Rick Perlstein, author of The invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan spoke to Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies about how Reagan’s stories did not withstand scrutiny:
"I say that Ronald Reagan could not have survived the age of Google. … He’s telling a story about out-of-control federal bureaucrats and how they even want a tourist paddle wheeler that plies the Mississippi River to get the same kind of fire insurance that commercial ships have, even though this paddle wheeler is this ancient — not a real ship, right? He says, "It has not even had a fire in its entire existence." All I have to do is Google the name of it … and find out that it had a fire two years before he spoke.
He found moral truths in the stories that he told. As people discovered when he was president, they often didn’t withstand scrutiny, but as they also discovered when he was president, it was always hard to make this criticism of Reagan stick. They called him “The Teflon President.” And his ability to make people feel good — to kind of preach this liturgy of absolution in which Americans were noble and pure and could absolve themselves of the responsibility of reckoning with alleged sins in America’s past — that was to me the soul of his appeal.”
Ronald Reagan waves to the crowd on the final night of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 19, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri. By David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images