Ron Reagan: Dad Had Alzheimer's as President

Friday, 14 Jan 2011 02:03 PM

By Dan Weil

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Most of us try to stay loyal to our parents. But some of us are better at it than others. While Americans of all stripes get ready to celebrate the 100th birthday of iconic President Ronald Reagan on Feb. 6, his youngest son Ron doesn’t seem to quite get it.

“Ron is spoiling the good cheer with a new book that suggests the Gipper suffered from Alzheimer's disease while in the White House, a claim dismissed by Reagan's doctors and outside experts,” Paul Bedard writes at USNews.com.

Ron Reagan Jr., President Reagan, book, Alzheimer'sRon (pictured, speaking at his dad's interment in 2004), who became a liberal and atheist, disappointing his dad, writes in a new book: “Had the diagnosis been made in, say, 1987, would he have stepped down [thanks to the disease that was confirmed in 1994]? I believe he would have.”

The book, “My Father At 100: A Memoir,” is due in bookstores Tuesday.

“In addition to challenging the former president's doctors, Ron also reports for the first time that Reagan, right after falling off a horse six months out of the White House, underwent brain surgery, denied by Reagan associates,” Bedard reports.

He goes step by step through Ron’s points to rebut them.

“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,” Bedard writes.

Ron says he saw signs of confusion and "an out-of-touch president" during the 1984 campaign and again in 1986, when his father couldn't remember the names of California canyons he was flying over.

Doctors today know that Alzheimer’s can be present before it’s even recognized, Ron writes in the book. "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.

But, Bedard says, “Besides playing amateur doctor, Ron Reagan reveals, if true, brain surgery on his dad never before reported.”

Ron says his father visited the Mayo Clinic in 1990 for tests that "confirmed the initial suspicion of Alzheimer's."

Bedard counters: “Reagan's post-presidency history, documented in several archives like University of Texas, reveals no such visit. And Dr. John E. Hutton Jr., his doctor from 1984 through Reagan's retirement, told The New York Times that Reagan didn't show the tell-tale symptoms until 1993.”

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