President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By Lou Cannon | Go to book overview

13
FOCUS OF EVIL

I told him [ Gorbachev] that there was a very unique situation. I said, "Here are the two of us in a room and probably the only two people in the world who could start World War III. And we're also the only two people, perhaps, in the world that could prevent World War III."

RONALD REAGAN, FEBRUARY 10, 19891

AT THE BEGINNING of his presidency Ronald Reagan responded to a question about Soviet intentions by denouncing the inherent immorality of Marxism-Leninism. By the final year of his two terms in the White House, Reagan thought of Mikhail Gorbachev as a friend and praised the Soviet leader for "trying to do what Lenin was teaching" 2 by encouraging a limited amount of private production in the Soviet Union. The distance between these assessments was greater than the 4,876 miles from Washington to Moscow that Reagan traveled in 1988 for a summit in which he proclaimed a "new era" in U.S.-Soviet relations. This new era was supposedly based entirely on an alteration of Soviet attitudes, which did indeed change markedly under Gorbachev. But Reagan also changed, even though he did not recognize any ideological odyssey. His voyage from the past into the future is not easy to retrace. What we know about his inner journey is that it was guided often by the compass of convictions. Reagan believed staunchly in the power of freedom. He abhorred communism. He was convinced that Communist systems were antithetical to the will of God and the highest aspirations of humanity, and he did not believe that the Soviets could compete successfully in any marketplace. Reagan started from the premise that Soviet leaders respected strength. He believed, and accurately forecast, that the Soviets would respond to a U.S. military buildup by proposing to reduce the strategic arsenals of both sides. He was

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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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