Thursday, January 1, 2009

Expatriation of Franklin Pierce or Education of Ronald Reagan

Expatriation of Franklin Pierce: The Story of a President and the Civil War

Author: Garry Boulard

Considered a failure upon leaving the White House in 1857 and thought to be on his way to a well-deserved obscurity, Franklin Pierce during the Civil War emerged as a major spokesman for that era's Peace Democrats, opposed to President Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and in defense of civil liberties.

A Northerner with many close Southern friends, including Jefferson Davis the president of the Confederacy and his wife, Varina Davis, Pierce was also thought to be a traitor because of such ties and was at one point nearly arrested for suspected seditious behavior.

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Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism

Author: Thomas W Evans

In October 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech in support of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. "The Speech," as it has come to be known, helped launch Ronald Reagan as a leading force in the American conservative movement. However, less than twenty years earlier, Reagan was a prominent Hollywood liberal, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and a fervent supporter of FDR and Harry Truman. While many agree that Reagan's anticommunism grew out of his experiences with the Hollywood communists of the late 1940s, the origins of his conservative ideology have remained obscure.

Based on a newly discovered collection of private papers as well as interviews and corporate documents, The Education of Ronald Reagan offers new insights into Reagan's ideological development and his political ascendancy. Thomas W. Evans links the eight years (1954-1962) in which Reagan worked for General Electric—acting as host of its television program, GE Theater, and traveling the country as the company's public-relations envoy-to his conversion to conservatism.

In particular, Evans reveals the profound influence of GE executive Lemuel Boulware, who would become Reagan's political and ideological mentor. Boulware, known for his tough stance against union officials and his innovative corporate strategies to win over workers, championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism-free-market fundamentalism, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Building on the ideas and influence of Boulware, Reagan would soon begin his rise as a national political figure and an icon of the American conservative movement.

Publishers Weekly

Evans respectfully traces Reagan's change from New Deal liberal to economic conservative to his eight-year stint (1954-1962) as spokesman for General Electric, when he hosted GE's Saturday night television show, General Electric Theater, and toured GE plants nationwide. It was on tour that Reagan delivered early drafts of the 1964 pro-Goldwater "time for choosing" speech that would eventually thrust him onto the national political scene. As the mouthpiece for GE policy, Reagan was immersed in a free market ideology that stressed limited government and low taxes, explains Evans, an attorney who chaired the Reagan administration's national symposium on partnerships in education. The most intriguing chapters explore the tensions between Reagan's leadership of the Screen Actors' Guild-which went on strike in 1960-and his role as the public face of a company determined to prevent its unionized employees from striking. In the last chapter, Evans explicitly connects some of Reagan's presidential decisions-his insistence on restructuring taxes without cutting military spending, for example, and his oversight of the National Labor Relations Board-with his GE education. This fascinating study sheds new light on Reagan's ideological evolution. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

Now that nearly two decades have passed since the Ronald Reagan presidency ended, insightful commentaries that benefit from recently released documents and new historical perspectives have supplanted the many kick-and-tell memoirs written by officials and advisors immediately following the Gipper's departure from office. These two works illuminate the political roots that anchored Reagan's memorable speeches and policies. Diggins (history, CUNY Graduate Ctr.; The Proud Decades) claims that the many liberal academic historians and a biased media have denied Reagan his legacy as one of our greatest presidents. He identifies Reagan as the "Emersonian President," who believed that power is best when it resides in people, not government. This belief, he says, inspired Reagan's advocacy of small government, low taxes, and anticommunism. While such events as the Iran-contra fiasco, the savings and loan scandals, ballooning deficits, and strained race relations-all described here-must be factored into Reagan's legacy, Diggins makes a good case that Reagan's relationships with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resulted in nuclear disarmament and a Cold War thaw that were Lincolnesque in their importance and revealing of a "greatness of soul." Evans, an attorney who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, offers an account of Reagan's years with General Electric (GE) from 1954 to 1962. During this time, he shows, Reagan honed his emerging conservative message while serving as the traveling ambassador to GE's 250,000 workers at 139 plants throughout the United States. For Reagan, this experience was his advanced education in practical politics taught by his mentor, GE director of community relations Lemuel Boulware, to whom the author devotes much attention. Boulware taught his apt pupil how to avoid labor bosses and speak directly to the blue-collar employees who enthused over his call for lower taxes and reduced government control. The education and the enhanced communications skills that Reagan took from his GE years propelled him toward the political career that culminated with his two-term presidency and wide public support. Both of these books about Reagan's rise are recommended for public and academic libraries, and Diggins's book, strongly so, for larger public collections. [Diggins's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/06.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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