10 AUGUST 1985, Page 19

LETTERS Reagan deserves better

Sir: Christopher Hitchens's article, ghoulishly announced as 'Living with a dying President', (20 July) was one of the most tasteless, dishonest, and pretentious I have ever read about American affairs in a serious publication. The author's claim about Mr Reagan's recent illness that, Like the British during the Abdication crisis, you had to follow the foreign press to find out what was going on,' is a falsehood and a conceit. President Reagan's health has been thoroughly cov- ered in the media of this continent, with- out, as far as I have observed, recourse to Hitchens's notion that the President's post- operative requirements for lavatory visits during his upcoming meeting with Soviet leader Gorbachev will be such that he should spare `us [the Western World] any further embarrassment by resigning now'. Hitchens states that he has examined the background of Mr Reagan's doctor (`this is America' after all), and modestly con- cludes that he (Hitchens), apparently un- like anyone m the United States, is qual- ified to diagnose the impact of the Presi- dent's bowel movements upon his powers of concentration (`mental capacity has nev- er been his strong suit'). Only Hitchens knows for sure that Mr Reagan was aware of his condition 14 months ago but, in a very self-sacrificing' act, deferred his surgery in order not to 'spoil the chances of a second term'. Must we wait for a Hitch- ens sequel to learn why the President left it until eight months after his landslide re- election to cast out this malignancy? I have generally been disappointed by the lack of integrity and serious analysis in British (and most foreign) reporting of American affairs. This was one of the lesser reasons why I recently purchased a sizeable interest in the Telegraph, as it is (along with the Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist) one of the few British publications whose reports on the United States are not habitually snobbish, envious and simplistic. There is ample room for debate over Mr Reagan's performance as President, but no one in his right mind could dispute that he has been an effective and often a courageous leader. As a statesman and as a cancer patient, he deserves better than Hitchens's nasty, macabre, vulgar, and insolent claptrap. So, even, does the Spectator's readership. Conrad M. Black

Chairman, Argus Corporation Ltd, 10 Toronto Street, Toronto