Quoting from Frances FitzGerald’s Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War:

In those years [’81-’82] Henry Kissinger was occasionally invited to the White House to talk with the President about world affairs. James Baker and those other White House aides who worried that Reagan was too much identified with the right wing of the party thought it good public relations for the President to be seen consulting with the acknowledged master of geopolitics, whose policies had come under attack from the right. Kissinger was always happy to accept these invitations, though, after a few meetings with Reagan, he realized that they were essentially for show. In the course of their talks the President displayed little knowledge of world affairs and almost no curiosity about them. What was more, he seemed quite unconcerned with foreign policy. It was as if thinking about long-term strategies was something that other people were paid to do. When Kissinger talked about what the U.S. goverment ought to be doing in the coming years, Reagan often tuned out of the conversation altogether. “He would try to avoid policy discussions,” Kissinger said. “If he couldn’t, he’d resort to his cue cards. If he was alone, I knew that nothing would go on–he was just massaging me. Only if there was someone there would there be a discussion of substance.”

After experimenting with a number of conversational gambits, Kissinger discovered that the best way to get Reagan’s attention was to talk about what he ought to say publicly on an issue. If there was talk of a speech or a public statement, Reagan would sit up and his eyes would come back into focus. “He was an actor,” Kissinger said, “the quintessential actor. What he said was what he believed. He didn’t stand in front of his mirror in the morning while he shaved wondering whether that was the truth or not. If I told him Dobrynin had just told me that the Soviets couldn’t stand it ay more and would be launching their missiles in forty-eight hours, Reagan would no call the JCS. He would talk from his cue cards, then he would tell some Hollywood stories, and when I left, he would not call someone and say, ‘You know, Henry Kissinger has gone mad?”

“It’s very unusual,” Kissinger said, “to have a president who is not interested in policy at all.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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