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On Whether Reagan Neglected National Security

10:16 AM, Jul 26, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The boss yesterday wrote a post yesterday saying that, contrary to certain things others were saying, President Ronald Reagan did not neglect national security:

I can't believe the story is true. Or if Reagan did once say what Baker says he said, it was an expression of exasperation after one (presumably unsatisfactory) meeting that neither Reagan nor Baker followed through on. In fact, I'll buy Jim Baker a very good dinner next time he's in Washington if he or anyone else can find a 100-day stretch (or a ten-day stretch) of the Reagan presidency in which President Reagan was involved in no national security meetings. I encourage interested readers to research this eminently researchable topic, and e-mail us what you find at

Bill Doherty, from Fairfield, California, writes: 

I was intrigued by the article “Did President Reagan Neglect National Security?”, so as you suggested, I accessed the Reagan Foundation’s diaries for his time in office (fascinating resource!). Here’s what I found:

In Reagan’s first 100 days in office (1/20/81-4/29/81), there is documentation for 70 of those days including some sort of national security/foreign affairs involvement (meetings with National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, foreign heads-of-state, and trips to foreign lands). Four days from the 100 have no diary at all. Of course, in the 30 days with no documented evidence, that doesn’t preclude that some foreign affairs work got done.

I think it is also important to note that 13 of these days were spent in the hospital recovering from the assassination attempt. On many of these days, a national security briefing was the only “business” that Reagan attended to from his hospital room.

Erik Kelly, from Glen Lyon, Pennsylvania, adds: 

President Reagan's White House Diary reveals that he participated in a number of meetings explicitly focused on national security. The first type are short (15-45 minute) meetings called "national security briefings," typically held with Vice President Bush and Richard V. Allen, Assistant for National Security Affairs. Sometimes the meetings were larger. Mr. Baker was not always listed as present for these meetings. They were held on the following dates (all dates 1981):

March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 12, March 13, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19

The second sort of meeting I have found are National Security Council/NSC Planning Group meetings. These are longer (typically over an hour) and I found them on the following dates:

February 27, March 4, March 9, March 19

And John Pitney responds here.

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