Three Days in Moscow – Bret Baier

Reagan

Three things I didn’t like about this book:

  • Baier tells about an event that happened less than a year after the assassination attempt on Reagan when he threw out the first pitch on opening day of the 1982 MLB season at a Baltimore Orioles game. He says that Reagan showed how well he’d recovered from the shooting by going out to the pitcher’s mound and throwing a fastball right across the plate.  The players who escorted him to the mound assumed he’d stand in front of the mound, but he stood the full 60’6” distance and threw it all the way.  Neat story.  One problem – it never happened.  I read a book several years ago written by a Secret Service agent who served numerous presidents, Reagan being one of them.  He recounted that story in his book and talked about how nervous the Secret Service guys were that Reagan actually wanted to go on the diamond.  Before Reagan, there’d never been a president go on the field – they always threw from the stands.  Reagan, however, was insistent that he throw from the field.  Therefore, they compromised and allowed him to go on the diamond, but not all the way to the mound.  He stood in front of the dugout and threw to a member of the Orioles there.  AND – it took place on opening day of the 1984 season, not 1982 (so it wasn’t a test of his recovery from the assassination).  So here’s my question – if you get something like that wrong (something that’s easily researchable), doesn’t it call into question just about everything else you write in the book?  And doesn’t it show a fairly high disregard for your readers that you assumed they’d just like hearing a good story about Reagan without worrying about the facts?
  • The book has pictures in the middle just like most historical books do. There are pictures of Reagan throughout his life – childhood, Hollywood career, governor of California, Presidency, etc. – and then on the last page are pictures OF THE AUTHOR.  Three pictures to be exact.  Here’s Bret researching the book at the Reagan Library (apparently didn’t have the facts on the first pitch there), Bret slapping five with the Reagan statue at the library, Bret paying his respects at Reagan’s grave.  I realize Baier is a celebrity in his own right because of Fox News, but come on, how big does your ego have to be to include pictures of YOURSELF in a book about someone else in which you play no role?
  • The title is Three Days in Moscow, but the Moscow story isn’t covered until about the last third of the book. The majority of the book is an abbreviated biography of Reagan.  And really, even the story of the three days boils down to the speech Reagan gave at Moscow State University.  The speech was fantastic – the text of the speech is included in its entirety – but to describe it as part of a landmark three days in history (as the title of the book implies) seems like quite a stretch.  Based on content, Baier really could’ve entitled the book, Great Speech in Moscow, and made it about 50 pages (which, admittedly, might’ve retarded sales a bit).

So with those three issues you’re assuming I don’t recommend the book, right?  Well – yes and no.  Most of the book really is essentially a biography of Reagan, and if that’s what you’re looking for there are better ones out there (the one by Dinesh D’Souza is excellent).  On the other hand, he does include quite a bit about the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev and that’s really interesting (if he weren’t trying to piggyback on his Eisenhower book – Three Days in January – Baier could’ve more accurately called this book Reagan and Gorbachev).  And, it’s an easy read and a quick way to polish up on your Reagan knowledge (other than Baltimore Orioles trivia) so it’s not a waste of time.  Baier is a good writer and keeps your interest.

So my recommendation is neutral.  If you can get by the Three Things I Hate About Three Days in Moscow you might enjoy the book.  If you can’t, you won’t.  For me?  I’m not unhappy I read it but I’m also not looking for any other Bret Baier books to put on my reading list.

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