In the mail

Greatness: Reagan, Churchill and The Making of Extraordinary Leaders
by Steven F. Hayward

This summer I listened to an audiobook about Churchill and FDR’s relationship during the War, and my already-great respect for the British Prime Minister grew immensely. Now this book promises to detail comparisons between the man and Murdoc’s favorite modern American president. I’m looking forward to it.

You can expect to see some of my thoughts on the book at some point, but I’ve just started a book on the battle of Khafji during the 91 war, and with so little time to read these days it might be a couple of weeks before I get to it. Meanwhile, a Blogad for the book just came in so click on over (in the right sidebar) and check it out. It begins:

Many today bristle at the thought of drawing lessons of great leadership from Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan. To those with an egalitarian bent of mind, it’s politically incorrect to speak of individual greatness. “Subrational” or “material” events shape history; individuals play little role.


  1. Churchill, like Nelson, was a heavily flawed individual. In extreme circumstances, flaws (such as a pig-headed refusal to admit that you are beaten) are exactly what we need.

  2. Hmmm, must’ve missed where Bush came up in the post. Guess I’ll have to read closer next time. I’d hate to be the idiot posting off topic…

  3. Allow me to make an on-topic post, then. I don’t remember Reagan all that well. I was young and I do not live in the US. I have read about Reaganomics and there is a mixed report card on it. I know he was prez when the Iron Curtain fell, which is great, but I’m not sure how much of it was really up to him. Surely, he was a good statesman, but what made him such a great president, in your opinion? I’m curious to find out. (I’m addressing Murdoc but also anyone else who would like to chime in).

  4. Well, Nicholas, I was in elementary school when Reagan was elected, and barely out of high school when his second term ended, so I’m sure that many of my personal impressions from the time are flawed and would have been far different had I been as learned and wise as I am today. Still, the things at the time that made sense to me were tax cuts/restructuring, military spending/support, and (most of all) the idea that it was okay to still love America. The way he spoke and acted, the things he did, and the way he handled things showed that America was a place of great things and great people, and the we should all be proud of it. Not hanging our heads in shame over Vietnam and Watergate and the Iran hostages like so many seemed to want us to. Two other individual things that stood out to me and probably shaped me personally quite a bit were the bombing of Libya and ‘Tear down this wall’. Looking back today, these things seem even more critical now than they did to a teenager at the time. Re: the ‘Conservative Movement’. There wouldn’t have been one without Reagan winning in 1980. Though many Republicans today are mere shadows of Reagan (at best), without that win in 1980 I suspect that we’d look a lot more like 2005 France than 2005 USA right now. Many think that would be a good thing. They’re welcome to move. +++Please note that I said ‘favorite modern president’, not ‘best’ or ‘most important’. Though I think he probably was, I’m probably not wise or learned enough to argue the many intricacies of policy effectively against a determined opponent.+++

  5. Murdoc covered most of the big points, and alluded to another – Reagan’s direct confrontation with communism. Reagan repudiated the policy of detente, and had a nasty (to liberals) habit of calling a spade a spade. Like the whole evil empire speech. Reagan had two primary objectives – restoring American confidence and defeating the Soviet Union. Happily, these reinforced each other. Through his own talents as a orator and through his actions as president he did much to restore American’s confidence in themselves. The build up of American military power was made possible by the growth in the economy made possible by deregulation and tax cuts. The increase in American power reinforced the will of the electorate. And all of these things gave Reagan the leverage he needed to push the communists to the wall. Unlike most previous presidents, Reagan was actually able to extract concessions from the Soviets. And the moral eleoquence of his ‘tear down this wall speech’ had great influence as well. Reagan represented freedom to people behind the Iron Curtain, and gave them a needed morale boost. All of these things – combined with the insupportable pressure on the Soviet economy as they tried to match American military spending, led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Empire. In my personal opinion, Reagan is certainly in the top five greatest American presidents. I would rank them Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, FDR, Jefferson. Even if you disagree with that, he is certainly one of the five most important presidents. He is also one of the most important figures in world history – like Churchill against the Nazis, Reagan led the fight that ended communism. Gorbachev deserves credit for dealing well with what was handed to him – it certainly could have been worse. But it was Reagan who primarily dealt him that hand.

  6. Ronald Reagan is the single reason that I am pro-cloning. If ever there was a man who could ignore the media-hype and just do the right thing, he was him. For previous commentors, a little history seems in order. Reagan was not actually in office when the iron curtain fell, he was mearly the cause of the fall. He reinforced our military to the point which the USSR could not economically match it. Without firing a shot, he put communism into bankrupcy. Of course, if communism didn’t want to expand using it’s military, they could have continued to exist. But the totalitarian style of communism practiced by the USSR needed to expand (take over new countries) to survive, so it died. Also, he saw the real problems in America. I remember when talking about all the entitlement programs we have in the USA he said, ‘Government is not the solution, government is the problem’. Truer words have yet to be spoken. Being honest, he was probably not a brilliant man. But he had the uncanny ability to see the root of problems, and could find the best minds around to solve them. Man, I miss that guy.

  7. Kevin, you should read the collection of radio speeches he wrote in the seventies. This was a period of time when he was no longer governor of CA, and before he became a candidate for president. He didn’t have a staff – it was just him. And they are all uniformly insightful, witty, well-informed and tightly written. The guy wasn’t dumb at all. He was a fierce negotiator from back when he was president of SAG, and used those skills against Gorbachev. But unlike many intellectuals, he could see that there are only so many things you can do, and he focused on them. He largely ignored terrorism, but he was fighting communism, a much larger threat. Fascinating man, really.

  8. Is the Desert Storm book called ‘Storm on the Horizon?’ A good read about the Marines at Khafji.