Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2007

Excerpts of Reagan’s diaries released

May 3, 2007

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U.S. President Ronald Reagan winces as he was shot by an assailant outside a Washington hotel in this March 30, 1981, file photo. Reagan described the experience simply in one of his presidential diaries: "Getting shot hurts." Excerpts of his diaries are published in the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan winces as he was shot by an assailant outside a Washington hotel in this March 30, 1981, file photo. Reagan described the experience simply in one of his presidential diaries: "Getting shot hurts." Excerpts of his diaries are published in the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

— After he was seriously wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt, Ronald Reagan described the experience simply in one of his presidential diaries: "Getting shot hurts."

That excerpt and many others form a portrait of an uncomplicated and amiable man who - despite occasional periods of worry and bursts of temper - took his eight years in the White House pretty much in stride.

Excerpts from the writings, which are in the custody of Reagan's widow, Nancy, were published in the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine, which went on newsstands Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles. They were edited by historian Douglas Brinkley for a book.

Reagan wrote on a wide range of topics, including losing his temper with the Soviet Union, fearing for the world's survival, arguing with son Ron Reagan and daughter Patti Davis, and suffering through an embarrassing moment with Prince Charles in which the heir to the British throne was served tea brewed from a tea bag.

In the entry about the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. outside a Washington hotel, Reagan recalled how he first thought he had suffered just a broken rib at the hands of a Secret Service agent who shoved him into a car and jumped on top of him after the shooting started.

"I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart where I was stripped of my clothes," Reagan wrote. "It was then we learned I'd been shot and had a bullet in my lung."

Reagan, who died in June 2004 at age 93, never kept a diary before entering the White House in 1981. During his two terms in office, he faithfully wrote every day except when he was in the hospital.

Each page of the diaries - five 8-by-11 hardback books bound in maroon leather - are filled to the bottom with Reagan's neat handwriting. He sometimes used abbreviations, often referring to Democrats as "Dems" or "Demos," for example, and he never wrote out curse words, substituting h--l for hell.

Family life

The diaries display a spare writing style that still gives a colorful peek into the private thoughts of one of the most popular presidents in modern American history.

In one entry, Reagan scoffed at the assertions of one-time chief of staff Don Regan that he and his wife relied on astrological advice.

"The press have a new one thanks to Don Regan's book. We make decisions on the basis of going to astrologers," he wrote in May 1988. "The media are behaving like kids with a new toy - never mind that there is no truth in it."

In another, he reported on a 1987 phone call he made to then-Education Secretary Bill Bennett.

"Told him I was sure someone had apprised him of our son Ron's article on AIDS in People mag," Reagan wrote. "Ron gave both of us h--l. He can be stubborn on a couple of issues & won't listen to anyone's argument. Bill volunteered to have a talk with him. I hope it can be worked out."

At another point, Reagan noted, "Ron called this evening all exercised because S.S. (Secret Service) agents had gone into their apartment while they were in California to fix an alarm on one of his windows. I tried to reason with him that this was a perfectly O.K. thing for them to do ... I told him quite firmly not to talk to me that way & he hung up on me. Not a perfect day."

In another entry a few weeks later, Reagan said he wasn't talking to his son until he apologized for hanging up.

In one from April 1984, he said "Patti screamed & complained so much" about her privacy being invaded that her Secret Service detail was being eliminated, leaving her security at risk.

"Insanity is hereditary," he wrote. "You catch it from your kids."

Reagan also wrote frequently of his love for Nancy. An entry noting his wedding anniversary described their marriage as "29 years of more happiness than any man could rightly deserve."

World events

He also recalled Israel's bombing of Iraq in 1981 ("I swear I believe Armageddon is near"), the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger ("A day we'll remember for the rest of our lives") and the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat ("He was truly a great man, a kind man with warmth and humor.").

He also mused about a disastrous tea he had with Prince Charles ("a most likable person") in 1981.

"The ushers brought him the tea - horror of horrors they served it our way with a tea bag in the cup. It finally dawned on me that he was just holding the cup & finally put it down on a table. I didn't know what to do."

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