The Corner

Reagan@100: Hinckley’s Aim

Ronald Reagan is loved by nearly everyone these days — at least, nearly everyone can find something good to say about the man. It was not always thus.

Like everyone else who lived through his presidency, I vividly remember the day Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. I was a graduate student at Harvard back then, and my shock and horror were compounded by the reaction of a fellow graduate student to the news: He was delirious with joy. That was not a defining moment for me, but the degree of hatred, openly and unabashedly expressed, registered deeply. What was its source?

Just 69 days into his first term, it was certainly nothing that Reagan had done as president. And it was not, I would guess, anything in particular Reagan had threatened to do. Rather, he was hated not for what he did but for who he was. For his love of America, his belief in free markets, his loathing of Communism, and his readiness to defend our country, he was regarded by a segment of our intellectual elite as a simpleminded embarrassment. On the heels of Vietnam, his full-throated embrace of our country was anathema to the Left.

Three decades later, even as Reagan the man has gained broader approbation, anathema it remains. And the same old hatred lives on, only it has found new objects.

Gabriel Schoenfeld is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a resident scholar at the Witherspoon Institute.

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