Obama’s vacation reading list includes “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime”

by Ben Hoffman

This is a good choice for Obama, since he has held Reagan in high regard. Hopefully, this book will change his mind. Here is a review of ‘President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime’:

No matter. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime is an extremely useful — sometimes even powerful — chronicle. And the source of its power is Cannon’s full documentation of presidential truancy. Aide after aide testifies in these pages that the President ”did not react to 95 percent of the material that was brought to him,” that ”he made no demands, and gave almost no instructions,” and that his excuses for not at least glancing at the various background papers supplied him in preparation for meetings and decisions were invariably lame. ”Well, Jim,” he told chief of staff James Baker, explaining why he hadn’t opened the briefing book for the Colonial Williamsburg economic summit, ”The Sound of Music was on last night.” (Reagan watched two films on each of his 183 weekends at Camp David.)

Ignorance is one inevitable result of goofing off, and Cannon scrupulously sifts the evidence of Reagan’s ignorance. He says that this President chose a commerce secretary largely because the fellow’s ”hobby was roping cattle at rodeos”; that he announced to members of Congress that bombers and submarines ”did not carry nuclear missiles”; and that he agreed that ”creationism should be taught as an alternative theory to Darwinism in the public schools.”

Why would somebody elected to the highest office in a democracy conclude that mastering the issues — digging into the substance of disputes — is unimportant? Cannon thinks Reagan was confident that the presidency was a show job, that the primary if not sole task of the President is to focus exclusively ”on public performance while leaving the homework to others.”

In Reagan’s case the consequences of skipping homework were, of course, appalling. Staff cynicism was rampant. ”The sad, shared secret of the Reagan White House,” Cannon writes, ”was that no one in the presidential entourage had confidence in the judgment or capacities of the president….Pragmatists and conservatives alike treated Reagan as if he were a child monarch in need of constant protection.”

But there were worse consequences. Cannon traces connections between presidential vacuity and the loss of hundreds of Marines in Lebanon. He probes the mindless commitment to slogans (”Get government off your backs”) that rendered Reagan vulnerable to budget director David Stockman’s manipulations, led him repeatedly and casually to reject proposals that might have warded off the deficit disaster, and set administrative agencies on a course toward the savings and loan debacle.

On Nancy’s astrologer, Reagan’s naps, and several other familiar matters, Lou Cannon contributes little that’s fresh. And because he’s a reporter, not a cultural critic, he offers no help with the problem at the root of his story, namely: How can a democracy transformed into a culture of entertainment preserve the distinction between governing and playacting? But in showing us what happens in an absentee presidency, and how and why, he has produced an immensely instructive portrait of counterfeit leadership.


Here’s my book recommendation for Obama: John Maynard Keynes – The General Theory of Employment, Interest,
and Money.

Keynesian economics works. It helped bring down unemployment during the Great Depression and it made our country better. People gained valuable skills through the WPA, many national parks were created, unemployment went from 25% to 15%, many museums, libraries, and other buildings were constructed.

The stimulus bill passed last year created millions of jobs. Although unemployment remains high, it would be even higher without the stimulus. Had the stimulus been bigger, it would have been more effective.

Reaganomics has never worked. It didn’t work during the 80s, during which time we saw the highest unemployment since the Great Depression and then a tepid recovery. We also saw the result of deregulation with the S&L crisis and government bailout, and the tripling of the national debt.

Reaganomics was tried again during the Bush, Jr. administration. During that time, we saw no job growth and the doubling of the national debt. And of course, the Great Recession.

It’s too late for Obama to redeem himself, though. Extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is his signature failure in an administration where the policy of appeasement rules the day. Obama is delusional. The Republicans have tried to block every effort to create jobs and Mitch McConnel has even stated that his number one objective is to make Obama a one term president. Yet Obama continues to appease the Republicans just as Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler.

Hopefully, we’ll have a third party candidate who will fight for progressive values in the 2012 election.

3 Comments to “Obama’s vacation reading list includes “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime””

  1. Hey Ben, thanks for stopping by my blog. How did you stumble on it?

    Although my blog spans pop culture, music, and meaningless stuff. I hope from time to time to post relevant materials.

    A third party candidate? I wish.. this country only rolls with the reps and the dems.


  2. Hi Ben,
    I don’t think we will see a third party candidate. I’m firmly convinced that absolutely NOTHING is on the level. It was, admittedly, hard coming to that conclusion, but, I’m there.
    I’m a NY-Metro guy who retired to Central Virginia. I report from Fundamentalist Christianity Central. The Earth is 6000 years old here and Democrats only have one goal. The total destruction of America.
    Here is what I think. America’s middle class no longer has a use. The money to be made is in selling crap to the “developing” world. Since our planet lacks the resources to bring the rest of the world “up” to our level… we must come down closer to theirs. We are on our way.
    In the end, cultures, nations and empires come and go. Socrates had the right message. “Know Thyself”
    We are the “Suggestible” Ape and we will construct what ever reality we need to get through the day out of the bullshit and nonsense that is available to us. We always have. The trick is to enjoy your life and not waste time on foolish schemes to deny your inevitable death and the utter absurdity of it all.
    As Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are here to fart around and help other people if we can.”
    Art, music, books, laughter, a good mate and a well prepared meal… Oh, and a nice nap.
    Beyond that, it’s just bullshit.

    Enjoyed your writing
    Respectfully yours
    Mrs. N

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