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A life in letters

In the past few months I have had the privilege of meeting with former Reagan arms control ambassador Kenneth Adelman and former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson, both of whom shared stories about Reagan that I had never heard before. As highly as I think of Reagan, these men persuaded me that we have not yet taken his measure. Andrew Sullivan contributes to this feeling through his own attempt to wrestle with his estimation of the man in a moving review of the new volume of Reagan letters: “How Reagan fooled us.”
Sullivan writes: “[T]he tenor of a man is something letters do reliably reveal: and there’s an old-world civility to Reagan that has been lost in contemporary American politics, a dignity and empathy with middle America that is as rare as it is touching. His diligence in hand-writing long letters to obscure pen-pals, even while holding down the most stressful and busy job on the planet, leaves me slack-jawed. And then there’s the light way he wears his Christian faith and the winning way he had with words: ‘During my first months in office,’ he wrote an old friend, ‘when day after day there were decisions that had to be made, I had an almost irresistible urge – really a physical urge – to look over my shoulder for someone I could pass the problem on to. Then without my quite knowing how it happened, I realized I was looking in the wrong direction. I started looking up instead and have been doing so for quite a while now.’
“Corny? If you must. Genuine? Absolutely. Clever and informed? Without a doubt. I wonder what, in a few decades’ time, we’ll be finding out about George W. Bush.” (Courtesy of No Left Turns.)

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