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Television Reviews : Children Question the Presidents on ABC

April 16, 1988|LYNNE HEFFLEY

Does President Reagan start each day with the funny papers? Did Jimmy Carter have a crush on his fourth-grade teacher? Does Gerald Ford believe that "(taking) a good spill never hurt anybody?"

Get the real lowdown on ABC's "Conversations With the Presidents" tonight at 8 (Channels 7, 3, 10, 42). Proving they're just plain folks, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford are interviewed by a rainbow of children in cozy settings across the nation.

It's a public relations dream.

From the Oval Office, with young people perched companionably close, Reagan answers comfortable questions about Lincoln's ghost (he hasn't seen it, but his dog Rex may have) and about boyhood fights with his brother ("we used to scrap pretty good").

Warmly confiding, Reagan interestingly refers twice to a time when "we" were governor--he and his wife Nancy.

In his closing statement, Reagan solemnly informs his young audience that an American can't go to Germany and become a German or to Japan and become Japanese, but "anyone from any place in the world can come to America and become an American."

He adds that "I think God put this country here between the two great oceans to be found by people like the Pilgrims . . . who gave birth to this great nation."

Not even a casual golf course setting in Rancho Mirage helps Gerald Ford unbend. He explains that he doesn't "boogie or disco" because he's "not much on that particular style." He says about his marriage: "That has been a wonderful, wonderful experience, and I say that very sincerely."

Jimmy Carter, relaxed and disarming at the Carter Center in Atlanta, gives Reagan a run for his money. Who should play Carter in a movie of his life? Someone "tall, handsome and young." When did he start dating? At 13, because that's when his "daddy" let him use the family's pick-up truck.

Carter has an unexpectedly moving answer to the White House "ghost" question. For him, the ghosts are the "nice kind"--memories of the historical footsteps he was able to walk in.

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