Our correspondent, longtime Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist Robert Scheer, has spent several hours over the years questioning President Reagan on a variety of subjects and in a variety of venues, yielding, among other things, hours of videotape and newspaper interviews. His anecdotes are thus verifiably factual, whereas many of biographer Edmund Morris’s are of course rather notoriously fictional. But aside from this deviation from Morris’s technique, Scheer has attempted to remain faithful to the biographer’s style.
It was the spring of 1980, and the sun disappearing into the cold gray Iowa landscape as we circled for a landing could have been taken as a signal of departing optimism echoing the omnipresent doom that at that moment defined the Ronald Reagan for President campaign. A gloom that would not for long sit well with a man who had forsaken Dixon for Hollywood. A gloom that this man Dutch would himself forsake, as was his style, upon disembarking to greet an awaiting audience, pompadour and smile frozen tightly in time for his entry onstage–scripted, confident, ever alive onstage, only alive onstage, but let’s not suggest that this is the whole story or there would be no reason to read on. There is a man beyond the actor, and I will find him, or there is no justification whatsoever for this enormous waste of an opportunity. (Dutch is that man, this is his story, and we continue quite marvelously without the faintest sense of obligation to indicate where we are headed, because the restraints of traditional biography would obscure that which is most interesting about Dutch and his world: his officially authorized biographer, or AB as we shall from time to time refer to him.)
–Notes of AB scribbled hastily
eight years later in bathroom of Air Force One
as it was preparing for a landing
* * *
Back to 1980. Bush up in polls, Reagan judged too old, headlines couldn’t be worse, NR is bowling apples down the aisle of the campaign plane, [Mike] Deaver and [Stu] Spencer and [Ed] Meese are permanently stuck in a goopy huddle, and the comely blond volunteer smiles at AB. AB will not actually be present for another ten years, but even in his fictional incarnation he is clearly more interesting, sexually and in every other which way, even to her uncultivated mind, than that boy/man called Dutch. Although no one ever refers to him as Dutch, preferring Old Ron or Governor or later Mr. President, except AB, for whom the common moniker of Dutch clearly connotes the status of a subject unworthy of AB’s attentions. What a relief, if AB would only forget all about Reagan and play exclusively with himself as the book’s subject, which is all that really seems to interest him.
—Notes of RS on Post-it note stuck
in Dutch while force-reading
for overdue Nation review