You can always find people, ordinary people, who will support your particular view, so it becomes a politics of personality, especially at the presidential level. People often go for somebody that they like or somebody that they can identify with.
To me, the puzzle of Ronald Reagan is how a comparatively ordinary man, someone with not extraordinary talent, accomplished such extraordinary results. At the age of 50, no one expected that this was going to be the guy who would become, at least in my interpretation, one of the two most important presidents of the 20th century.
I've been writing American history for a long time, and I've had a hard time finding strong, interesting female characters. There are women, of course, in American history, but they're hard to write about because they don't leave much of a historical trace, and they're not usually involved in high-profile public events.
There is a certain kind of sobering, civilizing effect that being president imposes on people. There is a certain kind of dignity with which you comport yourself. As an observer of the presidency, I have to wonder if Trump would follow that pattern.
He used humor more effectively than any president since Abraham Lincoln. Reagan was not an especially warm person, but he appeared to be. Many people disliked his policies, but almost no one disliked him.
In the business arena, the standard rules of morality don't apply. What we're really looking for is efficiency. It doesn't do anyone any good to be nice to the weak. In a certain sense, competition is inefficient.
A lot of people were ambivalent about Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson in 1964 positioned himself as the peace candidate. Once Johnson sent large amounts of troops into battle in 1965, most Americans were behind the war.
Politics is not something most people have to do every day. Their daily lives are much more influenced by job opportunities, whether the country is in a recession or a boom period. If you really want to understand what drives American history, look at the economic... side.
Reagan's enduring value as a conservative icon stems from his resolute preaching of the conservative gospel, in words that still warm the hearts of the most zealous conservatives. Yet Reagan's value as a conservative model must begin with recognition of his flexibility in the pursuit of his conservative goals.
Every year, I have my graduate students read the great works of history, from classical times to the present. They gamely tackle Tacitus, ponder Plutarch, plow through Gibbon. Then they get to Thomas Carlyle and feel like Dorothy when she touched down in Technicolor Oz.
In the early days of the republic, the secretary of state was the heir apparent to the president. Presidents could easily hand-pick their party's next candidate. The party caucuses formally selected the candidates, but presidents guided the process.
President Trump is doing what he can to act decisively. And if there's one thing most people have in mind in distinguishing the business world from the political world is that the CEO of a business can act decisively.
Reagan refused to demonize his foes. Instead he charmed them, with a few exceptions, including Tip O'Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House and the embodiment of the liberalism Reagan sought to reverse.
You might say presidents are drafting the first chapter of their memoirs in these seventh-year State of the Union addresses. They're trying to get the public and the media to think about their presidencies in the way that they would like to have them thought of.
I had this grand plan for writing the history of the United States in six volumes. This was in the mid-1990s; I was fairly young and very ambitious. I pitched it to a publisher, who just laughed at me.
The president of the United States from the 1940s until 2017 was considered the leader of the free world - probably the most powerful person in the world - not simply in terms of America's military might but in terms of the moral authority of the president. Donald Trump has largely abdicated that.
Some years ago, I read Thomas Carlyle's history of the French Revolution, and I was very taken by the way he told the story, and it seemed as though I was right in the middle of things. And it took me a while to figure out how he achieved that effect, and one of the ways was to write it in the present tense.
Reagan gave essentially the same speech from the beginning to the end of his political career, which was always, 'The American people are great, the government always screws things up, let's get the government out of the way.' On the foreign policy side it was, 'Communism is bad, and we're going to defeat it.'