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Nearly two decades after leaving office and four years after his death, the legend of Ronald Reagan looms larger than ever over America's political life. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the 2008 presidential campaign, with Republicans - especially presumptive nominee John McCain - appearing to run more aggressively for the Reagan mantle than for the White HouseNearly two decades after leaving office and four years after his death, the legend of Ronald Reagan looms larger than ever over America's political life. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the 2008 presidential campaign, with Republicans - especially presumptive nominee John McCain - appearing to run more aggressively for the Reagan mantle than for the White House itself, and with even Democrats debating how to add some Reagan lustre to their progressive platform. It will build upon existing volume of works about the Reagan presidency, more contemporary news accounts and the work of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, with interviews with key Reagan scholars and contemporaries, to produce a narrative arc that breaks down the key myths about Reagan and his record, the intentional creation of these myths in the 1990s and 2000s and their role in 21st Century politics, including the Bush presidency, the 2008 election, and beyond...

Title : Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future
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ISBN : 9781416597629
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
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Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future Reviews

  • David Rush
    2019-05-03 01:06

    The book starts with a description of the Cult of personality as applied to Reaganstep 1: Eliminate any negative reference, such as Iran Contrastep 2: Award credit where it is not due: Cold War was Reagan alone, ignoring 40 yearsstep 3: Whitewashing any qualities that don't mesh with the new vision. Good Qualities as well as bad, such as the fact that he talked with the enemy and compromised and raised taxesI was frankly amazed that there was so much good to say about the man, of course it was mainly because he didn't follow through on his rhetoric. For all his hawkish bluster the only real military engagement was Grenada (don't get me started on that pile of ..well pile something). AND it turns out his advisers multiple times tried to get him to invade Panama, but he always refused. And of course for all the praise the massive 1981 tax cuts Tea-baggers spew, it turns out he raised taxes for the next six years. Something like 11 times.But good points and nuance aside, one of the more frustrating things was the replay of the Carter Reagan debate where at one point Carter said..Now we have and opportunity to move forward toward national health insurance, with an emphasis on the prevention of disease and...(he goes on make wonderfully important and telling points)Reagan's response...There you go again.A line Reagan had practiced over and over again and he killed with it.The fact that this line is remembered with affection and some odd example of how wonderful Reagan was, makes me think our country really is doomed.But the thing that sticks in my mind the most was Reagan's misquote where he saidFacts are stupid thingsHe meant to say facts are stubborn things, but really he was unwittingly insightful. Facts by themselves mean nothing, they require context and interpretation. One could say it is a fact that Carter had the solution to our current energy problems decades ago, or that he was the one that started the deregulation of big business, or that he was already rebuilding the military or appointed Paul Volker who was truly responsible for reigning in inflation. You could say that but every one of these facts say one thing to me, but to conservatives they prove the opposite.It is like how I imagine a tarot reading (I really don't know), you lay down one card (a fact) but all the other you place around it influence the reading until the next thing you know the seer-er is telling you that Reagan shrank the size of government and the deficit. The author does a pretty good job of tracing the beatification of St Reagan and points out that by the end of his presidency he was only mildly popular and one of those irritating rate the President polls one time had him, Carter and Clinton about the same (before Clinton's blue dress problems)By the time of his death it was as if George Washington had come back to life and died just to get some press coverage. Almost no mention of Iran Contra, which another of the facts don't matter that he was advised selling arms to Iran was an impeachable offense and he said not to worry about it.He also points out that the ramping up of the Reagan sainthood got underway around the time the demonize Clinton industry took off. His point was that in order to have a hero you have to have a villain. Maybe there is some of that in the Obama hater's club.The latter part of the book looses focus for me since he leaves the hypothetical world of facts and starts opining on what it all means and what America is really like. All very vague and hard to prove. But then again that is the gist of the Reagan lesson, Proof is now really just strongly stated belief. Do it just like Reagan did, and you may recall George Costanza in Seinfeld clarified it when he said “It's not a lie if you believe it!” Reagan believed it.

  • Bob
    2019-05-01 02:19

    I enjoyed this book though I have to admit I was surprised by its even-handedness. Reagan had some unexpected successes for which he actually fails to get acknowledgement (forays towards the political middle). Of course, there is also much he did that was damaging and needs to be remembered for an informed review of his presidency (Iran/Contra scandal, gutting of necessary social programs, astrologist in the White House, indifference to AIDS).

  • Ben
    2019-05-01 18:28

    A disturbing and perplexing trend in American politics is for Republican pundits and politicians to evoke a hagiographic portrayal of the ultra-conservative and unyielding Ronald Reagan, usually as justification for some far-right policy or (in the case of politicians) to claim themselves the true heir of the beloved Gipper. Will Bunch exposes this phenomenon for what it is: attachment to a myth that is completely divorced from the facts of Reagan's presidency. Despite the glorious rhetoric that has been immortalized in so many sound bites, Reagan's most effective policy decisions were more centrist in nature. The oft-cited tax cut of 1981 was followed by multiple tax increases. To the extent that Reagan is responsible for the end of the Cold War (which is debatable), he accomplished this through negotiation with Gorbachev and a commitment to disarmament. He pulled troops out of Lebanon when the risk of American casualties became apparent, and refused to take military action in Panama. At the same time, the Reagan myth-makers gloss over the president's blunders: the ballooning debt, the expanded government bureaucracy (despite rhetoric to the contrary), the Savings and Loan fiasco perpetuated by the deregulation of the financial sector, the Iran-Contra scandal, and his absolute tone-deaf refusal to address the AIDS or crack cocaine crises. All of this would be relatively harmless if the goal were simply to create inspirational children's tales in the vein of Paul Bunyan's big blue ox and George Washington's cherry tree. The problem came when the Republicans attempted to turn the legend---- of a staunchly conservative Alpha male who refuses to back down to the bad guy--- into flesh, in the person of George W. Bush. Here was a president who actually ACTED the part and the results were disastrous. Unwise tax cuts wiped out the surplus of the Clinton years to once again run a deficit, he started--- and stubbornly refused to back down from--- an ill-advised war that cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives, he oversaw an economy, plagued by bad fiscal policy and insufficient regulatory oversight, which almost collapsed in on itself and demonstrated complete ineptitude, ignorance and insensitivity in his response to Hurricane Katrina. Well, now, it's 2015, and we've had seven years of Barrack Obama and the conservatives are mad as hell. Playing to their base, the seemingly endless supply of Republican candidates are continuing to follow the standard script by evoking St Ronald's name at every opportunity. Not willing to conform to the wimpy facts of the actual President Reagan, they continue to rally around the myopic myth and plan their right-wing revolution. Let's hope that the American people have learned something from the appalling history of putting the Reagan legend into practice.

  • Jeremy
    2019-04-22 18:18

    A very interesting analysis of the Reagan legacy, especially of the irony of how Reagan's real achievement as president is overlooked (reduction of the world's nuclear arms) while he's given credit for things he didn't do (like end the Cold War). Also intriguing is the blind-eye that's been turned to the Constitutional abuses of Iran-Contra and effect Reagan still has on modern American politics. Most surprising, and appalling, was learning of Operation Serenade-- the purposeful plan to turn Reagan's funeral into a national spectacle that changed the way Americans remember Reagan. Overall, a fairly balanced account that is not so much highly critical of the man himself and his presidency but of the manipulators who have intentionally fabricated a mythology that tells us Reagan was one of the greatest presidents ever (and Rushmore-worthy). Unfortunately, as the author points out repeatedly using the words of John Adams, "Facts are stubborn things." The record shows that while Reagan did indeed excel at certain things as President (good and bad), much of what we've been led to believe about the fortieth president simply isn't true.

  • Colleen Browne
    2019-05-15 01:27

    A balanced look at the Reagan Presidency and its perceived and real impact on the country. In addition to setting the record straight on many of the things for which Reagan is given credit ie- ending the Cold War- it also provides an intriguing picture of the propoganda machine that has grown up in the Republican party since Reagan. Bunch details the lengths to which Republicans and particularly Grover Norquist have gone to change peoples' perception of the former president. Shortly after the end of Reagans presidency, historians were polled about his place in American history and when it was discovered that he was not terribly highly rated, Norquist made it his life work to change that. This is an interesting recounting of his efforts which demonstrates how easily the American people can be deceived. It is important reading for any student of that period of American history or for anyone interested in learning how public opinion can be manipulated in todays world.

  • Richard
    2019-05-09 20:34

    Will Bunch takes on the myths that have been attached to the memory of Ronald Reagan, since he left office in 1989, by a group of conservatives led by Grover Norquist. No doubt there are many who call themselves Republicans who will themselves to believe in the Reagan Cult of Personality out of admiration for the man, but Norquist and his The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project "bold"ly and "crudely" (p. 56 of 645) set up a hugely successful cowboy-modeled hero image to perpetuate the conservative agenda and to misdirect attention to its flaws.Early into the book, Bunch describes how this myth is rejuvenated every four years by the inevitable comparisons made to Reagan by aspiring Republican Presidential candidates. He describes how the opening and closing debates in the 2008 Presidential campaign occurred in the Reagan shrine of the late president's library in Simi Valley, California. I found it interesting to read about this mecca to conservatives while witnessing the 2016 Presidential campaign, where, indeed, the first Republican debate took place with the backdrop of the retired Air Force One (officially known as SAM 27000), during which various candidates began the months-long practice of invoking Reagan's name, even if their ideologies diverged from what he believed. Thus continues the pattern of conservatives cloaking themselves in a false legitimacy by attributing Reagan with ideas, accomplishments and powers (p. 44 of 645) he simply never displayed. Some of these false assumptions include: the Gipper's uncompromising dedication to principle (both as Governor of California and as President, Reagan was a pragmatist who would bargain with his opponents to make political deals, even if it meant compromising his original position on an issue); Reagan's unwavering devotion to cutting taxes (he raised taxes every single year of his eight-year presidency except the first and last year; he signed the Highway Revenue Act with its 3.3 billion dollar increase in gas taxes in 1982, he raised taxes on all working Americans with the 1983 Social Security deal, and he consistently signed tax hike bills labeled deceptively as Deficit Reduction Act and Tax Reform Act. His support of these bills included the largest corporate tax increase ever); he slashed the size of the Federal government (actually, his successor Bill Clinton demonstrated how to cut the federal workforce. It actually increased from 2.8 to 3 million under Reagan, who also added one more federal agency to the government while failing to shut down other agencies he promised to disband. Federal spending grew by 2.5 percent per year during his administration, even when adjusted for inflation (p. 159 of 645); he tore down the Berlin Wall and won the Cold War (actually, the Germans tore down that hated wall. Regarding the Cold War, Reagan gave a blank check to the Pentagon to build weapons systems to fight the Soviets in a future war that never occurred, while the U.S.S.R. never attempted to match our huge defense spending, negating the claim that Reagan bankrupted the Soviet Union by forcing them to keep up with our wasteful defense spending. What really led to the crumbling of the Soviet empire in 1991 was the result of the erosion of the country's infrastructure and the complete lack of initiative of its leaders to do anything about it. The main player in this scenario was new leader Mikael Gorbachev, who refused to follow the pattern of his ancient elders of ignoring the need for economic reform and openness).Reagan's lasting accomplishment was the proof that appearance matters more than substance in American politics. He was first and foremost a communicator who had honed his skills over decades of practice in Hollywood and as a mouthpiece for corporate America, especially General Electric. He capitalized from coming into office at the end of an economic downturn, and in the wake of the presidency of the not-great communicator Carter, which became identified with the "malaise" that has characterized the mood of the country at the time. Reagan's approval was actually low when he left office, as his image became increasingly tarnished by the revelations of how our government was involved in trading arms for Middle East hostages, his disastrous involvement in Lebanon, and adventurism in Central America (p. 55 of 645). Reagan liked to describe his vision of Morning in America, even as his tax policies burdened the working class while marginal rates for the wealthy were cut drastically. The ever-widening divide between the wealthy class and working and poor Americans, which continues to be a hot subject of Liberal-Conservative contention, got its impetus under Reagan. Bunch describes how previous economic class division was ameliorated by the economic policies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, while Reagan began the casting off of the middle classes from the American Dream with what has been labeled as the "Great Divergence" (p. 172 of 645). The Reagan miscommunication of promising Americans that their lives were improving while constantly blaming all of society's evils on the government which exists to protect their interests is what Bunch calls Reagan's abuse of power. It is this misdirection that his successors continue to foist on the voting public, starting with Bush 43, who tried to convince the public that the economy would be fine with deep budget cuts while ramping up the unjustified war in Iraq. The irony of this was that Reagan did not favor using military force in place of diplomacy, unlike the neocons which ran the government under Bush.The Reagan verbal opposition to the role of the government in protecting the interests of the public has borne fruit in the modern relinquishing of party electoral power to decentralized, vocal government-denyers. The Republican congressional party leadership has changed its focus from developing plans to address current public needs, such as health care and immigration, to simply obstructing anything the two-term Democratic administration proposes. Now, its current presidential candidates often appear to be more focused on working toward defeating the possible Democratic presidential nominee, long before the nomination process is over, instead of offering a coherent vision of their own for improving the country. All the while, the Republican candidates continue to bask in the perceived lasting glory of Ronald Reagan.

  • Erick Worrell
    2019-05-01 22:06

    Despite the borderline-offensive title (to Conservatives), this book never once says Reagan wasn't a great President. It distinguishes, though, between the actual decisions that made Reagan great (which were the much more pragmatic and moderate decisions, and his willingness to compromise and change with the tide) and the myths that make Reagan iconic. Bunch does an exceptional job of separating fact from fiction and putting the context back into an administration that has been glossed over and simplified for the sake of easy idolizing. The book deconstructs the myths of Reagan (comparing his "Tear Down This Wall!" moment with someone demanding that the sun set; it was going to happen anyway...) and rebuilds a credible, respectable presidency that lacks the historical drool of the Republican revisionism but leaves the reputation of a great man intact, if merely mortal. This is a great book for anyone interested in politics or history and anyone looking for a down-the-middle look at an administration that has, by bloated reputation mainly, contributed to the political chest-bumping and self-aggrandizing in each party.

  • Jay Roberts
    2019-05-08 01:13

    A fair and honest work about the man who’s direction is responsible for current predicaments. Mythologized as a tax cutting, small government man with deeply religious and conservative ideals, Reagan was far from the myth he has become. He raised taxes three times, after his initial cut. His government grew larger then both Clinton and Carter’s administration. He rarely attended church after divorcing his religious wife and remarrying a woman deeply interested in numerology. This does not mean he was a bad person; the book goes on about his many positive and pragmatic qualities. The point of this work is more about the myth creation machine the conservatives have created around him. After all, since Eisenhower, every Republican President has ended his admin in defeat (Bush, Ford), disgrace (Nixon), or disaster (Bush jr.). The party needs a hero, and Reagan is that creation. By selecting half truths, while conveniently ignoring positive, yet un-conservative behavior, Reagan has become this myth.

  • Ames Grawert
    2019-04-21 19:22

    Reagan raised taxes!? SOCIALIST!

  • Becky
    2019-04-30 23:07

    Really good book on Ronald Reagan's presidency. It is actually pretty unbiased despite the title. The right wing conservative movement has put Reagan on a pedestal in that he did no wrong in his presidency. They create a mythic man and president that didn't exist. alot of this occurred when the cable news channels became popular after his presidency. The Fox News propaganda machine had a lot to do with it as did the right wing lobbyist and political advocate, Grover Norquist. He was close to the Reagan administration and created the Americans for Tax Reform lobby group. He alone is probably responsible for propagating a lot of the Reagan Myth. Some examples, Reagan never ended the Cold War, he actually had raised taxes several times in his presidency, he actually was very secular for a president and rarely went to church while in the White House. In fact Nancy Reagan had gained interest in astrology. It's funny how at the Reagan Library it shows all the things he did that were good while in office, but never mentioned Iran -Contra, the fact that he ignored the Aids crisis until it was out of control, there was rampant homelessness increasing during his presidency. Drugs were becoming a serious problem despite the Just Say No campaign. He raised the federal debt more than all the previous presidents combined, and he also ignored the basic science of global warming issues that were known even then. He didn't care about our dependence on foreign oil and in fact loosened regulations on automakers so that they didn't have to adhere to the higher standards of fuel effiency. In fact, the first SUV type vehicles came out during the latter part of his presidency. He also took down the solar panels on the White House that had been installed during the Carter administration. A lot of what went on during his presidency echos as issues in today's America. Our climate change issues, terrorist issues, huge debt issues, even the housing bubble could be linked back to policy's from his administration. So while it is admitted that Reagan had a lot of success in his presidency and is considered by some to be a good president, he certainly wasn't a great president, certainly not one worthy to be carved onto Mt Rushmore like Grover Norquist has proposed.

  • Jonathan Lu
    2019-05-18 20:30

    Very interesting analysis, though the author should have kept it more a la Blink (i.e. the latter chapters) and less political criticism (i.e. the primary chapters). Begins a bit too negatively critical (I think) of Reagan and only moves towards the good parts of his 8yeras towards the end with analysis as to how Bush43 came with promises to be the next RR only to emulate his worst and ignore his best. Does manage to stay very data based but would have been more interesting if written from a less subjective viewpoint: more about why Reagan is lionized (albeit if improperly) and less about why the Republican party makes mistakes to do so."The primary reason Reagan succeeded is that he understood he was an actor on a new kind of stage and a communicator who knew how to connect with his audience" sums up the legacy of how RR created his own equity (true or not) for which Obama has done quite well at himself.

  • Joseph
    2019-05-08 00:17

    "Tear Down This Myth" is an amalgamation of two things, a critique of the presidency of Ronald Reagan as well as a synopsis of how his presidency has affected the administrations that have followed it. With the Reagan mythology having such a prominent place in the media today, it is refreshing to read a book that brings the idealistic presidency of Reagan down to Earth. Author Will Bunch, through highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of the Reagan years, brings forth a thesis that while Reagan was very skillful in communicating his ideas to the public through patriotic photo ops and speeches he nevertheless should be remembered for what the Reagan myth discounts. Iran-Contra, the failure of "trickle down" economic policies, and ballooning deficit spending. This is an even-handed treatment of Reagan which belongs alongside a copy of Lou Cannon's classic "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime".

  • Sheldon
    2019-05-09 23:19

    Despite the polarizing title of this book, the author is surprisingly even-handed in discussing Reagan's legacy, is more focused on tearing down the myth that has grown up around Reagan rather than the man himself. Bunch takes great effort show the truth about what really happened during the Reagan presidency, although I would have liked him to spend even just a paragraph or two discussing some important events for the benefit of those who were not yet born or are too young to remember the events as they unfolded, such as the evacuation of Beirut or the Iran-Contra scandal. Bunch even admits some admiration for Reagan, especially on nuclear disarmament. This book should be required reading, especially for young conservatives who insist on boosting the myth surrounding Ronald Reagan but are too young to remember his actually presidency.

  • Rylee
    2019-04-18 19:34

    It was an excellent read. It showed where the modern day GOP has changed our views on President Reagan and has given him undue credit. Will Bunch does a wonder expose of the true Reagan days.

  • Don
    2019-05-13 21:11

    Whew... The funny thing about the Reagan Legacy is that not even those who want to pick up his mantle remember it fondly -- they remember what they WANTED it to be, and that's what they're trying to rekindle.Bunch does a nice job of recounting the things that Reagan is known for -- cutting taxes, shrinking government, being a tough guy in foreign affairs, bringing pride back to America, being the most popular president of our lifetime, being a great public speaker -- and it turns out the only thing they are right about is "being a great public speaker." And that was just his acting background taking over.He did not cut taxes (well, he did, but he also raised them in (literally) 13 other ways, which benefitted corporations and the rich, and laid waste to everybody else). He did not shrink government (he expanded it, but mostly in the defense wing). He was not a tough guy in foreign policy (he talked tough, but then routinely backed off -- thank goodness).And, economically, he was (pardon the choice of phrases) an abortion. When he was finished, 60 percent of Americans were anxious to see the country take a new direction. His policies had not worked. What he did was play upon Americans' fears and dreams, and adopted policies that undermined the middle class and the governmental regulations and protections that enabled the underdog in this country to have a measure of success and hope for the future.Even his "replacement," GHW Bush, had to say it was time for "a kindler, gentler America," (at the time, Nancy bristled, "kindler and gentler than WHO?!")... because the Reagan years had been so brutal on the middle and rapidly expanding lower classes. Reagan's policies, after all, led CEOs in the raging '80s to increase their compensation from 30 times that of their average employees (that's a lot of money to begin with)... to THREE HUNDRED TIMES that of their average employee. So, when Reaganomics started, if an average employee of a company was making $25k/year the top dog in the company was making about $750k. When he was done, and greed had been declared to be a necessary economic driver in the new American Dream, the employees were still making $25k, while the CEO was making $7.5 million a year.This is when the American Dream went from establishing a stable income, owning a home, and having a comfortable retirement, to ... well, becoming filthy rich on the back of somebody else, or winning the lottery. We're still trying to pull ourselves out from that ethical cesspool.The book details nicely the ways that new-age Republicans want to a) Put Reagan on Mount Rushmore, b) build a monument on the National Mall, and c) Named more places for him than any presidents other than Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln... even though the righties of the time were railing against him as not being conservative enough. It was simply his rhetoric that they think they would like to go back to, in large part because that's what the big-money guys want to hear -- and many Americans are too naive to realize it is a tactic that uses them instead of includes them. It's all kinda sick.I'd give this book more than three stars if Bunch had gotten himself a better editor who made him "tell the story." Somebody needed to say, "Dude, this can be a real page-turner," rather than a session in skimming for something interesting, which is how I read it in a day. Unfortunately, for such a strong idea for a book at this point in history, the writing is inconsistent, choppy, and simply not a smooth read in too many places. Quite frankly it seemed as though he sat at a monitor with a decade of New York Times microfiche and went to town. All in all, the idea was a great one, and the points were very good.

  • Robert
    2019-05-09 22:30

    Mr. Bunch, tear down this myth!Tear Down This Myth looks at an issue that has increasingly become a political third rail in recent years, the legacy of U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan. Ronald Reagan has become a revered figure in GOP circles as the Party lacks any real comparable leadership these days as all other GOP candidates stand in the shadow of the Gipper. One only needs to look at the amount of pandering by GOP candidates in 2008 and even in 2012 as they all attempt to take the mantle of Reagan for themselves. Unfortunately for both them and America, none of them will be able to do so, but perhaps not for the reasons that some think.Ultimately, the image of Reagan as some grandfatherly figure who led America from the brink economically, single handily won the Cold War, and made America so great is such a false image that any candidate attempting to live in it will most certainly fail. Instead of embracing what Reagan successful (learning to compromise, talking to one's enemies, being able to govern in the Center), instead today's GOP candidates embrace the false images of Reagan that made him a subpar at best President. Instead of learning lessons from Iran-Contra or the lackluster state of the Economy after the big 1981 tax cut, the GOP instead double downed on their mistakes and instead have been busy rewriting Reagan's legacy to cover their mistakes.Bunch is ultimately fair to Reagan, pointing out his pivots to the Center that made him govern effectively at times and his actions that did happen to improve America. Bunch also points out Reagan's mistakes, many of which that have been whitewashed out of history, including the lack of action to tackle AIDS or Homelessness while he was in office. Despite being sold to Americans as the 1980s being a great decade for everyone, it was ultimately good for very few as many Americans found themselves saying they weren't better off than they were eight years ago.Bunch uses his pages and facts effectively, pointing out how Reagan may have cut taxes in 1981 but the "Reagan Revolution" quickly stalled as instead Reagan went on to raise taxes the most of any American in history. Bunch also points out Reagan's failure on the foreign policy side of things, including his fumbling of dealing with Islamic terrorism that would soon come to the forefront after Reagan left office. In fact, many of the "time bombs" that were created during Reagan's Administration would come back to haunt Americans both rich and poor alike.My only real criticism of Tear Down this Myth is the tendency for Bunch to sometimes go over the same point twice or even three times. In fact, at the tail end of the book there was one page which was almost completely the same from another earlier in the book. This didn't happen often enough to become too annoying, but it happened enough to be noticeable. Overall though, Tear Down This Myth is worth reading for all Americans, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum.

  • Greg
    2019-04-20 18:30

    I grew up during the Reagan years, meaning that I was born 5 months before his election and remember little more about him than the things implanted in my head by media, history books and polite, civil discussion. I remember his speaking on tv after the Challenger disaster, I vaguely remember contemporary accounts of his speech at the Brandenberg Gate, but how much of that is filtered by the lens of current replay is impossible to tell. Simply put, my generation has been brought up on the myths that surround our 40th president.Will Bunch manages to do something with this book that I don't think many authors could do, present a balanced (well, at least in my opinion) of a president who is very misunderstood, or at best, misremembered. Like so many other presidents, the truth about Reagan has been set aside for blatant political gain, much to the detriment of what I believe is a legacy that politicians on both sides of the aisle could learn a lot from.Ronald Reagan is remembered as a conservative firebrand, the father of the present day "Conservative" movement, the creator of "compassionate conservatism", but more importantly as the standard bearer for modern Republican presidents. He is the FDR of the GOP. Republicans often claim to be the party of Lincoln, that is no longer true, the GOP is now the Party of Reagan.However, the truth behind his legacy tells a very different story than the one framed by GOP strategists and conservative pundits. They tell the story of the President who toppled Communism, saved the US from financial ruin and restored integrity to the oval office. Yet they avoid things like Iran-Contra, his refusal to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic and his significantly anti-conservative actions (like increasing the size and cost of government, tax increases, lack of action on wedge issues like abortion, etc...)The Ronald Reagan of myth is the man that brought us "Morning in America", not the man who more than tripled the size of the federal debt in his 8 years in office. He is remembered as as small-government conservative, not a president that increased the size of government. He is the man who brought down the USSR with a scant 6 words, as opposed to the man who was in office when the USSR inevitably collapsed under the untenable weight of it's own system.The myth of Reagan belies the true man, a pragmatic president who believed that any response to terrorism that kills innocent civilians is terrorism itself. Who was willing to trade arms and money to a hostile government for the safe return of American citizens. A man who believed that the US should never be an agressor in war. A president who, if he were running for election today, would be lambasted by "conservatives" (as he was during his time in office) for being far too liberal. Certainly not the Ronald Reagan that many would have you believe occupied the White House.

  • Edward Canade
    2019-05-17 21:21

    It's a pretty good book. The legacy of Ronald Reagan, who he was and what he actually accomplished during his years in office, has become a myth, transformed from reality by an organized campaign of propaganda. His successes are distorted and inflated while his mistakes are minimized and buried.Reagan increased taxes on many American and his lasting tax cuts benefited only the very top income brackets. He talked of believing in the constitution while circumventing it with the illegal funding Nicaraguan rebels with illicit money from arms sales to Iran. He is best known for the fall of the Berlin and his photo opt in front of the Brandenburg gate. But the removal of the Berlin Wall had more to do with Soviet Premier Gorbachev who was eager to seek detente. Reagan's interests in nuclear arms reductions are seldem brought up nor is the fact of how the national debt ballooned because of things like his pursuit of his Star Wars Initiative. The Reagan's seldom went to church, were not religious and Nancy consult astrologist in their decision making.What Reagan did best was act and follow the script. A script he often wrote. He understood the power of emotion over content. He could make us feel comfort and could cajole us and make us feel comfortable in wearing our over inflated egos. He would ignore the AIDS epidemic, ignore alternative energy solutions, took off requirements for fuel efficiency standards, but made the "me generation" feel good about self indulgence and consumerism. He actually was a lot more willing to sit down and negotiate difference than portrayed. He was less bellicose than his myth and pulled troops out of Lebanon. But that is all ignored.Now it's all smoke and mirrors. What remains is a fabrication constructed to manipulated and usurp Ronald Reagan's image. To use that image, that success of his ability to make America feel good and to lever the country to the extreme right.

  • Jim
    2019-04-24 00:32

    bunch does some good things here, but he doesn't break a lot of ground and spends considerably too much time opining and not enough time reporting.the good: a compelling description of the divide between the reality of reagan's presidency and how it is memorialized in our politics. the idea that reagan single-handedly ended the cold-war gets the derision it deserves. the flagrantly inaccurate recall of how reagan governed — an ideologue who never backed down in his demand for never ending tax cuts — is contrasted with a more believable version of reality — a man whose rhetoric was far to the right of his willingness to compromise and who raised taxes repeatedly and regularly after his signature early tax cut. bunch's documentation of the conscious manipulation and distortion of regan's legacy by a group of right-wing organizations is novel and interesting. the not so good: bunch isn't terribly facile or persuasive with his macroeconomics— he seems to, for example, frequently reverse the arrow of causation when it comes to deficit spending (i.e. the clinton surpluses were more a reflection of a growing economy and less the caus. thus his dismissal of regaanomics is considerably less persuasive than it should be. while bunch identifies reagan as a key figure in the shift of our political discourse to style over substance, his treatment is a bit superficial and repetitive. lastly, bunch vacillates between well-documented reasoning and opinion entirely too often and quickly for my tastes.

  • Colt
    2019-04-20 18:25

    I felt that this book really hit on the important notes. Although the Author is was clearly writing for a Liberal audience he didn't whore himself out to their every wishes, although he could have easily taken the easy road and been demeaning to the Reagan "legacy" I appreciate how he gave his best effort to take the neutral ground. He does point out the flaws of Reagan's presidency and the complete fabrication of today's Right wing i.e. Reagan ending the Cold War and pulling the country out of a recession and making it "wealthy." When the collapse of the Soviet Union was a self imploding empire and Reagan happened to be at the right place at the right time, how he increasingly made the U.S. a debtor nation and drove up the need for middle and lower class families the need for both parents to work thanks to his tax cut's that benefited the wealthy. In the same respect he points out that today's Right likes to give him the macho hawkish look he was a very practical and level headed Commander in Chief so far as he didn't commit any men or ground troops to a war much less any bombing campaigns that where perpetrated by the Clinton Administration. For anybody looking to read a Fair and Balanced assessment of Reagan then I would recommend this as it gives a better understanding and in depth context when discussing the Legacy of a man whom the Republicans look to as their Savior and measuring stick.

  • José Gutiérrez
    2019-04-27 21:15

    Whuaaaa!!! This book just crashed my Tea Party!! You mean to say Reagan really had nothing to do with the Berlin Wall coming down or the collapse of the Soviet Union and that negotiations for the Iran Hostage Crisis had already been drawn up under the Carter Administration before the Gipper even took office?! You mean to say that contrary to what all my party representatives have asserted, Reagan's economic policies were really disastrous and these engendered the Wall Street culture of deregulation that led to our current economic upheaval?! Ok, so what exactly did Ronald Reagan do to cement a legacy that has spawned more public monuments, libraries and freeways under his name than any other president in this country's history, including a GOP-led campaign to have his face permanently sculpted into Mount Rushmore?In these times of wacky Tea Parties when reverential invocations of the Gipper are made from both sides of the aisle and the politics of resentment are marshaling their forces for 2012, this book arrives as timely antidote and sound account of what the 40th president was REALLY about. Highly recommended.

  • Elliott
    2019-04-28 20:06

    Considering the cover blurbs I had hoped for a harsher critique than what I found. We have here Ronald Wilson Reagan who negotiated illegally with Iran as a presidential candidate which is technically treasonous by the way, which isn't even mentioned. Bunch then calls him "pragmatic" though what it comes across instead is that Reagan was essentially missing a personality. He became whatever those around him wanted: first the staunch New Dealer, then an abrupt break to Goldwater conservative following his new wife, then surrounded by a Democratic legislature an environmentalist, and pro-choice governor, until after political exile in the 1970's he emerges as a polished Cold War hawk to sign arms increases, and briefly a single tax cut and union buster back to preserver of the New Deal and Great Society with one liners all the way. Bunch seems content to label Reagan a mediocre president, though a good man. He nonetheless gives pretty ample evidence of Reagan as a really very terrible president, whose legacy continues it's devastating trajectory: one for the Gipper indeed.

  • Billy
    2019-04-22 23:28

    I've been wanting to read this for a while and I'm glad I finally did. As a fan of history, and specifically of FACTS, I can't help but get enraged by all of the distortions that are told in recent years. In this book, Will Bunch does a great job of relaying his message in an incredibly "fair and balanced" way of presenting the facts and how they're portrayed in today's political world. It is actually frightening to see how often we forget what really happened and just focus on the soundbites and (mis)interpretations of reality. I hope more people read this book and see it as the big wakeup call that it is.

  • Benj FitzPatrick
    2019-05-01 20:07

    During Reagan's presidency I was too young to know anything about him (or that time period as I was still playing in the mud with he-man). My introduction to him came from the recent (2006-2010) GOP revival of his image. This book gave a light-medium (it cited sources for a fair number of its assertions) introduction to his presidency, which I found useful. It is quite readable while presenting plenty of facts with the express purpose of shedding light on the fallacies I'd been introduced to from 2006-2010. The only problem was the author's disdain for the current GOP seeping through every nook and cranny got annoying after the first 100 pages.

  • Medicinefckdream
    2019-04-29 20:25

    this book is ok, it talks about how reagan thought pollution came from trees and how his brain was so fucked up in his second term from autism or whatever he forgot he didnt go to world war 2 and told a bunch of people he did. it turns into a bush II hitpiece like halfway in, ok we get it, bush was pretty fail and stuff, low hanging fruit imho (haha low hanging fruit, georg bush was a monkey who ate banana.)) but my favorite part is it was written in 09 and it says it has hopes for the "incoming president" to usher in a new era of "american glasnost" hgahaha little did he know obama would be throwing like everybody in jail for espionage and be like worse than bush.

  • Mark
    2019-05-04 23:22

    I was prety young in the 80's, but did pay some attention to politics. Remembering back to the politics of the time, I've always wondered why so many things seem to be named after Ronald Reagan. I also wonder why so many people in politics today try to emulate the man and have such nostalgia for what is remembered as his policies and achievements. This book is a good analysis and explanation of the transformation of the memory of Reagan from what actually happened to how it is treated in current political debate.

  • Eugene
    2019-05-11 23:04

    I recommend that liberals and conservatives alike read this book. It takes a critical look at the Reagan presidency, demonstrating how the economic boom of the 80s was largely caused by factors out of the control of the White House and how the fall of communism had little to do with Reagan's actions, but also showing how Reagan worked diligently with Soviet Premier Gorbachev, "negotiating with the enemy," to attempt to rid the world of nuclear weapons and how his communication skills as the "Great Communicator" came to be very helpful in his presidency.

  • Michael
    2019-05-08 20:11

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page of Mr. Bunch's book. The author does a superb job of balancing President Reagan's accomplishments (brokering nuclear arms deals and restoring the spirits of the American people) as well as his failures (racking up debt and allowing the Iran-Contra crimes). I wholeheartedly agreed with the author when he wrote, "It has been a straight line, unfortunately, from the public's eager embrace of Reagan's optimism to the magical thinking and cynical manipulations of our current politics by the self-proclaimed keepers of the Reagan myth."

  • Kevin
    2019-04-29 18:12

    A very good, very informative book. However with books of this type footnotes or end notes are essential. This book has end notes that reference the sources the author uses but they are just thrown in the back of the book. There are no references in the text pointing to the specific end note so the reader is left to read all of the end notes and try to determine which one references the passage that was just read. It can be very confusing.

  • Daniel Kukwa
    2019-05-09 22:21

    It's a great (and long overdue) political/historical thesis, but I believe it works much better when presenting its case with razor sharp, clinical logic. In its second half, the approach becomes a bit too journalistic for my taste...not that I have anything against such an approach. I simply believe this book ends up with two different, competing tones of voice...and I wish it would have stuck to just one of them.