In response to:
Reconstructing Ronald Reagan from the March 1, 2007 issue
To the Editors:
It is always distressing to read “upgradings” by academics and journalists more determined to recreate history in their own imaginings than in the facts that are available for honest consideration [Russell Baker, “Reconstructing Ronald Reagan,” NYR, March 1]. Ronald Reagan may have done laudable things but he was also a monster and, in my estimation, responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler. He is one of the persons most responsible for allowing the plague of AIDS to grow from 41 cases in 1981 to over 70 million today. He refused to even say the word out loud for the first seven years of his presidency and when he did speak about it it was with disdain. He was, in the words of his domestic policy adviser, Gary Bauer, “irrevocably opposed to anything having to do with homosexuality” (personal communication with me in his White House office in April of 1983). As I write in my book The Tragedy of Today’s Gays (Penguin, 2005), “I can locate no work of any urgency, or indeed, much work at all, on AIDS” during his entire presidency, thus allowing many millions of gay men all over the world to be exposed to the virus without so much as a warning from anyone in his government. Those of us on the front lines can attest to this stone wall that was unbreachable. It is laughable that Emerson, a possibly gay man himself, should be dragged in here. “Great flexibility of mind!” “Ability to adapt and embrace change!” Diggins and Arquilla have got to be joking.
New York City
April 12, 2007