House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) yesterday characterized President Reagan as a mediocre chief executive who "willfully" ignores facts that don't conform to his preconceived notions of reality.
At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Wright described Reagan as a "charming person, a well-meaning person, not an evil person," but one who "hasn't the faintest idea of the contents of legislation or the application of real facts to real problems."
Reagan, added Wright, "has the ability to psych himself up to reject factual data if they don't conform to his preconceived notions."
Wright's portrayal of the president is similar to that in former House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr.'s recently published book. In "Man of the House," O'Neill described Reagan as "an actor reading lines, who didn't understand his own program."
Asked if Reagan is a good president, Wright said without hesitation, "No."
"He's smart but he's ignorant of the facts a president ought to know, and willfully so," said the speaker.
Though he described Reagan as a "positive thinker," Wright said, he said he finds fault "with the president confusing things he sees in the movies with reality, and he's done that."
An example of the president's refusal to confront factual data, Wright said, is Reagan's continued belief that his administration's 1981 tax cuts and its military buildup are not the main causes of the soaring deficit during his tenure.
"I like him personally, but not as president," said Wright.
Asked if he had detected any change in Reagan's "mental capacity" during his seven years as president, Wright replied: "He hasn't learned a whole lot."