An obligatory follow-up to Friday’s post, with Michael openly wondering whether Ron might have ended up pulling the lever for Mondale in 1984. One thing I neglected to mention on Friday: Isn’t it an unfortunate tradition for presidents to continue in office long after their health has become a major liability? For all the obsession about Reagan’s occasional memory lapses, you’d never know that arguably the two most influential Democratic chief execs of the 20th century were both heavily burdened by illness in their last years in office. Wilson had a catastrophic stroke in 1919, a year and a half before his second term expired, and FDR was already so frail by the time of the 1944 election that Democrats booted Henry Wallace from the ticket in favor of Truman precisely because they feared the VP would end up as president relatively soon. Reagan’s problems were comparatively minor until a few years after he left office, but as Michael says, pretending he was already lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s is a useful way to deny him credit for his achievements. And of course, it turns Reagan into a vividly literal example of the stereotypical Republican who’s “out of touch with reality.”

But there’s no use fighting this rumor; it’s been around forever and will go on forever, precisely because it serves political ends, however cheaply. In fact, I remember as a kid my parents talking about it while Reagan was in his second term, with the claim at the time being that Nancy, as her husband’s caretaker, was effectively running the country. Quoth my dad, “She’s doing an awfully good job.”

Tags: Democrats