Ronald Reagan was never more the Californian than in his 11th press conference. He was a man in touch with his feelings -- so in touch, in fact, that he did not feel constrained to explain them.
He is "relating," as they say on the Coast, very well to everything that is going on in the world and in his administration. The failure of other people to see things as he does is their problem, not his.
That's the California way. You screen out realities which could in some way interfere with the "mellowing-out" that is necessary if you are to be truly laid back.
The latest line from California bespeaks a proud isolation from the real world. When asking for Eastern Standard Time, it is fashionable to ask, "What time is it in America?"
In Ronald Reagan's America, it's about ll o'clock on a beautiful morning.
What looks to others as a certain confusion, even chaos, in foreign policy is, according to the president, a series of successes.
Take the resignation of Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr. He says it was a principled protest over a "shift" in U.S. foreign policy. How un-Californian can you be?
The president hints the "vibes" were bad. The country doesn't need to know anything more.
The secretary did a "superhuman" job in trying to avert bloodshed in the Falklands, we were told. Oh, sure, he failed, but as the president sunnily said, "We did our best." In California, effort is "success." Why hassle yourself?
Moving on to Lebanon, the president had another upbeat, if not totally factual, account of current events. Thanks to what he called "the herculean efforts" of his special envoy, Phil Habib, we had an 11-month ceasefire in the Middle East. Never mind that it was broken by Israel, our client-ally.
What is going on -- and you brand yourself as a hopeless non-Californian if you insist on going by what you see on television -- is all part of a plan to "let Lebanon be Lebanon" and to bring peace to the Middle East. The rest of us see nightly the sight of parents racing through rubble with bleeding children in their arms. The president apparently averts his gaze.
In one judicious moment, he noted that "when I say the PLO, one has to differentiate between the PLO and the Palestinians." It is a distinction that the bomber-pilots and artillery gunners of Israel have signally failed to make -- a circumstance that has much of the civilized world, including some members of the Israeli military, in a state of revulsion.
But when you have the part of Leader of the Western World, you cannot trouble yourself with such details.
Besides, don't blame him for what's happening. "We were caught as much by surprise as anyone" by Israel's aggression. As in the Falklands, "we didn't want it to start" and, also as in the Falklands, "we wanted a diplomatic solution."
Wanting is a success, isn't it? In California it counts.
And it counts when you talk about Menachem Begin. The view from the hot-tub is that the Israeli Prime Minister doesn't want to go into Beirut. Maybe even more important from the Western vantage point is that, according to the president, he didn't want to "from the beginning."
Reagan's own press secretary, Larry Speakes, told us early in the week that the prime minister had promised not to take Beirut. That was smog, apparently. It was "a discussion, not a promise," said Reagan, thereby flashing the green light.
But surely if we know that Begin would hate to do it, that should diminish any dismay, should it happen. In California, the way a person feels is as as important as what a person does.
Cluster-bombs? What's a few cluster- bombs between friends? They concern the president "very much." But not enough for him to ask about their use on the hapless inhabitants of Lebanon. Reagan only knows what he reads in the paper, and he is not leaping to any conclusions on the basis of a statement by one Israeli military official. He will wait for the outcome of a review of the legalities, which, of course, forbid cluster bombs except in self-defense.
But, you see, this may not be an offensive attack, because "prior to this" the Israelis had been attacked by Soviet weapons. That's why you can't call what they are doing an invasion. An invasion is what the Soviets did in Afghanistan.
Europe? In the president's script, it's more success. On coming into office, he had found "disarray with our European allies."
"I think this has been largely eliminated," he said.
Well, if you don't count the squawks from Britain and France over his efforts to sabotage the Soviet pipeline, he is right.
Prime Minister Thatcher told parliament that she thought "existing commercial contracts should be exempted." Francois Mitterand said that Reagan's new sanctions caused "a grave lack of solidarity" among the allies.
But if you dwell on niggling details like that, you will spoil the mood, which in California is about the worst thing you can do.