Ronald Reagan: Center stage again

Most of the books about Ronald Reagan parallel his tenure as governor of California. Yet even though dated, they do reveal something about a man whose principles are back in vogue now that the nation has grown weary of the excesses of the past decade.

At his 1966 inaugural, Governor Reagan quoted Disraeli's admonition: "Man is not the creature of circumstances. Circumstances are the creatures of men." He then challenged his audience, "You and I will shape our circumstances to suit our needs."

In his 1969 volume "Ronnie and Jesse: A Political Odyssey" (New York: Doubleday), Lou Cannon cites this aphorism by way of defining the complexity of a candidate often dismissed as simplistic by his foes. Cannon recalls how Reagan's magnetism on the stump quickly dispelled the facile impression of a one-dimensional politician. Once elected, he proved to be resilient, pragmatic, and able to make the hard decisions, while appearing to rise above the battle.

Bill Boyarsky charts "The Rise of ronald Reagan" (New York: Random House, 1968) by emphasizing the values that animate the man's life as well as his speeches. From the moment he electrified audiences in the 1964 speech for Goldwater, Reagan's communicative skills have invited comparison with William Jennings Bryan and John Kennedy.

Moreover he still projects the aura of the quintessential champion of decency that enrages opponents and captivates a burgeoning constituency. Steven Hess and David Broderconcede as much in "The Republican Establishment" (New York: Harper & Row, 1967) by acknowledging his talent for maneuvering legislation through the state assembly while earning the grudging respect of his critics.

His formative years are outlined in the autobiographical "Where's the Rest of Me?" (Duell, sloan & Pearce, 1965). Early speeches are found in "The Creative Society" (New York: Devin-Adair, 1968). Jules Witcover's "Marathon" (New York: Viking, 1977) traces Reagan's near miss in 1976. Books spelling out the Reagan position on current issues have yet to be published.

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