Still riding his father’s coattails, Ron Reagan, Jr sat down Friday with 20/20’s Elizabeth Vargas, promoting his new book. “My Father at 100, A Memoir” (out one week after the new release of Reagan, Sr’s “An American Life: The Autobiography”) is marketed as commemoration of 40th president Ronald Reagan, who died of pneumonia in 2004, as his 100th birthday approaches Feb. 6.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Ron’s memoir “gives us funny … measured views of his father’s qualities as an antagonist.” This back-handed contention is palpable in the interview, as are digs at Ron’s legendary father and other powerhouse conservatives, plus an inordinate emphasis on Reagan’s Alzheimer’s.
Most egregious is Ron exploiting his father’s illness to try and keep himself relevant. Associated Press reports Ron musing: “Does this delegitimize his presidency? Only to the extent that President Kennedy’s Addison’s disease or Lincoln’s clinical depression undermine theirs.”
Ignored are Reagan’s formidable accomplishments (cutting taxes, reducing inflation, ending the Cold War, curtailing worldwide communist threat, spurring unprecedented peacetime prosperity…) For someone implying his father shouldn’t be judged for his weaknesses, Ron sure harps on them with this maudlin tripe decrying how pitiable old dad was distant and got bad about forgetting things. Enough already, Jack McFarland. The public is not your therapist.
Politically left as his father was right, Ron takes a swipe at the Tea Party movement, telling Vargas he thinks his father would be “terribly uncomfortable … at the vitriol … directed at our current president.” Begs the question how his father would view him advocating bringing a gun to the fight for social justice, as Ron told Hardball’s Chris Matthews last month: “You do what you need to do to win.” Or what the Great Communicator would think of Ron’s MSNBC cohort Keith Olbermann spewing: “Reagan’s dead and he was a lousy president.” Ron disdains those who never knew his father projecting about his mindset; but given past indication, likelihood is strong Reagan would have forgiven Olbermann just as he did John Hinckley, Jr’s assassination attempt that sliced a bullet to his chest. That’s living the Christian life.
Saving grace note of the Vargas interview is the genuinely touching footage of Nancy Reagan at her husband’s funeral, especially given the extraordinary bond they shared. CNN’s Larry King recalls: “Theirs was an absorbing love … Some say it might have been to the detriment of the children, because the kids came second to the love affair.”
Ron certainly plays up the detriment angle. He and Vargas chuckle over how his parents were unsettled by his skidding around Saturday Night Live in his tighty whities, and his pursuing ballet. But on page 20 of his “Diaries,” Reagan praises Ron’s balletic prowess, writing: “He has a grace remindful of Fred Astaire—a little extra flair that makes it all look easy.” Too bad this athletic grace didn’t translate to a more appropriate, dignified tribute befitting his father’s superb legacy. Curling up with a book by Reagan, Sr seems a much better time investment.