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Judi Lynn

(161,405 posts)
Tue Dec 29, 2015, 07:27 AM Dec 2015

Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed”

Monday, Dec 28, 2015 04:15 PM CST

Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed”

Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest
William Leuchtenburg

No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed. At presidential news conferences, especially in his first year, Ronald Reagan embarrassed himself. On one occasion, asked why he advocated putting missiles in vulnerable places, he responded, his face registering bewilderment, “I don’t know but what maybe you haven’t gotten into the area that I’m going to turn over to the secretary of defense.” Frequently, he knew nothing about events that had been headlined in the morning newspaper. In 1984, when asked a question he should have fielded easily, Reagan looked befuddled, and his wife had to step in to rescue him. “Doing everything we can,” she whispered. “Doing everything we can,” the president echoed. To be sure, his detractors sometimes exaggerated his ignorance. The publication of his radio addresses of the 1950s revealed a considerable command of facts, though in a narrow range. But nothing suggested profundity. “You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts,” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”



In all fields of public affairs—from diplomacy to the economy—the president stunned Washington policymakers by how little basic information he commanded. His mind, said the well-disposed Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain.” Speaking of one far-ranging discussion on the MX missile, the Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, an authority on national defense, reported, “Reagan’s only contribution throughout the entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us he’d watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from War Games.” The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully,” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. “But he never knew frijoles from pralines about the substantive facts of issues.” Some thought him to be not only ignorant but, in the word of a former CIA director, “stupid.” Clark Clifford called the president an “amiable dunce,” and the usually restrained columnist David Broder wrote, “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”

No Democratic adversary would ever constitute as great a peril to the president’s political future, his advisers concluded, as Reagan did himself. Therefore, they protected him by severely restricting situations where he might blurt out a fantasy. His staff, one study reported, wrapped him “in excelsior,” while “keeping the press at shouting distance or beyond.” In his first year as president, he held only six news conferences—fewest ever in the modern era. Aides also prepared scores of cue cards, so that he would know how to greet visitors and respond to interviewers. His secretary of the treasury and later chief of staff said of the president: “Every moment of every public appearance was scheduled, every word scripted, every place where Reagan was expected to stand was chalked with toe marks.” Those manipulations, he added, seemed customary to Reagan, for “he had been learning his lines, composing his facial expressions, hitting his toe marks for half a century.” Each night, before turning in, he took comfort in a shooting schedule for the next day’s television- focused events that was laid out for him at his bedside, just as it had been in Hollywood.

His White House staff found it difficult, often impossible, to get him to stir himself to follow even this rudimentary routine. When he was expected to read briefing papers, he lazed on a couch watching old movies. On the day before a summit meeting with world leaders about the future of the economy, he was given a briefing book. The next morning, his chief of staff asked him why he had not even opened it. “Well, Jim,” the president explained, “The Sound of Music was on last night.”

More:
http://www.salon.com/2015/12/28/behind_the_ronald_reagan_myth_no_one_had_ever_entered_the_white_house_so_grossly_ill_informed/

6 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” (Original Post) Judi Lynn Dec 2015 OP
I always wondered why republicans worshipped him. Turbineguy Dec 2015 #1
Republicans are so desperate to hang their hat on SOMEBODY, they chose Reagan. bulloney Dec 2015 #2
On a per-annual basis, Reagan created fewer jobs than Carter jmowreader Jan 2016 #6
I lived in Cali when he was governor Faux pas Dec 2015 #3
Happy to give this a huge kick an rec. love_katz Dec 2015 #4
Great post, Judi Lynn. love_katz Dec 2015 #5

Turbineguy

(37,831 posts)
1. I always wondered why republicans worshipped him.
Tue Dec 29, 2015, 07:34 AM
Dec 2015

Now we know. It was for his ignorance and lack of intellect.

bulloney

(4,113 posts)
2. Republicans are so desperate to hang their hat on SOMEBODY, they chose Reagan.
Tue Dec 29, 2015, 08:00 AM
Dec 2015

Think about it.

Republicans were blamed for getting us into the Great Depression. We went 20 years before we elected another Republican POTUS, but Eisenhower would be branded a flaming liberal by today's standards. Then we had Nixon/Ford and all of the scandal that went with it.

The Republican party made up its mind that they were going to take Reagan and prop him up into this bigger-than-life figure of the party. They've had the media propaganda machine working for them all of this time. You ask a Republican what they stand for, and Reagan was a polar opposite. But, the propaganda machine was in place and these people can turn to the said media to affirm their beliefs about Reagan.

I've gotten into arguments with in-laws who make the comment that we need another Reagan in the White House. I give them both barrels of facts:

Under Reagan:
11 tax hikes vs. 4 tax cuts
Tripled the national debt
Record budget deficits
Took the U.S. from world's largest creditor nation to largest debtor nation
On a per-annual basis, Reagan didn't create any more jobs than Jimmy Carter, the punching bag of Republicans
Reagan did NOT end the Cold War - he happened to occupy the White House when the wheels were coming off of the Soviet Union

And for the family values conservatives:
Reagan is our only divorced president
Nancy was pregnant before marrying Ronnie
When governor of California, Reagan signed legislation that liberalized access to abortions

Despite all of these verifiable facts, they still want to believe that Reagan was the best POTUS of our lifetime. That's what a well-oiled propaganda machine does to your country. Thank you Faux Snooze, RW talk shows and the rest of the lazy-ass "news" media.

jmowreader

(50,834 posts)
6. On a per-annual basis, Reagan created fewer jobs than Carter
Mon Jan 4, 2016, 09:11 PM
Jan 2016

Carter: 2,584,000 jobs per year on average
Reagan: 2,012,000 jobs per year on average

Faux pas

(14,912 posts)
3. I lived in Cali when he was governor
Tue Dec 29, 2015, 08:40 AM
Dec 2015

and pretty much ruined everything and was appalled when he had the audacity to run for president. He was the first example of what an 'entertainer' could do to bring down the country. Knowing, after the fact, that he had Alzheimer's made the whole thing an even bigger debacle.

Hopefully enough of the country remembers this and doesn't make the same mistake with trump.

love_katz

(2,645 posts)
4. Happy to give this a huge kick an rec.
Tue Dec 29, 2015, 02:14 PM
Dec 2015
Reagan's win, and the collusion of the corporate owned media is why I quit watching tv, and it's why I don't own a t.v.
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