By Thomas Lutz

Ronald Wilson Reagan, nicknamed ‘Dutch’ by his father, was the fortieth President of the United States of America and the thirty-third Governor of California. Serving two terms in the White House, from 1981-1989, President Reagan saw his share of economic struggles as well as many periods of growth, coining the term “Reagonomics.” He was an actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild, and a spokesman for General Electric. Originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was a man of great character; one to be admired and looked up to as a role model. He loved his country and served with a passion. During the 1980s, the United States saw a number of historic foreign policy changes and many Conservatives and Liberals alike felt that President Reagan was the man fit for the presidency. President Reagan has been considered an effective president; in fact, he was ranked the eleventh best President of the United States (C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership). This paper will analyze the charming and witty man named Dutch Reagan and the President named Ronald Reagan through data and theories in order to help understand the successes of one of America’s greatest Presidents in the twentieth century. “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.” – Ronald Reagan

Analysis of C-SPAN’s Ranking System

C-SPAN conducted research from both historians and viewer responses regarding a ranking system of 42 out of 44 of the United States Presidents. While there are 10 categories that C-SPAN analyzed, the six categories used in this paper’s analysis are: Public Communicator, Organizational Capacity, Political Skill, Cognitive Style, Vision, and Emotional Intelligence. Each of these categories ranks the presidents according to the results of the participating historians and viewers; however, it is of importance to note that the president’s list is inclusive from George Washington to William Clinton and excludes George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The reasons for not including the current and previous president for analysis are due to that fact that their affect on history cannot be readily be interpreted. This difficulty presents itself as history is still being written, and with regard to the most current presidents, facts regarding the presidency are unknown such as documents lending insight into the minds, actions, and motives of Bush and Obama are pending release for analysis. In lieu of this history dilemma of a recent President’s unknown affect, it is wise of C-SPAN to exclude these two for analysis, thus leaving 42 presidents for analysis. The “approximately 90 historians and presidential experts” which submitted analysis to C-SPAN’s research are presumed to be experts in the field of political science and history and an authority on the presidents, as opposed to the less knowledgeable rankings of the average viewer (C-SPAN, 1999). Based upon this assumption and asked of one’s opinion, this analysis of the ranking system is given depth, primarily through Edward Morris’ biography, “Dutch,” which provides great insight into the lifestyle and presidency of Ronald Reagan. A second biography by Lou Cannon titled, “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” and a third by Deborah and Gerald Strober titled, “Reagan: The Man and His Presidency” are two influential primary sources used for analysis and will referred to most often throughout the paper. These three biographies, coupled with numerous scholarly articles, provide the context for the basis of analysis of C-PAN’s ranking; moreover, the knowledge of Reagan’s Presidency contained in these biographies results in both agreement and disagreement in the individual categories of C-SPAN’s ranking of 40th President of the United States.

The full ranking by the Historians and Presidential experts is provided in the following table for visual analysis. According to the American Presidents Life Portraits, the C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership, an examination by over ninety historians, President Ronald Reagan ranked number eleven out of the 42 presidents in the survey. The survey judged the Presidents on ten factors. They included public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision, setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of time. This survey is manufactured similar to Greenstein’s theory, “The Presidential Difference,” which will be used to look at President Reagan from a theoretical aspect later in the paper. President Reagan’s highest percent ranking was in the category of public persuasion, with a final score of 91.4 percent. His next highest rankings were vision for the country, coming in at 77 percent then relations with Congress at 63.5 percent. Surprisingly, President Reagan ranked 43.2 percent, his lowest, in administrative skills. Table 1 (C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership), shown below, lists President Reagan’s compete ranking and percentages in all ten categories.

Table 1: C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership on President Reagan

Categories Final Score Category Ranking
Public Persuasion 91.4 4
Crisis Leadership 63.2 15
Economic Management 48.1 21
Moral Authority 70 11
International Relations 68.6 14
Administrative Skills 43.2 32
Relations with Congress 63.5 8
Vision / Setting an Agenda 77 8
Pursued Equal Justice For All 41.8 25
Performance Within Context of Times 66.8 12

For the purpose of analysis, the focus will be on Greenstein’s six categories by which presidents are ranked. Those six categories are Public communication, Organizational capacity, Political skill, Vision, Cognitive style, and Emotional intelligence. C-SPAN’s ranking system does not directly identify these categories; however, the closest relating category will be used for analysis. I will also elaborate more thoroughly on what I consider to be the more important ranking categories for the Presidents.

In the area of public persuasion, I agree whole heartedly with the historians rating of President Reagan. Public Persuasion is Reagan’s highest rated category at 91.4 and makes him the fourth best president in this area. Dutch is in the top four public persuaders – a remarkable achievement. Ranked by historians, only FDR, TDR, and Abraham Lincoln are ahead of him in positions one, two, three, respectively. Dutch Reagan was at ease with the public, becoming a sincere orator and respected individual early in his political career in California. He jokingly said to a group of reporters, “Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement” when the reporters would get antsy. His character and integrity are what give him the top spots in the list of great public persuaders. First was his obvious sincerity and strongly held beliefs. He said, “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged” (Reagan). Moreover, Morris points out that “unlike most great orators, he never had to raise his voice to make a key point” (Morris, 1999). “He came across as believable precisely because he had ideas that were deeply held and the American people sensed that whenever he took to the screen, delivering a message” (Cannon, 2000). Respectfully, the people gave him credit for his beliefs even if they disagreed with him. Ranking Dutch fourth, ahead of JFK and right behind Lincoln, is both appropriate and amicable of the historians as they are all without a doubt, the top speakers of their eras.

The three presidents rated before Reagan are noteworthy with respect to their speaking abilities, which I would argue gave them their ability to lead this great nation. Given the circumstances surrounding each President’s tenure in office, Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president of all-time, valiantly saving this union from successions and strengthening the bonds our country formed as a burgeoning entity; clearly, his speaking ability and persuasion technique must have been amongst the top. Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt are always among the top-most presidents in any ranking and their abilities to lead our nation during times of war and crisis speaks volumes to their abilities to persuade the general populations. In order to successfully lead this nation, congress, and senators in Washington, our president must be clear, confident, and steadfast in his resolve. “Ronald Reagan’s skill in the art of persuasion was supported by both his charm and character. He was someone to be admired and looked up to for guidance and leadership in both good times and bad. His witty charm is the key to his success” (Reeves 232). Even during his time in a hospital bed, with regards to the assassination attempt on his life, “the little jokes Ronald Reagan perpetrated…have become part of American legend: ‘Honey, I forgot to duck,’ ‘Who’s minding the store?’ –and to a solemn company costumed in surgical greens –‘Please tell me you’re Republicans” (Morris 431). Even in the face of adversity, Reagan was able to bring light to a room with the most light-hearted repartee.

To be ranked among the top four Presidential persuaders clearly demonstrates the idea that Ronald Reagan was one of our top Presidents ever to have served in the Oval Office. C-SPAN also gathered research from surveys distributed to viewers who ranked Reagan seventh among the president’s in terms of public persuasion. An interesting point to make here are the three surprise presidents who managed to rank higher than Reagan; 1) Washington, 4) Thomas Jefferson, and 6) Truman. These three are interesting picks for public persuaders because of the nature of their presidencies. One must pause to ask, “Did these Presidents really have great speaking abilities?” And furthermore, how did Washington get his message out to the people? These questions are obviously open to discussion due to the times history each man served. Washington and Jefferson would have been limited in their addresses due to the speed at which messages traveled around the country at the time. In any case, I find that the historian’s ranking of Reagan’s ability to persuade the public was more so based upon his presence on the television screen than it was on the written word. “Reagan’s speeches were shorter than most speeches, but crystal clear in its message” (Cannon, 2000).His ability to persuade was in the message he spoke. It is quite possible that the historians credited him with such a high ranking due to his ability to keep his messages short and to the point, yet easily understandable for the common person.

Speaking briefly, in the area of crisis management, President Reagan is a master. It is difficult to argue with the historians that took the C-SPAN survey and ranked Reagan fifteenth on the list of presidential successes during crises. When you compare the surrounding contexts of the president’s in the top positions – Lincoln, F. Roosevelt, Washington, Truman, T Roosevelt (Ranked 1-5 respectively) – one begins to see what kinds of crises would have had to present themselves in order to be ranked among the top. Those who served during times of war or during times when the course of American history might have ended due to state succession are favored in this survey as top leaders in the area of crisis resolution. To be ranked fifteenth among the 42 presidents in this survey (excluding Bush 43 and Obama) demonstrates Reagan’s ability to deal with unusual situations in government politics.

In the same breath that I agree with many of the rankings of the historians, I must also disagree with a few of the rankings President Reagan received in this survey. While the overall rank of 11th best president in the 42-President survey is truly a remarkable achievement, I argue that he deserves better ratings primarily in the areas of his lower scores. Objections can made for a few of his ratings, and I am opposed to the scores of his lower categories in administrative skills, as well as equal justice for all, economic management and international relations. These are four areas where President Reagan clearly outshined many other presidents.

President Reagan was not only a great communicator, but he was a great leader in nearly every area of the office. Even though the survey does not reflect this commendable trait, further research demonstrates an ability to command his administration with great successes. His rating in the area of administrative skill, (Greenstein’s ‘Organizational Capacity’), is not accurate; he was a great administrator. “Reagan liked the cabinet system. What he didn’t like was what he had seen in the Nixon administration, where the White House staff people were telling cabinet members what their orders were” (Strober 101). Reagan saw the importance of the career bureaucrats and did not want the dispute between appointees and bureaucrats to grow out of hand, like he saw under President Nixon. Where President Nixon failed in commanding administration, Reagan was determined to succeed. Through his personal observations, Michael Deaver, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President Reagan stated:

“[President Reagan] never pretended to be a great administrator. It was his force and style that moved the governorship and presidency. Somehow you never expected him to bark orders, or to be very concerned about how things worked. He was the center of what made things work, what moved things. That has been largely misunderstood about him; [the myth is] that he slept in meetings, that he wasn’t intellectual, that he didn’t read” (Strober 97-98).

I’d like to point out that Mr. Deaver noted exactly what the C-SPAN survey reflects: a myth; an unknown quality regarding Reagan’s ability to organize his administration. This myth, largely a misunderstanding, could have been the cause for the objectionably low score in this category. In a press release regarding this myth, he jokingly commented, “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting” (Morris 345). His ability to deal with problems that arose while in the White House was, as I argue, among the best. As any good administrator would do when they came upon a dilemma, “[President Reagan] would referee nasty fights in the White House — and there were a lot of them” (Strober 106). President Reagan brought his executive experience from his previous position as Governor of California to D.C. to benefit his new administration in the White House. “Whatever the obstacle, Reagan had decided to put the imprint of his own corporate style of leadership on Washington. He is transplanting one central element of his Sacramento experience – his use of a small, inner Cabinet as his principal policy-making body” (Smith 167). The use of an inner cabinet to assist the executive branch in policy-making is a symbol of the hierarchical style known to many Republican leaders and a few converted Democratic leaders – more on that later in the paper.

Another area Reagan received low ratings in, which I also disagree with, is his ‘pursed equal justice for all’ category, which does not give credit to the history of determination in creating equal opportunities for all that Dutch exhibited prior to becoming and during his tenure as President. He is quoted as saying, “I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary” (Reagan 435). I would argue that his rating should be significantly higher, primarily on the grounds that the 1930’s and 40’s are when Reagan began his campaign for equal rights that ultimately led to the White House. One of the most notable decisions Dutch made for equality while in office was to appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. We must bear in mind that President Reagan was our oldest President to serve in office. When Ronald Reagan left office, he was the oldest person to ever be the President of the United States, at 78 years old. He was also the oldest person elected president, at 69 years old (Cannon, 2000, p. 15). It was a series of political events in Reagan career that led to the strong motivations for equality among individuals regardless of the situation. Over this period of time, I believe Dutch demonstrated a higher standards of pursuing equal justice for all than this survey of historians demonstrates.

As a young man in Illinois, Dutch was inspired by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Like his father, Ronald Reagan became a devoted supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt after his election in 1932, enthusiastic, like his father, for the reforms of the New Deal designed to pull the country out of the Depression” (Smith 26). There were few places to turn to for inspiration during these dark times, except to the radio, to listen to the President’s “Fireside Chats.” Ronald Reagan and his family fought for equal ‘economic’ rights during the Depression. Listening to the Fireside Chats allowed Reagan to learn from the leaders of his day and those already in politically powerful positions. Dutch Reagan “had become an obsessive supporter of President Roosevelt’s leftward swing” (Morris 205). Nevertheless, as the years progressed, “Ronald Reagan noted that he first began to be aware of what he considered the inefficiencies and blunted indecencies that resulted from an overgrown government…” (Smith 31). This was Ronald Reagan’s first turn in a sequence of events that led him to the Republican Party. Motivated through this epiphany in political ideologies, his political career led to many triumphs in the area of equal justice for all, and he pursued these equal rights in every area ranging from Hollywood, California to Washington D.C. In the late 1930’s while Reagan was working on his career in Hollywood, “Ronald was recruited in 1938 to be a director for the Screen Actors Guild, a union formed five years earlier to give performers more clout in dealing with the all-powerful studios. After his release from the Army in 1945, he rejoined the board and was elected president of the union in 1947, remaining in this role until mid-1952; he was elected for another one year term in 1959” (Strober 31). As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan’s duty was to represent the actors’ best interests from the production companies. Originating back in 1947, Ronald Reagan had begun fighting for equal rights for union members, then for the citizens of California as Governor and finally for all citizens as President of the United States.

Most surprisingly, is President Reagan’s low 41.8 rating on his economic management coupled with his high 77 rating in the category ‘vision.’ I question the historians rating ability as they gave him low ratings for economic management and higher ratings in his vision for the country. I would argue that the two go hand-in-hand; economic management requires great vision if a country is to be successful. Moreover, President Reagan is most well know for coining the term “Reaganomics,” a household name for his economic revitalization plan. “’Supply-side economics’ was the name put forth by younger conservatives who argued that putting more money back in the pockets of taxpayers would jumpstart the economy and lift it to new heights – in earnings, spending, and investment – and actually increase federal revenues to wipe out deficits” (Reeves 11,12). In handling this economic jumpstart, President Reagan appointed David Stockman as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget – a key move and credit to his political skill, which was rated lower than it should have been. This thirty-four-year-old congressman from rural Michigan was the youngest Cabinet officer in more than 150 years, and was delegated to transform the muddle of Reaganomics into hard numbers by February 18, 1981 – the day the President intended to present ‘America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery’ as his first State of the Union message” (Reeves 13). Stockman seemed to be the perfect fit for OMB Director. He first met Reagan’s campaign promises – cutting taxes, building up the military, and somehow cutting the federal budget enough to balance it (Morris 652). He began with budget cuts for the fiscal year 1982. “The goals you gave us are extraordinarily difficult, but I’m pleased to report today that we’re almost there… We have $49.8 billion of savings in the fiscal 1982 budget. We only have $4.3 million to go…We’re 93 percent of the way to the goal you set” (Reeves 18). Interestingly enough, among all the budget cuts Stockman worked out, none of the middle-class entitlements, such as Social Security or Medicare were impacted by those cuts. President Reagan’s appointment and trust in David Stockman demonstrates both his extraordinary skill in managing the economy and his superior political skill. If someone were to ask me to define economic management, I could easily define it in two words, President Reagan. Surely, I would ask the rating historians to reconsider their ranking of President Reagan in this area.

President Reagan was not only an icon when it came to domestic economic policy; he was also very active in foreign relations. The historians give Reagan a 68.6 rating, ranking him 14th among his peer presidents. President Reagan’s administration had a strong impact on relations with the former Soviet Union, Central America as well as in the Middle East. Reverend Jerry Falwell, president of the Moral Majority spoke about Reagan’s foreign policy:

Many thought [Ronald Reagan] was a hawk, but I never saw him that way at all. I think his “peace through strength” initiative was just the opposite. And it turned out to be correct: it brought the Berlin Wall down; it brought Soviet communism to an end. He knew that they could not match us. He broke their back militarily and economically. I believe that this was his goal upon taking office (Strober 147).

In the president’s first nationally televised press conference, “Reagan spoke for the first time, as President, about the Soviet Union and Communism. For him, after decades of crusading anti-communism, the words were routine. For a President, they were harsh” (Reeves 9). Reagan’s peace through strength initiative became apparent when “on July 16, the House approved the administration’s military buildup by a vote of 354 to 63, joining the Senate in approving a $136 billion military authorization bill, appropriating $26.4 billion more than was spent the year before. It was the largest single military authorization bill in history…” (Reeves 76). Reagan’s foreign policy was so successful; it is hard to believe that one president could end a Cold War. “The Russians will tell you that the SDI (Reagan’s conceived Strategic Defense Initiative) brought them down. Nixon didn’t do it, nor did Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, or the Eastern Establishment that has the reputation of a great intellect. Kissinger didn’t have the guts to try that. Ronald Reagan did it” (Strober 571).

Theoretical Approach

For the process of analyzing President Ronald Reagan, I have chosen to use the psychological approaches of Fred Greenstein and George Edwards, whom I have already made reference to earlier in the paper. Two theories are needed to appropriately explain Reagan’s Presidency. The most appropriate theory to employ when analyzing the Reagan Presidency is the “Great Man Theory,” which summarily says that presidents such as Lincoln and FDR were great presidents because they were Lincoln and FDR; not due to some existential circumstance. Reagan’s presidential character and personality almost exactly reflects Greenstein’s six categories of an effective President. George Edwards’ book, “Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy Making” introduces the “Broader Environment” theory, which is fitting for the Reagan presidency due to many external factors influencing Reagan as he guided this nation. As Edwards states, it is appropriate to note that many “studies of the presidency typically describe events, behaviors and personalities” (Edwards 518). The decision to combine both theories allows this paper to analyze President Reagan substantively and quantitatively. It is important to study Reagan not only quantitatively, but as the great man he was. There are a few reasons why a quantitative analysis of the president should not be the chief form of analysis. “The first, the frequent failure to pose analytical questions… The second constraint has been the small number of presidents… [And] The third perceived constraint on the quantitative study of the presidency is lack of data” (Edwards 521). George Edwards’ and Fred Greenstein’s books containing research and theory development, coupled with scholarly articles pertaining to the two ideas, are the two texts guiding the remainder of this paper.

According to Greenstein’s “Great Man” theory, there are six qualities that are vital in understanding the president as an individual. These relate to decision making and actions the president engages in either knowingly or unknowingly.

“The first which pertains to the outer face of leadership is the president’s proficiency as a public communicator. The second, which relates to the inner workings of the presidency, is the president’s organizational capacity – his ability to rally his colleagues and structure their activities effectively. The third and fourth bear on the president as a political operator – his political skill and the extent to which it is harnessed into a vision of public policy. The fifth is the cognitive style with which the president processes the Niagara of advice and information that comes his way. The last is what the German sociologist Max Weber called “the firm taming of the soul” and has come to be referred to as emotional intelligence – the president’s ability to manage his emotions and turn them into constructive purposes, rather than being dominated by them and allowing them to diminish his leadership” (Greenstein 5,6).

As the outer face of leadership, Reagan was known as the ‘Great Communicator.’ C-SPAN’s survey helps to establish him as one of the top four presidential communicators. Reagan hones his communicative abilities well before his bid for the Presidency. “Ronald Reagan set foot on the national political stage on October 27, 1964, when he made a half-hour televised speech for the Republican Presidential Candidate, Barry Goldwater” (Smith 7). This speech was the first of many political addresses President Reagan would make in his time. It was Dutch Reagan’s first job as a sports broadcaster on Des Moines radio station WHO in 1933, that “had the agreeable prospect of addressing himself to millions of new listeners, some as far away as Mexico and New Zealand” (Reeves 117). What better occupation for a twenty-two year old with dreams of entering the political arena than a radio sports broadcaster? “The natural equipment of a sportscaster he already had: lucidity, enthusiasm, and eye for visual detail, and a mouth that moved as fast as his mind. Fast is not a word most Americans today would use in remembering him, but the young Ronald Reagan could out-talk Bugs Bunny” (Reeves 117). Greenstein points out that Dutch picked up his “gift of gab from his salesman father who also had a drinking problem” (146) Later on in Reagan’s career, in one of his most famous speeches delivered in West Berlin, Germany to Secretary General Gorbachev, Reagan’s words resonated through the crowd: “Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” This address in June 1987 became an important part of the Reagan legacy and helped to secure his place among the top orators our nation has elected into the White House.

Character is everything. Reagan’s character continued to show through in his speeches and his messages, being as clear and concise in point as they were, demonstrated his uncanny ability to persuade those populations who heard his word. In his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981, he said, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem” (Greenstein 145). This one phrase does more to explain the philosophies guiding the Reagan Presidency than a host of literature on the topic. Moreover his character is furthered through his experiences as an actor in Hollywood. As discussed earlier, Ronald was recruited in 1938 to be a director for the Screen Actors Guild, and upon his release from the Army in 1945, was elected president of the union in 1947. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan’s duty was to represent the actors’ best interests from the production companies. The point to be made comes from a conversation between Dutch and David Brinkley. Reagan was asked by Brinkley, “Did you learn anything as an actor that has been useful to you as president?” To which Reagan responded, “There have been times in this office when I have wondered how you could do this job if you hadn’t been an actor” (Greenstein 146). By 1964, he had appeared in 53 films. Reagan was one who shaped historical outcomes through judgment decision based upon the man he was, not the circumstances surrounding him – although they influenced decision making in his second term. President Reagan was full of clever and defining statements that displayed the type of man he was inside the White House. Asked of how to implement ‘change’ in America, Dutch responded, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table” (Morris 298).

Greenstein’s second aspect of presidential skills, organizational capacity, is very visible in Reagan’s administration. President Reagan followed the organizational design used by President FDR. “Reagan’s political style was molded by his enthusiasm for FDR, his union experience, and his background as actor” (Greenstein 147). The central management or hierarchical design mimicked an organizational chart of a business – top down management with important positions filled by intelligent men and women. “Reagan had decided to put the imprint of his own corporate style of leadership on Washington” (Smith 147). In fact, Reagan preferred not to fire people in his administration, because of his father’s experience being fired one Christmas during the Depression. Reagan wisely consulted people on staff since “he is not supposed to know everything” (Strober 107). Hollywood had prepared him to take part in the staged public events that were a central feature of his governorship and presidency. What is even more remarkable than his ability to organize and manage his office, was his swagger with Congress and his ability to work with a legislature of the opposing party.

Reagan sought to let the masses in on his economic philosophies, which was a reason for the pledged support. Reagan said in a press release regarding his success with Congress, “Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States” (Edwards 334). Despite Reagan’s 51 percent approval in the first post-inaugural poll (Edwards 115), Reagan had fairly successful political skills with Congress, as shown below in Table 10.1 (Edwards 338). As it is important to note Dutch’s character as president, it is also important to empirically demonstrate the successes he brought about while in office. President Reagan’s average support from the House Republicans was 70 percent and 75 percent from the Senate Republicans over his two terms as president. This data shows that President Reagan was a president who was clearly successful, in part through his Congressional Relations. Even after an assignation attempt, Reagan still worked hard and would not his injury hamper him from performing his duties. “Only nineteen days after being wounded, Reagan began to spend a couple of hours a day doing some of the things he would have been doing if there had been no shooting: writing letters and calling members of Congress – ten or so each day for two or three minutes each – cranking up pressure and support for his economic program” (Reeves 51).

Table 10.1 Presidential Support by Party, 1981-1989

Year President’s Party House Dem % House Rep % Senate Dem % Senate Rep %
1981 R 39 72 33 81
1982 R 30 61 35 72
1983 R 28 71 39 73
1984 R 32 66 31 74
1985 R 28 68 27 76
1986 R 23 72 26 80
1987 R 26 75 27 70
1988 R 24 70 29 68
1989 R 34 71 36 77
Averages House Dem % House Rep % Senate Dem % Senate Rep %
29.33333333 69.55555556 31.44444444 74.55555556

There are not many presidents’ that had such a vision for America as President Reagan did. “As he had during the campaign, he touched on four simple themes: (1) reducing taxes and deficits, thus reducing the power and size of the federal government; (2) rebuilding American military; (3) confronting communism around the world; (4) restoring American patriotism and pride” (Reeves 6).. One great example of Reagan’s vision was his campaign commercial named “Morning in America.” This heartwarming commercial intended to lift the spirits of the nation and look forward to what was in store in the future under his administration. He is famous for his witty sayings, which serve the purpose of conveying the image of Dutch as a person, rather than President One of his lines from the campaign regarding taxes was, “The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it” (Morris 345). Reagan was very determined, specifically on his eradication of communism, that while in discussions with his staff on their Soviet strategy, Reagan interrupted and stated, “I do have a strategy: We win, they lose!” (Reeves 6). Ronald Reagan said during a radio microphone test in 1984, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes” (Morris 298). Rest assured, this phrase did not air and was only meant to be humorous. And In one of Reagan’s final addresses as president, he said, “I’ve spoken of the shining city [on a hill] all my political life. How does it stand, the city, on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago…” (Reeves 486). Reagan’s vision for this country stretched more than his eight years in office and presumably began in his early days as a sportscaster; yet President Reagan always kept such a playful and spirited personality for as aged a man as he was in office. He was as sharp as ever during his tenure, which can be attributed to a kind-hearted, sweet, and tender influence on his person.

It has been said that President Reagan’s foundation for his strong emotional intelligence is none other than Mrs. Reagan. President Reagan’s close aide, Michael Deaver, said “I don’t think Reagan would have been governor, let alone president, without Nancy Reagan” (Strober 48). Nancy Reagan would voice her opinion to Ronald about personnel. “She told her husband whom she trusted and whom she did not” (Reeves 380). “As for her day-to- day role, Mrs. Reagan once told a reporter she liked, Chris Wallace of NBC News, ‘I think I’m aware of people who are trying to take advantage of my husband – who are trying to end run him lots of times – who are trying to use him – I’m very aware of that’” (380). President Reagan thought very highly of his wife Nancy and often consulted her with regards to the integrity of those men and women that filled his staff positions. After his assignation attempt, Nancy was very distraught. Just before he went into surgery, President Reagan joked with the First lady at the hospital, saying, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (Strober 36). When Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, what bothered him the most about the diseases was how it would impact his wife Nancy.

The final theory I will discuss is Edwards’ ‘Broader Environment.’ This also plays a large role in Reagan’s success. President Reagan was elected against President Carter in a landslide. “Reagan won in 1980 for the same reason Carter won four years earlier: The voters did not believe that the incumbent president deserved another four years in office” (Edwards 87). Professor Edwards believes that Reagan was not elected because of his ideology, policy positions, or personal appeal. I believe that Reagan was elected on those factors by the America (Placeholder1)n public, reason being, the public’s views have changed since President Carter served in the White House.

“Four years later, it was another story. The voters rewarded Reagan for a job well done. The 1984 election was a referendum on Reagan’s performance in office. The electorate voted for him then just as they had voted against Carter in 1980. The American people approved of Reagan’s leadership and wanted his tenure in office to continue” (Edwards 87).

Sam Kernell’s theory of President’s ‘Going Public’ did not help Reagan as much as it should have. Granted, Reagan was a public icon as an actor and Governor of California, but after his assignation attempt in March of 1981, President Reagan stayed away from public appearances in fear of his life. After the assassination attempt, Reagan’s public approval was already soaring; therefore President Reagan had no need for “Going Public.” Reagan resorted to influencing congress to pass his economic plans and tax plans, using his high public approval rating as leverage against those few who opposed his bids for legislation to be passed.

Ronald “Dutch” Reagan is undoubtedly one of our most beloved and highly respected United States Presidents. Whether U.S. citizens or diplomats, President Reagan left an impact on those he interacted with during his time in the White House. He once said, “You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by the way he eats jelly beans” (Reagan). If only it were as easy as Dutch put it. This paper has explored many different avenues of analysis for this man’s legacy as President, ranging from numerous biographies from men who studied this great man to a few scholarly articles regarding theories of the Presidency. From the moment he took office, things looked better. This world will miss the witty charm that accompanied this President. “There are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret” (Reagan 575). While President Ronald Reagan was on watch, there were certainly high times as well as low times throughout his eight years in office. He said, “Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have” (Reagan 682). No matter if the issue at hand was defeating communism or passing tax reforms, President Reagan knew how to mobilize his support and certainly deliver a strong speech. “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen” (Reagan). Even his greatest adversary, Mikhail Gorbachev, eventually formed a friendship with Ronald Reagan. Everybody loved Dutch. He was a great man of his time and his last day in office will continue to be admired my all as we look toward the future. Reagan wrote in his diary, “… Nancy and I boarded the helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base. There was a crowd of a few thousand. On board Air Force One and off to California. At Los Angeles Airport, several hundred friends and supporters. Then home and the start of our new life” (Reagan 693).

Works Cited

Covington, Cary R., Kent Kroeger, Glenn Richardson, and J. David Woodard. “Shaping a Candidate’s Image in the Press: Ronald Reagan and the 1980 Presidential Election.” Political Research Quarterly 46.4 (1993): 783-98. JSTOR. Sage Publications, Inc. Web. 7 Nov. 2009. <>.

“C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership.” American Presidents: Life Portraits. National                       Cable Satellite Corporation. 15 November 2007     <>.

Edwards, George C. III and Stephen J. Wayne. Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy Making. 7th ed. Belmont, California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006.

Greenstein, Fred I. The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton. New          York: The Free Press, 2000.

Legislative Studies Quarterly 10.3 (1985): 291-314. Agenda Control and Policy Success: Ronald    Reagan and the 97th House. JSTOR: Comparative Legislative Research Center, Aug.           1985. Web. 11 Nov. 2009.


Miller, Warren E. “A New Context for Presidential Politics: The Reagan Legacy.” Political             Behavior 9.2 (1987): 91-113. JSTOR. Springer. Web. 11 Nov. 2009.


Morris, Edmund. Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House, 1999.

Reagan, Ronald. The Reagan Diaries. Ed. Douglas Brinkley. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Reeves, Richard. President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination. New York: Simon and Schuster,            2005.

Smith, Hedrick, Adam Clymer, Leonard Silk, Robert Lindsey and Richard Burt. Reagan: The Man, The President. New York: Macmillan, 1980.

Strober, Deborah Hart and Gerald S. Strober. Reagan: The Man and His Presidency. Boston:        Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

The Journal of Politics 55.2 (1993): 382-98. Presidential Activities from Truman through Reagan: Timing and Impact. JSTOR: Cambridge University Press. Web. 12 Nov. 2009.


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