WASHINGTON -- If President Ronald Reagan were alive to celebrate his 100th birthday this week, "he would be disturbed by the level of vitriol" coming from his own Republican party.
He also would be "furious" at recent GOP efforts to block an arms control treaty with Russia given that eliminating nuclear weapons was a signature issue he cared deeply about.
So says his youngest child, Ron Reagan, in an interview with AOL News.
An unapologetic liberal whose new memoir, "My Father at 100," has mostly garnered attention for the revelation that his father may have shown early signs of Alzheimer's disease while he was president, Ron Reagan is used to being discounted for his political beliefs.
His adopted older half-brother Michael, whose new political manifesto about his father lags behind Ron's slim volume on Amazon, ripped into him for promoting "falsehoods and lies and conspiracy theories to sell books." Michael, a former conservative talk show host, tweeted that "my brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother."
The siblings haven't talked in years. Ron Reagan said his brother hadn't read his book when he fired the salvo on Twitter. But his mother, Nancy, who "is sharp as a tack" even if physically slowing down, has.
He said she instructed him on what to say to interviewers: "'You tell them that I've read it, I loved it, it made me cry, and I'm very proud of you.' "
"I argued plenty with my father when he was alive; I have no intention of picking a fight with him now that he's gone and can't defend himself," Reagan writes.
Instead, "My Father at 100" muses on Ronald Reagan's formative years growing up in small-town Illinois. It is a chronologically liberal journey in space -- the author tootles along the backroads of his father's youth -- and time; the memoir veers from the potato famine in the Ireland of his great-grandparents to the California suburbs of his youth. Along the way, Ron Reagan dissects several creation stories told often by the 40th president.
(In what is either a very bad typo or a Freudian slip of epic proportions, he refers on page 40 to his father as the "forty-fourth president of the United States.")
"His was a life that spanned the twentieth century, stopping along the way in venues as quintessentially American as the small-town Midwest, Golden Age Hollywood, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," writes Reagan, who traveled to Dixon, Ill., and other towns where his father lived before heading to California.
Though the elder Reagan's "voice still resonates" today, the son writes that his father was "an emissary from our nation's past" and "remained to the end of his days, in many respects, a child of" the 19th century.
The younger Reagan is convinced that having come of age in a more genteel time -- the president eschewed profanity except perhaps in private -- he would have been dismayed at the tenor of political discourse today.
"I feel comfortable saying he would be very, very disturbed by the vitriol, very disturbed by the 'birther' business, that (President Obama) is a 'terrorist,'" Reagan said. "All of that kind of stuff he would think was way, way over the top and just mean-spirited and stupid."
Ronald Reagan "was a very civil man, a gentleman," his son said. "I think he would find that rhetoric beneath the dignity of the country."
Reagan also said his father would not have been pleased "to see a bunch of people throwing up procedural B.S. to try and delay" ratification of the START treaty for political reasons. "He'd want to pinch somebody's head off," he said, without naming names of those he believes would have annoyed his father.
The first-time author warned against using the centennial of his father's birth Feb. 6 -- as Michael Reagan has done -- to extrapolate how he would come down on contemporary issues.
"As far as any specific policy things, it's just a big mistake to try to put words in his mouth or ascribe feelings to him," Reagan said. "Presumably his thinking would have evolved. It's been a long time since he was in public life. Times change."
Still, Reagan suggested his father might be considered a RINO today, a view shared by at least some conservatives.
After all, as governor of California, he signed a liberal abortion law six years before Roe v. Wade. As president, he granted amnesty for illegal immigrants and, after slashing taxes, he raised them when "that old trickle-down thing wasn't working," his son said.
"By some measures," he said, Ronald Reagan today would be considered "quite centristy, at the very least."
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