The Actor President

THE NIGHTINGALE SONG is a fascinating account of five Annapolis graduates who fought in Vietnam and came back to political power - four in the Reagan administration.

The five are John McCain, Jim Webb, Robert McFarland, John Poindexter and Oliver North. Some were linked to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The author, Robert Timberg, was also an Annapolis graduate who fought in Vietnam. He seems to be without bias and with compassion for all the characters. What I would like to share with you is his depiction of Ronald Reagan. Here are some quotes from the book:

"He looked like a president and acted like one, at least in public. The private Reagan -- passive, incurious, often befuddled, was the dirty little secret at the heart of his presidency."

"No other president of the modern era was so much a presence... without being an actual participant."

"He was a public President playing... the role of a lifetime."

"Then there was the weirdness. Virtually every major move... the Reagans made was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in favorable alignment."

"Determined to let Reagan be Reagan... the new chief of staff discovered that there was no there there."

Of course, this is one man's research. But I have read two books about Reagan and observed him during his reign. I think Timberg is on the mark.

This is not to deny Reagan his legacy as the great communicator. He spoke the lines written for him with professional skill.

Who could forget, "MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!"

He also was genuinely warm, likable, a sunny upbeat relief from grim Jimmy Carter. And he could be funny.

"No matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting."

"I've heard that hard work never hurt anyone, but I say why take the chance."

Still, I think it unfortunate that Republicans choose the Actor President to be their hero. They could and, I believe, should, choose the General President - Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not so many pithy remarks.

But plenty of there there.