|To: J.B.C. who wrote (245)||8/19/2005 11:32:42 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Reagan Files Paint Court Nominee as a Watchdog |
By David G. Savage, Richard Simon and Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writers
Fri Aug 19, 7:55 AM ET
WASHINGTON — As a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration, John G. Roberts Jr. did not spend all of his time analyzing the great legal issues of the day. Instead, judging from the thousands of pages of his files that were released Thursday, the Supreme Court nominee spent much of his time acting as a gatekeeper and editor for the president.
He repeatedly tried to keep President Reagan's friends from taking advantage of his office. He sought to keep the president from lending his name or office to promoting commercial interests. Sometimes, he intervened to keep Reagan from saying things he might regret.
When actor Jimmy Stewart wrote to Reagan in 1983 to ask him to serve on an advisory board for his son's prep school in Arizona, for instance, Roberts wrote a stern memo advising that the president "should not accept Stewart's invitation." The school planned to use Reagan's name to raise money. It would be "demeaning to the [president's] office, using it as a huckster's ploy," Roberts wrote.
When some wealthy Republicans from Dallas invited the Reagans to a gala dinner, Roberts advised against attending on the grounds that sponsors were using the event as part of the grand opening of a shopping mall.
In December of 1985, Jerry Weintraub, chief executive of United Artists, offered to have actor Sylvester Stallone personally give Reagan the boxing gloves and robe he wore in the newly released "Rocky IV." The gifts were to end up in the Smithsonian Institution, Weintraub said.
Roberts said the president should decline the offer. It "is a rather transparent publicity stunt to promote the film," he said in a memo to his boss, White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding.
And when a publicist for Michael Jackson proposed in 1984 that Reagan thank the pop star for giving tickets to needy youngsters so they could attend a Washington concert, Roberts demurred. "I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson's records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend we do not approve this letter," he wrote.
He gave the same advice even when the cause was dear to Reagan's heart.
In January of 1985, the president was asked to speak to a group of corporate executives who had shown a willingness to support Nicaraguan refugees. "I recommend stopping any White House involvement in this effort," Roberts wrote, adding that the president should not participate in private fundraising.
Comments reflecting Roberts' political views were rare in the more than 38,000 pages of files that were released Thursday by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley and by the National Archives in Washington. With the papers released Monday, the files contain all of the material from the Reagan Library that was written by or compiled in the office where Roberts worked from 1982 to 1986.
Instead of providing insight into his beliefs or reinforcing the conservative ideology found in some papers released earlier, the documents offered a glimpse into Roberts' personality — his wry sense of humor, his efforts to steer Reagan clear of controversy, and his attention to detail — even punctuation.
And they shed light on the often dry, tedious work of a young White House lawyer who, in addition to dispensing advice on complex legal issues and congressional legislation, responded to mail sent to the White House from citizens. He even issued a memo about a Christmas party invitation: "The only change I am considering is a more festive color."
Roberts also said "thanks, but no thanks" was the right response to an $8-billion crime-fighting strategy proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) (R-Pa.). The proposals "are the epitome of the 'throw money at the problem' approach" to crime fighting, Roberts wrote. His blunt rejection of Specter's idea may not sit well with the Pennsylvania senator, now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is to begin confirmation hearings on Roberts' nomination in September.
Sometimes, Roberts objected to words and phrases in Reagan's speeches.
In October of 1984, the president was set to conclude a campaign speech in South Carolina with the rousing line that the United States was "the greatest nation God ever created."
Roberts said he had no legal objection to the president's prepared remarks. He added, however, that the final line struck him as "ill-advised and, particularly in the light of the focus on the religion and politics issue, a likely candidate for the 'Reaganism of the Week.' "
"According to Genesis, God creates things like the heavens and the earth, and the birds and fishes, but not nations," Roberts wrote.
His commitment to Reagan was clear: In his April 1986 letter of resignation, Roberts wrote to the president: "My years in your service will always be very special to me. The inspiration you have given me will burn brightly in my heart long after I have left the lights of the White House behind."
Some of the boxes of records opened to public scrutiny Thursday were filled with memos in which Roberts recommended that the White House deny requests for the president to be photographed while — among other things — reading the Washington Times, working out in Nike apparel or riding in a Jeep, or requests for presidential messages commemorating the anniversary of Disneyland or the opening of a shopping mall in Arizona.
Roberts routinely said the White House should strictly adhere to the policy of "not permitting use of the president's name, likeness or photograph in any manner that suggests or could be construed as an endorsement by the president of a commercial product or enterprise."
After a car accident, Roberts sounded a bit like others who believed they had unjustly received traffic tickets when he wrote, in a 1984 memo to Fielding, his boss, that he had to leave work to fight a ticket he had received.
"I was cited for 'failure to devote full time and attention' — a laughable catch-all charge that the prosecution will be hard-pressed to prove.
"The ticket was for a mere $25," he added, "but having never been cited for a moving violation in my entire 15 years of driving, and feeling confident I was not at fault in this instance (and of course fearful of an increase in my insurance rates), I have decided to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."
Savage and Simon reported from Washington and Weinstein from Simi Valley.
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|To: Bill who wrote (247)||9/4/2005 12:57:28 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|The more I read about Roberts, the more I like him. He is a literate, principled, intelligent man with a sense of humor. He also has enough real world experience to understand the difference between theoretical concepts and the realities of life. He has the temperament to make a good Chief Justice. I’m sure that the Bush people are giving that possibility some thought today.|
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|To: Bill who wrote (249)||1/21/2006 5:00:21 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Reagan's legacy at crossroads|
25 years after oath, his agenda endures. But is the GOP adrift?
By William Neikirk
Tribune senior correspondent
Published January 21, 2006
WASHINGTON -- On a warm Jan. 20 morning precisely 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in an inaugural ceremony that served as the catalyst for the conservative movement that now dominates each branch of the federal government.
Whether it's tax cuts, deregulation, a strong defense or judicial and cultural conservatism, Reagan policies have become firmly embedded throughout American society. "Reagan is more powerful today than when he was president," said Martin Anderson, one of his White House advisers.
There is fresh evidence throughout the capital. Two young lawyers who worked for Reagan--Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito--are expected to have a major impact on the nation's legal system for many years, as a result of being named to the court by President Bush. Conservative Republicans hold leadership posts in the House and Senate. And Bush's politics seem much more closely tied to Reagan than to those of Bush's father, who was Reagan's vice president.
But that movement is now at a juncture nearly as important as Reagan's election, with the continued power of "Reaganism" called into question. The blunt force of Bush's defense policy in Iraq is being challenged. And rising government expenditures and political corruption in Congress have combined to vex Republicans with midterm elections rapidly approaching.
Some conservatives are worried.
"We're at the biggest crossroads since Reagan won the nomination in 1980," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a fervent Reagan disciple, said in an interview. "We face very large challenges and we have no absolute proof yet that we are going to take the right position in meeting those challenges."
Part of the problem is a fracturing from within. Business-oriented pragmatists, deficit hawks, cultural conservatives, Christian activists, libertarians, neoconservatives -- all have different agendas, and all claim the mantle of Reagan, sometimes in the name of things he never accomplished, such as balancing the budget.
"The Reagan legacy is very vulnerable because George W. Bush has embraced it so wholeheartedly," said Michael Genovese, political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. "Bush is the model, not the father, of the legacy. So much of the Reagan legacy is dependent on the Bush legacy."
Even more than his own father, who followed Reagan in the White House, the president has adopted Reagan's ideas, cutting taxes, building up the military because of a terrorist threat and embracing a conservative social and cultural agenda. He also has pushed to enhance the power of the presidency, as Reagan did during his two terms.
Yet to conservatives such as Gingrich and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), the GOP has strayed too far from the Reagan agenda.
"It is the abandonment of Reagan's policies that has gotten us in trouble," said Feeney, who is sharply critical of spending increases in recent years with the GOP in charge of government.
"Reagan was an ideologue," said Mallory Factor, a New York businessman who heads a political group that contributes to conservatives. "He had a simple message and simple programs. We have lost that in our society." He blamed GOP leaders in Congress who have "drunk the water out of the Potomac" River and, he added, lost touch with Reagan's ideas.
"If we're not the party of reform and we try to run as the party of pork, we'll lose," Gingrich said. "Reagan was about reform. He was not about pork."
Legacy in judiciary
Within the federal judiciary, the Reagan influence has enormous reach, culminating with the selection of Roberts as chief justice and Alito's expected confirmation.
Herman Schwartz, a law professor at American University, said the federal judiciary is increasingly taking a right-leaning direction with more conservative nominations over the years.
Edwin Meese, Reagan's attorney general, said he believes the GOP will survive the current challenges and that Reaganism will continue as a powerful influence in American politics. So did Ralph Reed, a Republican operative and former head of the Christian Coalition who is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Meese said the scandals over influence-peddling in Congress are bipartisan and that the GOP will be able to weather criticism over the Iraq war in this year's elections.
Historian Robert Dallek said both Reagan and John Kennedy "remain inspirational voices" long after their presidencies.
"But when you go through the scandals we have seen, the doubts that have been raised about Bush and the Iraq war, the recriminations [over spying] by the National Security Agency, Reagan and Kennedy become all the more appealing," he added.
Reed said Reagan gave the Christian evangelical movement a boost by embracing its agenda after his nomination in 1980, although Reed conceded that the former president did not push some of the movement's causes actively during his two terms. Even so, evangelicals still hold Reagan in high esteem, said William Martin, a Rice University sociology professor and an author of books on the Christian right.
"He was the first president to say he favored restricting abortion on demand," Reed said. "That was a critical moment."
As Democrats criticize Republicans for fostering a "culture of corruption" in Washington, Reed said if the GOP is able to enact lobbying reforms as promised it can overcome the scandals. He said Democrats failed in the 1990s to make internal reforms when several scandals erupted in the House.
Reed has been caught up in the corruption scandal because of his business dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His public relations and lobbying companies received at least $4.2 million through Abramoff's firm to mobilize voters against Indian casino gambling.
But Reed said he did nothing wrong. "I was assured by the law firm at the onset that funds contributed to my effort would not derive from gambling activity," he said, adding that "if I had known what I know now, I would not have done that work."
Scandals such as Iran-contra also hounded the Reagan administration. The large deficits that he ran up also bring criticism. But 25 years later, his philosophy still drives GOP politics even as a major test looms for Republicans in 2006 elections.
Nostalgia for Reagan remains high in the GOP. Anne Davis Burns, a public relations official for a trade association, helped with the inaugural ticket operation on Jan. 20, 1981, and had a front-row seat for the swearing-in. She remembers clearly when Reagan appeared on stage.
"He was kind of larger than life," she said. And to many Republicans, he still is.
- - -
Still an inspiration
Voices of ideological disciples of the Reagan Revolution:
-- Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, ran Youth for Reagan in Virginia in the 1976 primaries. He called Reagan "my modern-day philosophical hero," adding, "Reagan is the man who inspired me to enter into politics while I was a law student at the University of Virginia."
-- Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a conservative and deficit hawk: "While Reagan was deeply committed to traditional values and a strong defense, to understand him was to realize he was a man committed to limited government. This meant things like local control of schools and reforming our government, and not creating new entitlements. He's the reason I became a Republican."
-- Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition founder and now a GOP candidate in Georgia, recalled how Reagan won over evangelical Christians in 1980. "Reagan said, `I know you can't endorse me, but I want you to know I endorse you.' That formal embrace by the Republican Party and by its presidential nominee, who went on to become the president, gave an imprimatur and a seal of approval."
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spent the last six years of Reagan's presidency in the Air Force. "My first impression of Ronald Reagan was, I really liked this guy. . . . I thought he was a cool dude, I thought he had a great sense of humor, he made conservatism not only acceptable but cool, and he brought a dignity but a personal touch to office that it needed."
-- William Neikirk and Tribune news services
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/6/2006 8:39:27 PM|
|Some sad news about Lyn Nofziger:|
An Old Hand's Ode to Two Loves
Former Reagan communications and strategy aide Lyn Nofziger isn't just sitting around as he fights an uphill battle against bone cancer. He's creating a tribute to his two passions: conservative journalism and Ronald Reagan. With the support of important friends like former Attorney General Ed Meese, he has created the Lyn Nofziger Fellowship in Journalistic Excellence. The goal is to raise $500,000 to foster college kids interested in Reagan's conservative revolution and values. "He feels this is the best way to honor Ronald Reagan," says friend Cindy Canevaro. She says he is upbeat even though his cancer is progressing rapidly. Canevaro's brother, Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation, says that to cheer up the beloved curmudgeon, several friends cut a video filled with their recollections of Nofziger's work for the Gipper. "He really had no idea that he meant so much to so many people," says Tapscott.
Lyn's website and blog can be found at:
I heartily recommend his autobiography:
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|From: Glenn Petersen||3/28/2006 7:32:46 AM|
|Lyn Nofziger, 81, Irreverent Adviser to Reagan, Is Dead|
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: March 28, 2006
LOS ANGELES, March 27 — Lyn Nofziger, the cigar-chomping former newspaperman who served as spokesman and strategist for Ronald Reagan in Sacramento and Washington, died of cancer on Monday at his home in Falls Church, Va. He was 81.
Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, said: "Lyn was with us from the gubernatorial campaign in 1965 through the early White House days, and Ronnie valued his advice — and good humor — as much as anyone's. I spoke with him just days ago and even though he knew the end was near, Lyn was hopeful and still in good spirits."
Mr. Nofziger was at the hospital with Reagan after he was shot in March 1981 and relayed to the press the president's memorable, if perhaps apocryphal, line to Mrs. Reagan at the hospital: "Honey, I forgot to duck."
Mr. Nofziger was a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Copley newspaper chain when he was recruited to serve as the spokesman for Reagan's first campaign for governor of California in 1966.
Stuart Spencer, who managed that campaign and Reagan's later campaigns for the White House, recalled Mr. Nofziger as profane, disheveled and always quick with a quip. Mr. Spencer said he still had the Mickey Mouse tie Mr. Nofziger gave him years ago. The difference between them, Mr. Spencer said, was that Mr. Nofziger regularly wore his.
Mr. Nofziger frequently expressed his disdain for Washington and for politics, but he kept returning. He put up a cynical facade that endeared him to the reporters he dealt with, but he remained devoted to Reagan, even though he was never part of the president's innermost circle.
Ms. Dahmen, a great-niece of Mr. Nofziger, told The Associated Press on Monday: "He transcended parties; he was loved on both sides of the aisle. You could love him or hate him, but everybody respected him."
Despite his service in the Reagan and Nixon White Houses, Mr. Nofziger was not a doctrinaire conservative. He could, however, take the gloves off when he felt it necessary to serve the boss, either as a communications aide to Richard M. Nixon or as a political director for Reagan.
He worked under Reagan to replace Democrats in the federal bureaucracy with loyal Republicans. John Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, wrote that Mr. Nofziger had helped compile the Nixon White House's "enemies list."
Kenneth L. Khachigian, who worked with Mr. Nofziger in the Nixon White House and remained close to him afterward, said Mr. Nofziger had enlivened meetings, sometimes to the president's displeasure. "He could be infuriating because he never seemed to take things seriously," Mr. Khachigian said. "But on the other hand, he was utterly loyal and devoted to Reagan."
Like several former Reaganites, Mr. Nofziger opened a lobbying practice in Washington after leaving the White House. In 1988, he was convicted of illegally lobbying for two defense contractors and a labor union. Mr. Nofziger dismissed the charges as trivial and told the judge he felt no remorse because he did not believe he was guilty.
A year later a federal appeals court threw out the conviction, saying prosecutors had failed to show he had knowingly committed a crime.
Franklyn Nofziger was a native Californian, born in Bakersfield on June 8, 1924, and a self-described conservative by the time he entered college. He served in the Army and attended San Jose State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. He worked in journalism for 16 years as a reporter and editor, and took his manual typewriter with him to the White House even after electric typewriters and then computers rendered it obsolete.
In a 2003 interview with the University of Virginia, as part of its presidential oral history project, Mr. Nofziger conceded that he never would have imagined going into politics. But in 1966, he took a position as press secretary for Reagan's campaign for governor. He served as the governor's director of communications for nearly two years.
Mr. Nofziger's friends said he could be candid to a fault, which sometimes strained his relations with Mr. and Mrs. Reagan. In 1991, when the president dismissed three former close aides, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, from the board of the Reagan Presidential Library, Mr. Nofziger wrote a scathing op-ed article for The Washington Post. He said Mr. Reagan had broken his heart by turning his back on friends.
"Yes, I know you were a long way from being a perfect president," Mr. Nofziger wrote. "I thought that sometimes you listened to and took bad advice. I thought that toward the end you were paying too much attention to what history might think of you — a mistake most presidents make."
He went on, "But still, while on a scale of 1 to 10 you were more nearly a 7 than a 10, you remained my hero because it's hard to visualize anybody else scoring more than a 5 — at least on my scale. But today, Mr. President, and I weep because of it, you are no longer my hero."
He said Mr. Reagan had forgotten old loyalties and walked away from old friends. "You have let Nancy and the rich and beautiful people with whom she has surrounded herself and you force off the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library three of the most dedicated and selfless Reaganites there are."
Mr. Nofziger wrote four western novels and a political autobiography, "Nofziger."
But those who know him remember not his serious writings but his puns and quips and bits of doggerel. Among them is a limerick that he penned after the doomed nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court last year, which appears on his Web site, www.lynnofziger.com:
Conservatives are fearful that Harriet
Will be George Bush's Iscariot.
They have little doubt
That she'd sell them out
For a ride in a liberal's chariot.
Mr. Nofziger is survived by his wife, Bonnie, their daughter Glenda and two grandchildren. Another daughter died in 1989.
Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting from San Francisco for this article.
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|From: J.B.C.||7/28/2010 4:05:20 PM|
|California To Mark 'Ronald Reagan Day'|
Former first lady Nancy Reagan joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Simi Valley for a ceremonial signing of a bill making it Ronald Reagan Day every Feb. 6 in California.
The late president — and former California governor — was born Feb. 6, 1911, so the 100th anniversary of his birth is approaching.
The 89-year-old former first lady, wearing a yellow pantsuit and balancing on a cane and the governor's arm, walked into the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. She smiled as Schwarzenegger sat at a desk and ceremoniously signed a pair of bills Tuesday morning. He officially signed them July 19.
The other bill establishes a commission to plan Reagan centennial events.
Schwarzenegger told the audience, "Ronald Reagan is my hero."
The governor says Ronald Reagan Day will allow schools to teach about Reagan and be a day in which Californians can remember his legacy.
Other Californians honored with official days include farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, gay rights crusader Harvey Milk and environmental icon John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.
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|To: J.B.C. who wrote (254)||11/1/2010 9:09:21 AM|
|NEW YORK, Aug. 5, 2003 |
Writing For Ronald Reagan
Speachwriter Talks About How It Changed His Life
By Tatiana Morales
(CBS) There's no question that words can change the world, and there's no better proof of that than the famous words spoken by President Reagan at the Berlin Wall back in 1987.
Two years later, the wall came down. The man who wrote those words is Peter Robinson, who spent six years as a speechwriter in the Reagan White House. He has a new book about his experiences, titled "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life."
He tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, President Reagan seemed to him larger than life.
Robinson says, “He seemed like a figure carved on Mount Rushmore. And I was constantly perplexed by how he did it. How did an actor persuade the American people to take him seriously? How did he move people? Bit by bit, by living in the White House, studying him closely, I can remember the moment when I realized, he's human after all. He'd come back from cancer surgery and he spoke to us all in the White House. The chief of staff at the time wanted everyone to see the president was back to normal. And his shirt collar was too big because he had lost so much weight. I thought, ‘oh, no, he's one of us.’ For me a baby speechwriter, I was just 25 when I took the job, it was a lesson in itself.”
The other thing Robinson talks about is the idea that Ronald Reagan seemed so lucky. But one of the things that he demystifies in the book is that the former president was anything but lucky.
Robinson says, “I thought at first he was surreal because he had been lucky all his life. Good looking, became a radio announcer, movie star, married at an early age. Not true. His father was a drunk. It is clear in his boyhood he went through one scary experience after another as a result of that. He was profoundly in love with his first wife, movie star Jane Wyman. After eight years, after what he thought was a happy marriage, she divorced him. Then after marrying Nancy Davis and starting a second family, he was still in his early 40s, his career as an actor dried up. So he had his full share of life's misfortunes. What I discovered, what I decided watching him was from an early age he had to learn to find the good, even in dreadful situations. I think it was probably his mother, her simple faith passed on to him. He understood in a deep way that life was fundamentally good.”
Robinson is the host of the PBS television program, “Uncommon Knowledge,” and the author of two previous books, “It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP” and “Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.” A fellow at the Hoover Institution, he lives in Stanford, Calif.
Read an excerpt from "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life."
The Pony In the Dung Heap
When Life Buries You, Dig
Journal Entry, June 2002:
Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan's favorite jokes. "The pony joke?" Meese replied. "Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times."
The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities -- one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist -- their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. "What do you think you're doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. "With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"
"Reagan told the joke so often," Meese said, chuckling, "that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, 'There must be a pony in here somewhere.'"
The other day Josh Gilder, one of my colleagues on the Reagan speechwriting staff, reminded me of Mr. Cho, the barber Josh and I discovered a couple of blocks from the White House. Mr. Cho had come to the United States from somewhere in Southeast Asia -- Thailand, as I recall -- where it was the custom for a barber to massage each customer's scalp before cutting his hair. When you sat in his chair, Mr. Cho would rub your scalp with the palms of his hands, then knead it with his fingertips. He'd work his way slowly up both sides of your head to your crown, then forward to your eyebrows, then backward to the base of your skull. When Mr. Cho finally finished the massage and began cutting your hair, you'd feel so relaxed that you'd have to grip both arms of the barber chair to keep from sliding onto the floor.
For the six or seven months from the time we discovered him to the time Mr. Cho moved to a new barbershop in the suburbs, Josh and I found ourselves getting our hair cut almost once a week. Soon we stopped thinking of Mr. Cho as our barber and began thinking of him as our therapist. Our visits to the barbershop amounted to our own modest exercises in stress management. Mr. Cho helped us cope.
On a typical afternoon, for instance, Josh and I might have drafts of two or three speeches spread across our desks. The telephones would be ringing. Members of the National Security Council or the Office of Management and Budget would be pestering us for rewrites. Our boss, Tony Dolan, the chief speechwriter, would be clomping down the marble-tiled hallway in his cowboy boots to ask us whether in writing certain passages we had actually intended to cause pointless trouble with the senior staff or had simply gone out of our minds. When it got to be too much, Josh or I would telephone the other.
"Thought you'd never ask."
Josh and I have agreed ever since that only one other event could compare with a visit to Mr. Cho. That was a visit to the Oval Office.
"Reagan's presence was just -- I don't know, remarkable," Josh says. "We'd go in there, all worked up over staff wars or the way the researchers weren't doing their work. We might even have been worked up over something important for a change, like the Sandinistas or the situation in the Middle East. Then Reagan would calm us right down. He was just so sweet and serene. A few minutes with the guy were just as good as one of Mr. Cho's massages. Remember?"
Would I ever forget? Ronald Reagan's serenity taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.
For a long time, though, I just couldn't figure it out. I made a mistake about Reagan that you'll understand immediately if you've ever watched the television program The West Wing. The program does a good job of portraying the intensity in the White House -- people who work there really do look serious, speak earnestly, and spend half their days taking urgent telephone calls and the other half hurrying to vital meetings. My mistake lay in assuming that the intensity must reach a peak or climax in the person of the President. If the people who worked for him were driven and harried, it stood to reason that the President himself must be the most driven and harried of all. The West Wing makes the same assumption. Just look at the way Martin Sheen plays the role of chief executive. The man's anguished soul searching never lets up.
Yet in the Reagan White House, the intensity didn't peak in the person of the President. It evaporated. Where Sheen often appears rumpled, Reagan always appeared immaculate, his shirt unwrinkled, his tie snugly knotted, a knife-edge crease in his trousers, his shoes gleaming ...
The foregoing is excerpted from "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" by Peter Robinson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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