Since moving to Austin this past May, I have become a regular visitor to the Austin Public Library. Given the wide selection the library has due to its extensive branch exchange program, I’ve had almost no need to purchase books. However, a handful of books this year have been given a permanent home on my bookshelves. Most were Nixon biographies that came from my sister, but a few came from the Book Exchange, a used bookstore in Austin.
The greatest new (non Nixon) book in my collection is called For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington by Reagan’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Donald T. Regan. Finding it was a better argument for bookstores and capitalism than the author or his boss could ever give. And Reagan was always praising local bookstores.
Knowing that most of you are very particular about which Reagan cabinet memoirs you read, you might be asking, “Was this book as well received by critics as it was by this blogger?” Was it ever. One word reviews of praise decorate its front page; Business Weekly declared it “Explosive!” while Fortune called it “Deadly!” More words on included on the front and back pages and they all make as much sense if you think about the Reagan years enough.
Longer reviews in the first pages reveal that this book is going to get to the heart of his animosity towards Nancy Reagan, a shocking first considering the wonderful friendships between other first ladies and secretaries of the treasury. In a word, “He seriously hated Nancy Reagan,” Time magazine. Time actually called the book “Jarring!” but like anything from Time it is all about reading between the lines.
Another inside review claims this book isn’t just the story of a Treasury Secretary and the astrology loving lady he loved to disagree with, when that’s only the first two pages. Or the other 31 pages that mention astrology. But astrology isn’t what makes this book so Deadly! and Explosive! The real culprit is tax policy.
I will post an entire passage from the book here, so you can witness for yourself just why USA Today called it (this is the best one word book review of all time) “Spicy!” Warning: this may be too spicy for weaker readers.
“On March 15 we would decide which kind of income tax system to pursue. By June 15 we would have a detailed analysis of the tax base, with particular attention being paid to deductions and credits. We would also have an analysis of special rules for special industries: oil and gas, real estate, banking and all the others who had benefited from tax breaks. By October 15 the complete tax reform package would be ready in outline form. And by November, we would go to the President with our final recommendations.”
Spicy indeed. Just rereading it made my eyeballs burst into flames. I haven’t read of a tax reform package this caliente since the night Eisenhower spilled a bowl of his famous five alarm chili over his speech on tax legislation recommendation..
Speaking of hack writing, the book also includes a variation of my favorite line from any movie with a president, “He’s the President of the United States. He commissioned the report!” I can only hope that future presidential movies add those last four words. At least they will be included when the inevitable movie version of For the Record is released.
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