(March 4)  The Great Communicator was also a terrific compromiser. What made him so terrific was that he knew the difference between compromising one’s deeply held principles (don’t!) and compromising to achieve significant incremental advancement of those principles (yes, do it!).

Those are the key lessons from the latest in a masterful series of books on former President Ronald Reagan by public affairs ace-turned-historian Craig Shirley. In the case of The Search for Reagan, released just a month ago, the subtitle tells the story: The Appealing Intellectual Conservatism of Ronald Reagan. Crucially, what many so-called conservatives today fail to grasp is that a willingness to reach constructive compromise was a key facet of Reagan’s deeply thought “intellectual conservatism.” In sum, constructive compromise is built into, rather than being an abandonment of, the Reaganite principles that conserve the U.S. tradition that Reagan called a “maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order.”

I interrupt here to say this isn’t a formal book review, not an analysis of the merits and demerits of The Search for Reagan as a whole. Fifteen years ago, I made a rule never to review books formally by friends; in this case, not only is Shirley a longtime friend, but I also edited the whole of one of his earlier Reagan books and did several other small editing projects for him. I have obvious biases in Shirley’s favor, so, in fairness to the reader, I confine myself here to his book’s themes and lessons, not its worthiness or readability.

Shirley’s overriding goal here is to show both that Reagan’s conservatism was a deeply and carefully philosophical undertaking and also that Reagan was determined to give the philosophy a practical effect in government and American culture…. [To read the rest of this column, please do follow this link.]


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