Thou Shalt Honor Thy Father, and former Leader of the Free World















       As we go to bed tonight, still angered and saddened by the scorn and abuse hurled at decent folk and decent opinion the past week, we learn that it is getting cranked up yet again.  The inspiration this time comes from the writing of Ron Reagan, Jr. in his book My Father At 100.  In it, he reportedly posits that his father was in the beginnings of his Alzheimer’s as early as the first term of his presidency.  As we post this evening we read that Junior will be appearing on ABC’s 20/20 to plug his book and, presumedly, to further advance the notion that his father started stumbling, mentally, in 1984.

This story broke this afternoon.  We first heard it on the evening news and it is now breaking out all over the blogs.  One excerpt from the book has Reagan, jr. recounting how in a 1984 debate with Mondale, his father’s stumbling in a debate with Walter Mondale left him (junior) in fear and nausea at the thought that his father’s advancing age was going to mark his second term.

Medical professionals interviewed so far, including some who were around during Reagan’s second term, have said that there was absolutely no indication of Alzheimer’s during the time Ron Jr. references, but the younger Reagan assures us that we all now know that the onset of Alzheimer’s can be years before being medically discovered.  Well, sure.  And we are not here challenging Junior’s apprehension in 1984, for that is impossible to ascertain.  What we are challenging is both the propriety of this, shall we say, “bombshell” being offered at this moment,  or at all, and the callous disregard, if indeed it is disregard, for the ways in which it will be used.

      We have in the past wondered at the antics of the young Reagan, his seeming mockery of the tenets and values his father championed.  Once his father had definitively slipped into his affliction, it seemed Junior felt free to hack and hew at the traditional values the elder Reagan had always espoused.  Politics is politics and lifestyle is lifestyle, but there is such thing as respect for our sires and dams, even if their comprehension wanes.  We have not, of course, read the full text, nor will we.  Professionals will flesh this out and we defer to their expertise. And in the end perhaps it will be just an honest bleak spot in an otherwise respectful work issued in this, the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth.  But why was it led with?  And who led?  Was it Ronnie or the dark and vengeful media?  And is there any separation there?

     And of course there is more disgust to be had than just at Ronnie for what we perceive to be an unnecessary anecdote in his book.  It is his book and it is his father.  But for millions and millions of Americans, Reagan was something of a father figure, doubtless because of, not just his maturity, but the fact that America was during his tenure as President trying to emerge from a nonconformist, nihilistic adolescency, and a very destructive and dangerous one at that.

     And more.  Many of us had grown up under the cloud of the uncertainty of the continued existence of civilization as we knew it.  Oh, yes, we had our rockn’roll and our Davey Crockett hats and our tricked-out cars and our cheeseburgers.  But always in the background, and sometimes bubbling to the fore, was the specter of Mutual Assured Destruction.  Now, real historians and journalists have written volumes on brinkmanship and leadership and real threats and imagined threats.  No need to hash it out here.  Suffice it to say that few did not acknowledge Ronald Reagan Senior as the Senior Partner in the Keeping the World Safe for Freedom Corporation.  He may not have been your hero, Ronnie, but to millions laboring to pull free from domination during those times, he surely cannot now be cast as just a senile old man.

Again, as we retire tonight, Stephen Lowman blogs in the Washington Post: “President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s while in office, according to son.”  And the comments.  The comments are awful.  Politico is on the story. Others.  Some of the comments are against The Right.  Some personally against the former President. Speculation already begun on “Who was really running the show?”, et cetera.  Wikileaks and Jared Loughner will now take a back seat.  As will honor, decency,  respect, history and, quite probably, truth.