Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reagan Revisited

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reagan Revisited

Article excerpt

I remember a big surprise Ronald Reagan gave me in one of his interviews. As I sat down beside him in a plane somewhere over the Midwest during his 1980 presidential campaign, I noticed he had a newspaper open to an astrology column. "Do you read that?" I asked him. "Yes," he said. "An old friend writes it, and Nancy and I keep up with it." "But just for fun," he said. "We don't take it seriously."

As surprised as I was by this Reagan disclosure, the big surprise for me back then was that he was telling me something about himself I hadn't heard before. Later (much later, near the end of his second term as president) we learned from his chief of staff, Donald Regan, that first lady Nancy Reagan was having some of her husband's important events rescheduled if she felt the "signs" would be bad for him on that particular day. She obviously was taking astrology seriously -and maybe he did, too.

You normally didn't learn anything new when you sat down with Mr. Reagan. I had been working at it over the years, starting when I rode around with him and Nancy when he was trying to decide whether to run for governor of California. He seldom wandered from a well- honed speech, in which he would hammer away at the need, as he saw it, to return power to the states and strengthen the defense against the Soviet Union. Then, of course, there were always a lot of Reagan anecdotes.

That was the theme, repeated in many variants later on in my interviews and breakfast meetings with Reagan during his years as president. It would be pretty much the same old gruel. Yes, you could say he was single-minded and single-purposed. But you could also conclude that he wasn't quick to entertain new ideas and didn't do a lot of thinking for himself. Indeed, the knock on Reagan, from the Democrats and much of the press, was that President Reagan was dumb. Likable, but dumb.

Yes, that's what George W.'s opponents are saying about him, too: He's likable, but dumb.

Now, out of the blue, comes a big and, doubtless, unsettling surprise for those who have been bad-rapping Reagan with the "dumb" charge. A new book, "Reagan, in His Own Hand," includes original writings from Reagan during the period 1974 to 1980, when he gave more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts and wrote two-thirds of them himself. …

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