Drivers, campaign advance men, research assistants, police bodyguards, and receptionists are not the sorts of people likely to be interviewed for big policy-focused biographies of major American politicians. They are, however, frequently the ones most equipped to answer the title question, "What was he really like?" That's what makes this collection of interviews by longtime Ronald Reagan team member Curtis Patrick a worthwhile read. It won't replace any of those big policy-focused biographies or ever angle for Pulitzer contention, but I can see many Reagan fans and researchers alike wanting it on their shelves.
The focus of this "Volume One" is on Reagan's gubernatorial campaign and his years as governor. While Patrick's interviewees share many new and often entertaining stories from this period that is so often overshadowed by the White House years, he has more affirmed our understanding of "what he was really like" than broken much new interpretive ground. The interview subjects are pretty unanimous that Reagan was a great guy to work for, caring and friendly to his campaign and political staff, intelligent and thoughtful with a good memory for facts, witty, and, inevitably, "optimistic." If there is one dark cloud in the book, it's the bitterness the author evidently feels toward Ronald Prescott Reagan, and things the latter has written and said about growing up the son of Ronald Reagan. Patrick is at pains to show that "Skipper," the childhood nickname by which Ron Reagan is still called here, was always included in the then-Governor's events and parties. I'll let the reader decide whether that answers Ron Reagan's fundamental argument. On the whole, though, all of what is presented here is so consistent with what so many others have said about working with and for the Gipper, that I tend to be satisfied that Patrick has, at least, answered his title question honestly.
The way these interviews are presented is less satisfying, though. The chapters are largely, though not entirely, transcriptions of conversations the author had with his interview subjects, and Patrick's use of quotation marks (often several sets within one paragraph) and italics is ... idiosyncratic. It was sometimes hard for me to tell who was speaking, or what an interjection like "YEAH!" was in reaction to. Another pass or two by an editor, I think, could have gone a long way to make the text more conventional in its presentation. The photos tend to look like they were reproduced on a Xerox machine, but with an unnecessary drop shadow added for effect.
Presentation issues aside, though, the first-person memories and often (I'd imagine) never-before-told anecdotes collected here make this book something fans of Reagan and Reagan stories will enjoy dipping into. It won't displace any of those other biographies, but can be an affirming and entertaining addition to them.
During the eight years of his Presidency Ronald Reagan was portrayed by the media in this country as a grandfatherly old codger who was lazy, disengaged and frankly not very bright. Reporters and commentators speculated aloud if Mr. Reagan had ever even read a book. Many dismissed him as an "amiable dunce". Because he espoused "conservative" principles some labeled him mean-spirited and completely out of touch. Curtis Patrick had been with Ronald Reagan since … more
“Curtis, I not only like your book; I love it!” -- Edwin Meese III White House Counselor to President Ronald Reagan U.S. Attorney General, President Ronald Reagan Legal Affairs Secretary & Chief of Staff for Governor Ronald Reagan, Author of WITH REAGAN: The Inside Story, Reagnery Gateway “Curtis, I do like your chapter on me--it is interesting! I like your chapters. They tell the story correctly. I told you it had to be interesting--well, it is interesting! Good!” -- Lyn Nofziger White House Communications Director President Ronald Reagan. Consultant Communications Director Governor Ronald Reagan. “Curtis Patrick, thanks for your help in making much of this happen. Best Regards, always. REAGAN: WHAT WAS HE REALLY LIKE? is an incredibly detailed account of the early Reagan years, beautifully written by a man who was there, and who thus made the later years possible.” -- Tom / Thomas C. Reed Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Policy U.S. Air Force Secretary, President Gerald Ford. “Curtis, As usual, you are doing the Lord’s work in advancing the truth about our great leader and friend. How may we assist?” -- Judge Wm. P. Clark, Jr. Secretary of the Interior, National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan CA Supreme Court Justice Rancher & Cowboy "A great addition to the scholarship on Reagan. It is especially important as I think you really capture the compelling essence of ...