First, he called the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire." That is known as the "Darth Vader" speech.
The second such speech, in which he talked of American laser beams snatching enemy missiles from the sky, is called the "Star Wars" speech.
And in between President Reagan issued a statement saying that the Democratic budget is "a dagger aimed at the heart" of the nation and a "joy to the Kremlin."
In recent weeks the president's speeches have taken on a bellicose tone that has prompted the Soviet Union to brand him a "lunatic," won a screaming headline in The New York Post for his plan to "ZAP RED NUKES" and given House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) a platform for charging Reagan with resorting to the red-baiting tactics of the late senator Joseph McCarthy.
"Reagan's speeches are much more ideological and attacking than any recent president's speeches," said Hendrik Hertzberg, editor of The New Republic and a former chief speech writer for former president Jimmy Carter.
"Something like the speech to the evangelicals is not presidential, it's not something a president should say," Hertzberg added, referring to a Reagan address to a conference of fundamentalist ministers in Orlando, Fla. "If the Russians are infinitely evil and we are infinitely good, then the logical first step is a nuclear first strike. Words like that frighten the American public and antagonize the Soviets. What good is that?"
But at the White House, administration officials are pleased with the president's performance and say they do not believe it is damaging his credibility.
"The president knows what he is doing with his speeches," said David R. Gergen, the White House director of communications. "He knew when he gave that speech to the evangelicals it would draw fire from the left and some sophisticated observers. The president feels it's very important from time to time for him to talk in terms of fundamentals and base, core beliefs so that everyone can understand reality as it is seen by the White House."
Lyn Nofziger, a former Reagan aide who remains close to the president, agreed. "What the hell if it makes somebody mad? I think the president has a right to lay it out as he sees it. Anyone in the country who doesn't think the Soviet Union is an evil empire, I want them to stand up and say so."
Some State Department officials, however, were upset that they did not preview the "Darth Vader" speech.
"He is not speaking for Ronald Reagan anymore," said one. "He is speaking for the United States. There is a difference."
While the televised speech last Wednesday night was not typical of Reagan's speeches--both because it was nationally televised and because its key points were largely drafted by National Security Council staff members instead of by speechwriters--the president's tone and words in speeches, statements and messages are principally the work of two men, Aram Bakshian, 39, director of the six White House speechwriters, and Anthony R. Dolan, 34, Reagan's chief speechwriter.
Dolan, winner of the 1978 Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting on organized crime in Stamford, Conn., was a reporter for six years before joining the Reagan campaign in 1980. He is the brother of Terry Dolan, chairman of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. While he is not a politician like his brother, Anthony Dolan is a fierce conservative in his own right.
Bakshian, who wears tweed sports jackets, tan suede shoes and a mustache, is a long-time Republican speechwriter. Known as a fast, smooth writer, he worked for Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford from 1972 to 1975. In the Nixon administration he wrote his drafts next door to Pat Buchanan and Ken Khachigian.
Bakshian is a Reagan fan who raves about the president as an easy politician to write for because "he has clear values . . . . He didn't decide he wanted to be president and then blow with changing currents to get there."
The values Bakshian sees in the man for whom he writes:
"His values say that even in this rather curious time we live in, those roots, values are still there, Christianity, free enterprise . . . . He's also a man who has seen a lot of history, I mean think of it . . . . He was born before the last American cavalry charge, he's seen both World Wars and the Depression."
While Bakshian makes sure the speeches get out on time and fit Reagan, Dolan brings the white heat of conservative conviction to speechwriting for the president.
Dolan is the hard-line conservative writer, the author of the evangelicals speech, although he argues that he cannot be pigeonholed so easily. He points out that he wrote the 1982 State of the Union address and others not known for hawkish, right-wing language.
But his colleagues say he is to Reagan what Pat Buchanan was to Nixon. As one put it, "the wild-eyed, mean dog you use when you don't want them wondering what you said."
According to sources, Reagan toned down the evangelicals speech from the draft Dolan had submitted. Bakshian was brought into the White House after Dolan but given the chief speechwriter's job, despite Dolan's standing as a favorite of the president, because he is more experienced at speechwriting and because key White House aides consider him more moderate than Dolan.
Dolan talks of being inspired by Reagan.
"The president is amazing," Dolan said. "He is a gifted writer, gifted editor . . . . One speech on crime we were going over and trying to capture how he felt. He started to talk about the career criminal as a human predator; nothing in the animal world, he said, was quite as lethal as some of the people killing and wreaking havoc."
In a 1981 speech on the New Federalism, Dolan remembers telling the president he was going to write that the New Federalism would "foster creativity" by returning funds to state and local governments. The president shook his head.
"He said the federal government won't foster, it would permit," said Dolan. "That is a profound conservative insight . . . . The point the president was making is that government should stay out of people's lives for any reason but to manage the currency and the military. It was the sort of refined point to be appreciated by James Burnham or William Buckley."
Dolan has been known in conservative circles since his college days at Yale, when he wrote and sang right-wing folk songs such as "The Talking New York Times Blues." In that song Dolan wrote: "All the news that fits we print/Embellished with a pinkish tint . . . . "
Besides the speechwriting shop, the added factor in any Reagan speech is Reagan. He takes a major part in preparing speeches to be delivered to large audiences. He wrote most of his inaugural address, and took a hand in the Orlando speech and the final paragraphs of last week's speech, in which he announced the missile defense program.
There is respect for Reagan's ability as a speechwriter and editor both by his writers and outside professionals. Hertzberg, who wrote for Carter, said Reagan's speeches read better than the ones he wrote for Carter.
"They are a coherent argument," he said. "Our speeches tended to be laundry lists of proposals."
"His speechmaking and his speechwriting together make him a master of the speech trade," said Patrick Butler, who wrote speeches for Ford. "He is the best presidential speaker since Kennedy, if not since Roosevelt. He is persuasive, dramatic and personal . . . . The evil empire line certainly was a dramatic one. I don't think Ford would have said it."
"I was at his home in Pacific Palisades once," said Khachigian, a Reagan speechwriter during the 1980 campaign, "and the president showed me the 3-by-5 cards he used when he used to be on the road giving speeches for General Electric by himself. He mentioned that he wrote his first inaugural speech as governor by himself, and told me that during his acting career he had a reputation of being able to make quick changes to improve the script. He said they called him a script doctor."
According to Gergen, Reagan regularly writes his own major addresses and about one of every four of his Saturday radio speeches. The defense speech went through six drafts--between Reagan and the speechwriters--after it left the NSC. When the president goes over his speeches, he makes notes on a yellow legal pad to be sent to the speechwriters. The speechwriters call it a "yellow-pad job."
"This president," Gergen said, "spends more time taking care with his words than any of his predecessors . . . . He feels he owes it to the public to let them know exactly what he is feeling and thinking. His success indicates it's been a good investment. The man has a reputation as a great communicator."