Oral Histories of Reagan Offer Glimpse of President
In conjunction with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Miller Center has been interviewing Reagan administration officials since 2001 and recently released more than 2,500 pages of transcripts.
The interviewees include such well-known figures as former secretary of state George P. Shultz, former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, Reagan treasury secretary and White House chief of staff James A. Baker III and longtime Reagan political adviser Stuart Spencer, as well as lesser-known officials who had close access to the president and who provided intimate reminiscences of his presidency.
These are the recollections of Reagan loyalists, who offer generally positive portraits of the president, but not always. Reagan is at once human, detached, strong and malleable -- determined to bankrupt the Soviets with a costly arms race; baffled and humbled by the Iran-contra affair; influenced by his wife, Nancy; quick with a joke or story; indifferent to the details of many of his administration's policies.
Stephen Knott, an associate professor at Virginia and the Reagan project team leader, said Reagan's weaknesses -- as well as his strengths -- were evident from the interviews, but Knott said he was struck by the consistent description of Reagan's decency, describing him as "utterly without guile." "This man is the anti-Nixon to the core," Knott said. "It's kind of refreshing that someone seemingly this decent can rise to the top of the American political system. The man had his weaknesses, but as a human being, he seems to be first-rate."
comments powered by Disqus
- Did a historian who said he’s a victim of McCarthyism get the story wrong?
- Stephanie Coontz’s work on the history of marriage cited by the Supreme Court.
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- David Hackett Fischer wins $100,000 prize for lifetime achievement in military writing