PM Quote of the Day — Cato the Elder

Tis sometimes the height of wisdom to feign stupidity. 

Ronald Reagan was an “amiable dunce” according to the wise men of Washington, someone who got by on good looks and the ability to read a script well.  Of course, it was natural to believe that of a former movie actor who often related anecdotes that blurred the line between history and Hollywood.  In the years after his Presidency, Reagan received kudos for the constancy of his vision.  However, there persisted a belief that he was never “all there”. 

That is, until the release of his personal letters (article here, Google Book excerpt here) and White House diaries (The Reagan Diaries excerpts here).   Hundreds of pages of handwritten evidence forced people to ask:

Should the details in the letters change history’s judgment on Reagan?  Was he more involved in policy than many thought?  “You see someone who is much deeper and more sophisticated politically than many have thought in the past,” says Kiron Skinner, a Carnegie Mellon professor of history who is one of the [Reagan letters] book’s co-editors.

It turns out that Reagan’s “stupidity” was perhaps his greatest acting job.  His opponents never worried about him outthinking them.  They would often be dumbfounded at bad turns in their fortunes — they could only attribute Reagan’s victories to luck or charm.  Anything but brains. 

Perhaps we can take a cue from Ronald Reagan and not always feel like we have to jump into the conversation and be “right”.  Besides, when we spend so much time talking we’re likely not listening.  Even worse, we’re probably ignoring that person who is sitting quietly while writing in his or her diary.

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