People forget what an extremist Ronald Reagan was. He wasn’t a kindly old man who told funny stories, he was a demagogue who wanted to end political unrest by slaughtering all the hippies:
“If it’s to be a bloodbath, let it be now.”
Later he claimed that “bloodbath” was just a figure of speech. I’ve never heard anyone else use “bloodbath” as a figure of speech. Certainly the National Guard at Kent State didn’t use it that way. They loaded their rifles with live ammunition, took aim, and fired.
Of course this is the same man who, when called out for telling a joke denigrating Poles and Italians, claimed that he was merely giving an example of the sort of thing he personally did not find funny.
So I don’t think telling the truth was of particular importance to him.
And I don’t think our current political climate is an aberration.
It’s more of a culmination.