President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By Lou Cannon | Go to book overview

9
HAIL TO THE CHIEF

I've seen all those photographs that have been printed in various articles of someone slouched looking out the Oval Office windows and then beside it the quote about [the presidency being] the loneliest [job] and so forth. I have to tell you, I enjoyed it. I didn't feel that way about it.

RONALD REAGAN, MAY 5, 19891

THE PRESIDENCY PROVED BOTH the best and worst of offices for Ronald Reagan. His amiable temperament and passive fatalism spared him the private terrors that beset presidents in the nuclear age and inoculated him against the maladies provoked by the exercise of unaccustomed power. "Power is poison," wrote Henry Adams three quarters of a century ago, in words that echoed through the age of Vietnam and Watergate. "Its effect on Presidents [has] been always tragic, chiefly as an almost insane excitement at first, and a worse reaction afterwards; but also because no mind is so well balanced as to bear the strain of seizing unlimited force without habit or knowledge of it."2* Reagan was not afflicted with such excitement, as he had learned to his own surprise on inauguration day. His perspectives were unaltered by the presidency, perhaps because he did not need high office to impart a sense of self-esteem. If anything, Reagan's sense of well-being was excessive, and it was enhanced by the congenial schedule devised for him by Deaver and Nancy Reagan. As the first lady well knew, Reagan was a creature of habit who required at least eight hours of sleep and rest breaks during the day to perform effectively. He was capable at any age of productive bursts of energy, as he had shown in critical stretches of his political campaigns, but he could become irritable and snappish

____________________
*
Adams had Theodore Roosevelt in mind. " Roosevelt enjoyed a singularly direct nature and honest intent, but he lived naturally in restless agitation that would have worn out most tempers in a month, and his first year of Presidency showed chronic excitement that made a friend tremble," Adams wrote. 3

-115-

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President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Lou Cannon ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the 1991 Edition ix
  • Preface to the 2000 Edition xi
  • 1 - Back to the Future 1
  • 2 - A Reagan Portrait 16
  • 3 - The Acting Politician 20
  • 4 - The Acting President 31
  • 5 - Offstage Influences 45
  • 6 - Heroic Dreams 66
  • 7 - Halcyon Days 78
  • 8 - Kidding on the Square 95
  • 9 - Hail to the Chief 115
  • 10 - Passive President 141
  • 11 - The Loner 172
  • 12 - Staying the Course 196
  • 13 - Focus of Evil 240
  • 14 - Freedom Fighters 289
  • 15 - Lost in Lebanon 339
  • 16 - An Actor Abroad 402
  • 17 - Morning Again in America 434
  • 18 - Turning Point 488
  • 19 - Darkness at Noon 521
  • 20 - Struggles at Twilight 580
  • 21 - The New Era 663
  • 22 - Visions and Legacies 711
  • Notes 765
  • Bibliography 820
  • Acknowledgments 835
  • Index 843
  • About the Author 885
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