Reagan: Out of a Job, but Not Out of Work
LOS ANGELES — PRESIDENT Reagan may be out of work today, but it's not for lack of opportunity. A Burbank, Calif., radio station is offering him $100,000 a year to be sports director. There are reports the Los Angeles Dodgers would like him on their corporate board, and Hollywood is atwitter with talk of movie offers.
Far-fetched though these might be, they point up a salient fact about Ronald Reagan in retirement: He may be more in demand than any president in modern times.
The reasons are many. For one thing, this most media-conscious of presidents is the first to have served two full terms in the White House in 28 years, and he is going out on a wave of popularity. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll Wednesday, 68 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Reagan's performance, the highest approval rating for a president at a term's end since the 1940s. A Washington Post poll published the preceding day found similar results.
The former President is more of an idealogue than his recent predecessors, which will make him a popular speaker in some political circles. Already, aides say, the speaking requests are piling up, and several corporations are said to be eager to hire him as a consultant.
``He will be very much sought after,'' says E. Pendleton James, Mr. Reagan's first personnel director who is now a corporate headhunter in New York.
He and Mrs. Reagan intend to stay ``active'' in private life. Both, for instance, will be writing memoirs. They are also expected to do a fair amount of lecturing and lobbying for their favorite causes.
In Reagan's case, that will mean promoting a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, urging repeal of the two-term limit on the presidency, and seeing that the president is given authority to veto individual budget items. He is not expected to charge for certain political speeches or charitable activities, but fees for other functions will be hefty, perhaps $50,000 a talk.
The former President will also oversee the building of his presidential library in Simi Valley, north of here. Mrs. Reagan, meanwhile, will watch over the renovation of a hospital in the San Fernando Valley that will house a center for teenage drug addicts.
They will have a ``full plate of things to do,'' says former Attorney General and longtime friend William French Smith.
Reagan in retirement will be different than his recent predecessors. Unlike Gerald Ford, for instance, he will probably not sit on a lot of corporate boards, in part because his age may prohibit it. Instead, Mr. James says, he may become a paid consultant to a few companies where he would be allowed to ``speak out on those issues he feels are important.''
NOR is he likely to be as introspective as Jimmy Carter or as prolific a writer as Richard Nixon.
``Reagan will be a bit more in the mold of Eisenhower, who really did want to retire and enjoy his farm,'' says Stephen Hess, a scholar at the Brookings Institution. ``He is going to make a certain number of speeches, because he enjoys that. But I don't think he is going to push himself.''
The Reagans will take up residence at their hilltop home in guilded Bel Air, Calif. They are leasing a ranch-style house from some friends who bought it for $2.5 million. They are expected to pay $15,000 a month in rent.
This may seem a bit pricey to people in Dubuque, Iowa, but it is actually penury in a neighborhood whose residents include Zsa Zsa Gabor and Elizabeth Taylor.
The Reagan's house has already become a stop on the tours past celebrities' homes, which is no small concern in a community that once banned stars from its walled environs for this reason.
``A lot of people are concerned about the additional traffic and rubberneckers,'' says Jeffrey Hyland, a Bel Air resident and president of the real estate firm Alvarez, Hyland & Young.
The Reagans plan to spend time at their mountaintop ranch in Santa Barbara as well. Many Hollywood friends and old acquaintances, meanwhile, hope they will check in on the old social circuit. Los Angeles, after all, reveres fame and power as much as Washington - and for now the Reagans are the new royalty.