Nation: Meet the Real Ronald Reagan

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nomination, he welcomed the support of Republican moderates, but they came to him, not he to them. In one conversation, he discussed party unity this way: "I think the division of the Republican Party grew from pragmatism on the part of some, the Republicans who said, 'Look what the Democrats are doing and they're staying in power. The only way for us, if we want to have any impact at all, is somehow to copy them.' This was where the split began to grow, because there were other people saying, 'Wait a minute. There is a great danger in following this path toward Government intervention.' " He made very clear his conviction that unity has been restored because the "pragmatists" have now conceded to the conservatives, and equally clear that he was not using the word pragmatist as a compliment.

On the other hand, he wants to win, and ambition has sandpapered the edge of some of his most obvious political splinters. He is courting blue-collar votes, but he has not changed his mind on any of the important labor legislation pending before Congress. He is making a token attempt to win black support. In public, if someone raises the question, he will say that opposition to the landmark civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s has faded, and of course as President he will enforce those laws. But in private he will still say that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was too selective and unfair to the Southern states. In short, Reagan is still a Reaganite, though a more mature and polished Reaganite than in the past.

His new patina, however, has neither obscured nor answered the most troubling question about Reagan. Put starkly, that question is whether he is smart enough to be President. The U.S. has seldom demanded that its chief executive officers be intellectuals, of course. But clear-eyed realism, sensitive and discriminating judgment, a feel for power relationships, instinct born of at least a general knowledge of how the System works are all demanded in a President.

Using these criteria, the evidence about Reagan is at best mixed. He has clearly shown a capacity to grow and meet new challenges. One expert adviser says that Reagan's instincts are sound and his mind open to argument, but adds candidly that Reagan has difficulty seeing the connections between related problems and goals. An aide who is much closer to Reagan personally says, "He isn't dumb, but sometimes he has a lazy brain. He reads something, and it goes into the reservoir he has up there without checking. It comes out when he turns the spigot on."

After this tendency to spout believe-it-or-not "facts" had got him into repeated trouble, Reagan brought it mostly under control; he still tears many clippings out of newspapers, but now adays he passes them on to his staff for checking before using the information in speeches. Last week's Mount St. Helens gaffe was an exception. But he still clings to favored notions, sometimes beyond the point of reason.

An example of how Reagan's mind works is his view on welfare. As he says, the system is a mess—costly, self-perpetuating and so far immune to reform. Reagan blames the bureaucrats. Welfare recipients, he says, have become prisoners of their caseworkers' need for a clientele. His solution is to get Washington out of the system by turning over all responsibility for

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