When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan No One Has Ever Captured Ronald Reagan Like Peggy Noonan In When Character Was King, Noonan Brings Her Own Reflections On Reagan To Bear As Well As New Stories From Presidents George W Bush And His Father, George H W Bush, His Secret Service Men And White House Colleagues, His Wife, His Daughter Patti Davis, And His Close Friends To Reveal The True Nature Of A Man Even His Opponents Now View As A Maker Of Big History Marked By Incisive Wit And Elegant Prose, When Character Was King Will Both Enlighten And Move Readers It May Well Be The Last Word On Ronald Reagan, Not Only As A Leader But As A Man

Peggy Noonan is an author of seven books on politics, religion and culture, a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and was a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan She is considered a political conservative.

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  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan
  • Peggy Noonan
  • English
  • 20 September 2018
  • 9780142001684

10 thoughts on “When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan

  1. says:

    I finished reading Peggy Noonan s book about Ronald Reagan last night It s a great book about a great man that ends on a sad note just like Reagan s life will end after his long battle with Alzheimers.There was one part of the book that really stood out and impressed me so much so that I felt I needed to excerpt it here beginning of excerpt Once, in the mid 1990s, I was asked by the University of Texas at Austin to take part in a lecture series in which various historians and authors were asked to speak about the personal character of a specific modern president I was honored to be included with Doris Kearns Goodwin, who spoke on Franklin Roosevelt, and David McCullough, who spoke on Harry Truman, and Hentrik Hertzberg on Jimmy Carton, for whom he had been a speechwriter, and Michael Beschloss on George Bush the elder I would speak on Reagan.I reasoned, as I began my work, that one way to judge the character of a president is to see if he came through on the things he said he d do when he ran for office My impression was that Reagan had, on all the big issues But as I researched it, comparing what he promised in 1980 with what he d done by 1988, the sheer mounting of fact upon fact left me not only pleased but, in a way, moved.In 1980, on the campaign trail he promised he would cut the inflation rate It ws running at 12.8 percent then, the last year of the Carter administration It had reached its peak of 14.8 percent in March of that year By 1983, Reagan had taken the actions tough, politically damaging actions such as backing a tighter monetary supply and taking a recession in turn that produced an inflation rate of less than 4 percent Most important, inflation remained at 3 to 4 percent throughout the Reagan presidency So he d cut inflation by than half almost since the beginning, and by the end it was less than a third of what it had been.He said he would cut taxes The day he walked into office the top rax rate for individuals was 78 percent The day he walked out, he d cut it down to 35 percent Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute has said that no act in the past quarter centure had a profound impact on the economy of the eighties and nineties than the Reagan tax cut of 1981 The nation was in quite a deep hole of economic collapse when Reagan was elected We were in the midst of the worst economic depression in 1980 81 than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.Reagan s tax cuts combined with his emphasis on sound money, deregulation and free trade created a mighty economic expansion.This expansion carried through the 1990s as well creating America s greated sustained wave of prosperity ever How high a wave The economy grew by than one third in size it produced a 15 trillion increase in America s wealth And from 1981 to 1989 which is to say, from the beginning of the Reagan era to the end every income group in the country from the richest to the poorest saw its income increase.Reagan said he d get the economy going again See above And see this The Dow Jones, which was at less than 800 at the beginning of his first administration, was at than 2400 by the end of his second administration.He said he would decontrol oil prices He did, and they began to plummet.He said he would reduce unemployment It was high when he went into office, 7.4 percent When he left it was down than 30 percent, to 5.4 percent As important, or so, the number of new jobs began to rise.He said he would lower interest rates and he did, cutting them to less than half what they were when he began his presidency He said he d reduce federal regulation, and he did The Federal Register, which had eighty seven thousand pages of rules and regulations under his predecessor, was cut back to a low of forty seven thousand pages by 1986 He said he would cut the federal bureaucracy and he did.He said he would cut the budget and he did He didn t get nearly the cuts he hoped for, but in the words of the historian Michael Barone, The budget cuts by themselves did not reduce government spending drastically, but they signalled that it would no longer be allowed to grow faster than the economy The annual rates of growtth in federal outlays would turn out to be slowed down frm 17% and 15% over the period 1979 81 to 10%, 8%, and 5% during 1981 84 He said he d name a woman to the Supreme Court he said he d oppose racial quotas he said he d oppose abortion said he would try to create a defense system against incoming missiles said he would rebuild the armed forces said he would move toward a six hundred ship navy Done, done, done, done, done, done and done Every bit of it.He said he would not bow to the Soviet Communist state, and vowed to speak truthfully both of it and to it.This he did most dazzingly, most movingly of all Peggy Noonan, When Character Was King end of excerpt Wow.

  2. says:

    In a time of malice he was not malicious in a time of lies he did not falsify in a time of great pressure he didn t bend or break in a time of disingenuousness he was clear and candid about where he stood and why And in a time when people just gave up after awhile and changed the subject, he remained on the field for the long haul I had seen this book on a number of reading lists of people whom I admire and so it has been on my to read shelf for some time I knew when I read this quote, that this was a book that I wanted to review well and from my heart.When Character Was King, by Peggy NoonanI have always admired Ronald Reagan He stands out in my memory and in my heart as a great man who always reminded me just a little bit of my grandfather His voice I can bring to mind in an instant, whereas the tone and timbre of most other presidents of my lifetime I would have to struggle to recall and some I would prefer to forget I was never a fan of Nancy, though looking back now I see, to a large extent, not only did I give little grace to her but I also fell for the mass media s caricature of who she was and I am sorry for that.Every once in a long while, there is a book that touches my heart in deep and unexpected ways This was one of those I believe that it is, perhaps, a combination of factors that made this so Not the least of which is that Peggy Noonan is a gifted writer who knew and worked for Ronald Reagan.I was 15 when he was elected, 16 when he was shot and 23 when he left office He was president in the years when I began to think about and care about politics to any degree I saw him handle national safety issues with authority, national disasters with compassion, foreign relations with a firm stance and an assurance of who were as a nation I grew up during the height of the Cold War, when the nuclear arms and capabilities of the USSR were a clear and present danger Ronald Reagan, seizing opportunity as the leadership of the evil empire changed, went from firm to diplomatic to historic agreements with Gorbachev and the world became a less frightening place President Reagan was a leader who made me proud to be an American citizen Years ago, thinking about his humor, I said it seemed to me that wit penetrates and humor envelops, that wit seems a function of verbal intelligence while humor is imagination operating on good nature I still think that, and think Reagan was a man of abundant humor with a great appreciation for comedy I loved this quote as well and dog earred the page to return to when writing this review, as a did to page after page, only later recalling that it was a library book I think this was a great part of the reason that Ms Noonan and other biographers were hard pressed to find a single individual, even those politically opposed to him, that disliked Ronald Reagan.He had it right in so many way, reading some of his speeches now, brings tears to my eyes as I wonder how things have gone so wrong now The speech that was televised October 27th, 1954, when he was stumping for Barry Goldwater, remains one of his finest.I quote it here extensively because it is so deeply relevant for today I believe that the issues confronting us cross party lines No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of it s national income Today, thirty seven cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector s share, and yet our government continues to spend seventeen million dollars a day than the government takes inThe idea that the government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man s relation to man This is the issue of this election whether we believe in our capacity for self government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far distant capital can plan our lives for us better than wee can plan them ourselves You and I are increasingly told that we have to choose between a left or a right There is only an up or down up to man s age old dream the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarianism motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course And the brilliant Westminster Speech so starkly contrasted by current president Obama s Apology Tour The United States under Ronald Reagan was a time of recovered and renewed economy and morale It wraps up for me in his own address as he spoke to the nation for the final time as President of the United States ..that s what it was to be an American in the 1980 s We stood, again, for freedom I know we always have, but in the past few years the world again, and in a way ourselves, rediscovered it Ms Noonan puts it thus, beautifully, He had courage He always tried to do what he thought was right And when doing what was right demanded from him great effort or patience or tenacity, or made his the focus of unending attacks and criticism, he summoned from within the patience and the tenacity and the courage to face it all To face it down And when his great work was finished he left and went peacefully home.These are among the things that made him for an ordinary man, but a most extraordinary man indeed As a tribute to a man and a record of a time entirely gone, it would behoove you to read this book.

  3. says:

    Noonan s When Character Was King A Story of Ronald Reagan was published in late 2001 Noonan is the author of nine books, a political commentator and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal From 1984 to 1986 she was a speechwriter for President Reagan In 2017 Noonan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.Despite providing some degree of coverage of nearly all of Reagan s life, Noonan s 327 page book is not a traditional biography Instead, it is essentially a semi insider s review of Reagan s life, character and legacy Distilled to its essence, it is a character study written by a part time eyewitness but an astute, full time observer When Character Was King begins in earnest with Reagan s childhood, focusing on the aspects of his environment which shaped who he was and who he was to become The author shares anecdotes and stories which she believes are most instructive, never relying on a monotonous recitation of his diary The book proceeds through his life at a relatively rapid rate, skipping some events but slowing for others in order to dwell on his most revealing moments.Noonan s style is extremely articulate and readable she is an extremely talented author with a unique gift for written expression But while readers of all political persuasions will enjoy her fluid, first person voice, some will find the narrative too sympathetic and sappy Written three years before Reagan s death, it occasionally resembles a sugar coated eulogy for someone not quite departed.Noonan does not dissect Reagan with the precision and sterility of a trained psychologist, but as someone who worked in close proximity to him for three years while never losing sight of him thereafter She does not get lost in her subject s life as do some biographers Noonan is able to step back and see the big picture to identify large scale patterns in bits of his life which at first glance appear disjointed or unrelated.There are too many fine moments in the book to comprehensively reveal, but they include dozens of insightful anecdotes, a touching and revealing chapter on Nancy Reagan, a partisan but well written summary of Iran contra and an illuminating look at Reagan s use of humor.Appropriate for a character study but not ideal in a biography, Noonan s eye is always on her subject but not always on history Context is frequently provided but occasionally ignored In addition, she does not dwell on every key milestone in Reagan s life His gubernatorial career, for example, receives just ten pages of coverage while the attempt on his life which is far revelatory for her mission receives two full chapters.But readers who come away feeling underwhelmed are likely to do so primarily because this book is intrinsically sympathetic and lacks the feel of a ponderous political tome Reagan s policy priorities take a clear back seat to the author s assessment of his character And Noonan clearly feels that his exceptional character was the key element in his political success.Overall, When Character Was King A Story of Ronald Reagan is an interesting and thought provoking review and assessment of Reagan s character and personality Its rapid pace and abbreviated format precludes a deeper analysis of his life and political career But Peggy Noonan successfully teases out and exposes much of the essence of the 40th president and comes as close as anyone to unmasking this magical and mysterious man.Overall rating 4 stars

  4. says:

    Peggy Noonan does a wonderful job reminding us that Ronald Reagan was not only a President worth celebrating but also a man of character worth honoring.Noonan takes readers on a fast paced tour through Reagan s formative years, his professional career and his political journey, stopping only long enough to mention a few illustrative anecdotes from each period.At times Noonan has a hard time leaving herself out of the story, but she succeeds in explaining Reagan by interviewing the people closest to him, and in bringing out the context and details behind the most memorable moments of his life and Presidency.Written in 2001 while Reagan was still living, after a new Republican President had just entered the White House, and while the attacks of September 11 had just occurred, the reflections are shaded by the time period and add a second layer of texture to the narrative.The section on Iran contra, considered the worst chapter of Reagan s presidency, would be written differently today, given the Obama trade of high level terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captive deserter Bowe Bergdahl.And certainly Reagan s reaction to the attack on Korean Air Flight 007 would warrant than a passing mention, in light of Russia s continued aggression in Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17.Perhaps than anything, we would notice Reagan s love of America, and his desire to make it a diplomatic and military force for good, his praise of entrepreneurship and liberty, and his ability to work and communicate with Americans from all walks of life.This contrasts with the small, bankrupt America that now leads from behind, apologizes for its power, leaves its ambassadors to die, tells small businesses you didn t build that and gives undue scrutiny to politically disfavored groups.

  5. says:

    This was a great book about Ronald Reagan What struck me so much about it is how relevant his philosophy is towards today s economic woes, despite the fact it was written in 2001 It s impossible not to compare the past climates in 1964 and again in 1979 with today s huge deficit and general malaise in the country Among some of the things that struck me was his desire to reduce the size of an unwieldy and ineffectual government, hearkening back to the original intent of the U.S s founding fathers His plan to reduce taxes in order to promote growth in the economy made perfect sense and was successful Kennedy did this as well and well, what do you know It works Rather than raise taxes which hurts the economy, growth led to the boom in America that lasted from the Reagan years all the way through the Clinton years So much of what Reagan was saying way back in his first political speech for Goldwater in 1964 made sense and he kept at it, never deviating from his original intent Did he use polls to make decisions Never I could go on an on Beautifully written homage to Reagan from Noonan, whose writing tugs at your heartstrings, bringing up so much emotion and genuine fondness for this great president Beginning with his birth and childhood, his days in Hollywood and SAG president, the governorship of CA and through the presidency leading up to his sad years with Alzheimer s all in a simple and seemingly effortless prose This book is full of lessons of what is wrong economically with the U.S now.4.5 5

  6. says:

    It is very obvious in the reading that Peggy Noonan admired Reagan for his kindness, for his honesty, for his reliability She states that the most important thing a man can bring to the presidency is his character, and she goes on to show through interviews with Reagan, his family members, close friends, and some political enemies why she is convinced that Reagan s character was of a high, moral fiber She doesn t sugarcoat his first failed marriage or the major scandal of his administration the Iran Contra affair.I definitely learned some new things in this read I was not aware, for example, how very close to death Reagan came in the attempt on his life that so tragically damaged Jim Baker with a bullet to the head And I remember the air traffic controllers strike, and the outrage by many that Reagan fired most of them, but I did not know that the union demanded a 100% pay increase or they would shut down the skies Wow

  7. says:

    Even if I was a fan of Ronald Reagan, this simpering biography would probably have still made me upchuck Particularly amusing was the foreword where Noonan, in 2001, predicts that George W Bush would become one of the greatest presidents the US has ever seen I bet she wants to take that back now A good biography does not oversell someone s successes and skim over their faults This book does both.

  8. says:

    This is a beautiful portrait of president Reagan, and presents a picture of the kind of character and person we should look for in a president Peggy Noonan certainly writes with a strong positive bias, from her perspective if a White House staffer and Reagan lover Yet, I appreciated the anecdotes of Reagan s temperament and reactions to situations he found himself in I think reading this book as we head into this election year helps me understand what it takes to be a president And really, Reagan s example is one we all can follow as we live life and seek to make the right decisions.

  9. says:

    So, I don t normally write reviews, but some of the lines passages had me rolling and need to be repeated In March 2001, I met with Rush Limbaugh, a man I admire 250 that really tells you just about all you need to know about this book Truman had followed a charismatic leader, had seemed too plain and uninteresting to fill a president s shoes and was, his first few years in office at least, a bland public speaker, an uninspiring man But this plain, uninteresting, colorless man had managed to do pretty much everything right He rallied his war tired nation to rebuild Europe, to support the Marshall Plan, to stop Soviet communism in Greece, to wage a war to stop it in Korea He was a leader He just didn t seem at the time, early on, to be one I think in Bush we have a Truman And my hunch is Bush thinks so too 309 310 I don t even know where to start with this, but let s just say that trying to equate George W Bush to Harry S Truman is disturbing And Truman, uninspiring I can t even with this.And then there was this, an anecdote describing the difference between Republicans and conservatives In 1986, after I had left the White House as a speechwriter for the president, I went home to Virginia, where I lived, and began to write a book I wanted to capture a time that I could see receding like a wave, the Reagan era, for I felt it had been big and historic At the same time I wanted to capture what it was like to work in the White House, what it was like to be a young woman there with no importance but eyes, and with feelings When I thought about what it was that I wanted to describe, my mind always went to a picture the way early in the morning on a blustery day, on the stark black and white tiled floors of the Old Executive Office Building, where I worked, everyone s big black open umbrellas would be placed outside their offices on the floor, and how beautiful the round shape of the umbrellas looked as they silently dripped on the marble Silently, as other umbrellas had for generations, when they had covered the heads of the secretary of John Foster Dulles and Jimmy Forrestal and Rosemary WoodsI was happy to be working on such a great thing, a book But I was out of the White House And when I would meet with former colleagues at a party or symposium they would look at me and say What are you doing now And I would say with pride, I am writing a book And they would look at me appraisingly, as if I d said, I m in physical therapy to heal a badly fractured leg And they d say, But what are you doing I told a friend about it, a tough, shrewd man I said, Why do they do that, why do they think writing a book isn t doing something He said, Because they re Republicans Democrats respect books because they respect ideas Conservatives respect books because they respect ideas Republicans respect money Ah, I said.He told me the next time someone asked me what I was doing I was to answer, I got a huge advance for a book He said they would be impressed And you know, I think they were.So that s the difference between Republicans and conservatives 144 145 Final thoughts I wish I d picked up a Reagan bio written by someone who wasn t so obviously enad with her subject I haven t read any other Reagan bios yet, so I can t recommend anything specific, but keep looking if you want to read an even handed history.

  10. says:

    I decided to escape to a different political time with this biography Noonan clearly admires Reagan she worked for him as a speechwriter and writes this book in her colloquial, journalist style The first 1 3 of the book was slow and difficult to get into my husband put the book down , but my advice to him and anyone else would be to skip to when Reagan becomes President The book picks up and has interesting insights from the White House in the 1980s I was especially touched when Noonan recalls her experience meeting with Reagan after his Alzheimers diagnosis, when he no longer remembered her Her deepest feelings of love and respect overwhelm all of her intentions to have a different conversation with him I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed imagining the same conversation with any number of individuals that I deeply admire It would have been a four star book for me if the earlier portion of the book had been engaging As it was, I still liked it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys biographies or political memoirs.

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