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A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan

A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan

4.3 8
by Michael K. Deaver

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A warm, intimate portrait of President Ronald Reagan by his confidant and friend of over 35 years.

Former aide and long-time family friend Michael Deaver first met Ronald Reagan during his 1966 campaign for governor of California and later served him in Sacramento and Washington, DC, as the president's deputy chief of staff. In A Different Drummer,


A warm, intimate portrait of President Ronald Reagan by his confidant and friend of over 35 years.

Former aide and long-time family friend Michael Deaver first met Ronald Reagan during his 1966 campaign for governor of California and later served him in Sacramento and Washington, DC, as the president's deputy chief of staff. In A Different Drummer, Reagan emerges as charismatic and unwaveringly optimistic, a devoted husband and dedicated leader, disciplined and tough. As Deaver points out in his introduction, 'worked eight years doing the toughest job on earth; criss-crossed the world; and survived an assassin's bullet, a devastating riding accident, cancer, and brain surgery all after he turned seventy.'

Deaver also shares the lows, including the tough times that would test the strength of their friendship. Finally, he shares a look at Reagan today as he battles Alzheimer's disease. It is Nancy Reagan's finest hour, Deaver writes, a validation of the greatest love story he has ever known.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief of staff and longtime friend, tells the story of his relationship with the former president. Deaver's unprecedented access to Reagan allows him to present the many different Reagans he has known: perfectionist, communicator, global leader, and good friend. Deaver doesn't shy away from painful topics such as the assassination attempt (and how it changed Reagan's personality and philosophy) and the former president's struggle against Alzheimer's disease. Included, as well, are previously unpublished excerpts from Reagan's letters to the Americans he encountered along the way.
Library Journal
Deaver was one of Reagan's three closest advisors during the first years of his presidency (besides James Baker and Ed Meese) and had known and served him since the California gubernatorial campaign of 1966. He was not only a trusted aide but also a family friend, with generally harmonious relationships with both the President and his wife, Nancy. Deaver speaks softly and sincerely and manages to convey his deep feelings for the Reagans, granting us personal insight into a man notoriously difficult to discern. Reagan used from-the-heart persuasion rather than mindless political mantras or cynical verbal manipulations. Particularly interesting is Deaver's description of the inner workings of the White House during the John Hinckley Jr. assassination attempt, only one of the insightful tales and anecdotes he offers. Nor are Reagan's problems glossed over: Iran/ Contra and his descent into Alzheimer's disease, among others. A short book, but an invaluable one, capably read by the author; highly recommended for most general collections. Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Chapter One

The Early Years

I stood alone in the comfortable office Ronald Reagan had used since leaving the White House. He had selected this particular office, I think, for its unforgettable view of the Pacific Ocean. This is the panorama every Southern Californian dreams of: the winding coast from Malibu to Long Beach, covered in an early-morning fog that breaks around noon most days and ends with a stunning sunset over the water. Except for his years in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., this was the view that Reagan had known and loved all his adult life. His home in Bel Air, his office at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, the getaway at Rancho De Cielo in the Santa Barbara Hills all opened up to essentially the same scene. His and Nancy's final resting place, a tomb built for the two of them at the library, had been chosen in part because it looked across the Ventura coast to Point Mugu.

The office I was standing in was all Reagan as well: the chair he used as governor, a painting behind the desk by Charles Reiffle titled Desert Below Julian, other paintings with western themes including several of his ranch and one of two of his horses, reproductions of Frederick Remington's sculptures of cowboys, Indians, and horses. There were photos of his four children, too, and of Nancy, and one of himself with Dwight Eisenhower that he has had in every office since I've known him. As I stood there, my eye fell on the little glass dome in one of the cabinets. I didn't have to move closer to know what was inside: a .22-caliber bullet inscribed “This Is It!” along with a shard of glass from the limousine Reagan had beenabout to climb into on that awful day in 1981 when John Hinckley had nearly ended his presidency and his life.Today was an overcast Southern California morning in 1997, about three years after Ronald Reagan had penned his open letter disclosing his Alzheimer's disease, essentially saying his farewell to the American people. The letter, simple and touching, was written by a man who never claimed to be John Keats. It tells future generations in just a few paragraphs more about the man than any Reagan biography could.

As soon as Reagan finished that letter'as if on cue'the Alzheimer's seemed to worsen, deepen. He would never be the same after he put the pen down, and America would never see Citizen Reagan again. Ronald and Nancy Reagan had agreed there would be no more public appearances. The letter was his subtle yet eloquent exit from the grand stage.

This would be our first meeting since the letter was written. I felt fairly certain, too, that this would be the last time I would ever see Reagan alive. It wasn't'I would see him once more'but sooner or later, and probably sooner, Nancy was going to cut off access to him altogether, even for old friends like me. She wanted him to be remembered as strong and energetic. Having spent so many years as, in effect, the cokeeper of that image, I could only sympathize. Over the course of the thirty years I had known him, I had come to love and respect Reagan like a second father. He was once asked if he thought of me as another son. He thought it over for a moment and said, “Son, no. Brother, maybe.”

Joanne Drake, his chief of staff since leaving the White House, assured me that I would have to wait only a few minutes more. The president was on his way. I was actually nervous, wondering how he'd react. Would he remember me? What would I say to someone I'd worked side by side with for all those years? Someone whom I have seen at his highest heights and lowest depths? What do you say to a man who, thanks to Alzheimer's, you know more about than he does?

There were a number of framed pictures on the shelves, which served as personal reminders for a man with a fading memory. Joanne had told me they helped him link newly designated strangers like me with the past. Reagan had developed a routine he was very comfortable with when greeting visitors. He would walk them around the office, talking about specific photos or other objects so he could gauge the visitor's interest in each and begin to connect his visitor with his past. I could envision the drill. And I understood the gimmick: It was vintage Reagan. Take the focus off him and toss it casually upon your shoulders. With Reagan, it was never about himself.

The photos and mementos came in handy, as there were many like me who came calling, seeking just one more moment of camaraderie and friendship. That was my sole reason for being here this day. I was in Los Angeles and I wanted to see my old friend again.

The sound of stirrings in the outside office snapped me out of my reverie. Through the open door came Ronald Reagan. The man I called governor and Mr. President'only once would I call him Ron'was back in my life. A crooked smile creased his face as he extended his hand and took mine. I felt that old infectious joy and optimism he always seemed to carry into a room. His chestnut hair had given up the battle against time and was brushed with a dignified gray. I know for certain that no dye ever touched Reagan's hair. For years, the Reagan haters had literally sifted through his barber's trash can, searching for a dyed gray lock that could serve as a tiny metaphor for a phony man and an even more phony presidency. They searched in vain. It was an old actor's trick — Brylcreem — that gave Reagen's hair that dark gloss, not Clairol for Men. His shoulders were a little stooped on this day, and his movements were slower than I had remembered. He looked docile and a bit worn. The man who had brought the Soviet bear to its knees now seemed more like a gentleman you might see in a Leisure World lobby, not the West Wing. Still, the look was the same. A crisp white shirt, a flawless dark suit with a half inch of cuff showing at the wrist.

We made small talk for a few minutes before Reagan escorted me toward the pictures that documented his life, but I don't think he gleaned any clues of who I was based on my reactions. Undaunted, he fixed his eyes on the now-famous photo of himself as a young lifeguard at Rock River. He pointed to the hulking image with pride, asking if I had any idea how many lives he had saved during the time he kept watch there. Without hesitation, I belted out the precise number, “Seventy-seven.”

Meet the Author

Former assistant to the president and White House deputy chief of staff during the Reagan administration, Michael K. Deaver is the author of Nancy and the bestselling A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan. He serves as vice chairman, international, for Edelman Worldwide.

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Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that I chose this book about Ronald Reagan over all of the others available. I already knew how wonderful he was as my Governor and my President. What I wanted to learn more about was the man. This book told me all I could have wished for and possibly more. The one overwhelming fact about both the politician and the man was that he was the real deal. HE NEVER LIED! I still miss him and grieve for what our country has become without him. Rest in peace, Ronnie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a biography, however many meaningful insights concerning the great man. Reagan was easy to love and hard to understand. The book gives us some ideas as to why. Most revealing was the Bitburg fiasco. Never understood Reagen's position on that. Now I do. For him it was always a question of integrity. Though I never agreed with him visiting the SS graves and still don't I understand now why he did it. It was the kind of thing that made him a great man. He always tried to do what was right even though it might hurt him politically. You have to go as far back as Ike to find another like him. Great read.
theoldguyEE More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy this book. It is really well written and easy to read. Reagan is one of the few that I have voted for that I am proud of and that I voted for him. This book tells just what kind of man he was. I would recommend it to anyone in fact I already have. The only problem I had reading it is my Nook doesn't work well so I have to wait for a day when it is in the mood to work.
Sunbear9 More than 1 year ago
If you want to know who Reagan was, read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In ¿A Different Drummer¿, Michael Deaver follows the theme of other authors, including Dinesh D¿Souza, who hold that Ronald Reagan had sufficient confidence in his own beliefs to allow him to follow his own instincts regardless of the opinions of others. Deaver has the unique perspective of thirty years of intimate association with Ronald Reagan. Through the first campaign in California to the second term in the White House, Deaver advanced from campaign staffer to the office adjacent to the Oval Office. Deaver introduces the reader to the private Reagan. We see Reagan as he lives with Nancy, works with his staff and deals with his adversaries. Deaver portrays Reagan as knowing his core values and adhering to them. Even in controversy, such as the Bitburg decision, Reagan¿s loyalty to his friends remained unshaken. A self identified member of the family, Deaver provides an insight into Nancy¿s role in protecting and leading Reagan through his life. In the story of his own return to the Reagans after Deaver¿s downfall, Deaver presents a loyal, concerned Reagan, unlike some others who portray Reagan as dumping cohorts who are no longer useful to him. Finally, through Michael Deaver, we see the declining Reagan in the early stages of Alzheimer's. ¿A Different Drummer¿ is a sympathetic portrayal of a confident, steady leader by one of his closest associates. It is a valuable tool with which to uncover the real Ronald Reagan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was born in 1978 and I had never known much about the personal or public life of Ronald Reagan. All I knew was what my parents had told me. This was the first book I've read about the man. I am not an emotional person by any means, but I must say that I was almost moved to tears several times while reading this book - tears of joy, tears of pride, and tears of heartbreak. The feeling I had when I finished this book is akin to the feeling one would have after watching a really, really great movie, only the characters are real. I fell in love with Ronald Reagan just as the rest of the country fell in love with him throughout the 80's. Now, to know that such a great man is being so cruelly taken away from us wrenches my heart. It's as if I've known him all my life. I will cherish this book for the rest of my life. Thank you, Michael Deaver.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon the initial purchase of this book I was looking for information regarding Reagan and his political life. However, after the first couple pages I realized that wasn't what I was getting into. This book gives and inside look at Reagan the 'man' not the 'politician.' I enjoyed the book very much and found Reagan to be an inspirational man. His subsequent retreat from the political and social world due to Alzhiemers is saddening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Deaver sheds a great deal of light on the character and personality of Ronald Reagan. Having read several books on Reagan I found Deaver offering a fresh look at Reagan that kept the pages turning. Even if you didn't vote for Reagan or didn't care for his political party or agenda you will appreciate this book. Deaver doesn't push a political philosophy or agenda.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i am 30 years old and feel that i grew up in the 'Reagan' years. the choices he made in his years in office effect each of us today! this book gives excellent insight to one of the greatest presidents to grace to oval office. this book helps me re-afirm why i am such a stout reaganite and republican. from that point of view, those ever interested in president reagan: it's certainly a MUST READ!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book grabbed my attention at the get go. Being a history teacher I am always looking for books that I could use and this is one I would definitly use. It told of the real Reagan and what he was like. They did not sugar coat it and it makes politics seem real. That is important as the time goes on to make the realness of life come out for the people. This book shows the ups and downs and shows how the people who really knew Reagan took care of him and how he took care of them. He was a good man and one who knew what was important...the PEOPLE! I highly recommend this book for all people. Not just history buffs or politicians, but all people. It shows how a good man became president and how he did not give up what he believed to get there. Wouldn't it be grand if we could say that for all...Good book...really should read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had always been an admirer of President Reagan mostly for how he made us feel as Americans. After reading this book, i am now a huge fan of the man as well. Mr. Deaver has written a masterpiece here. I've never been so emotional at the end of a book as i was reading the last few pages of this. It makes me wish i had gotten to know the President at least just a little. God bless Mr. Deaver and Mr. Reagan as well as their families.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was extremely well written about a very intricate man. If you can find any time at all, this book is worth every second of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To historians, President Reagan remains an enigma in many ways. No one failed to be moved by President Reagan. His magic touched us all. How much was the man? How much was carefully constructed image? In this detailed memoir of thirty years of working with President Reagan, Michael Deaver addresses many of the hypotheses and reports that bear on those questions. In doing so, he paints a compelling portrait of a genuinely principled man with enormous talent for inspirational leadership. President Reagan's devotion to ending the cold war was a pole star that undoubtedly helped all of humanity to gradually emerge from that conflict. In the foreward by Mrs. Reagan, she notes that 'there are only a handful of people who could write about the private Ronald Reagan.' One of the 'most qualified is our friend Mike Deaver.' She praises Mr. Deaver for working behind the scenes rather than trying to grab glory for himself. Mr. Deaver makes modest claims for the book. 'I would never pretend to solve the riddle of Reagan . . . .' This book is 'not a biography . . . [it is] a book of memories.' The book begins with the first time Mr. Deaver saw Mr. Reagan in person in the 1960s, and ends with the last time they saw one another before the book was written. The painful portrait of a talented man with Alzheimer's Disease will grip you, in a way that you cannot imagine. The book's main theme is that President Reagan 'was guided by a source of inspiration that only he could understand.' The quickest way to lose a point was to argue that taking a stand would hurt politically. President Reagan saw it as his duty to persuade people to take the right point of view. Polls determined what he had to communicate about, not what his decisions should be. Mr. Deaver's durability was related to both his sense of place and his sense of mission. Both Mrs. Reagan and he report that they shared a common objective of helping President Reagan be his most effective. Mr. Reagan was once asked if Mr. Deaver was like a son to him. He replied, 'Son, no. Brother, maybe.' Only once in their years together did Mr. Deaver use Mr. Reagan's first name with him. Mr. Deaver regrets having done so. Those who doubt the ability of or dislike President Reagan will dislike this book. It counters many of their arguments. You will find that President Reagan sought out the tough decisions, did his homework, and always wanted to get the best people involved. He was able to handle the intellectual demands of the key issues, and worked hard to be sure that he had as much information as possible. The only way he would consider changing his mind about something was if people would be hurt by his decision. Those who always felt that there was a director and script writer in the wings will be fascinated to find out that almost all of President Reagan's best lines were written by him. He also did some pretty remarkable things to enhance his ability to persuade. For example, he wore only one contact lens when speaking. This enabled him to see both the script (with the one eye that had a lens in) and the eyes of the audience (to see how they were reacting). This was an approach he had designed himself to avoid reading glasses in public. The story of the assassination attempt will change your view of the event and the need for more presidential security forever. Anyone who has read this book could recounts dozens of fascinating anecdotes. I will avoid the temptation to share more of them, so that you can enjoy them in the book. As interesting as they are, I think that the overall portrait is far more significant. President Reagan's competitiveness and discipline in the service of American ideals are what will most impress you. May we always be so well served in our presidents. After you read this book, think about how you could become more like President Reagan. What do you stand for? How can you become more competitive and disciplined in supporting those ide
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was intriged by an article in Parade magazine about this book. I admit up front that I would rather sit in the dentists chair without novicane, then sit down to a book, but the comments by the author, Michael Deaver and the short excerpt from the book got my attention. The rest is history for me. The book is very well written,and very easy to read. I commend Mr. Deaver for pouring his heart and soul into this abridged version of truely and Incredible President, during Incredible times. I was not a Reagan fan when he was President, but after reading this book, I better understand President Reagan's exceptional contribution to this country as our nations leader. I also hope that Michael Deaver writes another book, as his writing style flows easily even for we procrastinators of reading. I believe that if more authors had Mr. Deaver's style, I.. and the rest of the book reading procrastinators would be reading more books, more frequently. Thank you Mr.Deaver and of course President Reagan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful commentary that encompasses so many extraordinary accomplishments. Amen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with Mr. Deaver's book. I expected more behind the scenes dealing with Mr. Reagan's presidency. It seemed he left out so much. There was no mentioning of anything regarding the Challenger accident, Mr. Reagan's trip to Normandy, his encounter with Gorbachev was minimal. I really thought he missed out on giving so much in this book. It seemed to me too sentimental and much less historically interesting. I am definitely a Reagan man, but this book just didn't do it for me.