Reagan and the historians

Regular readers of Power Line may recall that I have occasionally declared the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) to be my favorite magazine. The Fall issue is in the mail and the Claremont folks have once again let me select three pieces to feature beginning this morning.
Conservatives feared that when Reagan left office, left-wing journalists and historians would do to Reagan what Arthur Schlesinger et al. did to Calvin Coolidge, as the late Thomas Silver powerfully demonstrated in Coolidge and the Historians — erase the truth and rewrite the past. They got a jump start rewriting Reagan’s record with America: What Went Wrong? by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele in a hugely popular 1991 newspaper series, republished as a best-selling book in 1992. Barlett and Steele absurdly portrayed the Reagan era as an economic catastrophe akin to the Great Depression.
But an outpouring of new books shows that Reagan’s position in the pantheon of America’s great presidents has become unassailable despite the labors of journalists and would-be Schlesingers. From Thomas Evans’s The Education of Ronald Reagan, which shows Reagan’s determined self-education in conservatism, to Reagan’s diaries, which reveal a deeply humane man (except perhaps when it came to TV anchors: “I cannot conjure up 1 iota of respect for just about all of them”), we are coming to terms with the real Reagan and his achievements. No one is better equipped to render an authoritative judgment on these new books than my friend Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan. Steve wears his learning lightly in his essay/review “Reagan and the historians.”


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