While Matt is on holiday, he has selected a few of his “greatest hits” to re-run until he returns next week. This originally ran at AOL’s Politics Daily on February 3, 2011.
On Sunday, Feb. 6, Americans will celebrate Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. His presidency changed the world, and I easily consider him the greatest president of my lifetime.
But had things gone differently, there would have been no “Challenger speech,” and no call for Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” And so this 100th birthday might well have come and gone with little fanfare.
We were very close to such a fate — closer than we realize. I’m talking, of course, about the assassination attempt on President Reagan early in his first term.
Most Americans don’t know how close Reagan was to dying, and even fewer know of the historical accident (some would say Providence) that may very well have saved Reagan’s life. The story was told well by Peggy Noonan in her excellent book, “When Character Was King.”
As Noonan recounted,
[Reagan aide] Mike Deaver would become emotional in the weeks after the shooting, but he knew why, there was no mystery. When the shots rang out he had just put someone in harm’s way. [Reagan press secretary] James Brady would never be the same, and it was his fault. . . .
“When we were walking out of the hotel and [AP reporter] Mike Putzel fired the question, I grabbed Brady and moved him. And I’d let the press person field the question, and I’d take his place with the president and we’d get in the car. I heard Putzel, I moved Brady. And Reagan was waving, and I went around the back of the car just as a shot crossed my right shoulder. A shot right across my shoulder. I ducked down and then immediately got in the car and looked back and it was a war zone.”