Nation: Meet the Real Ronald Reagan

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fact his father was in the Democratic minority in the Republican small towns where the Reagans lived, and both the father and Neil held jobs administering federal welfare programs at the local level during the Depression. Reagan acknowledges that he was not very concerned about Communism until he returned from the Army after World War II to resume his movie career and became head of the Screen Actors Guild. It was a time of choosing up sides in Hollywood, of violent labor disputes and the bitter controversy about blacklisting. Reagan recalled it recently in one of those rambling monologues that sometimes seem to reveal more than he realizes. It produced a rarity in his usual discourse: a flash of real emotion in the form of raw anger.

He had returned from the military, as he now tells the story, "unaware that certain labor unions had been infiltrated by the American Communist Party. I was unbelieving until they made their big effort in a jurisdictional strike to gain control of the picture business. Then I discovered at first hand the cynicism, the brutality, the complete lack of morality of their positions and the cold-bloodedness of their attempt, at any cost, to gain control of that industry."

For seven months Reagan tried to serve as a mediator, but eventually he led actors across picket lines to help break the strike. Tension ran so high that for a while Reagan carried a revolver; he thought that Communists were out to wreck his career and might even threaten his life. He is incensed now that some writers are taking a revisionist view of the period. Says Reagan, his mouth a thin line and his face more grim than he ever lets it get in public: "The rewriting of history that is going on about that era is the biggest fairy tale since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The idea that a little band of freethinkers was being persecuted by the motion picture industry! They had a pretty good control already. They could destroy careers, and did." Reagan firmly believes that the unrest in Hollywood was directed by Moscow, and acknowledges that his experience helped shape his views of Communism. "We have been unrealistic in our approach to the Soviets all these years," he often says on the campaign trail. "They have one course and one course only. They are dedicated to the belief that they are going to take over the world."

The Hollywood and war years also seem to be the source of Reagan's deep belief that the Federal Government, with its complex tax structure, nitpicking regulation and highhanded bureaucracy, is the root of much of what is wrong in American life. Reagan explains this aspect of his ideological roots with a personal anecdote. While serving as an Army base adjutant in California, he noticed that the civilian employees sent in by Washington were far less efficient than the military personnel. They had a much higher ratio of administrators to workers. Trivial, perhaps, but Reagan has brought up that experience in two conversations, nine months apart, to explain the beginnings of his belief that the federal bureaucracy is overblown.

Other factors were at work. When he got out of the Army, Reagan was dunned by the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes on his prewar movie salary; and though he never became a top star, by the late 1940s he was making enough money to find himself in the 91% income tax bracket. He did

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