Richard Reeves
President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination

President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination

Twenty-five years after Ronald Reagan became president, Richard Reeves has written a surprising and revealing portrait of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. As he did in his bestselling books President Kennedy: Profile of Power and President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Reeves has used newly declassified documents and hundreds of interviews to show a president at work day by day, sometimes minute by minute.

President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination is the story of an accomplished politician, a bold, even reckless leader, a gambler, a man who imagined an American past and an American future—and made them real. He is a man of ideas who changed the world for better or worse, a man who understands that words are often more important than deeds. Reeves shows a man who understands how to be President, who knows that the job is not to manage the government but to lead the nation. In many ways, a quarter of a century later, he is still leading. As his vice president, George H. W. Bush, said after Reagan was shot and hospitalized in 1981: “We will act as if he were here.”

He is a heroic figure if not always a hero. He did not destroy communism, as his champions claim, but he knew it would self-destruct and hastened the collapse. No small thing. He believed the Soviet Union was evil and he had contempt for the established American policies of containment and détente. Asked about his own Cold War strategy, he answered: “We win. They lose!”

Like one of his heroes, Franklin D. Roosevelt, he has become larger than life. As Roosevelt became an icon central to American liberalism, Reagan became the nucleus holding together American conservatism. He is the only president whose name became a political creed, a noun not an adjective: “Reaganism.”

Reagan’s ideas were so old they seemed new. He preached an individualism, inspiring and cruel, that isolated and shamed the halt and the lame. He dumbed-down America, brilliantly blending fact and fiction, transforming political debate into emotion-driven entertainment. He recklessly mortgaged America with uncontrolled military spending, less taxation, and more debt.

In focusing on the key moments of the Reagan presidency, Reeves recounts the amazing resiliency of Ronald Reagan, the real “comeback kid.” Here is a seventy-year-old man coming back from a near-fatal gunshot wound, from cancer, from the worst recession in American history. Then, in personal despair as his administration was shredded by the lying and secrets of hidden wars and double-dealing, he was able to forge one of history’s amazing relationships with the leader of “the Evil Empire.” That story is told for the first time using the transcripts of the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings, the climax of an epic story—as if he were here.

The Reagan Files (

Jason Saltoun-Ebin has been researching Ronald Reagan since 2001, when Richard Reeves hired him as a research assistant to help with the research for his presidential biography of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reeves' book, "President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination," was published in 2005.

During the course of their research, Mr. Reeves and Mr. Saltoun-Ebin filed numerous Mandatory Review (MR) requests for classified documents and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for unprocessed documents held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Though Mr. Reeves was able to make use of some newly released documents in "President Reagan," most of the FOIA requests and MR requests were never answered.

After graduating the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2007, Mr. Saltoun-Ebin returned to the Reagan Library to follow-up with his research from 2001-2005. In 2008 he discovered that many of President Reagan's NSC/NSPG meeting minutes had recently been declassified. Mr. Saltoun-Ebin, believing that history is too important to be kept a secret inside the Reagan Library, created The Reagan Files to encourage the further study of the Reagan presidency.

On April 13th, 2009, President Obama ordered the release of nearly 150,000 pages of documents that President George W. Bush had kept secret though declassified by the classifying agency. Some of those documents are already published on The Reagan Files, others will be added to The Reagan Files collection in the near future. Many correspond to the MR and FOIA requests that Mr. Reeves and Mr. Saltoun-Ebin filed between 2001 and 2005.

Mr. Saltoun-Ebin is a graduate of U.C.L.A. (2001, B.A., European Studies). During his time at U.C.L.A. he wrote for The UCLA Daily Bruin. Prior to law school, he worked for a short time at The Wisconsin State Journal. He also contributed to The New York Time's coverage of the Supreme Court nomination of Chief Justice Roberts.


"Memorable set pieces. The meetings with Gorbachev read like a political thriller. But the one that stands out is the event that forged the Reagan legend: his brush with assassination in 1981...As doctors fought to save the president, blood bubbling out of his mouth, a Secret Service man prayed: 'Oh my God, we've lost him.' Meanwhile back at the White House, his staff haggled over who should run the American government —little realizing of course that the one who did was the genial old man hanging on to life in George Washington University Hospital." The Economist

"President Reagan is a compelling read, fast-paced and scrupulously fair. The account of the Iran-contra affair is particularly gripping. Anbody who is interested in the extraordinary Reagan Presidency needs to reckon with Reeves... There are plenty of other gems... If Reeves were in the thriller business, he would be accused of stretching the bounds of credibility; as things are, readers will have to keep pinching themselves, checking Reeves's footnotes and realizing that, yes, all this really happened." Adrian Wooldridge, The New York Times Book Review

"It is refreshing to read a presidential biography in which the man's public actions — not his private psyche — are the primary focus... Reeves captures Reagan's undeniable charm, presidential aura and ability to inspire Americans with his own vision of an earlier America when things seemed simpler and better. That those times, in reality, were not better for large numbers of Americans did not faze Reagan... He had an old man's strengths: He knew what he believed, and he really didn't care what his opponents thought of him." Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

"Celebrated journalist Richard Reeves takes the same vivid, fly-on-the-wall approach he's previously applied with such success to Nixon and Kennedy, and uses it just as skillfully to take us inside the administration, mind and character of Ronald Reagan... Reeves is particularly strong at portraying Reagan's almost organically intuitive approach to management. Here we have the Gipper's artful delegation of details along the road to fulfilling his short list of grand goals..." Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"What separates this book from so many others is that Mr. Reeves very subtly has written a post-9/11 assessment of the Reagan Presidency... Putting together a narrative of a much-chronicled Presidency is not for the faint of heart. Richard Reeves, one of the finest journalists of his generation, is made of sterner stuff, and our understanding of Ronald Reagan is the better for it." Terry Golway, New York Observer

"Long one of America's finest political reproters, Richard Reeves has also become one of of the best political biographers. His books, about John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and now Ronald Reagan are indispensable reading for anyone interested in the modern U.S. presidency..." Philip Seib, Dallas Morning News

"In President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, master political journalist Richard Reeves provides a marvelous behind-the-scenes look at how that performance came together. Using a net work of contacts and sources built up over five decades, Reeves, who previously wrote much-praised chronicles of of the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, spins a fly-on-the-wall, at times day-by-day tale of the power of one man's imagination...." Mark Schogol, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Readers are in Reeves's debt for this entertaining, deeply reported and revealing portrait of a man destined to be in death what he was in life: a figure of enduring fascination." Jon Meacham, Washington Post

Richard Reeves stopped writing his syndicated column at the end of 2014 after 35 years in more than 160 newspapers and websites.

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