President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By Lou Cannon | Go to book overview

10
PASSIVE PRESIDENT

He assigns to everybody else his own makeup. NANCY REAGAN, MAY 5, 19891

RONALD REAGAN WAS HUMANLY accessible to people who had never met him and impenetrable to those who tried to know him well. "He is a genuinely nice man," said Lyn Nofziger, an observant member of the Reagan cast. "But there's kind of a barrier between him and the rest of the world, a film you can't get through. You can't get inside of him."2 This friendly barrier kept out everyone but Nancy Reagan, and sometimes even her. It surrounded him like a force field, protecting his star quality and shielding him from the consequences of actions that might have ruined ordinary politicians. The barrier also shielded Reagan from the risks of close relationships with his children and his most devoted aides. He seemed to have no need of closeness nor any understanding of how desperately it was sometimes desired by those around him. His aides were of two minds on this point. Some thought that Reagan was oblivious to the needs of others. Others believed he knew their needs but opted to protect himself to compensate for some childhood hurt. Whatever they thought, the barrier made Reagan a magnet as well as a mystery. He was a friendly leader with few friends, but he attracted people to him who wanted to see beyond the barrier yet never could.

Up close or far away, Reagan made a striking first impression. Frank Fahrenkopf, the Republican national chairman during the Reagan presidency, thought this was because Reagan knew "how to carry himself" 3 and how to smile. Author Tom Clancy, meeting Reagan in the White House, found him strong and robust--"the guy has a handshake like a lumber- jack"--with "very active, bright eyes." 4 Years after they met Reagan, aides often remembered with considerable precision the circumstances of their

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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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