A lot of speculation has been flying in regard to the "Reagan" quote, penned by Michael Kinsley. It is time to give credit where credit it due, for in the end it is the satire that survives whilst the speculation shrivels and dies.
Kinsley is best known for his quote, ""A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth." He is an American political journalist, commentator television host and liberal pundit. Primarily active in print media as both a writer and editor, he also became known to television audiences as a co-host on Crossfire. Kinsley has been a notable participant in the mainstream media's development of online content. (source: Wikipedia)
I first became aware of him upon reading his commentary in Time Magazine, "The Quite Gay Revolution", which can be found here.
But what about Reagan's quote, you ask?
Michael Kinsley, a man known for his clever sense of humor, penned the "quote" in an article after he had been tipped off that he was mentioned in Reagan's diaries. He did so June 2007, for the The New Republic. "Kinsley ruminated about why the president might have had occasion to mention his name in a diary entry, and offered several flight-of-fancy suggestions" (source: Snopes.)
"Direct quote" from the just published REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is dated May 17, 1986. 'A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne're-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.' (I have highlighted the "tip off" words for you.)
Did Reagan call G.W. Bush a ne’er-do-well? No. Reagan did not write this in his diaries. The quotation is pulled from an article titled "My Lunch with Reagan" by Michael Kinsley in the New Republic (vol. 237, issue 1, 7/2/07). And, not surprisingly, the quotation is taken out of context. In its original context it's easy to tell that it's meant as a joke:
The literary editor of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, brought the joyous news. "Guess what, Mike. You're mentioned in Reagan's diaries." The diaries were published recently by HarperCollins and were
generally well-received. Edited by America's historian-on-steroids, Douglas Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries apparently reveal Reagan to be more thoughtful than he is normally given credit for. Of course, our standards in the area of presidential thoughtfulness have plummeted in recent years. Still, the fact that Reagan was writing it all down was news, and an interesting departure from presidential tradition. Traditionally, presidents use a hidden tape recorder.
But I was more interested in the me angle, frankly. And it was a puzzle. What on earth could Reagan have written? I indulged my imagination, and my ego:
"January 22, 1983. Mommie [Nancy] says that Kinsley's column this week in The New Republic undermines the entire philosophical basis of my administration. O dear O dear, I had better not read it."
Or: "October 6, 1987. Why does Kinsley keep picking on me? He is the only thing standing between me and the total destruction of the welfare state. But, ha: I will destroy him--destroy him utterly-- or my name's not … not … not … . Say, they had 'State Fair' on TV last
night. What a wholesome, clean-cut young man that Pat Boone is."
Or: "May 17, 1986. A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."
I hope that this is the end of such rumors. Whilst I had a good chuckle at Dubya's expense, I find that Kinsley deserves the credit for such wit.