Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews



The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan, edited by David Brinkley








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Any reader will find something to like on the pages of The Reagan Diaries. Fans of the late President will enjoy and appreciate the ways in which the diary entries reveal his character, values and personality. Foes will rail at how much time he spends on the small stuff. David Brinkley has edited and abridged these diaries, and the resulting 785 pages remain a comprehensive chronicle of the years of the Reagan presidency. Here’s an excerpt, entries from July 17, 1986-June 30, 1986, pp. 420-421:

Tuesday, June 17

[Met with President Julio Maria Sanguinetti of Uruguay.]

This afternoon we astonished the press with a news break of a perfectly kept secret. I took Chf. Justice Burger, Justice Rehnquist & Judge Scalia into the press room to announce Burger’s resignation, Rehnquist’s nomination to succeed him & Scalia’s nomination to take Rehnquist’s place on the court.

A meeting with John R & Don R. on my proposal for a proposed treaty with the Soviets to share the S.D.I. if & when it is a reality & to then do away with I.C.B.M.’s. John seems to want to sneak up on it in phases, etc. I’m holding out for a simple plan—yes or no.

[State dinner with entertainment by Dave Brubeck.]


Wednesday, June 18

Our U.H.O. friends Salero, Rebolo & Cruz (Nicaragua) were in for a meet­ing. They are here to lobby Cong. on aid to the freedom fighters.

Then a meeting with Bishop Dario Castillon of Colombia. He’s supportive of what we are trying to do in Central Am. I think he was relieved to hear though that we have no plans for armed intervention. He believes that at least 840 of the 900 bishops in Latin America are supportive of what we are trying to do.

[Gathering for flag awards.]

A photo with officers of the Nat. Homebuilders Assn. Then a meeting with Sec. Shultz. Two subjects—Soviet’s & S. Africa. He believes it is one turn to move with a proposal to Gorbachev. On S.A. the problem is once again harsh language in the Cong. which may force me to veto something.

[Videotapings. Thursday, June 19: morning briefings; report from Mrs. Reagan that Director of Drug Abuse Policy Office Canton Turner was feeling ignored by Department of Justice and was ready to quit, the president asked Regan to intervene with Meese; congres­sional meeting on Contra aid obviated by vote call; lunch with Vice President Bush; photo sessions with staff and candidates; flew to New Jersey for speech to high school students and parents; commented, “I came away feeling ten ft. tall. I like people”; returned to WH.; drank liquids in anticipation of following day’s medical checkup.]


Friday, June 20

The check up after a couple of hours in the office & then off to Camp D. It was a long spell in the Hospital, winding up with the Cat scan. Everything was A­OK & the Dr. on the cat scan said my insides were 25 yrs. younger than my age.

[Saturday, June 21—Sunday, June 22: walks and swimming; returned to WH]


Monday, June 23

A half hour interview with 3 members of L.A. Times. It was wide ranging & I hope I didn’t give them any possible distortion material. Then the issues briefing lunch. We made a decision that I would ask to appear at noon tomor­row before the House of Reps. to make a speech in support of aid to the Con­tras. Don called Tip & reached him on a golf course. Tip refused to let me speak to the House. I’m going to rub his nose in this one. We are sending a copy of the speech to every rep.

[Interviewed by Time magazine; presentation of awards to high school students; pho­tographed for French magazine; report from Senator Paul Laxalt (R-I\TV) that Ferdinand Marcos wanted the president to know that he did not instigate demonstrations in Philip­pines.]

A meeting with Clarence Thomas my man on the Equal Opp. board. I’ve nominated him for another term. He’s done a h--l of a good job. The Lynch gang on the hill is after him. Then received 9 Ambas’s. The 9th was Dobrynin of the Soviet U. He brought a letter from Gorbachev. We had quite a conversa­tion I’m not going to form a quick opinion but he sure is different from the old timers I’ve met. Nancy is in Calif. This place feels empty.


Tuesday, June 24

I’m supposed to be writing this at the ranch but here I am in the lonely old WH. without Nancy.

When I got to the office Don R. told me I just couldn’t go with the Contra vote hanging over us & Tip’s refusal to let me address the House. Well I knew he was right but I was d--n mad. There was the matter of my appearance tonite in Las Vegas—a fundraiser for our cand. for Senate Cong. man Santini. Well we got them to postpone it until tomorrow night. At 12 noon I went on TV with the speech I would have given to the House. I spent the day phoning & meet­ing with House members trying to line up votes—with some success. Oh, I met the new champ Ray Floyd & his wife. He just won the U.S. Open. He gave me a new putter. I did a photo for Time mag. & Here I am upstairs with the trip scheduled for tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 25

Dick Wirthlin’s poll—all things considered the figures are good. My overall approval dropped from 73 to 70 though.

[Made calls to members of Congress on behalf of Contra aid; flew to Las Vegas for fund-raiser; received news that Contra aid bill passed; went to ranch.]


Thursday, June 26—Monday, June 30

For the 1st time this year the weather was beautiful each & every day. We rode every morning, then Barney, Dennis & I cut up some downed trees. On Sun. we learned of Sen. East’s suicide—a sad time for all of us. Now it is Mon. night & we are back at the White House.


Sometimes it’s the smallest touches that bring the largest smiles, like referring to Clarence Thomas doing a h-l of a good job, or being d-n mad. As if not spelling it all out, made it gentler. There are records in this chronicle about the movies watched, enough that an interesting doctoral dissertation might emerge from a comparison between the movies watched and the policies set. The Reagan Diaries records haircuts, great love for Mommie, and reflections on the big issues of the day. Read with the understanding that by the time you reach the end, you too might be writing h-l or saying “gosh.”


Steve Hopkins, October 25, 2007



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