Bill Steigerwald

In his second book on Ronald Reagan, “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,” Grove City political science professor Paul Kengor documents Reagan’s lifelong crusade against communism and how hard he worked as president to dismantle the Soviet Empire. Kengor, who earlier wrote “God and Ronald Reagan,” relied on Soviet media archives, declassified presidential papers and interviews with administration insiders to reveal what the Soviets thought of Reagan and what secret actions Reagan ordered to undermine the Soviet economy, assist Poland’s Solidarity movement and aid the Afghan rebels.

Q: What exactly does it mean that you have reassessed Ronald Reagan’s life and presidency through the lens of his anti-communism?
A: Well, you could see Ronald Reagan’s life as preparing and then ultimately taking on Soviet communism. Ronald Reagan was born in 1911. The Bolshevik Revolution took place in October of 1917. The demise of communism really comes from 1989 to 1991; 1989 was the final year of Reagan’s presidency; 1991 was the actual disintegration of the Soviet Union. So really the rise and fall of Soviet communism are the bookends of Reagan’s life.

Mercifully, his mind lasted just long enough to comprehend the Cold War victory and defeat of communism. His letter informing the world that he had Alzheimer’s came in November 1994, so he had that short window from 1989 to 1994 where he could savor the victory. In fact, what historically never gets talked about is that Reagan even made a trip to the Berlin Wall and a trip to Poland in the early 1990s. The parish priest of Lech Walesa handed Ronald Reagan a saber and said, "We are giving this to you for helping us to chop the head off of Soviet Communism.”

Q: So what is it that Reagan had against communism?
A: It was really multifaceted, but I’d say three different areas: One, it was the shear brutality of the Soviet system. You’ve got these basic human rights transgressions -- freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly. The Soviet Union repressed if not snuffed out all of those rights. Add to that the Soviet Union was responsible for the deaths of a lot of people -- anywhere from 30 million to as high as 60 million to 70 million.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..