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National Treasure

Christopher Hitchens, 14 November 1996

Jacqueline Bouvier: An Intimate Memoir 
by John Davis.
Wiley, 256 pp., £14.99, October 1996, 0 471 12945 3
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... of First Ladyhood and a Frank Sinatra-hosted inaugural party. All the things, in short, for which Nancy Reagan was later to be lampooned. But, as any one who has ever argued with a fan will swiftly appreciate, nothing is wrong if a Kennedy does it. ‘Class’, you see. ‘American royalty’ is the phrase most often and – for my money – most aptly ...

Feral Chihuahuas

Jessica Olin: A.M. Homes goes west, 22 June 2006

This Book Will Save Your Life 
by A.M. Homes.
Granta, 372 pp., £14.99, June 2006, 1 86207 848 3
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... Former First Lady and the Football Hero’, perhaps her most ambitious story, Homes depicts Nancy Reagan visiting online chat rooms so that she can experience anonymity. Why has she resorted to such threadbare territory here? This is Homes’s first novel in six years, and her penetrating critique has given way to self-help truisms: ‘There is no ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales, 21 October 2004

... in its infancy, barely a year old and only six months independent of the New York Review, Ronald Reagan didn’t simply take the US presidency from Jimmy Carter: he also, as Danny Goldberg argues in Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit (Miramax, $23.95), wrested political access to pop culture from the Democrats. ...

Big Man Walking

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev’s Dispensation, 14 December 2017

Gorbachev: His Life and Times 
by William Taubman.
Simon and Schuster, 880 pp., £25, September 2017, 978 1 4711 4796 8
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... character of the pair, insistent on giving her opinion on everything with pedantic accuracy (Nancy Reagan, thirty years later, couldn’t stand being constantly corrected by her). Taubman makes clear that the combination of her outspokenness and her unshakeable loyalty held her husband together through terrible times, when without her he might have ...

Doctor Feelgood

R.W. Johnson, 3 March 1988

Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home 
by Garry Wills.
Heinemann, 488 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 434 86623 7
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... Would you believe,’ asked Ronald Reagan, opening his campaign for Governor in 1966, ‘that 15.1 per cent of the population of California is on welfare?’ A pretty shocking figure, you might think, for the Golden State in the midst of the Vietnam War boom: no wonder Reagan’s well-heeled backers were so righteously indignant about all their tax money going to all those layabouts ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Adam Shatz: Mass Incarceration, 4 May 2017

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America 
by James Forman.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., £21.98, April 2017, 978 0 374 18997 6
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... in 1971, presided over the birth of mass incarceration, but there was a dramatic escalation under Reagan, who launched his own War on Drugs in 1982, at a time when less than 2 per cent of Americans considered drugs to be the most important issue facing the country. This was also the year crack arrived, devastating poor black neighbourhoods already shaken by ...


Christopher Hitchens, 24 August 1995

To Renew America 
by Newt Gingrich.
HarperCollins, 260 pp., £18, July 1995, 9780060173364
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... and open-minded spirit. Let us by all means approach the Gingrich factor in this way. Way back in Reagan’s first term, I was invited to CNN’s Crossfire studio to debate something or other. The usual form was – and still is – that some right-wing bigmouth would be asked to say how bad Communism or terrorism or child abuse or drug addiction was, and ...

America is back

Alan Brinkley, 1 November 1984

... Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale have presented the American electorate with as clear an ideological choice as any set of Presidential candidates in the 20th century. The two men disagree fundamentally on their prescriptions for the economy, their approaches to national defence, their views of foreign policy, their stances on social issues ...


Angela Carter, 2 July 1981

Original Sins 
by Lisa Alther.
Women’s Press, 608 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7043 2839 9
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Amateur Passions 
by Lorna Tracy.
Virago, 192 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 86068 197 1
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... enough, the final effect of the novel is of exactly the callous indifference that voted in Reagan. She does allow herself to warm a little towards a conspicuous lack of aspiration: towards Donny’s wife, who won’t stop straightening her hair; towards the stubborn hillbillies, who refuse to be told by Raymond what to do with their lives. But she ...

Feeling Right

Will Woodward: The Iowa Straw Poll, 16 September 1999

... with the recognisable language and manner of Labour Party activists. One guest of the Hatches, Nancy Stillians, is preoccupied with campaign finance reform, and tells me ideally she would vote for a bizarre dream-ticket of Bradley and Republican senator John McCain, who both advocate it. But most are straightforwardly undecided between Bradley and the ...

The Silences of General de Gaulle

Douglas Johnson, 20 November 1980

Mon Général 
by Olivier Guichard.
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Lettres, Notes et Carnets: Vol.1 1905-1918, Vol.2 1919-1940; 
by Charles de Gaulle.
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Le Colonel de Gaulle et les Blindés 
by Paul Huard.
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... appealed because he was able to show how he had assumed all the complicated burdens of office, but Reagan appealed because he was able to show himself as a direct man who had the determination to dominate and solve problems. Carter is not at ease within himself; Reagan is a man who is at ease. Such judgments flow easily from ...

In the Land of the Free

Christian Lorentzen, 22 November 2012

... pregnancies ‘that God intended to happen’, they may have outlasted their usefulness. But since Reagan, Republicans’ success in drawing their opponents to the right is undeniable. George McGovern died on 21 October. He lost to Nixon in 1972, calling for a complete withdrawal of US troops from South-East Asia, a 37 per cent cut in defence spending, and an ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Springtime for Donald, 20 February 2020

... of 59 countries bent on deposing Nicolás Maduro. Was a coup already in progress? At this point, Nancy Pelosi jumped to her feet and clapped. So did the Democratic Party en masse. They would support Trump in this as they had when he bombed Syria, and as, with vague demurrals, they had supported his assassination of the Iranian general Qasem ...

Short Cuts

Mike Davis: Rio Grande Valley Republicans, 19 November 2020

... by the House should have been the basis for an aggressive campaign, but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, allowed the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to take it hostage and Biden, mumbling through the two presidential debates, never really crusaded to free it. Meanwhile, the third-quarter employment figures, however misleading, gave Trump an ...

Was he? Had he?

Corey Robin: In the Name of Security, 19 October 2006

The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government 
by David Johnson.
Chicago, 277 pp., £13, May 2006, 0 226 40190 1
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Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security 
by David Cole and James Dempsey.
New Press, 320 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 1 56584 939 6
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General Ashcroft: Attorney at War 
by Nancy Baker.
Kansas, 320 pp., £26.50, April 2006, 0 7006 1455 9
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State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration 
by James Risen.
Free Press, 240 pp., £18.99, January 2006, 0 7432 7578 0
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Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush 
by Eric Boehlert.
Free Press, 352 pp., $25, May 2006, 0 7432 8931 5
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... including racism and the blinkered interests of the intelligence bureaucracy. But a key factor, as Nancy Baker shows in General Ashcroft, her comprehensive assessment of John Ashcroft’s tenure as Bush’s first attorney general, is that conservatives view national security through the lens of their ongoing Kulturkampf against the 1960s. As attorney general ...

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