Sunday, May 5, 2013

Landslide: The Unmaking of the President 1984-1988

1988, possibly first edition, from Houghton Mifflin
Jane Mayer & Doyle McManus
Landslide: The Unmaking of the President 1984-1988
Original price $21.95, purchase price $12.95
Hardcover in good condition

The "landslide" of the title is a pun, both that Reagan won a landslide in '84 (although not really that many of the eligible voters' votes) and that he was sort of buried by the Iran-Contra scandal.  Well, yeah, not exactly.  True, Reagan's credibility was shattered, and his very high approval ratings dropped.  But he's still highly thought of by many.  Not me, as you know.  And that's part of the problem I had with this book.  It's not that the authors entirely let Reagan off the hook, but they seem to see him as kind-hearted, more concerned with the rescue of the hostages than with the law or Congress's approval.  They also accept some of Reagan's premises about Nicarauga.  So they make it seem like Reagan meant well.  This is a far cry from Schell and Lukas's analyses of Watergate, where even when they showed sympathy for Nixon, they never denied his bad intentions.

I was just as sickened reading this book as I was by Iran-Contra (and related matters) at the time.  Yes, there's more distance, but I didn't know then how it would work out, that the Teflon President would survive relatively undamaged (especially in terms of his "legacy"), or that his Vice President would overcome revelations of his own knowledge about the arms shipments and monetary diversions, and go on to pardon McFarlane and five other officials involved.  Reading the book for the first time in a long while, I couldn't decide if I was more disgusted by the dishonesty or the stupidity, to say nothing of what an immoral plan it would've been even if it had worked, even if Congress had known and approved.

Then and now it seems like there are only four possible conclusions:
a) Reagan was too easy-going and "delegated" his own responsibilities to people who couldn't be trusted;
b) Some combination of North, McFarlane, Poindexter, and Casey deceived Reagan, who may or may not have asked the right questions at the right time;
c) Reagan knew what was going on but didn't see anything wrong with it;
d) Reagan knew but couldn't "recall."

Whatever the case, this is a book with no hero, although ironically Nixon survivor George Shultz comes closest to seeming like a decent human being.  (Don Regan probably comes off the worst.)

No comments:

Post a Comment