Michael Deaver, a longtime political advisor who served as deputy chief of staff in the Reagan White House, offers an approving, affectionate, and well-written portrait of the former president--but one that, for an insider's account, is surprisingly short on news.
The Ronald Reagan who emerges from Deaver's pages is far different from the popularly held view, fueled by the media, of the president as an amiable but limited man who napped, golfed, and left the business of running the government to his lieutenants. Far from it, Deaver insists: Reagan read widely, kept up with the issues, and "firmly believed that it was his job to set the priorities of his administrations and to make the big decisions." Thoughtful and utterly courteous, if sometimes distant, Deaver's Reagan is a man of unbending conservative principle; careful to cross party lines to secure support for his policy and to judge his opponents by character, not doctrine; stalwart in his devotion to country; and certain, in Deaver's words, "that he was the right guy at the right time." This Reagan can do no wrong, and when controversy arises in Deaver's account it is almost always because someone else has flubbed the play. Unlike Alexander Haig, David Stockman, and other former administration officials who have written about their time in the Reagan White House, Deaver is quick to fall on the sword whenever he must. He takes responsibility, for instance, for the president's controversial decision to lay a wreath at a German cemetery that contained the graves of fallen SS soldiers, and for Reagan's difficulties in convincing voters of the wisdom of an expensive military buildup in the closing years of the cold war. About the Iran-Contra affair, which blackened Reagan's second term, Deaver has little to say, and about his own departure from the administration and subsequent investigation by federal prosecutors he is even more close-mouthed.
Those seeking to learn more about Ronald Reagan as president may come away from Deaver's book disappointed. His admirers, however, will enjoy the anecdotes about "the traits that made him so successful as a leader and so peculiar--and wonderful--as a person." --Gregory McNamee [via]