WHEN WALTER JUDD HEARD THAT Mikhail Gorbachev was coming to Washington, he immediately telephoned the president. Judd felt it was his duty to warn Ronald Reagan to be particularly vigilant at last month's summit. The whole idea of summit diplomacy was dangerous, in Judd's mind. "You can't negotiate in public, even when you're negotiatin' with a girl to stay with you for life," he says. Reagan did not take his call.

Who is Walter Judd, and how did he come to hold his own sagacity in such high regard?

He is 89 years old. He has been a medical doctor since 1923. He served in the field artillery in World War I. He was a Congregationalist missionary in China for almost 10 years, in the 1920s and '30s. Ten times he was elected to the House of Representatives from Minnesota, his service spanning three decades. He has received honorary doctorates from 28 colleges and universities. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in religion, science and government; he even won the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. But Reagan still wouldn't talk to him. The truth is, nobody pays much attention to Walter Judd anymore.

It wasn't always this way. Back in the '50s, Judd was one of the most influential men on Capitol Hill. He was a key figure in the notorious China Lobby, an extraordinarily powerful alliance of interest groups and individuals, including Clare Boothe and Henry R. Luce, determined to keep the United States from recognizing "Red" China. Judd and his China Lobby colleagues sought to give sledgehammer force to what they were certain was the one true national will of the American masses: to resist communism.

The apex of Judd's influence came in 1954 when 1 million Americans, among them writer John Dos Passos, labor leader George Meany, Gen. George C. Marshall and former president Herbert Hoover, signed a petition demanding that "the so-called Chinese People's Republic" not be allowed to "usurp" the "legitimate government" of that mammoth nation. (This group of signers became known as the Committee of One Million.) A Gallup poll showed a whopping 79 percent of the public supported this position.

Today, the document seems like a medieval curiosity to most folks -- but not to Judd. His vocabulary still rings with vintage 1950s redbaiting rhetoric. Those who oppose him are "sympathetic with the communist side," and he disdains to distinguish such fellow travelers from outright Reds. "I don't care whether they got a card or not," he growls. "If they were smart, they wouldn't carry a card." Back when America took him seriously, a cavalry charge of invective from Walter Judd was something to fear.

That was then; this is now. Presidents are not inclined to take his advice anymore, but Walter Judd still has plenty to offer.

I SPENT 10 YEARS AS A MEDICAL missionary in China and 20 years as a political missionary in the House of Representatives, and, for the last 25 years, I've been working, you might say, as a missionary at large. I'm still talking.

If we'd study the communists the way we study football, we wouldn't be in trouble, because they use precisely the same tactics: power. If you can run through the line and get one first down after another and get your touchdown, the quarterback calls those plays. But if he can't get through the line of power, then he resorts to his tricks. And when he's got nine yards to go on a third down, you're not surprised when you see him fake a handoff to the right and pass over here to the left. None of you says, "Well, by golly! I thought he was a nice guy and he was becoming friendly. He double-crossed us! He tricked us! That's not worthy!" Well, it is worthy in football. The reason he's the quarterback is because he's the best trickster on the team. And the top man now, Gorbachev, is the best they've had in a long time.

But I guess I've been a poor salesman since 1931, when I came home after my first six years in China with one simple idea: that communists act like communists.

I decided to go out to China as a missionary. I thought a guy ought to go where the need is the greatest for what he's able to do and the workers are the fewest. I wanted to go into medicine, and I'd studied the need.

So in 1925, after I'd got through my internship and practiced until I got my debts paid off a little bit, I went off to China. I went to Langley School in Nanking. They sent us there from the mission board. You go out there to work at $500 a year. They give you a house. I studied the language for a year and studied the background of China, the history and the culture and so on. Then I went down to Fukien, the province on the east coast of China right opposite Taiwan, a lot like South Carolina would be on our coast.

I was there for the next five years. I had only been there a few weeks when Chiang Kai-shek led the drive to go up to Canton and overcome the warlords. They'd overthrown the Manchu Dynasty after 267 years and now they had all these warlords, each with a little dynasty here and there. The communists joined up to help him, as they do everywhere as a minority. They join in every kind of joint operation; they get their foot inside the door, and when they get enough power, they take over if they can.

So when some of their communists came through and occupied my hospital, I was impressed by 'em. Boy, they had discipline! I said this in a speech in Congress, they were the first military outfit I ever saw that never had a case of venereal disease. They only stayed two days and went on. Then, after they had helped Chiang Kai-shek capture Nanking and Shanghai, they tried to overthrow him in 1927. They always move in and overthrow people like that. And when that happened, Chiang Kai-shek defeated them and they backed up into our area.

I had them as patients. And they were working primarily for the well-being of the people. The communists, yes. At the beginning, as I said, I was impressed by them; these guys were good and they worked hard and they didn't extort from the people. I went through the brainwashing, and I'll tell you about it.

They are so skillful. I'll try to pull their argument down to a couple of minutes, although this was over a couple of sessions a week for about six weeks. They say, "You capitalists" -- they always call you capitalist -- "you capitalists think that Karl Marx thought up a theory, that communism is a doctrine, a philosophy. No! It's more than that. Karl Marx discovered a law!"

They used the illustration of Newton and the law of gravity: He didn't invent the law of gravity. He'd been watching falling bodies and one day, in a flash of insight, he perceived the law of gravity, tested it out, and there it was. So Karl Marx, poring over the history books in the library of the British Museum, noticed a consistent pattern in history and came up with a discovery, a law. What's the law? There'll always be war as long as some people own property and other people, the proletariat, sell their labor for wages.

Why? Because the notion that a man has a right to earn and own property makes him greedy, acquisitive, selfish. I try to get more for me and my family and you try to get a better home, a better automobile, whatever it is -- and we clash! And we have wars! Now, don't you want peace? You capitalists have a system which makes war inevitable.

Well, when the guy was telling me this one time, I said to him, "Well, sir, I know you believe this, I'm sure you do. And I have to admit, it sounds reasonable. But I can't accept it." And he said, "Why not?" And I said, "Because I think it's against human nature." And his eyes blazed, and he said, "Human nature, human nature, you capitalists always talk about human nature. There is no such thing as human nature! Human nature's what you make it; it isn't anything genetic. As capitalism produces acquisitiveness, greed, classes and war, communism will produce concern for the masses, a good society and everyone well-taken-care-of." And his eyes glowed, you see.

In 1931, I had malaria so badly I became a skeleton and I almost died. I came home and they said I couldn't go back, so I got a position at the Mayo Clinic. I recovered and got my weight back and most of my hair, which had fallen out. I got married and had a child.

Then an urgent need arose in north China. They had to have somebody out there fast who knew the language and had some experience in dealing with Chinese situations and so they urgently asked me to go. My wife was born and brought up in India, the daughter of a missionary, so she had the motivation. And so we went back out there.

In 1937, after I'd been there for a year, the Japanese invaded China. I got Mrs. Judd out on the last train we could get down into central China and into Hong Kong where friends would pick her up. I stayed almost another year. After four months, the Japanese captured our city and I was under them for the next five months.

I had the Japanese as patients, and one Japanese general said to me, "Why did your government write these letters criticizing us for what we're doing in China?" And I said, "What you're doing is invasion. It's aggression and we're opposed to that." And he said, "Well, my father's a purchasing agent for our government. He's over in the United States now, able to buy anything. If you were really opposed to what we're doing, you'd have stopped selling us those things." They assumed our saying we were opposed to that was the height of dishonest pretense -- and, to an extent, it was.

Well, I came home. We had three kids by then; the baby was born before I got home, I didn't hear about it for five months. We got an organization going called the American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression. That's an awful name, but we weren't trying to attack the Japanese, we were trying to get our people to stop helping them, that was all. My wife makes friends more easily than I do, so she ran the schedule. We wrote to all the friends we'd ever known, through the churches or medicine or through her Mount Holyoke connections and mine from the University of Nebraska. And we were able to get all kinds of invitations to speak. I spoke almost 1,400 times, at Rotary clubs, American Legion posts and chambers of Commerce.

I'd say, "There's a war going on over there in Asia and the first question is: 'Is it any of our business?' " Most of the people would say, "No!" And I would say, "It is our business; it's a threat. It's a war for China now, but it will be a war in which we'll almost certainly become involved."

Second, I'd ask, "Are we doing anything?" I'd outline what we were doing: "You can't fight a war without iron and oil, and Japan didn't have either. So we helped her get the stuff she couldn't get in Southeast Asia." And third, I'd ask, "What should we do? Stop helping them! Don't help them get strong enough so they can go to war with us."

And so, after Pearl Harbor, people said, "My golly, that's just what that guy was telling us!" And five different groups in Minnesota drafted me to run for Congress. I didn't want to, but felt it was my duty under the circumstances.

I didn't ask anybody to vote for me, ever. I never went out and said, "Now, what do you want me to do?" I always used a couple of illustrations. I said, "I'm a doctor. Now suppose you've got a tummy ache and I say, 'Well, I don't know. It sounds like you might have appendicitis. Do you want me to operate on the right side or the left side? Tell me what you want me to do.' No. You call me in only if you think I can make the right diagnosis. That's my job." And putting it that way, they said, "For crying out loud, he isn't willing to sacrifice everything in order to get reelected." The people are smarter and more patriotic then we give 'em credit for.

Well, I came to Washington and I didn't know anything about politics, but I worked pretty hard at it. I settled down. I cut everything else out. I practically neglected my family and everything else to try to find out what it was about. My being in Congress was a fluke. Some people have got a goal to get into politics and it eats them away. I felt it was my duty to share my experience and the dangers I saw to my own country.

Some of us worked out an article in 1946, the "Manchurian Manifesto," and I think about 50 people signed it. This was the only listing I know of what was dubbed the China Lobby. There never was any such organization. It sounded as if we were a big lobby, but there were never more than 50 people. It was a handful of people trying to save China in order to benefit the United States.

In March or April of 1953, a man named Nicholas de Rochefort came to see me. "Dr. Judd, you folks don't know how to agitate," he said. "You propagandize, but you don't agitate. When are you going to agitate?!" So we started the Committee for One Million Against the Admission of Communist China to the United Nations.

That's how it came about. We started out to get "agitation," if you wish. And we started up the committee to get a million signatures. And we got 'em! We got over a million signatures, a million-forty, then we didn't try anymore. We changed it to a Committee "of" One Million and then I took 'em all down and presented photostats of them, wheelbarrows of 'em, to President Eisenhower.

But I didn't like being in politics. I never did. I'm a scientist by training and I like to deal with exact things. I'll say this, though: In 1962, a poll was taken of members of Congress on various things, and one of the questions was to list the five most influential members of the House of Representatives. The Democrats were in control of the House, and the first four were the head of the Ways and Means Committee, the head of the Appropriations Committee, head of the Judiciary Committee and the head of Armed Services Committee. First four. Number 5 was me. I couldn't believe it! The only Republican, and I didn't have any position at all.

I worked there for 20 years, from 1943 to January of 1963, when my term expired. I saw that I wasn't going to succeed there because more and more congressmen would say, "We agree with you, but we can't vote that way because the people want this, and we've got to do what the people want."

I see my own country not playing its cards skillfully. The communists don't live by Judeo-Christian standards, or even decent standards. It isn't like two people in a gladiatorial contest, no, no! Two knights in Britain, they have a code, they fight by the same rules. But we've got gentleman rule over here and the other fella's hitting below the belt.

Good gosh, Americans are so simplistic in this field, it's pitiful. We didn't need to recognize Communist China. But to derecognize, without cause and without any provocation, and in violation of our pledged word, our loyal ally, the Republic of China on Taiwan, which had stood with us and fought on our side -- this is one of the most unworthy actions in history. I don't go out and talk about that in public because I'm embarrassed. I'm ashamed that my government would do it. But we did. The record's there.

But shoot, what good . . . ? I've got seven grandchildren, and I'm not sure they'll have anything like the opportunity I had as a country kid from a poor family in a little Nebraska town of 300. There was opportunity, thank God, if you were willing to work and had a reasonable amount of ability and, more important, dedication.

From my personal standpoint, I was a scientist, I loved my own profession. I didn't want to get into all the stuff that I'm talking to you about. But I would not be surprised if, by the end of this century, the communists were in a position to say, "You've got to stop your resistance to what we're doing." That's their goal. It's a real danger. It is not that hard to see ahead. You don't have to be a prophet.