Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reagan in the Wilderness | National Review | 4.17.2017

Thucydides had a great advantage over later historians in telling his tale of the Peloponnesian War: As a general in the Greek army, he had been there. Craig Shirley, who is emerging as the most prolific and, in some respects, most insightful chronicler of Ronald Reagan’s political rise, shares that advantage. He was there. As […]
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The Toughest Job in Washington | Wall Street Journal | 4.14.2017

‘Personnel is policy” goes an enduring White House cliché, and of no staffer is that claim more true than the president’s chief of staff. As Chris Whipple argues in “The Gatekeepers,” a group portrait of White House chiefs from Richard Nixon’s tenure to Barack Obama’s , the chief of staff has been the key to […]
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Reading Bill Buckley in the Age of Trump | Wall Street Journal |9.30.2016

In their lifetimes, Winston Churchill, Alistair Cooke and Richard Nixon each published collected profiles of prominent figures in their time. In “Great Contemporaries” (1937) Churchill’s subjects (Kaiser Wilhelm II, Leon Trotsky and Adolf Hitler, among them) were indeed great or at least prominent, and his assessments were considered. But the totality read as if he […]
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A Man in Full | National Review | 2.15.2016

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, by Jon Meacham (Random House, 864 pp., $35) The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H. W. Bush, by John H. Sununu (Broadside, 432 pp., $28.99) American administrations don’t fall silent when their president leaves office. Just the opposite: Inauguration Day for the […]
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The Cowboy At Commerce| Wall Street Journal | 1.5.2016

Ronald Reagan was once asked if he considered any member of his cabinet a “true visionary.” Two, Reagan replied: United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. In Reagan-era Washington, Baldrige was best known as the cowboy secretary. A card-carrying member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, he retained his professional status by […]
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He Rose to the Challenge, Review of “Reagan: A Life”| Wall Street Journal |5.8. 2015

On the day Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, the United States faced challenges as daunting as any in its history. The country’s globally dominant economy was like an all-but-beaten prizefighter, a giant on wobbly legs, eyes glassed over, swaying toward collapse. The legs were unemployment and inflation. Economists from the super-confident neo-Keynesian consensus of the ’60s […]
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Book Review: ‘Rising Tides’ | The Washington Times | 06.03.14

Is any American literary genre more despised than works by sitting members of Congress? Windy, vacuous, banal: with few exceptions, they are embarrassments to the republic. Not so on the far side of the pond. Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, Roy Jenkins, Matthew Ridley: the houses of Parliament have long been among the United Kingdom’s richest […]
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Overheated Frauds and Fools | The American Spectator | 06.13.13

Who can forget it? In April 2008, as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president, Barack Obama intoned that history would say of his election, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” The messianic declaration sounded over-the-top laughable, political theater meets theater […]
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Reagan’s great promise from an early age | The Washington Times | 06.27.11

As a boy, I read hortatory biographies of Washington, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, each intended to teach young people lessons of character as found in the lives of these great leaders. The genre included more than presidents as subjects – I remember similar volumes on Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver – but among presidents, […]
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Say What They Want to Hear — And, if Possible, Mean It | Wall Street Journal | 01.23.07

A few weeks after President Reagan delivered his 1988 State of the Union address, Dick Wirthlin, the president’s pollster, met with the White House speechwriting staff, of which I was a member. In the first and only presentation of its kind to Reagan’s writers, Dick shared the results of a new polling technique: pulse, or […]
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Bearing the Burden of Writing the Speech | Wall Street Journal | 08.24.05

Three days before his inauguration, as Time magazine correspondent Hugh Sidey sat down to interview him, president-elect John F. Kennedy was scribbling on a yellow pad, crossing out words and scribbling more. The two men were on JFK’s campaign plane, flying from Palm Beach, Fla., to Washington. Kennedy was writing his inaugural address and eager […]
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Handstands by the Reagan-wreckers | Washington Times | 07.27.89

One evening during the last campaign, around midnight, I was in the middle of yet another dusk-to-dawn stint pounding out speeches in the Old Executive Office Building. The press had been carping again about the president’s detachment, although they were beginning to catch on to how potent an asset he was to the ticket, and […]
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