Free Markets, Free People

Alzheimer’s disease

Which Reagan has Alzheimer’s?

What’s up with Ron Reagan Jr’s claim that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the White House (except as a hook to sell his book)?

What has he to back this claim up?

Apparently, not much. As an aside, if Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s during his presidency he still outperformed the vast majority of presidents I’ve seen in my life time.

Paul Bedard of US News takes on Ron Jr’s claims:

Let’s start with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It was announced in 1994. While it prompted some to suggest they knew Reagan had the disease as president, his four White House doctors said they saw no evidence of it. But Ron, who became a liberal and atheist, disappointing his dad, suggests he saw hints of confusion and "an out-of-touch president" during the 1984 campaign and again in 1986, when his father couldn’t recall the names of California canyons he was flying over. Arguing his case in the book, Ron adds that doctors today know that the disease can be in evidence before being recognized. "The question, then, of whether my father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s while in office more or less answers itself," he writes.

Hmmm … believe 4 White House docs or Ron Jr.?  Yeah, not a toughie at all, is it?  In fact, in the article cited by Bedard, the physicians say:

But even with the hindsight of Mr. Reagan’s diagnosis, his four main White House doctors say they never detected any evidence that his forgetfulness was more than just that. His mental competence in office, they said in a series of recent interviews, was never in doubt. Indeed, they pointed out, tests of his mental status did not begin to show evidence of the disease until the summer of 1993, more than four years after he left the White House.

So the first indication of the disease didn’t show up until ‘93.  Forgetfulness, as anyone who is over the age of 60 will tell you, does not equal Alzheimer’s – which is apparently what amateur doctor Ron Jr. is attempting to conflate.  And, you know, it’s not like Presidents aren’t constantly checked and rechecked and monitored and checked again by medical personnel – often among the best.  4 doctors say, “no signs”.  Ron Jr. says, “signs”.   I go with the docs.

Not content with playing amateur doctor, Jr. decides to try to rewrite a little history.  I.e. an operation that no one else remembers or can find any record of:

Besides playing amateur doctor, Ron Reagan reveals, if true, brain surgery on his dad never before reported. He accurately reports that Reagan, after leaving the presidency, was bucked from a horse on July 4, 1989, while in Mexico. Ron tells of how his dad, after initially refusing medical help, was transported to a San Diego hospital. "Surgeons opening his skull to relieve pressure on the brain emerged from the operating room with the news that they had detected what they took to be probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease."

So when you open the skull, “probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease” are evident, eh?  Yeah, I don’t think so.  Not that it matters because everyone else says the operation never happened:

Several Reagan associates, however, say there was no surgery in San Diego.

What’s more there is no reporting about any San Diego operation on Reagan. News reports at the time of his fall say Reagan was flown to a hospital in Arizona, where he was treated for scrapes and bruises and released after five hours.

There were no reports of Reagan with a shaved head or skull stitches later that month when he served as a guest TV announcer at the July 11 baseball All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif., or when he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City on July 21.

So 7 days later, a man who was supposed to have had brain surgery, or at least had his skull opened, was serving as a guest TV announcer and 17 days later was being inducted into a hall of fame.  

Reagan did actually have a procedure done at the Mayo Clinic  to drain fluid buildup on his brain as a result of the fall in September, two months after the fall.  Not mentioned by Jr.  However, Jr. does claim that Reagan went to the Mayo Clinic in 1990 for tests that “confirmed the initial suspicion of Alzheimer’s”.  Now note, this is important for Jr’s White House timeline.  The date of the ‘93 diagnosis just don’t serve his purpose.  Way too late in the game.

As for his ‘90 Mayo Clinic claim?  No record of such a visit. None. 

And his doctor from ‘84 through Reagan’s retirement told the NY Times that the former president showed no “tell-tale” signs of Alzheimer’s until ‘93.

Who to believe … who to believe. 

Look, Reagan stood up in ‘94 and did a tremendous thing – he announced he had the disease and gave it a visibility that it sorely needed.  It is another positive in an already outstanding legacy.  The topic of his Alzheimer’s and when it was evident enough to be diagnosed has been a topic for years and years.  We’ve been all over this ground.  People much more intimately informed about his medical condition (with the bona fides to reach such diagnostic conclusions) have said over and over again that the disease didn’t manifest itself until 1993.   Those that worked intimately with the man said they observed nothing that would validate Jr’s claims.   And we have the apparent made up nonsense about brain surgery in San Diego (when in fact he was treated and released in Arizona) to boot.

You have to wonder, given the seemingly incorrect facts and fiction of Jr’s account, who in the hell really has Alzheimer’s.  OK, I’m just kidding and Alzheimer’s isn’t anything to really kid about, but I personally find it disgusting that a son would do what appears to be a hatchet job on his father’s legacy.  Why?

Just as importantly, if in fact none of the events happened as he claims, how in the freakin’ world did he think he’d get away with claiming they did in his book? 

Questions which will most likely never be answered by the weasel we all know as Ron Reagan Jr. It’s also a good reason not to buy the book.