Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography (Book Review) by jgn on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Reading, Reviews, and Getting-rid-of-old-drafts-series

Andrew Helfer, with art by Steve Buccellato and Joe Staton, Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography (Hill and Wang, 2007). [Amazon]

[Actually written 21-Feb-2008] I've had the stomach bug for a few days, and when I'm sick and don't have to type and look at the monitor, I read books. So near the top of my list was this graphic novel treatment of the biography of Ronald Reagan. I'm not sure now if this was the best reading during an illness, but there you are. I've read rather many biographies and autobiographies: And here's the appropriate reacton to a great biography or autobiography (you need one of these about every two or three pages): "Wow, that's crazy." With a Reagan biography, you get one of these on every page, so it's high value. About the only thing I can compare to it for sheer thrills is Nixon's autobiography (RMN: Read it).

So here are my top five crazinesses from the biography:

  1. Reagan so frequently confused fiction (movies) with reality, and accepted at face value charming-but-false human interest stories which he would re-use in his speeches, that his backers hired the Behavior Science Corporation (BASICO) to create a system to to keep Reagan on message. They introduced a scheme of scripted points on index cards -- talking points. (p. 50)
  2. When during the Presidential transition Jimmy Carter briefed Reagan on domestic and foreign policy issues, Reagan didn't ask questions or take notes. But when Carter was done, Reagan asked for the index card Carter used. (p. 63)
  3. Reagan was a Democrat until 1962. (p. 43)
  4. Reagan ratted out SAG members he thought were communists; his code-name was T-10 (his wife Jane Wyman was also an informant . . . code-name T-11). Some band needs to use "T-10" for something. (p. 29)
  5. Grenada, Stockman, Joan Quigley, Bitburg, Iran/Contra . . . OK, I'm cheating, but there's just too much fun!

In any case, it was an interesting bio to read in this form; because of his time in the movies, there are great visuals to carry the reader through the early parts of the story. Then at the end you have salutary opportunities for visual caricature (Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, etc., etc.).

Recommended, it you have the stomach for it.

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