President Ronald Reagan was born 100 years ago. It is a time for tributes.
Anyone who reaches that great office has an interesting life. But Ronald Reagan, though he was a great president and had remarkable human qualities, was a much more typical American man than Lincoln, with an unimpoverishably happy life and sublimely happy (second) marriage, and was not a learned, much less a self-taught professional. Nor was he a Grade B actor. In the incidentally insightful words of that insufferable poltroon Gore Vidal, “He was one of the great actors of world history who had the misfortune to play in a lot of Grade B movies.” His calm good humour after being shot in the chest was not acting.
Ronald Reagan was felicitous, the ultimate upwardly mobile American. He had only six jobs in a career of nearly 60 years: lifeguard in Tampico, Illinois; baseball announcer in Des Moines, Iowa, California-bound in the Geat Depression; film actor, including six terms as head of the Screen Actors’ Guild; vice president of General Electric Corporation; governor of California; and president of the United States.
He stood in only four elections: He defeated Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (who had narrowly defeated Richard Nixon four years before), as governor in 1966 by over 1-million votes, defeated Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh for the same office four years later with a plurality increased by more than 500,000, defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter in 1980 by nearly 8.5 million votes in 1980 and former vice-president Walter Mondale by over 15 million votes (carrying 49 states), in 1984.