On This Day — Reagan jokes about bombing Russia (August 11 1984) [MEDINT — Did Ronald Reagan Have Alzheimer’s Disease While in Office?]

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

President Ronald Reagan (August 11, 1984)

August 11 2021 — President Ronald Reagan made the comment during a sound check for his Saturday radio address. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: On This Day — Stanislav Petrov Saves the World from Nuclear War (September 26 1983) [2020]

RELATED POST: 40 Years Ago — Reagan assassination attempt (March 30 1981) — [Sheer Luck & The Fifth Bullet]

RELATED POST: On This Day — Reagan Approves Covert Arms Sales to Iran (January 17, 1986) [2021]

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RELATED POST: Reagan tells Soviet jokes

Reporters and technicians in the room laughed at the joke. Then the tape was leaked. And the Russians were not amused…

Embarrassed U.S. officials quickly assured the Kremlin that Reagan’s offhand remark did not reflect White House policies or U.S. military intentions.

The Pentagon confirmed that Soviets were actually, and understandably, on war alert. [Pacific Stars and Stripes, Oct. 14, 1984]

President Reagan did not think that his great joke would put the Soviet system on war alert.

Then again was Reagan actually capable of thinking?

Of course, Reagan has never been one of the great thinkers of his generation. As Margaret Thatcher once told a senior official, “Poor dear, he has nothing between his ears.”

Yet, there may be more to the story…

A decade later, Reagan told the nation he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In a letter — dated November 5, 1994 — addressed to his “Fellow Americans”, Reagan wrote : “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

What if?

On September 26 1983 — just three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 — Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system when the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more.

Petrov judged the reports to be a false alarm and his decision is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in large-scale nuclear war.

Ask yourself a simple question. What if Reagan had told his great joke a year earlier and the tape had been leaked before September 26 1983? Perhaps it is best not to think about that…

Reagan didn’t seem to know who I was. He gave me a distant look with those milky eyes and shook my hand weakly. Oh, my, he’s gonzo, I thought.”

CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl — Memoir (About a 1986 interview with the President)

Did Ronald Reagan Have Alzheimer’s Disease While in Office?

It has long been rumored that President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease years before it was diagnosed in 1994.

Is there any evidence? Well, it depends on who you ask and what you call ‘evidence’.

“Is there any medical evidence, doctors’ notes, counseling reports or any other information indicating that President Reagan suffered mentally in any way at any time in office? No. In fact, Dr. Lawrence Altman, longtime New York Times medical correspondent, looked for just such evidence and found none.” [CNN — President Reagan didn’t have Alzheimer’s while in office]

On the other hand…

Reagan’s own son, Ron, wrote in his 2011 book, My Father at 100: A Memoir, that he first became concerned that “something beyond mellowing” was afflicting his father three years into Reagan’s first term.

“Worse, my father now seemed to be giving them legitimate reason for concern. My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with his notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered.”

Two academic studies, one published in 1988 and the other in 2015, analyzed transcripts and recordings of Reagan speaking in debates and press conferences to see if his speech patterns betrayed otherwise imperceptible signs of cognitive decline.

“The first, which compared Reagan’s speech patterns to those of other politicians, found that Reagan had “significantly higher levels of cognitive impairment scores” than other subjects in the study (including President Carter and Vice President Mondale).

The second found that changes in Reagan’s speaking patterns known to be associated with the onset of dementia were detectable years before clinical diagnosis.” [Did Ronald Reagan Have Alzheimer’s Disease While in Office?]

These findings indicate that Reagan did display subtle linguistic signs of cognitive decline but the method is not yet regarded as ‘evidence’.

Iran-Contra Testimony

In January 1987, Reagan had first told the Tower commission that he approved a secret shipment of arms by Israel to Iran but could not remember the exact date.

On February 20, Reagan wrote back to the Tower commission saying that he actually had no memory of signing one presidential finding relating to the shipment of weapons to Iran.

Reagan was subpoenaed by the defense in the trial of John Poindexter, his onetime national security adviser in February 1990.

Reagan repeatedly said he could not remember important details of the scandal involving the secret U.S. sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of some of the arms money to help the Nicaraguan Contras when such aid was illegal.

RELATED POST: On This Day — Reagan Approves Covert Arms Sales to Iran (January 17, 1986) [2019 Fake News Award]

In all, Reagan said “I don’t recall” or “I can’t remember” 88 times in the eight hours of testimony taken Feb. 16-17 1990 in Los Angeles.

Reagan said he could not identify a picture of contra leader Adolfo Calero. He could not recall a shipment of Hawk missiles to Iran in November 1985. He was ‘hazy’ on the identity of Eugene Hasenfus, an American whose shooting down over Nicaragua helped precipitate the unraveling of the then-secret Iran-contra operation. 

Reagan said he did not recall the Tower Commissions reporting that Oliver North and the National Security Council were providing military aid to the Contras, who were waging war against Nicaraguas Sandinista government.

Reagan could not identify Gen. John Vessey, who served for more than three years as his chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

”Oh, dear,” the former president said. ”I could ask for help here. The name I know is very familiar . . .”

“Try as I might, I cannot recall anything whatsoever about whether I approved an Israeli sale in advance or whether I approved replenishment of Israeli stocks around August of 1985. My answer, therefore, and the simple truth is, I don’t remember. Period.”

Ronald Reagan (Feb. 20 1990)

Reagan’s Joke Lead To Red Alert | Flashback | NBC News

REFERENCES

Reagan jokes about bombing Russia, August 11, 1984 — Politico

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On This Day — Reagan jokes about bombing Russia (August 11 1984) [MEDINT — Did Ronald Reagan Have Alzheimer’s Disease While in Office?]

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