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The Day Reagan Almost Died
Townhall.com ^ | May 25, 2011 | Guy Benson

Posted on 05/25/2011 5:46:45 AM PDT by Kaslin

On March 31, 1981 at precisely 2:27 pm, six gunshots rang out just outside the VIP entrance to the Washington Hilton. Moments later, as three felled men lay bleeding on the ground outside the hotel, an armored limousine carrying the President of the United States raced away from the scene. Though it wasn’t immediately apparent, the president had been shot. Ronald Wilson Reagan was just weeks into his first term in office when he was struck in the side by a deflected bullet fired by a mentally deranged would-be assassin. Most Americans are aware, of course, that Reagan survived this attempt on his life and went on to become one of the most effective, conservative, and beloved presidents in US history. What many Americans do not know is how close he came to dying that day, and how a series of split-second decisions by secret service agents and medical professionals saved Ronald Reagan’s life.

Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan is the recently released, definitive account of what happened on that harrowing Monday afternoon three decades ago. Author Del Quentin Wilber, a Washington Post reporter, uses information gleaned from trial transcripts, declassified reports, a remarkable audio recording from inside the White House situation room, and more than 125 interviews to paint a vivid and meticulously-researched picture of the chaotic scenes at George Washington University Hospital and the White House. The story that emerges is an extraordinary testament not only to the professionalism and heroism of those who cared for our 40th president, but to the sunny nature, bravery, and indefatigable spirit of the man himself. I spoke with Wilber on my radio show last weekend. A partial transcript of our fascinating discussion appears below:

GB: Of course, we now know what happened that day – thank God – Ronald Reagan survived. In fact, [Press Secretary] Jim Brady survived…and within weeks [Reagan] goes back to Congress to this, as you put it, ‘rafter-shaking’ ovation that he receives when he addresses the country…

DQW: It was amazing.

GB: And he goes on to have, many conservatives would argue, one of the greatest presidencies in US history.

DQW: I don’t think it’s just conservatives. I think that if you put away your ideology and you just look at the success of a person – whether he got his agenda through, and whether his goals were met – it was a successful presidency.

GB: Yeah. No doubt. But at the time, the country, as you said, was starting to have doubts. It’s very early on…

DQW: Right, it’s so early in his term; low approval rating…

GB: [People were asking themselves] ‘Did we make the right decision? Was this maybe a rash decision?’ Then this becomes a day that once it started leaking out how Reagan comported himself [throughout the ordeal], he endeared himself indelibly to the American public. Talk about some of the things that he did and said that are just sensational.

DQW: This is the day that allowed Reagan to separate the person from the politics. You wouldn’t believe the readings I go to, the people that come up who are Democrats and say, ‘I hated Reagan’s policies, but I liked him as a person.’ Do you know how many politicians would die for that? And on this day, you saw a lot of sympathy for Reagan because he’d been shot, but it’s more than that. We got an inner look at his character because you know when you can’t fake it? When you’re facing death. You cannot fake who you are. You just can’t do it; it’s impossible. So here he is, chest tube in his side, they’re draining the blood, the blood won’t stop, oxygen mask on, people scrambling around he doesn’t know, and Nancy Reagan walks in. He says, ‘honey, I forgot to duck.’ That instinct, we know, is to calm her down. You’ve been shot, man, and you’re putting your wife’s feelings above your own? Amazing.

GB: Right.

DQW: He gets wheeled into surgery and he runs into his three top advisors – and he says, “Who’s minding the store?” Another joke to calm them down. He gets into surgery; they’re about to operate…

GB: This is famous.

DQW: Yep, this is the best line of the day. They’re about to operate, he gets on an elbow, takes off his oxygen mask, dramatically looks around the room, and says, ‘I hope you’re all Republicans!’ The room erupts in laughter. This is important. This [information] gets out…and the American people love it…it reassured the country…David Broder – I interviewed him – the late political columnist…

GB: Who just recently passed.

DQW: Right, I interviewed him. He had written a great column the day after this incident, saying ‘this will reshape Reagan’s presidency because, I promise you, no one will forget what he did on this day. They will remember.’ And I asked him [for this book], ‘Is that true? Now that you look back thirty years later, is that true?’

‘[He said] Del, this was the day that made him a mythic figure.’

Rawhide Down is an excellent piece of historical journalism. It avoids potential partisan pratfalls by generally ignoring politics and adhering to the facts – what a concept! Rather than pushing an agenda, Wilber elegantly allows the inherently dramatic story to unfold on its own. The resulting product speaks for itself. Its detailed and engrossing presentation will capture the imagination, and likely the admiration, of Reagan’s political allies and foes alike.

The book is available for purchase HERE, and our interview will re-air in its entirety this weekend on my radio program.


TOPICS: Editorial
KEYWORDS: gipper; reagan; ronald; ronaldreagan; ronaldwreagan; rwr; thegipper

1 posted on 05/25/2011 5:46:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

2:27 pm

For some reason I have always thought it was just after noon

I had just got home from class at college and turned on the TV

As soon as I heard I cried then prayed for a miracle..

I do remember it was about 4PM when my rabid Democrat MIL called me and told me to pray that he would die

That was not fun

I told her I had already been praying he would live

and she had another cause to hate me forever

Oh my...


2 posted on 05/25/2011 5:53:22 AM PDT by Tennessee Nana
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To: Kaslin
Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan

This one is on deck in my Kindle after I finish The Catcher in The Rye.

3 posted on 05/25/2011 5:54:50 AM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I shall defend to your death my right to say it)
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To: Kaslin

The incident happened on March 31, 1981. But in 1979, churches across America including ours in San Jose CA were having mighty corporate intercession specifically to break the hundred-year-plus curse of a presidential death every twenty years. After much focused intercession, we felt the curse had been broken, and it was. Prayer always precedes the victory.


4 posted on 05/25/2011 5:55:29 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: Tennessee Nana
We were kids walking home from school.
I'll always remember that very shocked-looking police officer telling us the news as we stood there with our mouths open.
So thankful for President Reagan's recovery and how he helped our beloved country.


5 posted on 05/25/2011 5:59:16 AM PDT by Blue Jays (Rock Hard, Ride Free)
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To: Kaslin

I was mortified when I heard Reagan was shot. The first person I was legal enough to vote for...


6 posted on 05/25/2011 6:01:21 AM PDT by Daisyjane69 (Michael Reagan: "Welcome back, Dad, even if you're wearing a dress and bearing children this time)
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To: Kaslin

7 posted on 05/25/2011 6:02:47 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet)
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To: Kaslin
http://www.bogritz.com/lookingglass.html

Interesting read on the assassination attempt on Reagan, which includes a supposed Reagan quote: "I knew I'd been hurt, but I thought that I'd been hurt by the Secret Service man landing on me in the car, and I was, I must say, it was the most paralyzing pain. I've described it as if someone had hit you with a hammer, but that sensation, it seemed to me, came after I was in the car, and so I thought that maybe his gun or something had broken a rib. I sat up on the seat, and the pain wouldn't go away, and suddenly I found I was coughing up blood!"

8 posted on 05/25/2011 6:03:45 AM PDT by ransacked
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To: Kaslin

I was living on the downtown DC Army base where Hinckley was brought immediately after the attempt. Whole place on lockdown with MPs carrying M-16s on every corner. I almost did not get home from school.


9 posted on 05/25/2011 6:04:44 AM PDT by doodad
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To: Tennessee Nana

I, too, was home from college and sitting on the couch going over some class notes. The television was on for some background noise. I was wearing a pink polo (collar up), blue cords and boat shoes. (wow, I can remember what I was even wearing). I cried and cried. I remember being so frightened and I called a friend to discuss it. Not good memories at all.


10 posted on 05/25/2011 6:10:11 AM PDT by momtothree
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To: Kaslin
My son was 7 months old and teething the day Reagan was shot. We sat on the floor together all day glued to the tv with me giving him those frozen teething rings and praying.....that little boy grew up to be a huge Reagan fan!

He even loudly fought the college commies (and I do mean with a megaphone) in a liberal U of CA...sometimes to the point of his own safety at risk.

My joke has been that that day is the day he learned his conservative values.

11 posted on 05/25/2011 6:14:35 AM PDT by CAluvdubya (GAME ON ......Fight Like a Girl!)
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To: CAluvdubya
Book is pretty good...does show that the Secret Service failed by letting people to close with not enough people..The thing that most surprised me was Hinkley did not plan to shoot Reagan...he stopped in D.C. on the way to New Haven Conn... and read that Reagan was going to give a speech at the Hilton and just went over with a gun to see what was going on..
12 posted on 05/25/2011 6:25:47 AM PDT by Hojczyk
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To: Kaslin
Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan is the recently released, definitive account

Does the book delve into the fact that John Hinkley, Jr's father was friends and business partner with "ex" CIA commander George H.W. Bush? Does is expose the fact that both John Hinkely, Sr. and John Hinley, Jr. were heavily involved with World Vision, an international evangelical organization that often fronts for the CIA? Does it get into the fact that on the day after the assassination Scott Hinkley, John, Jr's brother, was to dine with Neil Bush, Poppy Bush's other son who was neck deep in the S&L taxpayer ripoff of the 80's?

Only in America could the Corporate Media get a away with totally ignoring the fact that the man that is "a heart beat a way from the Presidency" was so intimately involved with a would be assassin's family.

13 posted on 05/25/2011 6:28:17 AM PDT by Roninf5-1 (If ignorance is bliss why are so many Americans on anti-depressants?)
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To: Roninf5-1

See my earlier post here today....


14 posted on 05/25/2011 6:30:50 AM PDT by ransacked
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To: Roninf5-1

Some questions about that remain—about the secret service actions which left him totally exposed (his personal agent actually walked away from him); about the caliber of the bullet (which at first the ss misreported to the hospital, although they had the supposed weapon in hand); about the drive to the hospital; about Reagan not feeling anything until an agent jumped on him inside the car; etc.


15 posted on 05/25/2011 6:37:45 AM PDT by CondorFlight (I)
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To: Kaslin
On March 31, 1981 at precisely 2:27 pm, six gunshots rang out just outside the VIP entrance to the Washington Hilton.
It was March 30th, 1981.
16 posted on 05/25/2011 6:44:28 AM PDT by CtBigPat (Free Republic - The grown-ups table of the internet.)
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To: Kaslin

I certainly remember where I was. I was a radio student at my local community college (which had a radio station) and it was the first day of the quarter. We were starting a class on news reporting. As a visual aid, I turned on the station’s teletype to bring some news copy into the classroom. (Yes, I have played with a real, actual “clack-clack” teletype, hooked to the AP.) to get a couple feet of teletype stories to bring into the class.

Well, as I turned it on, the t-type’s alarm bell started ringing, a little ‘ding-ding’ like you’d hear with one of those desk bells you’d tap on to get a clerk’s attention.

(As a side note, the AP had the follwing alarm-bell code: 3 bells= ‘Urgent’, 5 bells= ‘Bulletin’, 10 bells= ‘FLASH’ or ‘EBS Test or Activation’)

As I started reading, it came to me just what was going on. I ran into the classroom and yelled to everyone “Hey! The president’s been shot!”. Massive exodus to the teletype closet. Only a couple people could even fit into the space that the t-type was in, so they kept ripping off copy and passing it back to us. Class started a bit late and the teacher brought in a radio as we listened to the coverage as he commented...not on the political situation, but on how the correspondants were covering this massively huge news story. It was surreal.


17 posted on 05/25/2011 6:46:06 AM PDT by hoagy62 (Help stamp out crack-pull up your pants.)
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To: hoagy62

According to Michael Reagan, the president woke up
and found himself surrounded by figures in white,
whom he took to be hospital staff—except, that the hospital staff in that section wore green, not white.


18 posted on 05/25/2011 6:52:40 AM PDT by CondorFlight (I)
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To: Tennessee Nana

You MIL wanted him dead wow liberalism is a mental disease


19 posted on 05/25/2011 7:16:48 AM PDT by al baby (Hi Mom!!! <sarc>)
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To: al baby

Yes

you can imagine how I felt when she called me to say that

She had a high paying job as the multi-lingual secretary to the CEO of a huge international company

this woman wasnt a crazy woman locked up in an attic

although she should have been


20 posted on 05/25/2011 7:21:40 AM PDT by Tennessee Nana
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To: Kaslin

I was always very suspicious of this. Just from the video it appeared to be one of the least secure settings I’d ever seen an American President brought in to.


21 posted on 05/25/2011 7:30:24 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Roninf5-1
"Does the book delve into the fact that John Hinkley, Jr's father was friends and business partner with "ex" CIA commander George H.W. Bush? Does is expose the fact that both John Hinkely, Sr. and John Hinley, Jr. were heavily involved with World Vision, an international evangelical organization that often fronts for the CIA? Does it get into the fact that on the day after the assassination Scott Hinkley, John, Jr's brother, was to dine with Neil Bush, Poppy Bush's other son who was neck deep in the S&L taxpayer ripoff of the 80's?"

Still ignored of course.

IMO, Reagan wasn't following the program laid out for him. He was much more compliant after being shot than before. I think he got the message.

22 posted on 05/25/2011 7:36:06 AM PDT by GourmetDan (Eccl 10:2 - The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.)
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