Michael Reagan is outraged because he has been accused of using his father's position as president to get defense business for a firm he was "vice president" of. He wrote a letter to military installations soliciting contracts, noting that "with my father's leadership at the White House, this countries (sic) Armed Forces are going to be rebuilt and strengthened."
Young Reagan was quoted after the flap as saying, "It's just so silly. Somebody else can write a letter to military bases or anybody else, and say my dad's a great president, and I have the press at my doorstep." He maintained that he was being penalized because his father was president, and he was being kept from making a living.
One can only sympathize with Michael Reagan. But at the same time it's not as easy for a general to ignore a letter from the president's son as it is one from Arnold Doppledinger, who is trying to get the same contract.
Michael did not have a chance to make a follow-up telephone call to his letter, because he resigned after the news stories. But the conversation might have gone something like this:
"General, this is Michael Reagan, as in Ronald Reagan . . . Dad is doing just fine. I talked to him the other day. What I'm calling about is that I understand you're in the market for grommets for our new missiles. As you know, if you got my letter, Dad is intent on getting the military back on its feet, and he told me he is going to insist our grommets are as good as, or better than, any the Soviets are making at this time.
"My company makes the best grommets in America, General, if I do say so myself. But I don't want you to consider us just because my father is your commander in chief.
"At the same time, I don't want you to consider us for the contract just because my dad happens to be president of the United States and somebody I love and admire very much.
"The decision of where you will buy your grommets rests solely with you. Dad told me on the phone the other day he is leaving the grommet problem to his generals because they know much more about them than he does.
"I want to make it perfectly clear that Dad does not know I'm calling you. If you see fit not to give us the contract, I will be personally disappointed but it will have no effect on your future promotion or procurement assignment. Dad doesn't operate that way. That's why I respect him and am proud to be his son.
"Now I know there are lot of firms bidding for your grommet contract and you have to study each one carefully before making your decision. All I'm asking is that you give us the same break you would give any other company when it comes to quality and price. Dad wants the biggest bang for the buck. When I told him at dinner at the White House the other night about the new X12 grommet we had developed, he became very excited and called Cap Weinberger, the secretary of defense, to ask him what he knew about it. Cap told Dad he was sure you had heard about the X12 because you were the best procurement general we had.
"I'm sending you over a sample of one of our grommets just in case Cap calls you and wants to know about it. Dad didn't tell Cap that I was in the grommet business, because he was afraid that my connection might tilt the military toward our grommet. So there is no pressure on you from anyone above to order the X12 over our competitor's. If you feel Dad is wrong about the X12, based on what I told him, then he'll take your word for it.
"All I'm asking is that you don't turn us down because my name is Reagan. I'm trying to make a living as a private citizen, and the last thing I would do is cash in on my father's position as the greatest leader of the Western world.
"I'd be happy to fly out and have lunch with you, General, if you'd like. But I have to go now because I have Dad on hold."