. . . a mentally imbalanced young man made an attempt on the life of the greatest domestic policy president of the last century. While assassins have attempted to shoot our chief executives at least since Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan was the first to survive being hit by an assassin’s bullet. Had medical technology been better a hundred years before the Gippper took office (or had White House physicians been more competent), the president with the finest undergraduate education in American history, James A. Garfield, would have completed his journey to Williams College for his twenty-fifth reunion and gone on to serve two full terms.
Shot on July 2, 1881, Garfield lingered, in extreme pain, until September 19 of that year, dying not from the bullet wound, but an infection, possibly caused by unsterilized medical equipment.
Ronald Reagan broke the curse of his predecessors elected in “0″ years. Every president since William Henry Harrison elected in a year ended in “0″ would die in office. Like Garfield, Lincoln was shot, but the Great Emancipator did not linger for several months. William McKinley, elected in 1900, also died of a bullet wound. Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected in 1940, suffered a number of health problems which accounted for their untimely demises. John F. Kennedy was the first Democrat to die from an assassin’s bullet.
Ronald Reagan broke that curse. And for that, we are forever grateful to the team of competent physicians at George Washington University Hospital.
UPDATE: Over a Powerline, Steven Hayward offers a more comprehensive report on the shooting and its aftermath.