smart little kidPosted: June 27, 2022
Martin Anderson talking to Stephen Knott about Ronald Reagan for The Miller Center.
Were you a smart little kid too?
I guess so. Yes, the feedback was mostly positive, so I should assume.
Did that make you popular with the other little kids?
Everybody says the same thing. I think it’s a fascinating—I’ve only done about 20 people so far, but everybody says the same thing. First of all, (A) they were really smart. I remember when I went to school, I knew all the alphabet, I knew everything and I used to raise my hand, I knew all the stuff and it was just terrific. The next thing you know, they were calling me Smarty Marty and I discovered this was not good.
Then, I don’t know about you, but the next step they all go to is that they all learn ways to cope with that. And one of the things they learned was that it’s not good to be smart and show other people how smart you are, at least if you want any friends. And that may be the key to Reagan, that he was incredibly smart and quick and he was also tall and he was handsome, he was good-looking. That’s a very powerful combination to drive on people and he laid back. That’s a pure guess.
the dimensions to this man. from an interview with Ken Adelman:
The next day we got there to the chateau in Geneva. We’d spent a long time setting up the meeting. It was in a neutral place in a neutral city and a neutral country. This chateau was owned by the Aga Khan, and Reagan was told he could take it if he fed the goldfish; he was very attentive about feeding the goldfish
The goldfish appears to have been a news item at the time.
Here’s more from Anderson (a loyalist and enthusiast) on Reagan’s nature:
I once described him as warmly ruthless. He had this appearance of being friendly and jovial and nice, never argued with anyone, never complained. But if you shook your head and thought about it a little bit, he always did it his way. It was like there was a steel bar right down the middle of him and everything you touched was soft and fuzzy except the steel bar in the middle. He always did it his way. No matter how many people talked to him, no matter what happened, he always did it his way. If you were in the way, you were gone, you were fired. He never took any pleasure out of it, just gone.
I think if you really want to look at Reagan, one of the things we show with this new book we have, is something that I knew from dealing with him. He was incredibly smart. I know this doesn’t sound reasonable, but he was incredibly smart. I’ve dealt with professors at Columbia and professors at Stanford, but he could look at something and understand it and grasp it and turn it around and work with it and play with it. He was incredibly quick. I’d say he had a brain that was comparable to—and I’d talk to Milton Friedman or Ed Teller and Arthur, all those guys, he could stay with them.
Now, he hid that. He just backed off. He never argued with staff. You could have ten different people tell him the same thing and he’d just listen. He never said to them, Look, you dumb bunny, ten years ago I wrote an article on this, a long article. He’d just say, That’s an interesting idea. So many of the policy issues that were proposed to Reagan over time, by different people, he listened, That’s very interesting. Then when he did it, even though it was something he’d decided many, many years previously he would do, all these people were delighted. He was doing what they had told him. He was happy with that, he didn’t care.
He used to say privately, There’s no limit to what a person can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit. And he was just very smart. The second thing is, there was this feeling that he was lazy, that he took naps. Well, I traveled with him for almost four years. He never took a nap. It was total nonsense. In fact, he worked all the time. We have uncovered evidence with this book in terms of the handwritten documents and so on, he was writing all the time. He was studying, he was writing, he was working all the time, in private. As soon as he came out in public, put on the public persona, he was friendly and jovial and talking.
So I think people made the mistake of saying, Gee, this guy is an easy-going—obviously, we never see him working, so therefore the staff must be telling him what to say. Not true. And when they ran up against him, they assumed he could be persuaded and pushed around. Big mistake. And the woods are full of people that tried to do that, like Al Haig, Don Regan, a whole bunch of them.