He Really that Dumb?
never knew anything above Cs."
--President Reagan, in a moment of truthfulness, describes his
academic record to Barbara Walters, November 27, 1981
told stories about how inattentive and inept the President was....
They said he wouldn't come to work--all he wanted to do was to watch
movies and television at the residence."
--Jim Cannon (an aide to Howard Baker) reporting what Reagan's underlings told
him, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President: 1984-88
only contribution [to the subject of the MX missile] throughout the
entire hour and a half was to interrupt somewhere at midpoint to tell us
he'd watched a movie the night before, and he gave us the plot from WarGames,
the movie. That was his only contribution."
--Lee Hamilton (Representative from Indiana) interviewed by Haynes
Johnson, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan
President is treated by both the press and foreign leaders as if he were
a child.... It is major news when he honors a political or
economic discussion with a germane remark and not an anecdote about his
--Columnist Richard Cohen
planet is he living on?"
--President Mitterand of France poses this question about Reagan to
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
Mr. Reagan's trip to Europe...members of the traveling press corps
watched him doze off so many times--during speeches by French President
Francois Mitterrand and Italian President Alessandro Pertini, as well as
during a one-on-one audience with the Pope--that they privately
christened the trip 'The Big Sleep.'"
--Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan
demonstrated for all to see how far you can go in this life with a
smile, a shoeshine and the nerve to put your own spin on the facts."
--David Nyhan, Boston Globe columnist
--Clark Clifford (former Defense Secretary), describing Reagan at a Georgetown party, 1981
dear, there's nothing between his ears."
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, speaking to one of her officials about Reagan, cited by Peter Jenkins, Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution
reinventing the wheel."
Speakes (Reagan's former press secretary) describing what it was like
preparing the President for a press conference, Speaking Out: The
Reagan Presidency from Inside the White House
task of watering the arid desert between Reagan's ears is a challenging
one for his aides."
David Broder, "A Sorry Display of Ignorance", Washington Post, September 1, 1985
"What do you do when your President ignores all the palpable, relevant facts and wanders in circles?"
--David Stockman (Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan), The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed
has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the
parameters of logic that they leave you speechless."
--Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan) talking about her father, The
Way I See It
loathing for government, this eagerness to prove that any program to aid
the disadvantaged is nothing but a boondoggle and a money gobbler, leads
him to contrive statistics and stories with unmatched vigor."
--Mark Green, Reagan's Reign of Error
Reagan doesn't always check the facts before he makes statements, and
the press accepts this as kind of amusing."
--President Jimmy Carter, March 6, 1984
"Ronald Reagan is the first modern President whose contempt for the facts is treated as a charming idiosyncrasy."
errors glide past unchallenged. At one point...he alleged that almost
half the population gets a free meal from the government each day.
one told him he was crazy. The general message of the American press is
that, yes, while it is perfectly true that the emperor has no clothes,
nudity is actually very acceptable this year."
--James David Barber, presidential scholar, cited by Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
--Simon Hoggart, in The Observer (London), 1986
Wisdom from "The Gipper"
"A tree's a tree. How many more
do you need to look at?"
--Ronald Reagan (Governor of California), cited in the Sacramento Bee, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park,
March 3, 1966
believe a tree is a tree and if you've seen one you've seen them all."
--Governor Ronald Reagan, in the Sacramento Bee, September
"All the waste in a year from a
nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk."
--Ronald Reagan (Republican candidate for president), cited in the Burlington
(Vermont) Free Press, February 15, 1980. (In reality, the average
nuclear reactor generates 30 tons of radioactive waste per year.)
"I have flown
twice over Mount St.
Helens. I'm not a scientist and I don't know
the figures, but I have a suspicion that one little mountain out there,
in these last several months, has
probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or
things of that kind."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in Time magazine, October 20, 1980.
scientists, Mount St. Helens emitted about 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide
per day at its peak activity, compared with 81,000 tons per day produced
"Growing and decaying vegetation in this land are responsible for
93 percent of the oxides of nitrogen."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in the Los
Angeles Times, October 9, 1980. (According to Dr. Michael
Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund, industrial sources are
responsible for at least 65 percent and possibly as much as 90 percent
of the oxides of nitrogen in the U.S.)
"Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons
released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and
enforcing tough emission standards for man-made sources."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in
Sierra, September 10, 1980
"I've said it before and I'll say
it again. The U.S. Geological Survey has told me that the proven
potential for oil in Alaska alone is greater than the proven reserves in
--Ronald Reagan, cited in the Detroit Free Press, March 23,
1980. (According to the USGS, the Saudi reserves of 165.5 billion
barrels are 17 times the proven reserves--9.2 billion barrels--in
"Why should we subsidize
--Ronald Reagan, campaign speech, 1980
"Trains are not any more energy
efficient than the average automobile, with both getting about 48
passenger miles to the gallon."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in the Chicago Tribune, May 10,
1980. (The U.S. Department of Transportation calculates that a
14-car train traveling at 80 miles per hour gets 400 passenger miles to
the gallon. A 1980 auto carrying an average of 2.2 people gets
42.6 passenger miles to the gallon.)
"It's silly talking about how
many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when
we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still
be home by Christmas."
--Ronald Reagan (candidate for Governor of California), interviewed
in the Fresno Bee, October 10, 1965
"I have a feeling that we are
doing better in the war [in Vietnam] than the people have been told."
--Ronald Reagan, in the Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1967
"...the moral equal of our
--President Reagan, describing the Nicaraguan contras, March 1, 1985
"Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in Time, May 17, 1976
"I know all the bad things that
happened in that war. I was in uniform four years myself."
--President Reagan, in an interview with foreign journalists, April
19, 1985. ("In costume" is more like it. Reagan
spent World War II making Army training films at Hal Roach Studios in
"They've done away with those
committees. That shows the success of what the Soviets were able
to do in this country."
--Ronald Reagan, cited in the Washington Times, September
30, 1987. (Reagan longs for the days of Sen. Joseph
McCarthy and the HCUA witch hunts.)
"We think there is a parallel between federal involvement in
education and the decline in profit over recent years."
--President Reagan, cited in USA Today, April 26, 1983
"What we have found in this
country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one
problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are
sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by
--President Reagan, defending himself against charges of callousness
on Good Morning America, January 31, 1984
"I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at
the point of a bayonet, if necessary."
--Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1965
"I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
--Ronald Reagan, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1966
"If there has to be a bloodbath, then let's get it over with."
--Ronald Reagan (Governor of California), cited in the San
Francisco Chronicle, early morning edition, May 15, 1969. (Reagan reveals how he intends to quell student protests in the city of Berkeley, California. Protesters were teargassed and fired upon with buckshot, killing one, blinding another, and wounding 128. Reagan would later declare a state of emergency in the city and send in 2,700 National Guard troops.)
"Today a newcomer to the state is
automatically eligible for our many aid programs the moment he crosses
--Ronald Reagan, in a speech announcing his candidacy for Governor,
January 3, 1966. (In fact, immigrants to California had to wait
five years before becoming eligible for benefits. Reagan
acknowledged his error, but nine months later said exactly the same
"...a faceless mass, waiting for
--Ronald Reagan, 1965. (Description of Medicaid recipients.)
"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."
--California Governor Ronald Reagan, in the Sacramento Bee,
April 28, 1966
"We were told four years ago that
17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was
probably true. They were all on a diet."
--Ronald Reagan, TV speech, October 27, 1964
"But I also happen to be someone
who believes in tithing--the giving of a tenth [to charity]."
--Ronald Reagan, from The Weekly Compilation of Presidential
Documents, February 8, 1982. (He may believe in tithing, but
he doesn't practice it. Reagan's total charitable giving of $5,965
did not approach 10% of total income. It was more like 1.4%.)
"Until now has there ever
been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming
together? There have been times in the past when people thought
the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like
--President Reagan revealing a disturbing view about the
"coming of Armageddon," December 6, 1983
"History shows that when the taxes of a nation approach about
20 percent of the people's income, there begins to be a lack of respect for
government.... When it reaches 25 percent, there comes an increase in
--Ronald Reagan, in Time, April 14, 1980. (History
shows no such thing. Income tax rates in Europe have traditionally
been far higher than U.S. rates, while European crime rates have been
"Because Vietnam was not a declared war, the veterans are not even
eligible for the G. I. Bill of Rights with respect to education or
--Ronald Reagan, in Newsweek, April 21, 1980. (Wrong
"Politics is just like show
business. You have a hell of an
opening, coast for a while, and then have a hell of a close."
--Ronald Reagan to aide Stuart Spencer, 1966
Quotes are from Reagan's Reign of
Error by Mark Green & Gail MacColl, and The Clothes Have No
Emperor by Paul Slansky
The Casino Management Handbook
New Legoland Ideas
The Ronald Reagan Years
by Mark Tracy