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The Cardboard Messiah

Ronald Reagan
Patrick Oliphant, born 1935
Ronald Wilson Reagan, 6 Feb 1911 - 5 Jun 2004
India ink over pencil
Sheet: 29.4 x 44.8cm (11 9/16 x 17 5/8")
Mat (horizontal): 40.6 x 55.9cm (16 x 22")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Susan Corn Conway, in honor of Alan Fern, on behalf of Patrick Oliphant
Restrictions & Rights
© Time Inc.
Object number
Exhibition Label
In 1976, when Ronald Reagan ran for the Republican presidential nomination, many opinion leaders, editorial writers, and editorial cartoonists, such as Australian born Pat Oliphant, viewed him as a cardboard figure with about as much depth as a movie poster. Oliphant's assessment of Reagan's qualifications did not take account of the two terms he served as governor of California, the country's most populous state. Some Americans celebrated Reagan's steadfast anti-Communism and consistent view of the Cold War, dating back to 1948, when he was president of Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild. Others opposed him as a dangerous and extreme right winger, a warmonger who would transform the Cold War into World War III. Historians now debate the significance of the Reagan presidency, but few dismiss the fortieth president as a shallow movie actor.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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