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Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future
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Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Nearly two decades after leaving office and four years after his death, the legend of Ronald Reagan looms larger than ever over America's political life. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the 2008 presidential campaign, with Republicans - especially presumptive nominee John McCain - appearing to run more aggressively for the Reagan mantle than for the White House ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Free Press (first published January 23rd 2009)
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Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book though I have to admit I was surprised by its even-handedness. Reagan had some unexpected successes for which he actually fails to get acknowledgement (forays towards the political middle). Of course, there is also much he did that was damaging and needs to be remembered for an informed review of his presidency (Iran/Contra scandal, gutting of necessary social programs, astrologist in the White House, indifference to AIDS).
David Rush
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
The book starts with a description of the Cult of personality as applied to Reagan
step 1: Eliminate any negative reference, such as Iran Contra
step 2: Award credit where it is not due: Cold War was Reagan alone, ignoring 40 years
step 3: Whitewashing any qualities that don't mesh with the new vision. Good Qualities as well as bad, such as the fact that he talked with the enemy and compromised and raised taxes

I was frankly amazed that there was so much good to say about the man, of course it was m
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will Bunch takes on the myths that have been attached to the memory of Ronald Reagan, since he left office in 1989, by a group of conservatives led by Grover Norquist. No doubt there are many who call themselves Republicans who will themselves to believe in the Reagan Cult of Personality out of admiration for the man, but Norquist and his The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project "bold"ly and "crudely" (p. 56 of 645) set up a hugely successful cowboy-modeled hero image to perpetuate the conservative agen ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A disturbing and perplexing trend in American politics is for Republican pundits and politicians to evoke a hagiographic portrayal of the ultra-conservative and unyielding Ronald Reagan, usually as justification for some far-right policy or (in the case of politicians) to claim themselves the true heir of the beloved Gipper. Will Bunch exposes this phenomenon for what it is: attachment to a myth that is completely divorced from the facts of Reagan's presidency. Despite the glorious rhetoric that ...more
Feb 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A very interesting analysis of the Reagan legacy, especially of the irony of how Reagan's real achievement as president is overlooked (reduction of the world's nuclear arms) while he's given credit for things he didn't do (like end the Cold War). Also intriguing is the blind-eye that's been turned to the Constitutional abuses of Iran-Contra and effect Reagan still has on modern American politics. Most surprising, and appalling, was learning of Operation Serenade-- the purposeful plan to turn Rea ...more
Jay Roberts, CFP®, CRPC ®
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
A fair and honest work about the man who’s direction is responsible for current predicaments. Mythologized as a tax cutting, small government man with deeply religious and conservative ideals, Reagan was far from the myth he has become. He raised taxes three times, after his initial cut. His government grew larger then both Clinton and Carter’s administration. He rarely attended church after divorcing his religious wife and remarrying a woman deeply interested in numerology. This does not mean h ...more
Colleen Browne
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A balanced look at the Reagan Presidency and its perceived and real impact on the country. In addition to setting the record straight on many of the things for which Reagan is given credit ie- ending the Cold War- it also provides an intriguing picture of the propoganda machine that has grown up in the Republican party since Reagan. Bunch details the lengths to which Republicans and particularly Grover Norquist have gone to change peoples' perception of the former president. Shortly after the en ...more
Ames Grawert
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Reagan raised taxes!? SOCIALIST!
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It was an excellent read. It showed where the modern day GOP has changed our views on President Reagan and has given him undue credit. Will Bunch does a wonder expose of the true Reagan days.
Becky Herrera
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really good book on Ronald Reagan's presidency. It is actually pretty unbiased despite the title. The right wing conservative movement has put Reagan on a pedestal in that he did no wrong in his presidency. They create a mythic man and president that didn't exist. alot of this occurred when the cable news channels became popular after his presidency. The Fox News propaganda machine had a lot to do with it as did the right wing lobbyist and political advocate, Grover Norquist. He was close to the ...more
Erick Worrell
Jul 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Despite the borderline-offensive title (to Conservatives), this book never once says Reagan wasn't a great President. It distinguishes, though, between the actual decisions that made Reagan great (which were the much more pragmatic and moderate decisions, and his willingness to compromise and change with the tide) and the myths that make Reagan iconic. Bunch does an exceptional job of separating fact from fiction and putting the context back into an administration that has been glossed over and ...more
Rob S
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Mr. Bunch, tear down this myth!

Tear Down This Myth looks at an issue that has increasingly become a political third rail in recent years, the legacy of U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan. Ronald Reagan has become a revered figure in GOP circles as the Party lacks any real comparable leadership these days as all other GOP candidates stand in the shadow of the Gipper. One only needs to look at the amount of pandering by GOP candidates in 2008 and even in 2012 as they all attempt to take the mantl
José Gutiérrez
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whuaaaa!!! This book just crashed my Tea Party!! You mean to say Reagan really had nothing to do with the Berlin Wall coming down or the collapse of the Soviet Union and that negotiations for the Iran Hostage Crisis had already been drawn up under the Carter Administration before the Gipper even took office?! You mean to say that contrary to what all my party representatives have asserted, Reagan's economic policies were really disastrous and these engendered the Wall Street culture of deregulat ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
"Tear Down This Myth" is an amalgamation of two things, a critique of the presidency of Ronald Reagan as well as a synopsis of how his presidency has affected the administrations that have followed it. With the Reagan mythology having such a prominent place in the media today, it is refreshing to read a book that brings the idealistic presidency of Reagan down to Earth. Author Will Bunch, through highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of the Reagan years, brings forth a thesis that ...more
Jonathan Lu
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very interesting analysis, though the author should have kept it more a la Blink (i.e. the latter chapters) and less political criticism (i.e. the primary chapters). Begins a bit too negatively critical (I think) of Reagan and only moves towards the good parts of his 8yeras towards the end with analysis as to how Bush43 came with promises to be the next RR only to emulate his worst and ignore his best. Does manage to stay very data based but would have been more interesting if written from a les ...more
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young conservatives who don't really remember the '80s.
Shelves: own, politics
Despite the polarizing title of this book, the author is surprisingly even-handed in discussing Reagan's legacy, is more focused on tearing down the myth that has grown up around Reagan rather than the man himself. Bunch takes great effort show the truth about what really happened during the Reagan presidency, although I would have liked him to spend even just a paragraph or two discussing some important events for the benefit of those who were not yet born or are too young to remember the event ...more
Matthew Kresal
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's a line from the Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance which has taken on a life of its own: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." It is the legend, if not the specter of America's fortieth president, that is the subject of Will Bunch's excellent book. For both still hangs over American politics nearly thirty years after the presidency ended and almost a decade after the publication of the book.

Bunch explores Reagan the President with Reagan the Myth and succinctly separat
Aug 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Whew... The funny thing about the Reagan Legacy is that not even those who want to pick up his mantle remember it fondly -- they remember what they WANTED it to be, and that's what they're trying to rekindle.

Bunch does a nice job of recounting the things that Reagan is known for -- cutting taxes, shrinking government, being a tough guy in foreign affairs, bringing pride back to America, being the most popular president of our lifetime, being a great public speaker -- and it turns out the only th
Feb 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
I grew up during the Reagan years, meaning that I was born 5 months before his election and remember little more about him than the things implanted in my head by media, history books and polite, civil discussion. I remember his speaking on tv after the Challenger disaster, I vaguely remember contemporary accounts of his speech at the Brandenberg Gate, but how much of that is filtered by the lens of current replay is impossible to tell. Simply put, my generation has been brought up on the myths ...more
Nicole Brinkmann
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Easy read. Well-written. Good analysis for anyone who actually remembers the 80s, 90s, and the first two decades of the 2000s - and by that I mean anyone who hasn't been brainwashed by Fox News into believing that Regan is some kind of mythological hero. He wasn't. He was bad for our country, and it took nearly a decade for our country to recover from the damage Regan did. But by then, Republicans (who have notoriously short memories) had forgotten the damage he did, and so when G. W. Bush decid ...more
Edward Canade
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
It's a pretty good book. The legacy of Ronald Reagan, who he was and what he actually accomplished during his years in office, has become a myth, transformed from reality by an organized campaign of propaganda. His successes are distorted and inflated while his mistakes are minimized and buried.

Reagan increased taxes on many American and his lasting tax cuts benefited only the very top income brackets. He talked of believing in the constitution while circumventing it with the illegal funding Nic
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Gery by: Nick Seligman
A great read that is ever so accurate in the era of the Donald Trump Presidency.

My favourite passages of the book include:

"It also seriously undercuts the Reagan myth by showing that when it came to governing, it was the president's often practical side that ruled the day, and that it was this, not his radical conservative instincts, that had the lasting positive impact." (p.61)

"Ben Suskind, a journalist with a knack for getting inside the Bush administration, reported a jarring conversation tha
Feb 14, 2015 rated it liked it
bunch does some good things here, but he doesn't break a lot of ground and spends considerably too much time opining and not enough time reporting.

the good: a compelling description of the divide between the reality of reagan's presidency and how it is memorialized in our politics. the idea that reagan single-handedly ended the cold-war gets the derision it deserves. the flagrantly inaccurate recall of how reagan governed — an ideologue who never backed down in his demand for never ending tax cu
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I felt that this book really hit on the important notes. Although the Author is was clearly writing for a Liberal audience he didn't whore himself out to their every wishes, although he could have easily taken the easy road and been demeaning to the Reagan "legacy" I appreciate how he gave his best effort to take the neutral ground. He does point out the flaws of Reagan's presidency and the complete fabrication of today's Right wing i.e. Reagan ending the Cold War and pulling the country out of ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
With Tear Down This Myth, Will Bunch offers a balanced look at the Presidency and legacy of Ronald Reagan. His criticisms of Reagan are never nasty or partisan, and he offers praise where it is deserved. The narrative clearly delineates how Reagan became a lionized figure of the right, who the major players were in building this mythology, and the motivations behind doing so.

Reagan is painted as a largely sympathetic figure of good conscience, who disliked ugly rhetoric and collateral damage whe
Bob Duke
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The myth is more dangerous than the man. This book details the reality of the Reagan era, how it failed and how he was never a very popular president. It shows how the Republican Party mythologized Reagan in order to advance their conservative agenda. Being remembered as having an genial nature and public sympathy for his Alzheimer's disease enabled Republican opinion makers to create a picture of Reagan being a tough guy on taxes and in foreign affairs. He is credited with tax cuts and ending t ...more
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
Considering the cover blurbs I had hoped for a harsher critique than what I found. We have here Ronald Wilson Reagan who negotiated illegally with Iran as a presidential candidate which is technically treasonous by the way, which isn't even mentioned. Bunch then calls him "pragmatic" though what it comes across instead is that Reagan was essentially missing a personality. He became whatever those around him wanted: first the staunch New Dealer, then an abrupt break to Goldwater conservative foll ...more
Ryn McAtee
I read this book so I could better understand the groundwork that had been laid since the Reagan administration up to our current Disaster-In-Chief. Obviously, much has happened since its publication in 2009, but the similarities between Reagan and Trump are all-too frightening. I wouldn't call this an amazing book, but it's well-researched, and while the author gets a bit sarcastic at points (understandably so), he refrains from dragging anyone through the mud, and offers a clear image of our a ...more
Benj FitzPatrick
May 17, 2011 rated it liked it
During Reagan's presidency I was too young to know anything about him (or that time period as I was still playing in the mud with he-man). My introduction to him came from the recent (2006-2010) GOP revival of his image. This book gave a light-medium (it cited sources for a fair number of its assertions) introduction to his presidency, which I found useful. It is quite readable while presenting plenty of facts with the express purpose of shedding light on the fallacies I'd been introduced to fro ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been wanting to read this for a while and I'm glad I finally did. As a fan of history, and specifically of FACTS, I can't help but get enraged by all of the distortions that are told in recent years. In this book, Will Bunch does a great job of relaying his message in an incredibly "fair and balanced" way of presenting the facts and how they're portrayed in today's political world.

It is actually frightening to see how often we forget what really happened and just focus on the soundbites an
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“It also seriously undercuts the Reagan myth by showing that when it came to governing, it was the president's often practical side that ruled the day, and that it was this, not his radical conservative instincts, that had the lasting positive impact.” 0 likes
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