Out of the Past, Fresh Choices for The Future

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sought? Regarding the Third World, Reagan and his people have talked as if Soviet mischief making were the main problem, and also have come out strongly against organized terrorism, suggesting that the U.S. will send supplies to countries under siege by guerrillas. How does that position affect Latin America today, especially El Salvador skidding crazily toward a possible civil war? Given Third World realities, it is all very well to support anti-Communist regimes without too much worry about how democratic they are, but what if they are so discredited with their own people that they cannot survive? For cogent reasons, Reagan and his aides seem willing to downplay the human rights issue somewhat, but how will they deal with it in the context of Soviet Jews and other dissidents?

In the Middle East, how will he continue to placate both Israelis and Arabs? How will he reassure the allies of the U.S.'s renewed commitment? These are not the kinds of problems to be handled by subordinates, committees or forceless task forces. They require determination but also sophistication. They are to be handled by a President who studies, considers and knows what he wants.

In the broadest terms Reagan does know what he wants out of the next four years. But as those terms address specifics, that broad vision may prove inept. Intellectually, emotionally, Reagan lives in the past. That is where the broad vision comes from; the past is his future. But is it also the country's? Helen Lawton, a current resident of Dixon, Ill., and a loyal Reaganite, observed of her man: "Right now, in some ways, I think he'd love to go back to the good old days. In those days he didn't even realize he was poor because so many others were poor too. He wants the good life, not in terms of material things, but so that kids can have good times and strong family relationships. Yes, I think he would like to go back to how it used to be, but it's going to be difficult." That puts it mildly.

"All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified." So said Franklin Roosevelt, who was in a good position to know. The limits of freedom, our oldest idea, must be clarified now. Meanwhile the country is patently more hopeful about its future than it has been in a long while, much longer than the past four years; and to be fair to Jimmy Carter he was surely as much a casualty of the malaise he identified as he was its superintendent. When young man Reagan went West for the first time, the future clearly looked like the ranch or like Pacific Palisades, or perhaps both: the genteel and frontier traditions bound together by good manners and pluck. But when he turns eastward this month, the New World will be more complex, more shadowy and more terrifying for all its magnificent possibility. —By Roger Rosenblatt. Reported by Laurence I. Barrett with Reagan

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