Review by Roger Stone
Craig Shirley's “Last Act :The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan”completes Shirley's masterful three part biography of our 40th President. Rendezvous with Destiny (2011) and Reagan's Revolution (2010), make this a trilogy and the definitive account of the life and legacy of Ronald Reagan. Last Act chronicles the years after Reagan reentered private life and for the first time in any publication, explores and establishes his influence and ideology that continued to manifest itself well beyond his death in 2004. Shirley writes with a narrative style that not only offers strong reporting, but shows a tenderness of prose that reveals his affection and the affection of millions of Americans for Ronald Reagan.
The America that faced Ronald Reagan when he took office was struggling with a deep lack of self esteem. Still suffering from post Vietnam blow back and a depressed economy, Americans were ready for a leader. Where as other presidential candidates spoke in campaign slogans, Reagan touched the hearts of the average person. He bestowed upon American politics the great ideals that founded this country and in his own humble way, he proudly admitted his yearning for a better, simpler time. Reagan knew American's wanted this as well.
Unlike leftist historian Rick Perlstein, Shirley tries to understand Reagan, not dismantle him.
Shirley reports how Reagan shaped a new conservatism that attracted people from both political parties. In a sense, Reagan transformed what some considered an outdated ideology into a working reality. In LAST ACT, Shirley describes Reagan's “just say no” to the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. Pressure on Reagan for massive government intervention was answered with “no.” The comparison that Shirley makes with the Bush bailout in 2007 serves to underline the difference between Bush and Reagan which reflect the difference between Wall Street and Main Street.
Last Act has warmth missing in the hurly-burly of Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 Presidential campaigns. Shirley clearly understands the public’s love affair with Ronald Reagan and his leadership style.
Last Act recounts the openness and humility that Reagan displayed when faced with the news of his oncoming Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than a letter of sorrow, Reagan wrote of his deep thanks to the American people for allowing him to serve as president and used his disease as an education tool. Craig Shirley has established that he is the biographer of Ronald Reagan. Last Act is not to be
Roger Stone is author of The Clintons' War on Women (with Robert Morrow), Jeb! and the Bush Crime Family: The Inside Story of an American Dynasty (with Saint John Hunt), The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, Nixon's Secrets: The Rise, Fall, and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon and Dorothy, "An Amoral and Dangerous Woman": The Murder of E. Howard Hunt's Wife – Watergate's Darkest Secret