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Reagan: Master Image Maker

CBS News concludes its look at the Reagan legacy with a look at how Mr. Reagan changed the way American presidents communicate with the people.

When it comes to new ways of looking at presidential politics, few would dispute that Ronald Reagan's style and substance helped set a new course -- and not just for Republicans.

Ronald Reagan wasn't just a popular president; He changed what it meant to be president, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

"The age of television dawned with President Eisenhower, but it's clear President Reagan made it an art form," says John Podesta, President Clinton's former chief of staff.

What Reagan turned into an art form, was the made for TV media event -- an art form he used to end the Cold War, move American politics right of center and somehow convince working class America a wealthy Hollywood actor was one of them.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!'' was one of Reagan's most memorable performances.

It's a script every president since Reagan has tried to reenact.

President George H. W. Bush tried and came up short, with his "Read my lips, no new taxes," speech. One term and he was gone.

If Reagan was the great communicator, Clinton wasn't far behind. He, too, remained optimistic no matter what. And after Reagan moved the nation right, Clinton followed by tugging the Democratic party in the same direction.

And now there's President George W. Bush, the always optimistic compassionate conservative. A prep school cowboy who, like Mr. Reagan, preaches patriotism like a state-sponsored religion.

President Bush also seems to believe, as Reagan did, that when it comes to politics the picture is the message.

"Most people underestimated him, particularly his foes," says Reagan's former Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver. Whether they were political foes or the Russians.

Few people in Washington knew Reagan better or were any closer to him than Deaver.

Asked to talk about some of the things he and the rest of Reagan's cabinet did when he was in office to take advantage of his skills, Deaver says, "I didn't do anything to take advantage of his skills. All I did was light him."

"People say … I was the great image maker," says Deaver. "Hell, I wasn't the image maker, he made me. I didn't make him."

In the end, Reagan was his own man. He simply tried to be himself. It was his last and best role.