Eight things you need to know about Ronald Reagan:
One: He is mad for jellybeans.
Two: He follows his horoscope.
Three: He sometimes calls his wife "mommy."
Four: For a time, when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood was rife with Communist-hunting tension, he packed a .32.
Five: In his pubescent political days, he was a "near hopeless hemophiliac liberal," to quote him, but there days the buzzword among his packages is "centrist."
Six: He has an advance man who speaks almost in whispers, as if there were an infant in the next room. In fact, his entire staff has a kind of velvet precision, the sum effect of which cushions Ronald Reagan's days so thoroughly that he has emerged as The Shrouded Candidate.
Seven: Contrary to myth, he did get the girl. He got Priscilla Lane in "Million Dollar Baby," and he got Barbara Stanwyck in "Cattle Queen of Montana." He married Alexis Smith in "Stallion Road" and Nancy Davis in "Hellcats of the Navy." In fact, he married Nancy Davis twice, once for real. "I got the girl a lot," he says, a trifle stiffly.
Eight: Where Ronald Reagan really wants to be right now is 2,400 feet up in the Santa Ynez Mountains, at Rancho del Cielo, amid his horses and madrone trees, wearing a cowboy hat and Frisko jeans. Instead he is here at 30,000 feet, in the sealed, waxless air of a DC-9, hemmed in by aides and position papers. This is where duty and drive and destiny converge. a Lines in the Leather
He is 68 years old. The face is outdoorsy, ruddy, like an apple just shined. Up close, you see the lines and creases and crow's feet: leather finely cracked, like a saddle or the seat of an old Jaguar. These lines seem indigenous; they don't detract.
Three years earlier, in Kansas City, the morning after he had lost his party's nomination for president, he had come down from his room to address the young people who had worked for him. He spoke from his heart, not 3-by-5 cards. He said, yes, there was a great disappointment, "but the cause, the cause goes on." He said there were millions of Americans out there who wanted Washington to be a "shining city on a hill." He is recalling that moment now.
"They were just standing there, thousands of them. With tears streaming down their faces. And . . . I couldn't bear the thought of them going out of that hotel so unhappy and maybe turned-off simply because I had lost. And then I thought of John Winthrop, in 1630, off the coast of Massachusetts, in his tiny Arbella, saying that someday, 'We shall be a city on a hill.' He didn't say 'shining.' I added that."
Ronald Reagan pauses. "It still isn't shining, is it?"
Tonight, on television, Ronald Reagan, the shoe merchant's son from Tampico, Ill., the one-time sportscaster on WHO, Des Moines, the man from the movie dreams of Southern California, will announce his a candidate for president of the United States. It is a prize he has been seeking on and off for 12 years.
Some folks still call him "Dutch." Lois Binkley of Route 2, Eureka, ILL., knew Ronald Reagan a half century ago, when he was attending Christian Endeavor meeting and dating the daughter of the local minister. She lived in Rock Falls, ILL.; he lived over in Dixon, where he worked summers as a lifeguard at Lowell Park and by his own count save 27 lives. (Some of the saved bawled him out, he has recalled).
Later, at Eureka College, Mrs. Binkley washed dishes in the cafeteria alongside Dutch and his brother Moon. Dutch ran the dishwasher. Occassionally, there was some pie-throwing.
"He was always a leader," Mrs. Binkley says. "He stood for the right as God gives us to see the right. He was always there, and probably on a soapbox for something. I don't know that he's any different how than he was then. If it was 10 years ago . . . But we are not young anymore." The 37-Percent Choice
Still, he is far and away the Republican front-runner.The New York Times/CBS News Poll reported last week Reagan in the first choice of 37 percent of Republican voters. John Connally, in second place, had 15 percent; Howard Baker, 13 percent.
Because the networks refused to sell him 30 minutes of national time tonight, he has syndicated his address to upwards of 90 stations, which his media packagers say will penetrate possibly 70 percent of the TV households in America.
In Washington, Reagan will appear at 8 o'clock on Channel 5. He will not appear live. His speech was taped yesterday, at 1:30 p.m., in a closed session at the Farkas Studio in New York City. Actor Michael Landon ("Little House on the Prairie") will introduce the speech.
Will it have surprises? "Depend on what surprises you," is the way John Sears, Reagan's unflappable campaign strategist, puts it.
The pickup cars are out on the tarmac, engines idling, trunks raised, Inside Eastern Flight 375, Calvin McDowell, the lead advance, is already on his feet, getting the bags. McDowell once worked advance for Richard Nixon.
David Fischer has the governor's blue blazer. He is a personal traveling aide. He is 30ish, mustachioed, a lawyer out of Brigham Young. Insiders say he is a protege of Mike Deaver, who has been on staff these last 13 years. Deaver is considered the keeper of the candidate.
The plane stutters to a stop opposite the gate. The door slides open. Ronald Reagan, flanked front and rear, with his wife's hand cupped in his, descends a specially brought stair. In 30 seconds, he is sitting in the back of the middle car. In another 30 seconds, he is gone, wheeled off into a steely drizzle.
"Jeez," says a man from the back of the plane, "I figure it has to be somebody."
John Sears, chief political strategist for the Reagan campaign:
"I guess I've known 40 people in my life who have seriously considered running for president. The distinguishing characteristic about people who want to be president is they want it too badly. You've got to be able to hold on to something of yourself if you want this job. The extreme example of the reverse if Richard Nixon. By the time he had ever got to the job, it has eaten him alive, to some extent. Ronald Reagan wants to be president badly. But the refreshing thing is that if he doesn't get it, it won't destory him."
David Keene, once a key Reagan operative, now political strategist for George Bush:
"I think he's basically motivated by ideas, no matter perceptions. I remember this debate he had with Bobby Kennedy at Oxford right after he became governor. I was at the University of Wisconsin. Here was this Neanderthal mind going against the supposed, great, quick, liberal mind of Bobby Kennedy. Well, Bobby got wiped. Reagan destroyed him. It was a great moment for anyone young and conservative. The story is that, when he walked off the podium, Kennedy said, "Who the f--- got me into that?'"
Lyn Nofziger, long-time senior Reagan adviser who quit the staff two-and-a-half months ago in dispute with John Sears over the candidate's "direction":
"Nancy Reagan does not run him, and neither, really, does she try. The thing is, they both share a common feeling: He might have been president now. They got a strong taste of that out there in Kansas City. They won't let go now."
He used to have a fear of flying. He is a non-smoker. Occasionally he'll sip a vodka. His father was an alcoholic.
In 1951, his movie career in downward spiral, deep in debt, he played oppostie a chimp in a three-reel disaster called "Bedtime for Bonzo." The chimp had the better part. But at General Electric, progress was his most important product.
Then came a televised appeal for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, then a stint as governor when he was known to knock off at 5:30, was thought aloof, imperious -- but was returned to a second term by a landslide.
Today working through a room of admirers, sometimes on the far side of a rope, shaking hands, his walk is a little stiff-legged, like an old fighter's. He moves more side-to-side than straight on. But the smile is terrific. And he actually listens to questions.
"Do you think you're too old to be president?" a woman reporter asks at a Baltimore fund-raiser.
He stops cold. Considers the question. A small smile steals up. The room grows. "No," he says, his voice massaging the word. "Maybe I'll have to take my opponents on in arm-wrestling." Then he goes on.
He is a natural on the speaking platform. "Because of what we have here," he says, his voice in a sibilant whisper, breathy, talking just to YOU, "mankind in the meanest hut in the farthest far-off corner of the world . . . ."
For years, his best-delivered line was borrowed FDR: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will presever for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness."
He first spoke that line in a speech on television, in 1964, in behalf of Barry Goldwater's campaign for president. The speech catapulted him to national political prominence, so swift it still stuns Reagan when he recalls it. It literally launched his presidential ambitions. It is said the speech attracted more financial contributions than any single speech in political history up to that moment.
Last Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that Ronald Reagan has been averaging $45,000 a month, tending to dinner speeches, radio commentaries (200 stations daily), his syndicated newspaper column (which a public relations firm mostly drafts).
In a financial disclosure statement this past August, Reagan reported he had earned $900,000 in the preceding 18 months, charging $5,000 to appear before some trade groups and Republican Party functions. Traditionally, a lot of politicians do it free. He also charged the Boy Scouts $7,659 to speak at two dinners. His wealth is not thought to be slightly less than candidates Johnny Connally's and George Bush's.
His critics say he has no capacity for complexity, that he cannot comprehend a problem deeply. "Thin as spit on a slate rock," a former Republican Kentucky party chairman once put it. He summarized the Panama Canal issue in 1976 this way: "We built it. We paid for it. It's ours, and we're going to keep it."
In his first inaugural as California governor, he said: "For many years now, you and I have been shushed like children and told there are no simple answers to the complex problems which are beyond our comprehension. Well, the truth is there are simple answers, just not easy ones."
He had arrived as governor on three promises: less government, less spending, less control. In his eight years in Sacramento, state spending more than doubled, to $10.2 billion. He sponsored the biggest tax increase in California History. But he also turned a looming deficit into a sizable budget surplus and gave back more than $5.7 billion in rebates to taxpayers. He stood tall against campus disruption, especially at Berkeley -- and yet he more than doubled funding for the state's system of higher education.
Studying him now, he seems, for all his long journey in the public eye -- as actor, then politican -- a man unembittered by past defeats, a man who might actually enjoy himself and other people if let loose by his staff for five minutes. Some people think Ronald Reagan is a prisoner of his staff, that a strange cocoon has built up almost insidiously over the past dozen years. The Shrouded Candidate.
You get 25 minutes on an airplane with him. At 24 minutes and 30 seconds David Fischer, his aide, is standing over you. "That's it," he says. The governor himself intercedes for five more minutes. At five more minutes exactly, Fischer is back.
In Boston he gets out of a cat-gray Mercedes drawn up to an airliner. It is raining. David Fischer is holding an umbrella over him, leading him toward the plane. Instead Reagan goes over to three jack-booted cops at the bottom of the ramp to shake hands. He is getting wet. Fischer is having fits.
"We're the party of Main Street," Ronald Reagan likes to tell audiences. "We're not the party of the corporation board room, the country club set. Let's tell the cop on the beat, the shopkeeper . . ."
In Boston, he stays at the Colonnade, on the 10th floor, in the cordoned-off glassed-off Presidential Suite. The suite -- two bedrooms, two baths, refrigerator, living room, dining room -- costs $380 per day. Reagan also occupies the suite next door -- for TV interviews. He doesn't leave the hotel all day.
He is in Boston for a fund-raiser starring himself, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The fund-raiser is to start at 8 p.m. At 6:30, in the hallway outside the glass cut-off-doors, a short, thick man with a bandito mustache and a wire in his ear is saying: "So I want all nine of you around the governor when we go in there tonight, okay? We don't want any ordinary people coming up and touching him."
At 7 p.m., the curbs outside the Music Hall Theater are crammed with gawkers. They aren't here to glimpse Reagan. They want Sinatra.
"I figure if Reagan can get Sinatra and Martin, Kennedy can get the pope," says a man who has just come out of Alfie's Stage Bar across the street.
A couple of minutes before the shows begins, Reagan and his wife, Sinatra and his wife, and Martin file in to the foyer for a "photo opportunity." "Before leaving for Washington . . ." Martin says. Martin's loafers are black velvet.
What cabinet posts have you promised these guys? a reporter asks.
"Liquor," says Sinatra, stepping forward.
On a more serious note, begins another reporter, about your fundraising . . .
I don't think that's any of your business," cracks Martin.
Somebody asks Sinatra why he is switching allegiances from the Kennedys to Ronald Reagan. Sinatra, who is idly rubbing a finger up and down a Camel pack, says he's never had an allegiance with the Kennedys. "I had an allegiance with President Jack Kennedy. Jack had presence and aptitude . . . I don't know if Teddy has that."
During the show, Reagan sits in the front row with Nancy. There are white stallions on his black silk tie. He waves to the boys a couple of times.
After the performance, there is a reception for the $1,000 ticket-takers. Reagan, Sinatra and Martin watch the 11 o'clock news on all three network affiliates in Reagan's room. (The fundraiser is the lead item on all three.) Then, at 11:20, flanked by a small army, the three go downstairs to shake hands.The governor stays maybe 40 minutes. Shortly after midnight, Sinatra and Martin are on a special plane back to the Coast.
He is talking about his "personal Shangri-La." His legs are crossed, and he is sketching images with his hands. There are small brown spots on the backs of his hands.
"You see, it was just this little 100-year-old abode house with an asbestos-shingled roof when we got it. We tore off all the screening, had it framed in. The only heat in the place is still by fireplace. Somebody asked me this summer, 'When will it be done? and I said, 'I hope never.'"
He is asked about his favorite movie roles. "There were two. One led to the other. The first was playing the Gipper, George Gipp. I told the Gipper's story on my radio shows. I knew it well. The second role was that of McHugh, in 'King's Row.' I was a playboy whose legs were amputated by a vindictive surgeon who didn't like me going out with his daughter. I acted my heart out."
James Agee reviewed "King's Row" for Time magazine. He spent most of his praise on Ann Sheridan and the director. But he liked Reagan.
Reagan wakes from his operation in the film to utter the famous line that became the title of his autobiography: "Where's the rest of me?"
In 1940, Reagan married Jane Wyman. She divorced him after two kids and eight years of marriage. His career was never as hot as hers. Some people feel Reagan's need for privacy stems from that divorce.
His one villainous role was in "The Killers," loosely based on a Hemmigway short story. He slaps around Angie Dickinson in the film. There is a rumor that Reagan took this and several other films out of circulation after he got into politics. It isn't true.
There is another rumor he doesn't like: That the student strike he helped lead at Eureka College his freshman year was over a ban on dancing. "No, no ban on dancing," he says quickly. "It was a very serious strike -- over academic cutbacks. It was totally unlike anything we saw in the '60s. There were no placards, no scenes of violence, no demonstrations."
He is asked whom he would rather run against, Jimmy Carter or Edward Kennedy. He is choosing his words. "It seems to me that the incumbent, even though he has all the powers of incumbency, which by the way Mr. Carter has shown he is blatantly willing to use, would be easier to campaign against, because at least then you are running against the record -- and not against rhetoric."
This fuels another thought. "You see, what I believe is, there's nothing wrong with this system of government we have inherited. It's just that we have lost faith in our ability ot make changes in that system. The founding fathers created a federation of sovereign states" -- he is counting the network on his fingers -- " and intended that these states maintain as much power as possible. This is the meaning of the 10th article of the Bill of Rights. And I think what has happened is that the federal government has slowly usurped this power. I propose a planned and orderly transfer back."
Ronald Reagan has decided to run his national campaign from southern California instead of Washington. There his chief brain trust will reside. On issues, he is for an across-the-board tax cut over three years.He is against a Department of Education. He thinks SALT should be shelved. Energy? End government controls and let business loose to produce the energy we need. Inflation? The government is the prime offender.
John Sears will work out of both L.A. and the Washington Reagan for President office, which as of last Friday was still putting in typewriters and phones. (John Sears sat at a nearly bare desk in a bare room that day, while the press paraded in and out on half-hour schedules. "It's nice to be the front-runner," he said.)
Thus far, Reagan's schedulers have had him out campaigning 15 to 18 days every month. They try to give him three days' rest after every four-to-five day swing. West-to-East traveling seems to bother him. "He's not so good the second morning," say press spokesman Jim Lake. "And he's the kind of guy who can't rest very well when he's not at home."
Says David Keene: "The "76 book on Reagan was that he was lazy. What they did to dispel that was run him around New Hampshire 12 times a day. This year the rap is that he's too old. So if he doesn't do 12 stops a day he can't cut it. But if he does, and catches a cold, it could be a disaster. In a lot of ways, what his staff is up against is perception."
Reagan will be on the ballot in every primary, and work the first ones in the first monts of 1980 very hard, according to John Sears. After that, it will be a matter of assessing.
"I'll tell you this," Sears says. He'll be out there on the track. The frontrunner has to. It's like having a champion Thoroughbred, taking him out to the track and saying, 'Look, you've all seen the odds. I'm not going to take this beautiful horse out of the stable and risk breaking his leg." Why, they'd lynch you."
Shrouded or not by his staff, the candidate will be shaking a lot of hands in the coming year. But that's okay: He has a trick. $"I learned it a long time ago. Take the pen out of your hand. What you do is go in deep. Don't get caught out there by the fingers. They'll murder you."
It isn't exactly an Arnold Schwarzenegger vise-grip. But at 68, you could say Ronald Reagan knows how to shake hands. And get away clean.