Inside the Beltway
McCaslin, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Happy birthday to Ronald Wilson Reagan, born 87 years ago today in Tampico - yes, Tampico - a 200-year-old village in northwestern Illinois.
When Mr. Reagan was a boy of 9, his family moved from Tampico to Dixon, 27 miles north. Thus, Dixon is recognized as Mr. Reagan's hometown on Illinois road signs.
That straightened out, Mr. Reagan's biggest birthday present this week was the vote in Congress to rename Washington National Airport as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. A gift of a more personal nature awaits him next May, when Houghton Mifflin publishes the oral history "Reagan: The Man and His Presidency."
Compiled by Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald S. Strober, the book is drawn from more than 100 personal interviews with Reagan-era insiders. The authors have kindly allowed Inside the Beltway to read portions of those interviews for our birthday tribute today, including one with the Rev. Jerry Falwell:
"My first time alone with him for an extended period was in New Orleans during the campaign . . . [when] he said some very profound things that impressed me indelibly. He said, `Reverend, sometimes I think that we are approaching Armageddon.
" `The horrible arms buildup and the seemingly hopeless dilemma the nations of the world face today can certainly make one wonder if it can be reversed. My No. 1 responsibility, if I am elected president, is to attempt that reversal.'
" `I do believe the Bible,' he said, `and that there will one day be a final war. I must admit that I have some personal concerns that we, in fact, may be heading toward that - maybe not in my lifetime or yours, but in the near future.'
"We also talked about family issues, about the moral breakdown in the country. He told me that in his earlier life he had not always lived by the values that are precious to him today. He said, `I have had some sadness in my life, and I am not approaching the presidency as a Pharisee, with the idea that I have all the answers. Much of what I have learned has been by trial and error - sometimes more by error than by trial.'
" `But I want to assure you and all God-fearing Americans that I am sincere.'
"He wasn't really appealing for a vote or a campaign worker; he was more or less trying to communicate heart to heart, and he did it very well. . . . So my first impression from this first meeting was of his very deep faith and his sincere approach to the presidency. …