Five myths about Ronald Reagan

By Edmund Morris Friday, February 4, 2011; 5:00 PM Washington Post

It has been argued that Ronald Reagan was a myth himself, a construct of his own and other people's imaginings, rather than an extraordinary American about whom some untruths are told. The sentimental colossus his acolytes are trying to erect today, with gilded pecs, red-painted smile and an NRA-approved pistol in each manly fist, bears no resemblance to the man I knew: in private a person of no ego and little charisma, in public a statesman of formidable purpose. This Story
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1. He was a bad actor.
Well, yes and no. Most of the movies he made as a Warner Bros. contract player are unwatchable by persons of sound mind. When he was president, it was easy to laugh at them. The spectacle of the leader of the free world, a.k.a. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft, deploying an enormous ray gun against an airborne armada was especially hilarious in 1983, the year he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, that vaporizer of foreign nuclear missiles. "All right, Hayden - focus that inertia projector on 'em and let 'em have it!"

"Why should I? I have the biggest stage in the world. His two greatest performances. authentic. Capt. when he effortlessly stole Gerald Ford's thunder as nominee and made the delegates regret their choice. a veteran of the Pacific War. in the way a large. colleague Eddie Albert. he was transformed into a superb actor when he took on the roles of governor of California. Ask Patti. when he delivered the supreme speech of his presidency. Reagan. right here!" 2. when he struggled to control a tendency of his lips to writhe around his too-rapid speech. Now that he is dead.particularly in early movies. But that hardly means he did not passionately want to fight for his country overseas. spent weeks processing raw color footage from the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. He kept one of those Army reels to show to each of his children in early adolescence. The images so burned into his brain that later in life . USAAF. in Culver City. however. His Warner Bros. It's true that Reagan spent virtually all the war years flying a desk at the First Motion Picture Unit. Ask Ron. He gestured around the Oval Office. He was warm-hearted. so that they could learn about man's inhumanity to man. one feels an odd tenderness for the effort he put into every role . He registered audiences rather than individuals. But Reagan wasn't cold ." he betrayed infallible signs of thespian mediocrity: an unwillingness to listen to other performers and an inability to communicate thoughts. at "7/200 bilateral. and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1985.he imagined he had been there at Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. Army doctors found his vision to be so defective. he became authoritative. as the FMPU's intelligence officer. Like many another natural leader (George Marshall and Charles de Gaulle come to mind).Even when Reagan believed he was acting well. presidential candidate and president of the United States. irresistible to eye and ear. I asked him once if he had any nostalgia for the years he was nuzzling up to Ann Sheridan and Doris Day on camera. . No. later told me about presenting Reagan with a souvenir from the bloodbath of Tarawa. as in "Kings Row." that a tank could advance within seven feet of him before he could identify it as Japanese.so much as cool. He was but a movie-set soldier in World War II. were at the Republican National Convention in 1976. calm lake is cool." In the spring of 1945. Reagan intimates have confessed to me that they were never sure he knew who the hell they were. "I've never forgotten the way he looked. as never in his movies. 3. Ironically.quite understandably .except in his detestation of totalitarianism . he viewed those who clustered around him abstractedly. Like I'd humiliated him. in my opinion. Then.

on June 21. And until young Ron reminded him. Margaret Cleaver. I'll note only that she was the fourth short. I could feel no resentment against him. Lucky for him he wasn't hampered by Jimmy Carter's intelligence! Edmund Morris was the authorized biographer of Ronald Reagan. marries a wide-eyed girl (who listens adoringly to his speeches) and wins election to public office in Washington. a devotee of the Disciples of Christ. the others being his mother. In addition to "Dutch. I read a speckled copy of that book in the Library of Congress. Almost creepily. street-smart woman he dreamily depended on to organize his everyday life. Reagan wrote: "Seeing his arms spread out as if he were crucified . 5. before critical meetings. But on occasion. Shy about his faith as an adult. Reagan was capable of conventional pieties like all American politicians. his first fiancee. "I want to declare my faith and be baptized. He had no close friends. Jane Wyman. by total immersion. he has published a trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan only performed successfully in six different careers: radio sportscaster. He was only a campaign Christian." his life of the 40th president. He was an "amiable dunce. Read "Five myths about Abraham Lincoln." He was. young Dutch had an epiphany. As for his marriage to Nancy.as indeed he was . put a comforting novel in his hand: "That Printer of Udell's" by Harold Bell Wright." Yeah. At 11. corporate spokesman. movie actor. right.his hair soaked with melting snow. Nelle Reagan." that being the name of a mainly Midwestern. and his first wife. prompted by the sight of his alcoholic father lying dead drunk on the front porch of the family house in Dixon. In a moving passage of autobiography. Reagan was a "practical Christian. social-work-oriented movement when he was growing up. tough. 4. you would see him draw aside and mumble prayers. 1922. Ill. Dutch read it and told her. it didn't occur to him to put a headstone on either of his parents' graves. it tells the story of a handsome Midwestern boy who makes good for the sins of his father by becoming a practical Christian and a spellbinding orator. snoring as he breathed." . On the contrary. Clark Clifford.His three younger children have publicly stated that there were times (decades before any rumors of dementia) when he treated them as complete strangers. He attended few church services as president. He develops a penchant for brown suits and welfare reform." It was the season of Lent. trade union president. and his mother. twoterm governor and two-term president of the United States.

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