Family Feud: Reagan's Children Debate the Legacy of Their Father

Ron and Michael Reagan and Patti Davis Talk with Amanpour

ByABC News
January 28, 2011, 12:52 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2011— -- In exclusive interviews, "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour sat down with President Ronald Reagan's three surviving children to talk about his lasting legacy. As the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth approaches, his children have grappled with present-day conservatives who claim their father's mantle.

"There's a lot of people that try to redefine my father in their own image and likeness," Michael Reagan said. "And I think that, in fact, they do a disservice."

"You have these people running for president or want to be President of the United States, trying to literally play their own role of a lifetime and make people believe they are the next Ronald Reagan. And you know something? There was only one Ronald Reagan, thank God. And he was my father," Michael said.

"I think he would be amused and puzzled at people trying to imitate him," Patti Davis said. "Because he never imitated anybody. I mean, he was consummately his own person."

Amanpour asked Ron Reagan how he thought his father would fit into today's Republican party.

"Somewhat uneasily," he replied. "After all, he did raise taxes. He cut taxes, but then he raised taxes when he was president. The deficit certainly grew under his administration. He would blame the Democrats for that, of course, but nevertheless, it did grow. When he was governor of California, he signed into law one of the most liberal abortion policies in the country and also an amnesty program for illegal immigrants. So I'm not sure that today's Republican Party or Tea Party would be all that thrilled with him," Ron, Reagan's youngest child, said.

Michael Reagan disagreed with his brother. "He would have endorsed the Tea Party, what they're doing, and the fact is Ronald Reagan was the original Tea Party," he told Amanpour. President Reagan "understood that the electorate lived in the grass roots of this country. … It was grassroots America that supported Ronald Reagan back in 1980. That's why he became the President of the United States of America," Michael said.

Ron Reagan was frank with Christiane regarding his father's Alzheimer's disease and those claims in his new book, "My Father at 100," about his father's mental health.

"I don't diagnose him with Alzheimer's in office. I simply say that at moments, I saw little flickers of things which -- and I don't even say this in the book, but I'll say it to you -- that, in retrospect, you might wonder whether or not that was, you know, the first glimmers of this condition that would eventually kill him and he would be diagnosed, you know, shortly after leaving office," Ron said.

Ron's siblings were not all on the same page with him. "I think it's unfortunate that the topic of when my father exhibited signs of Alzheimer's was introduced at this time," Davis said.

Michael used even stronger language: "I'm upset that within [Ron's] book he stated that he believed our father had Alzheimer's while he was President of the United States of America," Michael said.

"I was outraged by it. Absolutely outraged, you know, that he would put that in there because -- because again -- and maybe it's because Ron comes from the left. Maybe this is Ron's way of -- of putting together the fact he didn't agree with his father's politics. And so if he can just put in his own mind my dad must have been ill with Alzheimer's, somehow Ron can forgive my father for all the things he did as President of the United States of America because Ron agreed with none of it," Michael told Amanpour.

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