Ronald Reagan became the 40th president of the United States more than thirty years ago, and ever since he stepped down to return to California eight years later, historians, political scientists, and pundits of all stripes have debated the meaning of his presidency.
All modern presidents undergo reappraisal after their terms in office. Reagan has undergone a similar reappraisal. The old view, exemplified by Clark Clifford’s famous characterization that Reagan was “an amiable dunce,” posited Reagan as a great communicator, to be sure, but one without substance, a former actor who knew the lines others wrote for him, but intellectually an empty suit.
Reagan, in the old narrative, simply could not be the architect of anything positive that happened while he was president. That perspective has changed forever and is marked by the continually improving regard historians have for Reagan.
View the Ronald Reagan FOIA documents.