President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
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President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  396 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Hailed by the New Yorker as "a superlative study of a president and his presidency," Lou Cannon's President Reagan remains the definitive account of our most significant presidency in the last fifty years. Ronald Wilson Reagan, the first actor to be elected president, turned in the performance of a lifetime. But that performance concealed the complexities of the man, baffl...more
Paperback, 920 pages
Published March 31st 2000 by PublicAffairs (first published 1991)
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Lou Cannon's PRESIDENT REAGAN is probably my favorite of its kind: the insider-y, journalist's post-mortem on a recent presidency (a la THE SURVIVOR by John Harris and DAYS OF FIRE by Peter Baker). Originally published in 1991, it's very much worth reading today. Reagan is still very much present in the public imagination, and he is often distorted as Republicans seek in his legacy the precedent for whatever position they want to hold next. For example, Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher re...more
James Korsmo
Ronald Reagan is well known as the "Great Communicator." And there has never been any doubt that he could deliver a great speech. From his rise to national prominence with a speech for Barry Goldwater in 1968 to his debate performances against George Bush and later Jimmy Carter to his oval office speeches and Presidential addresses abroad, Reagan had a clear stage presence. And he appreciated the "role" and pageantry of the office of the President. Lou Cannon, in President Reagan: The Role of a...more
Amazing and shocking bio by a reporter who followed Reagan throughout his political career. Amazing because it is an excellent, rigorous examination of Reagan and his political philosophy. Shocking because Cannon exposes him as shallow, ignorant and devious as many suspected and as world leaders knew. The title truly says it all; according to Cannon Reagan thought of politics as acting. And why not? Reagan found great popularity in presenting a Fantasist America where if not perfect, could be pe...more
John Harder
Though he goes beyond this narrow perspective Lou Cannon largely takes the perspective that Reagan’s worldview was shaped by his movie roles and personal experiences. Further, he confused reality with the movies. Essentially Reagan was a bumbling oaf. As the book progresses Cannon becomes a bit more balanced, perhaps this was by necessity since this oaf kept on succeeding in everything he focused on (except for Iran-Contra).

This is not a biography of a life, rather a chronicling of a presidency....more
I am surprised this biography has received so much praise. Yes, the author had unsurpassed access to RR. But, the book is quite cluttered. He repeats the same points over and over while viewing Reagan's presidency through different lens. I wonder if I would have appreciated the book more had I read it much closer to the events.
It is amazing that Reagan is seen by many people as one of the greatest presidents the U.S. has had.
What little success he had, he stumbled into. Had he stumbled into anot...more
David Simonetti
This is a well done biography about one of the 20th Centuries most significant presidencies. Cannon does not sugercoat his dialogue about Reagan. As a consequence, this provides an objective view of this President, who the far radical left tried to demonize since he was so successful in reversing the New Deal and Great Society Policies they championed for 60 years. If any one is interested in getting the real story about Reagan (both his flaws and merits), this is a useful book.
Oct 08, 2007 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sara Lee Schnur, Russell Epstein, Tatiana Schnur
If you want to feel optimistic about surviving the Bush era, read this book. It is a miracle that America survived the Reagan years! It covers everything from Reagan's cluelessness to the conflicts between James Baker and the California cabal, from Donald Regan's attempt to be co-President to of course Nancy's astrology fixation.
Jun 19, 2007 Jack rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All
Best book on Reagan's presidency by a long stretch. In fact, best book on a modern presidency. Cannon, unlike Reagan haters and conservative revisionists, is fair and thorough. Those who love and hate Reagan will find plenty to support their beliefs, and plenty to make them unhappy.
Rich Deleo
I admired President Reagan and think he was the greatest President in the past 75 years. This book was overly influenced by Lou Cannon 's media pals. That said, he did provide some great " inside baseball" stories and perspectives.
Lou Cannon knew & followed Ronald Reagan politically for thirty years. There was substantially more depth to Reagan than what you read in the newspapers and saw reported on TV.
Interesting, but not the chronological account of his two terms that I was looking for and much too redundant with the information that was included.
A beast of a biography. A testament to Cannon's work and access: both Reagan apologists and polemicists consider this the true measure of the man.
Lou is great biographer/writer. A don't know a wiser or better journalist.
A very very detailed account of Reagan's life...good parts and bad parts.
A very good book on Reagan.
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