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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The national best-seller LANDSLIDE, to a certain extent a detailed character-study of Reagan, presents the President as an amiable and compassionate but politically inept man. In assessing him as a statesman, Mayer and McManus assert that his frequent public blunders, misstatements, and inattentiveness are not as important as his lack of decisive leadership qualities and his inability to formulate far-reaching policies.

Ultimately, however, Mayer and McManus are less concerned with analyzing Reagan’s character than with describing the government within the government that they suggest developed in the last four years of his tenure. They picture a mad scramble to control the White House and direct domestic and foreign policy, and their focus on the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages fiasco illustrates one of the likely consequences of a “no-hands presidency.” Even as Reagan repeated his promise of “swift and effective retribution” for terrorism, his staff was shipping missiles to Iran and apparently generating massive profits that poured into the hands of unscrupulous arms dealers and trickled into the hands of Contra leaders. The authors also assert that one result of the Iran-Contra affair was Reagan’s abdication into “numbness and withdrawal,” leaving center stage to others in his administration, including Donald Regan, the White House Chief of Staff, the boss of bosses until he was ousted by Nancy Reagan; William Casey, the CIA “cowboy” in love with covert operations; and Oliver North, who thought it would be “a neat idea” to promote democracy by circumventing constitutional and congressional guidelines and restrictions.


(The entire section is 405 words.)