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Reagan's Legacy

August 28, 1988

There will never be another Ronald Reagan. President Reagan was an aberration in the body politic with good timing and good luck, which is true of most working actors. But unlike other actors who might just as well have fit this role, he was an outsider of no substance whatsoever whose ebullient simple-mindedness and calculating cadre of politicos could carry him through the ultimate seriousness of his Washington lark.

Pundits have pondered his popularity at length, mystified that a public officeholder could suffer one debacle after another unscathed. His popularity is really no mystery: Reagan needs to be liked, he tries to be liked, he'd do just about anything to be the center of adoring attention. So what does a person do who would rather die than tell someone something unpleasant? Simple, he tells them what they want to hear. But Reagan has something going for him that others in this rather compromising position don't have, namely, he really believes that what he is saying is true. No matter that his statistics are inaccurate, his historical anecdotes are fabricated, and his perceptions of the world are distorted. This man exudes sincerity, it oozes from every pore, and it's real, even while the substance of what he's saying isn't.

But while "Ronald Reagan: The Movie" plays well, "Ronald Reagan: The Book" sells poorly. Countless polls show that people love the man and hate his policies. His like will not soon be seen again. He apparently made some people "feel good." But the party's over now and the bill is in the mail.

JEFF GOODWIN

Beverly Hills

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