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Controversy has attended the publication of Dutch, Edmund MorrisÂ's authorized biography of President Reagan. Did the biographer commit a grievous historical sin by inserting himself, fictionally, into the narrative, or has he pioneered a valid, new type of biographical narrative? Are his characterizations of the former President fair? Both are legitimate questions, and many historians and Reagan associates are weighing in.

What has been impossible to ignore, what has, in fact, been glaring in everyoneÂ's testimony about the book is this:

Everyone is talking about Reagan in the past tense.

President Reagan lives still. But your reporter understands why even those who have known Dutch Reagan for years, who worked alongside him in the White House, speak this way.

Ronald Reagan is in the advanced stages of AlzheimerÂ's Disease.

His biographer tells of him raking leaves for hours, unaware that they are being replenished by the Secret Service agents who still guard him.

Neither Secret Service nor medical science can come to the old PresidentÂ's aid now. This assassin kills the powerful and the powerless, robs the minds of rich and poor alike.

I donÂ't think those who refer to Ronald Reagan in the past tense intend any disrespect. They know well that the subject of Edmund MorrisÂ's biography is still alive.

They are all too aware, though, that the man they knew has slipped away from them, never to return.

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