Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The John Hinckley Case


Ronald Reagan (AP)
Ronald Reagan (AP)

The 40th president of the United States was a handsome actor-turned-politician named Ronald Wilson Reagan. He was elected to office when he was 69 as the oldest man to become president, but he gave off an aura of robust good health.

Nicknamed "Dutch" as a child, Reagan became a movie actor as an adult. His characters were generally sympathetic and wholesome. He played Western heroes in Santa Fe Trail (1940) and Tennessee's Partner (1955), and military men in films like International Squadron (1941). He played the famous college football star George (the Gipper) Gipp in Knute Rockne — All American (1940). His finest role may have been as a man whose legs have been unnecessarily amputated in King's Row (1941). A line he spoke in that movie — "Where's the rest of me?" — became the wry title of his autobiography.

Jane Wyman (AP)
Jane Wyman (AP)

Reagan served several terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He used his office to try to root Communist influence out of the film industry.

In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman. They had a daughter Maureen and adopted a boy named Michael. The couple divorced in 1948.

Reagan was remarried, to actress Nancy Davis, in 1952. Together, they had two children, Patricia and Ronald.

Nancy Reagan (AP)
Nancy Reagan (AP)

A Democrat until the 1950s, Reagan became more conservative and then a Republican in 1962. He won his first public office in 1966 when he was elected governor of California. He had campaigned on a platform of lower taxes and government spending and worked to slash the welfare rolls. Some critics found his manner of cutting spending mean-spirited because it targeted the poor. But even more supported the cuts. America is a country with a strong work ethic and spirit of self-responsibility. Economic failure is not regarded with much sympathy in a country that prides itself on being the land of opportunity.

Reagan remained popular even after he sponsored tax increases. Ironically, one of his tax hikes was the largest in the state's history. He was reelected governor in 1970 and served until 1975.

Reagan campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and lost. He tried again in 1976 and lost to President Gerald Ford. He went for it a third time and won in 1980, then defeated President Jimmy Carter.

As president, Reagan made economic proposals that slashed both taxes and the budget for welfare and unemployment programs. These measures were popularly called Reaganomics. Unlike the less ideologically conservative President Richard Nixon, Reagan tended to get favorable treatment even with the press that has been so often seen as having a liberal bias.

One reason for Reagan's popularity was his appearance. He had a ruddy-cheeked open face with an easy smile and eyes that twinkled. Nixon always believed that the press loved to "kick him around" because of his conservatism, but Reagan was far more consistently right-wing and got better press than the beetle-browed, funny-nosed Nixon. Unlike the notoriously stiff Nixon, the ex-actor possessed an affable manner and a way with jokes that endeared him even to many who despised his politics. Indeed, while Nixon was often savagely attacked, even Reagan's critics tended to make fun of him in a gentle manner, concentrating on such things as his notoriously poor memory (toward the latter part of his second administration, this may have been the result of early-stage Alzheimer's).



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