George Will's Critque of Billl O'Reilly's version of the presidency of Ronald Reagon. Devastating and Bill is furious.

 
Opinion writer


 . . . . .    Because of its vast readership, “Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency” by Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and his collaborator,, Martin Dugard, will distort public understanding of Ronald Reagan’s presidency more than hostile but conscientious scholars could.

Styling himself an “investigative historian,” O’Reilly purports to have discovered amazing facts that have escaped the notice of real historians. The book’s intimated hypothesis is that the trauma of the March 1981 assassination attempt somehow triggered in Reagan a mental decline, perhaps accelerating the Alzheimer’s disease that would not be diagnosed until 13 years later. The book says Reagan was often addled to the point of incompetence, causing senior advisers to contemplate using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office   . . . .   Reagan was shot on the 70th day of his presidency. In the next 2,853 days he produced an economic boom and the Cold War’s endgame. Among O’Reilly’s “explanations” for Reagan’s supposed combination of creativity and befuddlement are: He was brave; “on his bad days, he couldn’t work” but on good days “he was brilliant”; Nancy Reagan was in charge; it was “almost miraculous   . . . .   The book’s pretense of scholarship involves 151 footnotes, only one of which is even remotely pertinent to the book’s lurid assertions. Almost all contain irrelevant tidbits (”Reagan’s hair was actually brown”).

At the Reagan Library, where researchers must register, records show that neither O’Reilly nor Dugard, who churn out a book a year, used its resources. The book’s two and a half pages of “sources” unspecifically and implausibly refer to “FBI and CIA files,” “presidential libraries” and travel “around the world.” They also cite Kitty Kelley’s scabrous 1991 Nancy Reagan “biography,” a sewer of rumors and innuendos that probably is the source of the sexual factoids O’Reilly and Dugard recycle    . . . .   

Cox put the book’s publisher in touch with Annelise Anderson, who, with her late husband Marty, a longtime Reagan adviser, has authored and edited serious books about Reagan. She was offered $5,000 and given just one week to evaluate the manuscript. Having read it, she declined compensation, saying mildly, “I don’t think this manuscript is ready for publication.”

The book’s perfunctory pieties about Reagan’s greatness are inundated by its flood of regurgitated slanders about his supposed lassitude and manipulability. This book is nonsensical history and execrable citizenship, and should come with a warning: “Caution — you are about to enter a no-facts zone.”