It might be hard for some to believe on this day when millions of Americans remember and celebrate President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday that there was a point a bit after midway in his first term in the White House when it looked likely there would be no second term.
Former Examiner associate editorial page editor Quin Hillyer recalls in a superb piece for The American Spectator some dark days for Reagan in 1983 and how he reacted to them:
"With unemployment having peaked at a whopping 10.8 percent, Time magazine concluded a 'special report' by predicting the strong possibility that the Reagan term would be 'regarded as an aberrational interlude in American politics, rather than the start of a significant change in the direction of government.'"
In a column he wrote for the Mobile Register in 1999, Hillyer told of an occasion when a large group of college students who visited the White House on Reagan's birthday in 1983 and he joined them for what was supposed to be brief remarks. Quin describes the very different course of events that took place:
"After a cake presentation and 15 minutes of banter, an aide nudged Reagan up the staircase. But a guy in a leg cast yelled for the president to sign his crutch. Reagan stopped at a mini-balcony and said, 'Send it up!'
"And, having signed the crutch, he just wouldn't leave. Far from being depressed by his political standing, he was ebullient. The college kids kept yelling questions; the president kept cracking one-liners; the aide kept tugging at Reagan's sleeve, to no avail.
"Somebody mentioned a potential Democratic rival for the 1984 campaign. Reagan yelled: 'Bring him on!' And then, smiling all the while, the president gave a cogent explanation of why he would beat all comers. The economy was turning around, he said. Interest rates and inflation had dropped. Supply and demand were rising together. America's best days were still ahead.
"'All right, Ronnie!' yelled one student, losing all sense of decorum. 'Way to go, Ronnie!'
"The president wasn't affronted, he was delighted. And, to his aide's obvious consternation, he stayed another half-hour. It was a Sunday afternoon and his birthday, and the president was determined to keep enjoying a raucous, unscripted free-for-all with a bunch of college kids."