Popular Images of American Presidents

By William C. Spragens | Go to book overview

presidency when he surveyed presidential scholars in 1985. The better than half of Bonafede's respondents who rated Reagan "good, near great or great" cited his leadership qualities and success in building trust and confidence. Many scholars made contingent judgments, and the substantial minority who were more critical worried about Reagan's postponing of problems. This latter view was advanced by Bert Rockman, who argued that much of Reagan's popularity was because, directly opposite from Carter, Reagan generated "tangible benefits in the present with vague . . . costs" postponed to the future. 22

Certain characteristics of Reagan's image persist: on the negative but less salient side are his tendency to polarize people, worry about his propensity to military adventurism, and a persistent feeling that he is unfair to average and less privileged Americans; on the positive but currently more salient side are his strength in hard leadership ("macho"?) traits very probably deriving in significant part from his boldness, optimism, tenacity, and clear purpose, augmented by his untempered, "go for it" rhetoric. But for all his image strength, his public approval, like that of other presidents, has waxed and waned with the condition of the economy.


AFTERWORD

The above assessment of the Reagan administration was completed in the spring of 1986. Since then the accomplishments of President Reagan have been placed in jeopardy by two major developments: first, the Iran-contra scandal involving arms sales to Iran in exchange for hostages, who were taken in Lebanon at the probable instigation of Iran, and the diversion of some of the proceeds of these sales to the Nicaraguan contras; and second, the stock market crash of October 1987.

Somewhat counterbalancing these negative developments were the Reagan administration's three summit conferences, held in Geneva with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, in Reykjavik, Iceland, with Gorbachev in 1986, and in Washington with Gorbachev in December 1987. The latter was the occasion for the completion and signing of the INF (intermediate nuclear force) arms control treaty.

During the final period of the Reagan administration the president's approval ratings hovered around the 50 percent range, dipping most noticeably during December 1986 and January 1987 when the impact of the hostage scandal was at its most damaging.

Despite second-term difficulties, Ronald Reagan proved an effective president in achieving many of his goals.


NOTES
1.
Reagan's early life and career and the country's perception of him at the time of his 1980 nomination in Detroit are summarized in Newsweek, July 21, 1980, pp. 3, 29, 30. See also Lou Cannon, Reagan. ( New York: Putnam, 1982).

-580-

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Popular Images of American Presidents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - George Washington 1
  • Annotated Bibliography 21
  • 2 - Thomas Jefferson 27
  • Bibliographic Essay 43
  • 3 - Andrew Jackson 47
  • Annotated Bibliography 66
  • 4 - Abraham Lincoln 67
  • Annotated Bibliography 100
  • 5 - Rutherford B. Hayes 105
  • Bibliographic Essay 130
  • 6 - Grover Cleveland 131
  • Annotated Bibliography 146
  • 7 - William Mckinley 147
  • Introduction 147
  • Notes 177
  • Bibliographic Essay 180
  • 8 - Theodore Roosevelt 185
  • Annotated Bibliography 208
  • 9 - William Howard Taft 211
  • Annotated Bibliography 237
  • 10 - Woodrow Wilson 239
  • Annotated Bibliography 260
  • 11 - Warren Gamaliel Harding 267
  • Annotated Bibliography 295
  • 12 - Calvin Coolidge 297
  • Annotated Bibliography 323
  • 13 - Herbert Hoover 325
  • Bibliographic Essay 344
  • 14 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt 347
  • Notes 379
  • Annotated Bibliography 383
  • 15 - Harry Truman 387
  • Bibliographic Essay 408
  • 16 - Dwight D. Eisenhower 411
  • Annotated Bibliography 433
  • 17 - John F. Kennedy 437
  • Annotated Bibliography 472
  • 18 - Lyndon B. Johnson 477
  • Annotated Bibliography 496
  • 19 - Richard M. Nixon 499
  • Summary 515
  • Notes 516
  • Bibliographic Essay 519
  • 20 - Gerald R. Ford 523
  • Notes 537
  • 21 - Jimmy Carter 539
  • Bibliographic Essay 559
  • 22 - Ronald Reagan 563
  • Afterword 580
  • Notes 580
  • Notes 582
  • 23 - Cycles in the Public Perception of Presidents 587
  • Notes 606
  • Selected Bibliography 607
  • Index 611
  • Contributors 621
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