I have time, before I run out the door, to reprint here an excerpt from The Age of Reagan on how she came to the attention of the Gipper:
“The failure of the Carter administration’s foreign policy is now clear to everyone except its architects,” Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote bitterly in the fall of 1979 in her famous Commentary article “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” “The foreign policy of the Carter administration failed not for lack of good intentions,” Kirkpatrick continued, “but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest.”
Kirkpatrick’s article was a sensation among political intellectuals—and also with Ronald Reagan. Several people passed the article along to Reagan. According to Kirkpatrick’s own account, Reagan’s principal adviser on national security issues, Richard Allen, handed Reagan a copy of the article shortly before Reagan boarded a plane in Washington to return to California. Reagan called Allen two hours later when he was changing planes in Chicago, asking Allen, “Who is he?” “Who is who?”, Allen replied. “Who is this Jeane Kirkpatrick?” “Well, first, he’s a she.” Reagan wrote to Kirkpatrick in December to praise the article. Your article, Reagan wrote, “had a great impact on me. . . Your approach is so different from ordinary analyses of policy matters that I found myself reexamining a number of the premises and views which have governed my own thinking in recent years.” If possible, Reagan closed, “I should very much like to have the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss some of the points you have raised.” Reagan’s critics assumed his interest in Kirkpatrick was another example of the derivative nature of his ideas. In this case, as in many others, Reagan was there first. Kirkpatrick’s argument, in one sentence, is that there is a qualitative and relevant distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Kirkpatrick’s article was the first time many people had thought about the matter this way. Yet in 1977, two years before Kirkpatrick’s article, Reagan wrote in Orbis quarterly: "President Carter has also failed to take into consideration the difference between totalitarian and authoritarian governments. . . As a result, it has needlessly jeopardized good relations with several states which have been friendly to us and to their neighbors but whose governments have not behaved as we might wish in their internal policies."
In other words, Reagan saw a kindred spirit in Kirkpatrick. She, however, was less enamored. At that moment Kirkpatrick, a lifelong loyal Democrat, hoped for her own party’s revival, dismissing “this conservative Republican governor whom I have no interest in.” This attitude would soon change.