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The Gipper is Gone

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, died earlier today after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93.

President Ronald W. Reagan

FOX News reports:
"My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer's disease at 93 years of age," former First Lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement. "We appreciate everyone's prayers."

In Paris, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said President Bush was notified of Reagan's death in Paris at about 4:10 p.m., EDT, by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. Bush offered his condolences to Reagan's widow shortly thereafter.

"He always told us that for America the best is yet to come," Bush said of Reagan. "We comfort ourselves by telling ourselves that the same is true for him. ... We know a shining city is waiting for him."
The body of the former President has been taken from his home to a funeral home in Santa Monica, California, and will proceed to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, where it will lie in repose for 24 hours. Public viewing will begin at the library following a short ceremony for the family.

The President's body will be flown to Washington on Tuesday, and will lie in state for two days in the Capitol rotunda before a state funeral held at the National Cathedral.

All national flags should be flown at half-staff for the next 30 days in accordance with U.S. Flag Code.

On 30 March 1981, just 69 days into his Presidency, while leaving the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, President Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent, and a District of Columbia police officer were shot by John Hinckley, Jr. Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet from his chest (which barely missed his heart) he remarked to his surgeons, "I hope you're all Republicans," and to his wife Nancy he jokingly commented, "Honey, I forgot to duck."

Reagan had great stage presence, as well as great instincts for cultivating positive responses from the public. His calm speaking voice and forceful language earned him the nickname "the Great Communicator."

As a politician and as President, he is noted for being anti-communist, in favor of tax cuts, declaring war on drugs, in favor of smaller government, a strong supporter of the military, in favor of removing corporate regulations, supportive of business interests both large and small, supportive of individual liberties, tough on crime, and believing that freedom and democracy can and should exist across the world. Indeed, most credit President Reagan with winning the Cold War.

Reagan's policies included strong support of the U.S. military and the doctrine of "peace through strength." On 8 March 1983 he called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" and later in his presidency while speaking in front of the Berlin Wall he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

In 1984, he was re-elected in a landslide, winning in 49 of 50 states and receiving nearly 60 percent of the popular vote.

Reagan was in many ways the founder of the modern Republican Party. His redefinition of fiscal conservatism as being focused on tax cuts ("Reaganomics"); his opposition to progressive taxation, excessive environmental protection and regulation, and abortion; the importance of the Moral Majority and its supporters in his governing coalition; and even his support of missile defense systems have all become trademarks of subsequent Republican leaders, including George W. Bush.

In 1992, four years after leaving office, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As the years went on, the disease began to slowly take over the former President's brain and body, forcing him to live his post-presidency in quiet isolation. He informed the nation of his condition himself on 5 November 1994 in the form of a personal letter. A tragic anecdote told of this time is of his removing from a friend's aquarium a ceramic model of the White House. It is said that he said, "I know this is important, but I don't know why." His ailing health was further destabilized by a fall in 2001, which shattered part of his hip and rendered him virtually immobile. By 2004 Reagan could no longer speak coherently and had trouble with even the most basic tasks and it was rumored, although not confirmed, that he had begun to enter the final stage of Alzheimer's, described as the "sit and stare" stage, common to many patients in the last stages of the disease.

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