The PJ Tatler

Did Reagan have Alzheimer's while in office?

Ronald Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer’s while still in office, claims his son Ron, Jr.

And you know what: I think he’s right.

Yes, I realize that (as discussed in the U.S. News article linked above) Reagan’s team of doctors did not officially diagnose him with Alzheimer’s disease until 1994, five years after he left the White House. And yes, Ron Jr. appears to be a spiteful little creep who makes several easily debunked false claims about his father’s chronology in the late ’80s and early ’90s (I guess the profession of “factchecker” is now extinct).


Yet despite all that, purely anecdotally, from an outsider’s perspective, I’d always suspected that Reagan showed signs Alzheimer’s in the latter half of his second term.

Although I was a much younger zombie then, I remember clearly the rumors and hints in 1987 that Reagan was falling asleep suddenly during meetings with the Joints Chiefs and with White House staff — now known as a clear sign of Alzheimer’s. I remember comparing his vigorous speech patterns from the 1980 campaign to his more hesitant, scripted speeches from 1987-ish onward, in which he occasionally seemed to be searching for the right word.

At the time, I didn’t even know what Alzheimer’s was, but the general consensus among my clique of sarcastic young smartasses was that Reagan was “getting old” and “losing his mind.” Later, when I heard about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I thought to myself, That’s it! He had Alzheimer’s even while president.

Of course I have no medical proof of this, no more than Ron Jr. does. And I freely admit that at that point in my life I was a Reagan-hating liberal, so I was predisposed to believe any anti-Reagan rumors.


So I ask the readers: Do you remember the end of Reagan’s second term, his last two years in office? Do you remember the hints that his mind was failing? Ron Jr. claims to have detected the first hints in 1984; I’d say no earlier than 1986. Or is it all nothing more than the Reagan-bashing of an ungrateful son?

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