So it was with more than a few grains of salt that I accepted his book recommendations back in February at the Superbowl, where he and I watched together at my cousin's home (his son's house) here in Arizona, eating Brats, drinking beer, and discussing politics - he gave me hard cover copies of Jeff Sharlet's C Street, The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy and William Kleinknecht's The Man Who Sold The World, Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America. I'd read Sharlet before and enjoy his work (link here) as he's factual, detailed, fastidious in his research, and has a conversational writing style that is easy to follow. But Kleinknecht's title, on the other hand, seemed a little over-the-top. This book's cover did not lie.
Kleinknecht's premise was a good one - that Reagan's worshipers have forgotten, or have intentionally re-written the history of all the parts of this former B actor's life that don't sell well to the average-Joe American in an effort to
- accelerated America's slide towards mediocrity
- began the roll back of Johnson's and Nixon's civil rights and welfare initiatives
- drove the national debt ever higher with unfunded military spending increases
- presided over the beginning of the decline in corporate research spending
- began the practice of installing incompetent bureaucrats and kleptocrats into executive branch departments (like HUD, Labor and Education) where corporate and individual officials' greed went unchecked
- epitomized hypocrisy of saying he represented the common man while distancing himself from the common in his policies, actions, and political course
... but he lost me in the diatribes and tangential rants about this minor official or that minor personality who Reagan promoted or pardoned and didn't focus enough (in my perspective) on Reagan himself. yes, to some extend a person is defined by the friends and company he keeps, but a US President has alot of company, and incompetent, dishonest, and evil people can be found in every presidential staff if you look long enough. Granted, for Reagan's, you didn't have to look too hard, but as I was reading the book on air planes (ESPECIALLY during take offs and landings, when everyone else had to shut down their ipad and kindles... HaHa! ... and try giving an electronic book to your nephew after you've read it, and let me know how well that works for you) I kept thinking to myself "How is this much different from all the hateful; slanted, derogatory crap that Coulter, Malkin, Hannity and Beck have written about Clinton and Obama?" Sure, Kleinknecht doesn't have a corporate leviathan like News Corp paying him as the Repugnican mouth pieces do, but that doesn't make his work more palatable. Had he stuck more to his premise, and been less hyperbolic, I would have enjoyed his work much more.
Not sure what I'll be taking on my next trans-oceanic flight next month... but I am sure I'll have a book in my hands during take offs and landings, if I am not asleep.