Reagan Biography Says He `Rescued' America: President's Vision `Made Marxism a Memory'

By Scarborough, Rowan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 28, 1999 | Go to article overview

Reagan Biography Says He `Rescued' America: President's Vision `Made Marxism a Memory'


Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A much-anticipated biography of Ronald Reagan says the 40th president "rescued" America from despair by rebuilding a demoralized armed forces, sending the Soviet bear into retreat and presiding over the longest peacetime economic expansion until the 1990s.

Author Edmund Morris, in "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan," paints both a harsh and glowing portrait of the oldest man to hold the U.S. presidency. He praises Mr. Reagan's contagious optimism, communication skills and dogged pursuit of Soviet communism in the face of naysayers in the Washington media and in his own White House.

"I can only note that what Dutch believed has largely come to be," Mr. Morris writes. "Across America and Europe, and in huge areas of the world where commerce was once state-controlled, his philosophy of hard work and earned reward has made Marxism a memory."

But Mr. Morris, granted unprecedented access to the conservative Republican during his final term, criticizes the ex-president's aloofness and lack of intellectual curiosity. Mr. Reagan's triumphs are juxtaposed with his failures: 241 Marines die in Beirut; the scandal over selling arms to terrorist Iran in a faint hope of freeing U.S. hostages; and record budget deficits to fuel the largest peacetime arms buildup in history.

In the book, a young lifeguard who saved scores of swimmers in tiny Dixon, Ill., becomes a successful actor, union leader, corporate spokesman, two-term governor and president.

To the author, America was like one of those drowning swimmers: "Some day, I hoped, America might acknowledge her . . . debt to the old lifeguard who rescued her in a time of poisonous despair."

Mr. Reagan's life is chronicled in a unorthodox manner. Mr. Morris inserts himself as a character, witnessing Mr. Reagan's early years. Chapters on the presidency contain Mr. Morris' eyes and ears.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, impressed by his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of President Theodore Roosevelt, made Mr. Morris the authorized chronicler of "Dutch" in 1985.

After 15 years of research, and several canceled publishing dates, Mr. Morris has produced some 800 pages rich in atmospherics, commentary, snapshot profiles and amateur psychoanalysis.

Due to be released Thursday, "Dutch" says one of John Hinckley Jr.'s bullets came within an inch of killing the president in 1981. The newly elected president nearly bled to death before frantic surgeons found the fragment that almost changed the course of history. …

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