“Syndicated columnist George Will has joined a chorus of historians and other experts who say Fox News host’s Bill O’Reilly’s latest book…is a sloppily written and thinly sourced ‘slander’ on America’s 40th president.” T. Becket Adams, Washington Examiner, November 5, 2015
“The book is ‘a tissue of unsubstantiated assertions,’ he added, bemoaning that O’Reilly’s latest offering currently sits atop the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Ibid
“’The book says Reagan was often addled [mentally fuzzy] to the point of incompetence, causing senior advisers to contemplate using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office,’ Will wrote.” Ibid
“There are small and large mistakes throughout Killing Reagan. Repeatedly, Ronald Prescott Reagan is referred to a ‘Ron Jr.’ a minor matter but a revealing one. The book states that Reagan’s radio broadcasts of the late 1970s were once a week, but they were delivered five times a week. There are dozens of [Kitty] Kelley-type references to horoscope readers, astrologers, an imperious Nancy running the country and generally a persistent, clueless and oblivious Ronald Reagan—addle-brained, out of touch, dangerously uninformed. The most common word used to describe Reagan is probably ‘confused.’” Craig Shirley, Kiron K. Skinner, Paul Kengor, Steven F. Hayward, The Washington Post, October 16, 2015
Getting Reagan Wrong
Thomas W. Schaaf Sr., The Washington Times, October 26, 2015, p. 25
“Killing Reagan” is a brief look at the times and life of Ronald Reagan from the filming of “Brother Rat” with Jane Wyman in 1938, to his death in 2004.
In the 283 pages of text in this book Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Dugard have provided a. series of snapshots of Ronald Reagan from his Hollywood days to his last days but they have missed, or purposefully omitted, the crowning achievements of his presidency. Instead they have produced a rambling assembly of events such as the Chappaquiddick incident complete with a detailed map of the route Teddy Kennedy took leading to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne and the 1982 Falklands War, also with a detailed map. But the connection of these events to their story,” Killing Reagan”, is never made clear.
The lead-up to the assassination attempt starts with Chapter Six (one page) date line, May 29, 1955. They write ” As a twenty-eight-year-old mother of two is about to give birth to her third child, she and her husband are hoping that it will be a boy. They are affluent people, with a strong belief in the American dream.” The next reference to Hinckley is in Chapter Ten. The year is 1974 and the authors make the point that Nixon is flying into “self imposed exile just a few hundred miles north of Dallas where Hinckley, now nineteen, is living. Tension rises; Chapter Fifteen (four pages) describes Hinckley’s problems in Nashville as he stalks President Carter who is campaigning in Tennessee. Hinckley is arrested as he tries to board a plane with three guns inside his luggage. The authors say that losing the election may have saved Jimmy Carter’s life. Hinckley pays a fine, loses his guns and walks out of the courtroom a free man. In the view of the authors his compulsion to kill a president to win the attention and love of Jodie Foster has now overwhelmed him.
Chapter Seventeen ( three pages) is the final one about Hinckley’s disposition and activities prior to the attack. Chapter Nineteen , The attempted assassination ( twenty pages ) which includes a map with Hinckley’s hotel, The George Washington University Hospital, Washington Hilton Hotel and the White House marked along with a number of photographs. At this point one might ask, what is the point of a book about a senseless bloody assault. Mr. O’Reilly contends on the fly leaf of the dust cover, quote,” But it was John Hinckley Jr.s. attack on him that precipitated President Reagan’s most heroic actions.” unquote.
This is absolute hogwash ! And after combing slowLY through the book, for the third time, it becomes clear it is a patchwork of minutiae interlaced with a few remarkable occasions such as Reagan’s completely unprepared speech at the 1976 Republican Convention when Ford, became the nominee. Ford called the defeated Reagan to the podium who spoke for three minutes but the applause breaks stretched it to eight. In one of their more thoughtful sentences O’Reilly and Dugard write,”As Ronald Reagan waves goodbye to the crowd, it is quite clear to many across America that the Republican Party has nominated the wrong man for president.”
The authors seem to be anxious to disclose intimate details which O’Reilly claims to be” simply the facts ” and often refers to himself as the “factor.” on his television show. Unfortunately, and sadly, the book is full of very personal information which is just that, personal. The fact that Nancy Davis was pregnant when she married Reagan has no place, in my view, in a serious account about a public figure unless of course it is part of a scandal story you would find in the rack at the super market checkout. Their tale about Reagan and Piper Laurie is actually pornographic ( page 29) and along with all of O’Reilly and Dugard’s other bedroom stories it makes you wonder where were the editors who failed to edit this trash.
Even more disturbing are the sly insinuations for example ( page 83) where the authors suggest Governor Reagan had intimate relations with an 18 year old woman at a Studio City party or the first paragraphs of chapter 11 where Ronald Reagan, now former governor, is alone with Margaret Thatcher sitting on a small cloth-upholstered sofa with his left knee just inches away from touching forty-nine-year-old Thatcher who Reagan considers” warm, feminine, gracious, and intelligent.”
But what is most disappointing in this book, which according to O’Reilly, is already a number one best seller across the country, is that the authors fail to understand the mettle and substance of Reagan or give little credit, or even acknowledge, his historic victory over a truly Evil Empire without even firing a shot. Just several weeks ago Aram Bakshian Jr. writing a book review in The Washington Times about the Reagan years ( Finale by Thomas Mallon) sub- title ” Spinning One for the Gipper “provided a very special conclusion to his excellent review. He wrote, ” The Ronald Reagan I remember was puzzling until you realized that the real man, enigmatic to so many, was hiding in plain sight all along. Smiling, kindly and optimistic- but extremely self-contained- he was directed by an inner compass that always seemed to kick in just when you thought he’d gone hopelessly adrift.”
And my conclusion to this review, which I found little joy in writing, is to note the 2007 book by Richard Rhodes, ” Arsenals of Folly” and specifically Chapter 13 which covers the private meeting of President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev at Reykjavik Iceland in October 1986.. Their subsequent dialogue ( Reagan and Gorbachev) was greatly aided by simultaneous translation. It allowed each man to respond directly to the other’s expressions and body language as well as his words.That chapter cannot be read without amazement at the energy and scope of the discussions of the two principals. It also belies the incessant theme of O’Reilly and Dugard that President Reagan may not have been be fit to serve as president in 1987. However the meeting in Iceland became more interesting and substantive. Kenneth Adelman recalls Reagan responding to a comment that Reykjavik would be only a warm-up saying, ” Hell, this isn’t a meeting to prepare for a summit. It’s a summit.”
But the essence of Reykjavik was uncovered when Gorbachev started to read his proposals, “a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought.” This of course came right from Reagan’s 1984 State of the Union Address and Reagan had then added, ” the only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.”
In 1992 Mikhail Gorbachev visited George Shultz at Stanford University and was asked what did he think was the turning point in the Cold War.. He didn’t hesitate one second and said ,”Reykjavik” and then added,”For the first time, the real leaders got together and really talked about the important Subjects.”
O’Reilly and Dugard do not even have Reykjavik in their index.