An article in some editions of The Washington Post yesterday about Ronald Reagan's speech announcing his candidacy for president contained a typographical error in the first paragraph. It should have read that Reagan said there was "a failure of our leaders to establish rational goals," not "national" goals.
Ronald Reagan, responding to want he termed "a failure of our leaders to establish national goals," formally launched his president campaign tonight with a call for the restoration of American influence abroad and American confidence at home.
"I don't agree that our nation must resign itself to inevitable decline, yielding its proud position to other hands," the 68-year-old former California governor told 1,600 Republicans at a $500-a-plate fund-raising dinner here. "I am totally unwilling to see this country fail in its obligation to itself and to the other free peoples of the world."
Reagan's managers had promised a new speech for tonight's declaration of candidacy. A previously taped version of Reagan's speech was shown in most of the nation's television markets tonight.
While there was some new material -- notably a call for Puerto Rican statehood and a proposal for a "North American accord" among the Unitedd States, Canada and Mexico -- the heart of the speech was a muted restatement of familiar Reagan themes.
"Though we should leave no initiative untried in our pursuit of peace," Reagan said in discussing foreign policy, "we must be clear-voiced in our resolve to resist any unpeaceful act whereever it may occur. Negotiation with the Soviet Union must never become appeasement."
Domestically, Reagan repeated his controversial 1976 proposal for a "planned, orderly transfer" of unnamed federal programs, along with the sources of taxation to pay for them, back to the states. He endorsed the severe, across-the-board personal income tax cuts that were embodied in the Kemp-Roth tax bill. And he said that what Americans need most is less control by a federal government that has "overspent, overestimated and overregulated."
At one point in his speech Reagan choked up and appeared near tears when he told how his father had been fired in the Christmas season during the Depression.
"I cannot and will not stand by while inflation and joblessness destroy the dignity of our people," Reagan said.
But Reagan's speech was noticeably short on any specific proposals to combat simultaneously joblessness and inflation. Similarly, Reagan was vague on his discussion of energy options beyond general endorsement of "nuclear power within strict safety rules" and research on substitutes for fossil fuels.
In the past he has talked of "unleashing" the nation's oil and gas industries by removing all federal price controls. Tonight, while jabbing at Carter administration energy policies, Reagan did not mention removal of controls. Instead, he said that more information was needed to determine if oil companies are truly making "excess" profits during the current energy shortage.
Reagan's most future-oriented proposal was a call for increased cooperation with Canada and Mexico, saying that it "is time we stopped thinking of our nearest neighbors as foreigners."
". . . if I am elected president, I would be willing to invite each of our neighbors to send a special presentative to our government to sit in on high-level planing sessions with us, as partners mutually concerned about the future of our continent," he said.
The speech tonight deliberately dealt with broad themes rather thann specific proposals. Reagan's campaign strategist said he would offer more specifics during this week's five-day campaign tour that will take him to nine states and the District of Columbia, where he will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Senate's Dirksen Office Building.
Reagan, the acknowledged GOP frontrunner, is the 10th Republican to announce his presidental candidacy. Reagan's managers intend to demonstrate that their candidate is leading a bandwagon bound for victory at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, and that it is time for even party moderates traditionally suspicious of Reagan to get aboard.
The targets of this bandwagon psychology are the Northeast and Midwest, the regions where Reagan lost the 1976 presidential nomination to Gerald Ford. In the District of Columbia and the states Reagan will visit this week -- New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Florida -- Ford collected 515 delegate votes compared to 162 for Reagan.
This time, say the Reaganites, it will be different.
When Reagan returns to New York City for a new conference Thursday morning, his Northeast campaign leaders are prepared to announce endorsements of about 60 of the state's 123 delegates. They will be pledged to Reagan in the March 25 New York primary, where Reagan gained only 20 delegates in 1976.
Other endorsements will be sprinkled along the way in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Later, the Reagan campaign expects to add the endorsements of such moderates as Connecticut Republican Chairman Fred Beibel, head of the GOP state chairmen, and former Illinois U.S. attorney Sam Skinner.
But to gain the other endorsements the Reagan strategists want, the candidate will have to demonstrate that he has the vitality and competence to be president at an age when most people are well into retirement.
And this means, his strategists acknowledge, that he must keep stumbles of all sorts to a minimum, something Reagan may have failed to do in an interview on NBC's 'Today" program this morning.
Responding to questions about his age, Reagan said,"If I become president other than perhaps [British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher I will probably be younger than almost al the heads of state I will have to do business with."
"Giscard d'Estaing of France is younger than you," observed interviewer Tom Brokaw.
"Who?" said Reagan.
"Giscard d'Estasing of France," repeated Brokaw.
"Yes, possibly," replied Reagan. "Not an awful lot more."
French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is 53, is 15 years younger than Reagan.
In the same interview, Reagan said, as he has said in the past, that he has not undergone cosmetic surgery and that he does not dye his hair or use makeup.
An identical television version of the speech Reagan gave tonight was taped here Monday afternoon for distribution over an independent nationwide network this evening. Production and distribution costs exceeded $400,000, but the Reagan campaign expects to recover about twice this amount from a direct mail fund-raising keyed to the telecast.
The speech tonight was interrupted frequently by applause but its impact was marred by a malfunctioning public address system and lighting that alternately dimmed and brightened.