As many media outlets are noting, today is the 25th anniversary of Reagans shooting outside the Washington Hilton. In the account of it that I am writing for the second volume of The Age of Reagan, I decided not to mention the name of his shooter, not even once. The bad guys get too much publicity in this world. We should deliberately overlook them when we can.
There was the usual handwringing about guns and the "sick society" of America in the aftermath of the shooting, which set Reagan up to reprise one of his favorite themes from the 1960s when he spoke triumphantly to Congress a month later. Back in the 1960s few things angered Reagan more than the charge that America was a “sick society.” He had spoken often against this theme in the past, including a 1970 speech entitled “Ours Is Not a Sick Society.” Now, before Congress and the watching nation, Reagan closed the book on that theme once and for all:
You’ve provided an answer to those few voices that were raised saying that what happened was evidence that ours is a sick society. . . Well, sick societies don’t produce men like the two who recently returned from outer space. Sick societies don’t produce young men like Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, who placed his body between mine and the man with the gun simply because he felt that’s what his duty called for him to do. Sick societies don’t produce dedicated police officers like Tom Delahanty or able and devoted public servants like Jim Brady. Sick societies don’t make people like us so proud to be Americans and so very proud of our fellow citizens.
One unexpected exception from the handwringing came from The Nation, which wrote in the aftermath of the shooting: "[Reagan’s] resilience provided a brief celebration of the tenacity of life and a reassuring glimpse at an appealing aspect of Ronald Reagan’s character. . . One half-expected to read upon awakening from the anesthesia he had quipped, ‘Where’s the rest of me?’”