- Hundreds of recently discovered policy essays by Ronald
Reagan from the 1970s reveal a "one-man think tank," not the
"amiable dunce" portrayed by his critics, editors of the
- The 670 handwritten radio commentaries are what's left
of more than 1,000 composed between 1975 and 1979. They were lost in
boxes, but now may be the best archive of the 40th president's
- "We discovered that the guy has been writing all
his life," said Martin Anderson, domestic-policy adviser to Mr.
and co-editor of an anthology of more than 200 essays and other
"We kept marveling at the clarity of his writing, but also
- Some of the cache will be
serialized in the New York
Times next year, and Simon and Schuster has
embargoed quotes from the
works until the book's February
- "We're just going to put out the original drafts
people decide" the literary and intellectual merit, he said,
arguing that Mr. Reagan comes across as a "one-man think
- Besides this find, little remains of Mr. Reagan's lifelong
paper trail of handwritten documents.
- The yellow notepad leafs were
found by Kiron K. Skinner,
a Harvard graduate and Democrat who was
only the second person given access
to Mr. Reagan's private papers,
still in some disorder.
- "One day she walked in and said, 'Look at this.
There are a lot of them,' " Mr. Anderson said. Miss Skinner, a
in Cold War foreign policy, now teaches at Carnegie Mellon
- Mr. Anderson also found unknown Reagan writings when,
Reagan's request, he cleaned out the president's Los Angeles
after he went into seclusion because of Alzheimer's disease.
- The bulk of the newly
discovered documents are first-draft,
final-draft radio talks given
for five minutes, five days a week. They
were heard by tens of
millions of listeners but never archived.
- "They were not written for
Anderson said. But he said they prove that Mr.
Reagan read widely, analyzed
nearly every complex issue of the day,
and stated his position with compelling
extraordinary to see these written out in
hand," Mr. Anderson
said. "You see his corrections. You see
his mind at work. I know
a lot of intelligent people who can't write.
But I don't know any
person who writes this well who is not intelligent."
- The book also
includes 20 other Reagan writings, from
poems to fiction and letters,
from 1925 to 1994. That year he penned a
final letter to Americans
about his "journey . . . into the sunset
of my life" with
- Foreign-policy experts also have identified one five-page
script, titled "Mr. Minister" - found in Mr. Reagan's desk -
as what Mr. Anderson called the president's "talking points for the
entire U.S. strategy" in opening U.S.-Soviet relations.
- Marvin Kranz, a
historian at the Library of Congress,
has not seen the essays, but
agrees they might change opinions.
- "If they show a side of
Reagan we didn't know,
that would change our image to someone of
greater intellectual wattage
than he'd been known for," Mr. Kranz
said. "His critics have
been very harsh."
- Mr. Kranz said lost
presidential materials rarely shatter
scholarly opinion, but they can
surprise. Two notable cases were Robert
Lincoln's closure of his
father's papers for decades and Millard Fillmore's
letters being found
in a New York barn long after his death.
- Hoover Institution fellow
Arnold Beichman has read the
material and calls it an "astounding
revelation" about a man
assumed by his staff and the news media
to be a "great communicator"
but a lightweight
- "He was called an 'amiable dunce,' and the media
out to be a half-wit surrounded by a bunch of geniuses,"
The essays will "force academics to revise their
- Some have said that the assumption that Reagan was not
intellectually gifted is so strong that even biographer Edmund Morris
overlooked the implication of the essays, from which he cited a few lines
as the first to gain access to the private papers.
- The Morris book, friends of the
president say, perpetuated
the so-called "mystery" of how
such a simple mind could accomplish
so much politically.
- Mr. Anderson said
the answer may be that Mr. Reagan
had a deep intelligence, seen when
he read a newspaper at age five, but
not flaunted during his political
- "He never argued with anyone," Mr. Anderson
"He never gave orders to anyone. Yet he made every single key
- With the discovery, the editors interviewed Mr. Reagan's
secretary and drivers - former state troopers - who traveled and stayed
with him between 1975 and 1979.
- "Very few people were
around him when he was writing,
except the state troopers," Mr.
Anderson said. "They said, 'All
the guy did was work. He read all
the time. Wrote all the time.' "
- This may give credence to one
theory that Mr. Reagan's
incipient Alzheimer's at the end of his
political career allowed pundits
to label him weak-minded.
- Mr. Anderson said
the truth about the Hollywood actor-turned-statesman
may be what
biographer Mr. Morris said of the Alzheimer's letter - that
it had a
touch of "genius."
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