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GUEST,freda BS: Ronald Reagan - Sadly Missed (188* d) RE: BS: Ronald Reagan - Sadly Missed 06 Jun 04

This is what a former Australian Prime Minister has just written about him.

A genuine pleasure in people; June 7, 2004; Sydney Morning Herald

Bob Hawke, Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991, recalls the president's charm.

In my five visits to the United States during Ronald Reagan's presidency, I can't recall meeting anyone from either side of politics who did not genuinely like him. A lot of them had pretty violent descriptions for his policies, but no one could resist his warmth and affability.

On my first visit, in 1983, my host on Capitol Hill was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the late Tip O'Neill. When I said I had just come from lunch with the president, Tip said: "There's never been a more conservative man in the White House, but you can't help liking the son of a bitch, can you?"

Reagan was the first foreign head of state to send congratulations when I became prime minister in March 1983 and he issued an immediate invitation for me to visit Washington. Some of those who travelled with me were amazed at what happened during the formal talks. When I raised some questions about current economic conditions in the United States, Reagan started shuffling through a number of cards he was holding. He found the one he was looking for, read out a couple of sentences and then turned to his Treasury Secretary, Donald Regan.
"Donald, this is your quarter, perhaps you'd like to take up Bob's points." The next subject was foreign policy, and he did the same thing with George Shultz.

I found it refreshing to deal with a head of state who did not pretend to be an expert or someone who always wanted to be centre stage. He was also a very good listener. He was not a pretentious man, and he knew how to recognise and rely on able people around him.

In contrast to the situation today, he also knew how to maintain very warm relations with Australia without the need for agreement in every area. I remember on one visit he was very keen for Australia to support the Star Wars program. I told him I was not persuaded by his arguments. He knew I was travelling on to New York and asked if he could send a few of his generals to continue the discussion.

The generals did not persuade me either, but there were no hard feelings when the answer was again no. It did not adversely affect the relationship at all, which demonstrates that you can have a very close relationship with the United States without having to agree with every proposition they make. Reagan never pretended to be a great intellectual, but he knew what the important issues were.

He knew when he came to office that the Soviet Union presented a very significant threat and he let them know they had a real opponent on their hands. We owe him a great deal for his role in ending the Cold War. I will remember his great warmth and his ease with everyone he met. He took genuine pleasure in people. He was always keen to get formal meetings over, so that we could go to lunch and swap a few jokes.

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