Of late, the media have been devoting large amounts of attention toward President Reagan's political misadventures, namely Iranscam. Most of America's more vocal politicians, editorialists and political cartoonists have offered their opinions on what they think happened, how it happened and whose fault it was. Reagan has claimed everything - knowing, not knowing, not remembering knowing, not remembering not knowing - and has finally settled on some sort of twisted, "happy medium." Will we ever find out how much Reagan knew? Judging from past incidents, all we can expect from Reagan himself are cute jokes and unrelated anecdotes.
In our search for culpability and hard answers, we are barking up the wrong tree. The answer lies in history. Often, by giving careful consideration to historical events we can better understand current events. For example, the year in which Reagan was first elected, 1980, is more significant than many people realize. Some believe there is an Indian curse upon the U.S. presidency, causing every president elected in a year ending with a zero to die in office. This aspect of Reagan's presidency seems insignificant until you consider another, more recent historical event. In 1981, John Hinckley Jr., in an attempt to win Jodie Foster's heart, shot Ronald Reagan at close range. Jodie wasn't impressed; Reagan was rushed to the nearest hospital from which he went on to a speedy recovery; and Hinckley is in the funny farm now. Reagan's advisers attributed the quick recovery to the president's good health. Most 70 year-old men could not have survived being shot under those circumstances. Moreover, Reagan's doctors reported that the bullet passed just inches from Reagan's heart.
But what if it didn't miss Reagan's heart? What if Reagan expired in the back of that speeding, presidential limo on the way to the hospital, fulfilling the ancient Indian curse upon the American presidency? Most would probably argue that Reagan is still alive. That's a good point, but consider this scenario. The aides who play such instrumental roles in the Reagan administration quickly took stock of the situation after being informed of Reagan's death.
Faced with the prospect of Vice President George Bush - an almost complete unknown - as the figurehead for their new regime, Reagan's men became desperate. With an unsatisfied lust for power gnawing on their egos, they decided to take extreme action (for the first of many times). All it took was a few phone calls to the Pentagon and Southern California to obtain the necessary people and equipment and presto chango: They built a bionic man.
Only it didn't work quite as well as it did on television. In the rush to produce a working president before anyone found out Reagan was dead, they had to skimp on a few details. A computerized brain was too expensive for the budget, and as a result, it was replaced with tape recordings and memory chips. Although extreme, this scenario effectively explains as well as anything else many of Reagan's bloopers since 1981. Senility isn't what causes Reagan to stumbled through rehearsed speechs and forget what ABM stands for. Faulty circuits are the real culprits. And those trips to naval hospitals weren't for prostate surgery, but for maintenance. Reagan needed his batteries recharged, or new tapes put in for upcoming press conferences.
Sure it's an outlandish suggestion, but look at what we're trying to explain. Unreal actions call for unreal explanations.
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