Reagan Was Senile In 1988

One aspect of Reagan’s presidency that I didn’t see mentioned already (I did run a search on this, my apologies if I missed something) is his participation in baseball’s All-Star game about 7 months after he left office.

If I recall correctly he joined the booth to do some color commentary about midway through the game. His remarks were so out of sync that it shocked the sportscasters - he’d repeat statements they’d just made, as if stating them for the first time. He rambled. He couldn’t string together a sentence. The man was incoherent.

And nobody talked about it.

The fact that this loopy man had had his finger on the nuclear button less than a year beforehand.

So, how dumb must that make Tip O’Neill and Mikhail Gorbachev, who were continually outmaneuvered by a senile President?

Have you any proof that his mind was “loopy” a year earlier when his finger was on the button?

Well they’ve acknowledged the Alzheimers - I think it’s pretty clear (or it was to those of us watching the All-Star game) that it started a mite earlier than 1994.

If that day had been an unusual blip, I’d imagine his people would’ve explained it thusly. Instead everyone just pretended it never happened.

That was the '89 All-Star game, you know. Not '88. So what’s your excuse?

I could’ve sworn it was just months after he left office. My Hubby agrees with you that it was 1989. Anybody else remember it? And does a year either way make it any less egregious? Even Farrah Fawcett managed to come up with an excuse; absent any explanation, I’m left believing he’d been out of it for a while.

(as to my excuse, my twins are 4 months old & I’m majorly sleep-deprived)

Bush was inaugurated January 20, 1989. Election was in November 1988.

So as far as I can tell, you were right in all but the year.

I saw Reagan in Moscow at the 1988 summit with Gorby. He hosted a coffee at the ambassador’s house before leaving and gave a little talk. The guy was practically incoherent and had to be prompted by Nancy. 1994 is generous in the extreme. How he managed to get through the talks with Gorby is a mystery, although Alzheimers sufferers have lucid times.

Nancy, in conjunction with her astrologer and Ronny’s advisors, were running the country during the second term. We’re all lucky we’re not glowing in the dark.

Apparently my year wasn’t so wrong after all.

I think it’s pretty apparent to anyone with any memory (heh) of that time that Reagan was not all there. Whether he “brilliantly outmaneuvered” anyone or not is a big ol’ GD but there is instance after documented instance of his inability to recognize members of his own cabinet, having lines fed to him in press conferences, being unable to address issues with any specificity and pawning the question off to an official who wasn’t present, etc. There are also examples of his starting off a story knowing that it was an anecdote from a movie only to have the story mutate into fact in his mind. He was also, according to a number of his former aides, intellectually lazy and reluctant to work more than a few hours a day. Personally I have no doubt that some of this was attributable to early Alzheimer’s but then I’m not a doctor.

He definately had some problems his last two years in office. There actually was a book that came out that was basically a bunch of reporters coming clean on that they knew he was having problems but they didn’t feel it they could report it.

At worst though, he had speech problems and periods where he would drift off or lose track of things. There isn’t any indication that he was out and out senile all the time. He just had periods of being zonked out.

Yeah, I had always taken it as a given that Reagan started showing signs towards the tail end of his presidency. Lots of people have mentioned this actually. I mean, I’ve heard people talking about it for years.

The reality of life is that you don’t admit something like that when someone’s the president. Later on, of course, you can breath a sigh of relief and say “Haha Gorbachev, you got punked!”

I mean, I’m as idealistic as the next person, but from our government’s history, you can pretty much say that once someone steps into the oval office, they step into a role as much as a position. It’s like Grover Cleveland’s mouth cancer operation, need to know and all that.

Before that. Remember the debates, during his second run for office? When he wandered off-topic and started talking about taking long drives along the Pacific Coast Highway and completely forgot what he was talking about?

Can’t speak for Gorby, but O’Neill retired in 1986. If we’re talking 1988, then O’Neill was out.

Another point-when Reagan said, “I can’t recall” when asked about the whole Iran-Contra deal, maybe he wasn’t lying-he really couldn’t recall, because he was already suffering from early Alzheimers.

Hey, he was at a ballgame! Maybe he had a few beers? If memory serves, I always talked that way after I had a few.

According to a biographic film from 2001 (aired last night on public TV):

  1. Former Senator Howard Baker was interviewed and said that when he was called in to replace Don Regan as Chief of Staff, he was told by the staff that President Reagan was sometimes confused and incoherent (I’m paraphrasing) and that he must be prepared to invoke the 25th Amendment.

A meeting was set up with the President and other members of the staff for the purpose of allowing Baker to observe the President. On that day he did not observe anything out of the ordinary.

I can’t remember more of the details, but the commentary made it very clear that there was great concern about his ability to function and that some days were much better than others. I think it was probably clear to anyone paying attention that the man who left office was not anywhere near as alert as the man who took office.

  1. One of President Reagan’s biographers was interviewed and mentioned that the President once wrote in his diary that a certain couple (Nancy’s relatives) had visited after dinner and that the mood had lifted considerably with their visit. (Again paraphrased) The next day in the diary the President noted that he had been mistaken – that they hadn’t visted until that day.

  2. Not too long after he left the Presidency (sorry, no date), he was asked to give a speech somewhere. Nancy, holding his hand, led him to the podium. He was obviously dazed and confused when he began to speak. Then within a sentence or two, he seemed to become himself again and spoke eloquently. Later, when he returned to his hotel room, he turned to someone and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know where I am.”

  3. I can remember Nancy having to prompt him when he seemed to just sort of fade out in the middle of a sentence when he was addressing the press or making a public comment.

Even taken together, these anecdotes aren’t proof of anything. But there is little doubt in my mind that his illness was affecting him by 1987. We may never know for sure, but I doubt that, unlike other Presidents, Reagan was actually in a position where he could have done anything impulsively in his last year or so. Howard Baker is too wise to have allowed that instant access to nuclear weapons when so many of the staff agreed that the President was headed into rough territory.

Let’s give him some credit.

If you’re assumption is correct, and I’m guessing you’re correct, why not see the nobility in Ronald Reagan’s struggle against a devastating neurologic condition. He was well into his 70s by his second term, had been shot and nearly assassinated, had been savaged by the media and Democrats, and was doing the best he could in a job that is difficult for any man.

I am no Reagan lover by any means. But his struggle was poetic in its valiance.
I think historians of the future will quite possibly maintain that he was suffering from the grips of Alzeimers/dementia early in his first term. Opponents attacked him as stupid and detached when it’s possible his mind was already slipping.

Oh, please. How about you get into the sportscaster’s booth and see how you do? I know Reagan was a baseball announcer like 60 years earlier, but that’s a long time and the style was a lot different.

If you want to see if he was senile, watch tomorrow’s Larry King Live. He’s repeating an interview with Reagan, which I think was in 1992 or something like that, several years after he left office. It might have been just before he announced the onset of Alzheimers. I saw that interview a couple of years ago, and as I recall he was starting to show slight signs of a mental slowdown, but this was several years after he left office.

No one’s insulting the guy-we’re just saying he was showing his age. My god, the guy was in his seventies when he was elected!

Besides, didn’t he get very confused during the one debate with Mondale?

My grandfather was about a year younger than Reagan, and he also died of Alzheimers. I believe if Reagan was suffering from Alzheimers six years before they announced it, the signs would have been more apparent. But it’s possible that Reagan was starting to suffer from senescence. He was, after all, almost 80 years old. The brain does slow down a bit. But Alzheimers is a whole 'nuther thing.

My grandfather showed some signs of slowing down in his early 70’s. Nothing alarming, just the occasional stumble. But after he developed Alzheimers, his progress tracked similar to Reagan’s. Within a couple of years he was forgetting where he was on occasion and would forget the names of people close to him. A year after that, and he was incapable of caring for himself. He died within five years of the diagnosis.

I don’t know how likely it is that Reagan had the onset of Alzheimers at age 76, stayed lucid enough to give interviews and public appearances for another five years, and then lived another twelve years after that. Doesn’t seem likely.

I’ve read detailed accounts of the Rejkavik summit in 1987, and I believe Reagan was in full command of his faculties at that time. He ran rings around Gorbachev, who is not exactly a dummy. But it’s certainly possible that he was getting old and tired, and had the occasional bad day where he just wasn’t with it. Hell, I have those, and I’m 41.

But there’s no way he was already in the grip of Alzheimers in his first term.

Part of the perception of Reagan as being senile had to do with his aw-shucks demeanor and penchant for telling stories to make his point. It’s the same reason people think George W. Bush is stupid, when he’s not. I believe both men willingly accepted that characterization, so that their opponents would underestimate them. It’s one of the things they had in common (although Reagan was by far a better president than George W.)