Posted On: Tuesday - March 30th 2021 9:40AM MST
In Topics:   History  Dead/Ex- Presidents
It was 40 years ago today. Ronald Reagan had been in the office of President for just 2 months and a week and a half, when a guy named John Hinckley shot 6 .22LR shots at him and those around him with a Röhm RG-14 revolver. None of the shots hit Reagan directly, but he was hit by the last bullet when it ricocheted off of the armored Presidential limousine.
It was not all in the same calendar year, but during that same winter of 1980-81 Pope John Paul II got shot, Reagan got shot, John Lennon got shot dead, and worst of all, Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died from heavy drinking, all within a few months as I recall. Nope, the country, the world, and music concerts were not fenced off and LOCKDOWNed, believe it or not! The Vatican has a wall though. (It's been there a while)
I know while writing this that not all real Conservatives today are fans of Ronald Reagan. They have some good points. In general, Peak Stupidity disagrees*. We have admitted the old Ronnie screwed up royally on 2 major policy strategies:
1) One (not in order, as (2) was a long-term thing) is that Mr. Reagan signed the "Immigration Reform and Control Act". (We got the immigration, but not the reform and control.) Mr. Reagan was duped by the Congressional D's, and he admitted later that it was his biggest mistake of his Presidency.
2) The other was his trusting in a deal with Congress that the domestic budget would be cut to keep the budget nearer to balanced as the military budget was ramped up to win the Cold War. No, it wasn't some deal on paper, but just a generally agreed on thing. You don't do that. He should have known not to trust those people, as civil as things still were then.
All that was still in the future on March 30th of 1981. A 25 y/o guy named John Hinckley, Jr., born as an Okie, but from Dallas, Texas, had been obsessed with impressing the actress Jodie Foster, ever since she was a juvenile actress in the movie Taxi Driver**. The movie plot has Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) attempting to assassinate a presidential candidate. Mr. Hinckley had such an obsession with Miss Foster that he moved to New Haven, where she was attending college at Yale, to better stalk her. See, now there's a big lesson for all of us: The movies, even when they were non-PC and worth a damn, were just ENTER-FREAKING-TAINMENT! The actors and hot actresses are not actually those movie characters, which is why I don't care very much who is in a movie and why we have no reason to listen to any stupid political advice out of the mouths of these people. They look good and recite lines. They don't even do most of the stunts.
OK, that off my chest, John Hinckley, Jr. felt otherwise, and, yeah, Jodie Foster was kind of hot in a way, in her day. Mr. Hinckley reckoned that shooting a President would get the kind of attention from Jodie Foster that he'd been looking for. (At least she'd read about it in the newspaper, so there's that ...)
It's hard to believe in this day and age, but there was nothing political about the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Hell, I read somewhere (can't find it right now) that he was a Reagan supporter. From his views, one would expect that. He had stalked President Carter for a while to see how easy this assassination thing would be and got within a foot of Carter, though Hinckley was later arrested for carrying a gun in the Nashville airport.
On a trip through Washington, FS, Hinckley figured he'd have a go at the new President. He'd written a letter just before to Miss Foster, saying:
Over the past seven months I've left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. ... The reason I'm going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you.Yeah, he wanted to be on the cover of Newsweek. Haha, nobody wants to be on the cover of Newsweek anymore - that's a plus.
— John Hinckley Jr.
Mr. Hinckley was in the right place at the wrong time for President Reagan. Reagan was not wearing his bulletproof vest, as he was just going to walk 30 ft. from his hotel to the waiting limo. He went walking right next to some bystanders that included John Hinckley, Jr. Hinckley took his opportunity. The first shot hit Press Secretary Brady in the face, just above his left eye. A Cleveland, OH labor leader named Alfred Antenucci tackled Hinckley after the first two shots, but he kept shooting. The Secret Service guys did one hell of a job, from what I've read, considering all 6 shots were fired within 1.7 seconds. That last unlucky ricochet bullet got Reagan under the arm, through part of his lung, stopping an inch from his heart. He was rushed to the hospital
Keep in mind that these weren't ordinary .22 Long Range cartridges. The bullets had a small exploding charge. That could have been the factor that left Press Secretary Brady paralyzed.
We must keep in mind that medical science and technology was not the same 40 years ago as it is now.. Reagan had lost 1/2 of his blood by one point, between in the ER and in surgery. Reagan was out of the hospital 11 days later, but the situation was touch-and-go at points. Most people, such as I, would not have remembered that part. It was not a given that Reagan would live. Peak Stupidity will always remember that Old Ronnie was still making one-liners even in pain on a hospital bed. When being brought into the surgery room, he said to the doctors: "I hope you are all Republicans". Democrat Speaker of the House and political arch-enemy Tip O'Neil came to the hospital to visit at one point.
The difference between then and now was that America was still a civil country back then. Even Reagan’s bitterest political enemies would have wished him well. As I wrote, even John Hinckley himself had wanted Reagan to win the 1980 election. He just wanted to shoot the President, whomever it was, to impress Jodie Foster.***
Another thing an observer can see from pictures and footage from 40 years ago today is that this was such a freer country, that there is almost no comparison! The fact that a man could walk that close to the President, or at least mill about 15 ft away is amazing. No 8 ft. chain-link fence, no Jersey barriers, no walled-in anything. That included airports, for the most part. I had never gotten on an airplane in the year 1980 but had seen people off or greeted them at the terminal gate. There were metal detectors already but no TSA army and no airport prison holding pens. (That's EXACTLY what they are in effect right now, at the smaller airport terminals.)
One could say "well, Peak Stupidity blogger, that's why we haven't had an assassination attempt on a President or a close call of such since 40 years ago." I say, is that worth it to have lost part of what made this country great? No.
PS: On the conspiracy theory aspect of this happening: I learned much later that I don't like much about the late George H. W. Bush, who was 2nd-in-line to be President. He was definitely one with the Deep State. Some say the shooting 40 years ago was a warning for Reagan to not go off the plantation with his Conservatism and get with the Deep State program, or else! How do you explain the perpetrator though, on this one? He really sounds like an a-political lone nut.
* We have a 5-part series dubbed "Ronnie vs. Donnie", brought on by President Trump's comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan. We disagreed wholeheartedly with the braggart Trump's assessment of himself:
Part 1: Personalities ,
Part 2: Foreign Policy,
Part 3: Domestic Policy, and
** I saw that one while in college at the cheap university movie theater. It's pretty good - I'll write a review after I watch it again sometime.
*** John Hinckley, Jr. used the typical insanity defense cop-out. Sure, he may have been insane, but so what? Why not the same punishment for him as for a sane guy who shot the President? He got sent to a psychiatric hospital and was released in September of '16.