Reagan by H.W. Brands

Summary
  1. Good biography on Reagan, his childhood, acting career, presidency and post-presidency. Impressive man who was in office during some of the most volatile times in America’s history

Key Takeaways

  1. Reagan’s father was an alcoholic but his mother was a saint
  2. Reagan gave one speech on behalf of US Senator Barry Goldwater which propelled him into the political scene. This speech did more for his political career than any of his other speeches. It moved him from a moderately successful actor and spokesperson to a promising candidate
  3. Elected governor of California just a couple years later with little experience. Determined to reduce the role of government and taxes and give back more power to the states
  4. Reagan was a hesitant candidate but when elected as party representative for the republicans, he was all in
  5. Reagan was extremely charismatic and natural at connecting with people but one of the oldest running candidates in US history
  6. Reagan divorced his first wife and was not very close to his children. He later married Nancy whom he had two children with
  7. Reagan lost the 1976 presidential race to Richard Nixon who eventually resigned because of Watergate and Jimmy Carter took over. Although he was very old he ran again in 1979 and beat Carter after Carter had some all time low record ratings
  8. Nancy Reagan was very hands-on with her husband and persuasive when she needed to be
  9. Reagan beat out Bush for the Republican nomination and took him on as his VP To become the 40th president in 1980
  10. Reagan was incredibly innocent and self confident and his willingness to ask silly sounding questions reflected this
  11. Governors have to learn foreign policy on the fly when they are elected president. Reagan had his hands full with the USSR and Cuba (and Nicaragua to keep it from becoming another Cuba and Poland from getting run over by USSR)
  12. Reagan’s lowering of taxes didn’t work initially and business taxes had to be raised eventually but later personal taxes were lowered
  13. Reagan also had his hands full with Israel, the PLO, Lebanon
  14. Reagan was stuck between allies of Argentina and UK over the Faulkand islands
  15. Reagan had a dream of a nuclear free world but had to protect the US from the Russians with the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which came to be known as Star Wars was the first step
  16. Mondale ran against Reagan in 1986 and although he made Reagan’s age an issue, Reagan overcame it and crushed him
  17. Reagan received a lot of flack for visiting holocaust sites
  18. The Reagans believed in astrology and coordinated their de idioms with horoscopes and a woman in SF’s opinion on good planetary timing
  19. Reagan spent a lot of time dealing with the Russians and Gorbachev given the strained relationship and fight for supremacy / nuclear control during his presidency
  20. One of Reagan’s great skills was knowing what the most important task was, focusing on it completely and delegating the rest 
  21. Reagan loved order and regularity, especially with his schedule. He never reported to bullying but rather laid down his opinion and reasons and convinced people that way
  22. SDI and the arms race were the main points of contention between Gorbachev and Reagan
  23. The sale of weapons to Iran to release hostages caused uproar in the media and even more so when it was discovered that some of that money went to Nicaragua to fund the Contras
  24. In Berlin, Reagan pleaded with Gorbachev to tear down the wall separating eastern and western Germany. It took some time but thanks to glasnost and perestroika, Gorbachev agreed and it was eventually torn down
  25. Peace from a position of force is weak regardless
  26. Reaganomics – called for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets.
  27. SDI was never resolved but towards the end of Reagan’s tenure the relationship between the US and Russia drastically improved
  28. HW Bush won the nomination in 1988 and ran with Dan Quayle. They beat Dukakis
  29. Just a couple years after leaving presidency, Reagan’s Alzheimer’s took away most of his memory
  30. Died June 5, 2004 at 93 and was the oldest president in history
  31. One of Reagan’s heroes was FDR and there are many parallels to draw between the two
  32. Reagan brought back confidence in America from its citizens by building up the defense and economy and the fall of the USSR helped as well
  33. Known as ‘The Great Communicator’
  34. Volcker was head of the Fed and his policies stunted the us economy and helped Reagan get elected
What I got out of it
  1. Father was a drunk, mother was lovely, had a moderately successful acting career, got into the political limelight after a very successful speech for Barry Goldwater, was a successful Governor for California, became President in 1980 and had HW Bush as his VP, worked extensively with Gorbachev on nuclear disarmament and SDI, two big goals in office were to lower government spending and defeat communism, known as The Great Communicator for his charisma while presenting, soon after leaving office came down with Alzheimer’s and lost much of his memory

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