IT IS ALMOST amusing to hear liberals on campus talk about Ronald Reagan. They don't mention Reaganomics or the Reagan Revolution. They don't mention Reagan's philosophy or his tremendous success. They only talk about what a "fool" Reagan is: how he can't remember basic facts, how he blunders through his press conferences, how he is stupid, lazy, and surrounded by inept advisers.
But whatever his native intelligence, Reagan has most certainly been an intelligent president.
Sure, Jimmy Carter scored the highest of any president on the SAT's. And maybe Reagan doesn't understand the basic mechanics of interballistic missiles.
But Reagan's presidency will almost certainly go down in history as a successful one, while Carter's will be considered largely a failure. Reagan's ability to use presidential power to effect major changes in the United States and abroad presents a sharp contrast to Carter's inability to manage the Oval Office.
Reagan will be remembered for eight years of peace, prosperity, and increased confidence. Historians will not look at Carter's SAT scores; they will remember the troubled economy, the Iranian hostage crisis and his poor relationship with Congress.
The most important quality for a successful president is a simple and consistent vision of where he thinks the country should go. Reagan, as the most ideological president in the post-war era, has persistently expressed his convictions that the federal government is too large and that its main role should be national defense.
And Reagan has led the country toward his ideals. The military has grown. States are taking on more responsibility for social programs, and the federal government less. The ranks of federal judges are being filled with conservatives.
Another crucial attribute of a successful president is the ability to communicate his vision to the American people. President Reagan has shown a genius for this. His persuasiveness on national television has enabled him to push his programs through Congress.
Reagan knows how play upon his strengths and avoid his weaknesses. He has avoided press conferences precisely because he wasn't good with facts or unexpected questions from reporters, but he is still known as "the Great Communicator."
In contrast, Jimmy Carter did not know either how to act presidential or how to wield power effectively. He did not understand the American people, saying that it was their "malaise" which was causing economic problems. He really had no idea of what government should or should not do.
Carter's high SAT scores did not translate into success as president. Presidents not only do not have to have every fact on their fingertips, they simply can not master all that information. They have to use advisers to keep them informed and to handle complicated situations.
Indeed, Reagan will not be judged on his initial blunder about fraud in recent Philippine elections; he will be remembered for helping to remove a longstanding dictator and reestablishing a democracy in the island nation. His job was to oversee U.S. policy toward Marcos in the broadest sense.
Democrats have long tried to attack Reagan the man, and yet his image as president remains untarnished. They have yet to launch a sustained attack against Reagan the president. When Democrats dismiss Reagan as a "buffoon," they simply demonstrate their ignorance of the powerful changes in public opinion that helped Reagan win office and have supported a string of successes during his administration.