the statue of Michaelangelo's David hoping there's a gargoyle somewhere inside, and not finding anything juicy, decides to engage in 'creative' journalism to achieve an effective smearing of a man who, being stricken down by disease, cannot defend himself. This book's only value would be as fuel for a cozy fire some cold night.