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   PastimesRonald Reagan 1911-2004


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From: Glenn Petersen2/4/2011 8:28:12 PM
2 Recommendations   of 264
 
h/t LB on the PfP thread

Thinking About Ronald Reagan: On 100th Birthday, He's Remembered for Good Reason

Lou Cannon
Correspondent
Politics Daily
Posted: 02/1/11

On the eve of Ronald Reagan's election as president of the United States in 1980, a radio reporter asked him what it was that Americans saw in him. Reagan hesitated and then replied: "Would you laugh if I told you that I think maybe they see themselves and that I'm one of them?"

Thirty years and four presidents later, Americans still see themselves in Reagan. In a Gallup poll in 2009 they ranked Reagan as the best president, just ahead of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

This highly generous assessment is based on more than likeability. Reagan left the world safer and the United States more prosperous than he found it. Even some liberal scholars who disdained Reagan when he was in the White House now acknowledge his effectiveness as a leader, especially his role in ending the Cold War. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, his partner in that enterprise, said at Reagan's funeral that the U.S. president was "an extraordinary political leader" who had "decided to be a peacemaker."

Reagan the Negotiator is the president who catches the attention of historians. Conservatives, to whom Reagan is iconic, observe that he was able to negotiate with Gorbachev from a position of strength because of the U.S. arms buildup that Reagan promised as a candidate and delivered as a president. They also note that Reagan was a domestic achiever, reducing the top marginal federal income tax rate from 70 to 28 percent.

This didn't happen in a straight line, as Reagan made numerous compromises along the way to reach this goal, several times agreeing to tax increases. His greatest domestic accomplishment -- breaking the back of inflation that terrified the nation in the late 1970s -- was a product not of "supply side" economics ballyhooed by conservatives but of the drastic tightening of interest rates by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Under the battle cry of "stay the course," Reagan contributed to the process by protecting Volcker from congressional critics, many of them Republican, who wanted the Fed chairman's scalp.

When the economy took off in the second quarter of 1983, with a growth rate that averaged 7 percent for the rest of the year, Reagan's approval ratings soared with it. The "Reagan Recession" lasted 16 months; the Reagan Recovery persisted well into the next presidency. Reagan became popular enough to withstand the Iran-contra scandal, which might have wrecked a lesser president, and he left the White House with the highest job approval rating of any departing president since Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in 1945.

FDR, Reagan's first (and enduring) political idol, was a patrician, which Reagan was not. But both of them connected with people at an everyday level. Stuart K. Spencer, the thoughtful California political strategist who helped manage Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial and 1980 presidential campaigns, compared Reagan to "Joe Sixpack," the emblematic guy at the bar who has his fingers on the pulse of the public.

Reagan didn't drink much beer, but he paid such careful attention to his audiences that he sometimes sensed their concerns before they were fully articulated. When Reagan was exploring a run for governor of California in 1965, polls showed that voters were most concerned about taxes and other economic issues. But as Reagan, who had never run for office before, roamed the state he became aware of an issue that had not yet shown up in the public opinion surveys. Demonstrations were then disrupting the University of California, and Reagan's audiences wanted to know what he would do about it as governor. Reagan quickly realized that middle-class and working-class parents who had sons and daughters in college saw these demonstrations as a threat to their children's education. Without prompting, Reagan made the "mess at Berkeley" a signature issue of his campaign.

I met Reagan in the summer of 1965, when I was a Sacramento-based reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and he was speaking to a luncheon audience of reporters and lobbyists. The speech was part of a series of Reagan talks away from the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco that had been designed by Spencer and his partner Bill Roberts to show that Reagan was something more than an actor reading lines written for him by others. Reagan called the speeches "out-of-town tryouts" and wrote his own script.

On this day, when a questioner wondered how anyone could be governor without public experience, Reagan replied that it would be good to have someone who was inexperienced take a fresh look at government. I was stunned by the answer, but the audience clearly bought it. Reagan was then well known from his films and years as the host of General Electric Theater, and reporters and lobbyists crowded around him after the luncheon, eager to hear Reagan reminisce about Hollywood. At the time, the incumbent Democratic governor, Pat Brown, was hoping the GOP would nominate Reagan on the theory he'd be easier to beat than the putative Republican frontrunner, San Francisco Mayor George Christopher. I wasn't so sure. When my San Jose-based editor asked my opinion of Reagan after this lunch, I said I didn't know why anyone would want to run against someone who was so well known and well liked.

Over the course of the next four-plus decades, I covered Reagan as a political candidate and then, for The Washington Post, for the entire eight years of his presidency. I wrote five books about him, including "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime," and interviewed him scores of times. He was always courteous, although my edgy coverage apparently tried his patience. He complained about it occasionally to his White House diaries, referring to me as "one of three journalists" at the paper "who regularly beat my brains out." In truth, I was struggling to understand Reagan and to keep my reporting on an even keel.

Reagan made it easier in one important way since he never tried to co-opt reporters as so many politicians do. Although there were occasional personal moments in our relationship -- he once suggested that my interest in him stemmed in part from the alcoholism of our fathers -- he never pretended that we were pals, and rarely commented on anything I wrote.

For me, the big exception regarding Reagan's usual diffidence occurred in 1976 when I wrote in advance of the Republican National Convention that Reagan's bid to wrest the nomination from President Gerald Ford had come up short and that members of his staff were seeking positions in the Ford campaign. The Post bannered the story, and Reagan denounced it on national television. (Concerned that I might be shaken, our great editor Ben Bradlee, always on your side in a storm, walked me through the newsroom with his arm on my shoulder to show he trusted my reporting.) Reagan's campaign manager never forgot this story and wouldn't talk to me again, but Reagan did talk to me and didn't mention it. He put negative stories and other disappointments behind him, and he didn't hold grudges, which made it easy to like him and easy for Reagan to like everyone.

On the other hand, he didn't pay all that much attention to what was happening around him. He had Nancy Reagan for that. Martin Anderson, an economist and political adviser who became White House domestic adviser in the early years of the Reagan presidency, was pushed out of the 1980 campaign in a staff shakeup. Later, Anderson was invited back and welcomed by Reagan after a staff counter-coup, but he suspected that Reagan hadn't even noticed that he had been gone.

Stu Spencer attributed Reagan's distancing to his Hollywood background, where the cast kept changing but the actor always had his job to do. Acting isn't an easy craft, and Reagan worked hard at mastering it. He was also an adept writer -- I learned early on that he wrote most of his own speeches and one-liners -- and an even better editor. The book "Reagan in His Own Hand," by Annelise and Martin Anderson, with Kiron Skinner, reproduces illustrations of presidential speech drafts and the edits Reagan made in them. My favorite, also reproduced in one of my books, is a passage from a historic speech to British parliamentarians in Westminster on June 8, 1982, in which Reagan took some mush that had been written for him about Soviet actions in Europe, crossed it out, and wrote in his distinctive, looping hand: "What I am describing now is a policy and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other totalitarian ideologies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the expression of citizens."

These are strong words from Joe Sixpack, but Reagan was at once a man of conviction who thought seriously about the great issues of his time and an ordinary American, never braggy, who treated his audiences -- all of us, really -- with consideration and respect. His greatest single quality was his self-deprecating humor, which came naturally to him and was honed into an effective political weapon. He made fun of his age, his work habits, his vanities, his ideology, his alleged lack of intelligence, and his supposed domination by his wife. When he was speaking to a political rally in Florida and a wind blew his speaking cards off a podium, Reagan picked them up, shuffled them together, and quipped that it really didn't matter what order they were in. When a reporter during the first gubernatorial campaign brought Reagan a studio picture showing him with the title chimpanzee in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo," Reagan signed it and wrote, "I'm the one with the watch." On Air Force One he signed a picture of a sleeping Marlin Fitzwater, his press secretary, with the inscription, "Marlin, we're only supposed to do this at cabinet meetings."

Of all the silly things said about Reagan, the silliest (and I probably wrote it myself at some point) is the statement: "What you see is what you get." What people saw, as Reagan suspected, was that he was one of them, but what they got was a lot more than that. Reagan, for all the quips, was a serious person who had read about treaties and economic theories and the Soviet Union along with his share of science fiction and potboiler novels.

Reagan demonstrated his seriousness of purpose and much more in a dramatic speech to the Republican National Convention in 1976 after Ford had been nominated. Although he hadn't even known he would be called upon to speak, Reagan made the most of the moment by telling the delegates that they faced the dual challenge of preserving individual freedom and keeping the world safe from nuclear destruction. "We live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction that can, in a matter of minutes, arrive in each other's country and destroy virtually the civilized world we live in."

Many mistook this speech as Reagan's curtain call. It was, in fact, a clarion declaration that he had no intention of leaving the world stage. After Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in November, Reagan became the Republican front-runner. The Republican establishment tried to stop this man they now idolize; all of the party nabobs lined up against him in 1980 although only George H.W. Bush stuck around as a genuine challenger. After Reagan won the nomination he united the GOP in a stroke by putting Bush on the ticket and then went on to defeat Carter -- "There you go again," Reagan said memorably in their debate -- in November.

When Reagan entered the White House he was convinced from his reading that Central Intelligence Agency estimates of Soviet prowess were exaggerated and that the Soviet Union was too destitute economically to compete with a U.S. military buildup. Even before he was nominated, he said in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Post that a renewed arms race would bring the Soviet Union to the bargaining table. What made Reagan different from many of his fellow conservatives -- and different, too, from liberals who looked upon the Cold War as an eternal condition -- was that he really wanted to negotiate and thought he had learned the art of doing so by bargaining with movie producers when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Soon after Reagan's first meeting with Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985, I interviewed him for a book and asked him what was the most neglected aspect of his biography. Negotiating for the Screen Actors Guild, he replied. What did he learn in these negotiations, I wanted to know. "That the purpose of a negotiation is to get an agreement," Reagan said.

And so it turned out in the fullness of time that this most conservative and anti-communist of all presidents sat down with Gorbachev and, after many ups and downs, on Dec. 8, 1987, signed the first treaty of the Cold War that actually reduced nuclear arsenals instead of stabilizing them at a higher level. It was an agreement by the way -- the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty -- that Reagan's ideological mentor William F. Buckley opposed and that columnist George Will called "moral disarmament."

Henry Kissinger, who retrospectively acclaims Reagan, said at the time that he had "grave reservations" about the INF Treaty, giving aid and comfort to the right in its campaign to prevent ratification. Reagan took his case to the people, and the Senate ratified the treaty.

It was a precursor to other agreements, the most recent signed by Barack Obama, which made deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals. Today, U.S. and Russian specialists inspect nuclear weapons on each other's soil, an action that would have been seen as unbelievably utopian when Reagan became president. Not bad for Joe Sixpack.

politicsdaily.com

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From: J.B.C.6/6/2011 1:36:07 PM
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From: Glenn Petersen6/29/2011 6:46:42 PM
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Ronald Reagan statue unveiled in Hungary

By PABLO GORONDI, Associated Press
June 29, 2011


US Air Force and Army officers, serving in Hungary, pose with the new statue of late US President Ronald Reagan after a centennial commemoration in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The 180 kilograms (400 pounds) and 2.18 meter (7 feet, 2 inches) tall bronze statue honors Reagan at the Freedom Square in central Budapest, to mark his efforts to free the people of Hungary from the yoke of communism. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
_______________

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A statue of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was unveiled Wednesday in Hungary's capital, where he was honored for his leadership in helping to end communism.

The bronze 2-meter (7-foot) likeness of the 40th president was erected in Budapest at Freedom Square, near both the U.S. Embassy and a World War II memorial to Soviet soldiers killed during the ouster of the Nazis from Hungary.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped unveil the statue Wednesday.

Reagan was remembered for the aid and encouragement he gave Hungary and other former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe to gain back their freedom.

Reagan "changed the world and created a new world for Central Europe," Orban said at the unveiling ceremony. "He tore down the walls which were erected in the path of freedom in the name of distorted and sick ideologies."

Rice said the cause of the freedom fighters in Hungary's failed anti-Soviet revolution in 1956 deepened Reagan's commitment to ending communist rule around the world.

"The men and women of '56 inspired Americans and all free peoples never again to leave those alone who are struggling for their freedom," Rice said. "And they inspired most of all Ronald Reagan."

A large facsimile of Reagan's signature identifies the statue made by Istvan Mate and a touchscreen monitor nearby provides information about Reagan in Hungarian and English.

"The statue is imposing and the touchscreen is a lot of a fun," said Reka Nemeth, a Hungarian teenager visiting the site after the ceremony.

The statue, which shows Reagan in mid-stride, is the second memorial erected in his honor in Budapest, where a bust of the former actor and governor of California was placed in City Park in 2006.

In March, Hungary's postal service also issued a commemorative envelope and postmark celebrating the centenary of Reagan's birth.

For some, the Reagan tributes are excessive.

"We Hungarians have nothing to do with Reagan," the Hungarian Communist Workers Party said in a statement. "During his life, he served not our interests but those of 'American Big Capital' bent on ruling the world."

For others, however, Reagan deserves all the accolades.

"It's better to have two Ronald Reagan statues than none at all," said Marton Baranyi, co-creator of a Hungarian website dedicated to Reagan. "Reagan is a role model for Hungarians."

The unveiling ceremony, which began with the Hungarian and U.S. national anthems performed by a Hungarian military band, was also attended by former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority whip, and several members of the Hungarian government.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (259)6/30/2011 6:23:48 AM
From: Bill
2 Recommendations   of 264
 
That's the way I remember Reagan, a towering figure who brought a smile to people's faces.

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To: richardred who wrote (22)10/31/2011 12:54:27 AM
From: richardred
1 Recommendation   of 264
 

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To: richardred who wrote (261)10/31/2011 1:05:08 AM
From: richardred
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From: Glenn Petersen3/6/2016 12:37:06 PM
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Nancy Reagan, a Stylish and Influential First Lady, Dies at 94

By LOU CANNON
New York Times
MARCH 6, 2016



Nancy Reagan at the White House in 1982. Credit George Tames/The New York Times
_______________________________________

Nancy Reagan, the influential and stylish wife of the 40th president of the United States who unabashedly put Ronald Reagan at the center of her life but who became a political figure in her own right, died on Sunday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, according to a statement from Joanne Drake, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Reagan.

Mrs. Reagan was a fierce guardian of her husband’s image, sometimes at the expense of her own, and during Mr. Reagan’s improbable climb from a Hollywood acting career to the governorship of California and ultimately the White House, she was a trusted adviser.

“Without Nancy, there would have been no Governor Reagan, no President Reagan,” said Michael K. Deaver, the longtime aide and close friend of the Reagans who died in 2007.

Mrs. Reagan helped hire and fire the political consultants who ran her husband’s near-miss campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 and his successful campaign for the presidency in 1980. She played a seminal role in the 1987 ouster of the White House chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, whom Mrs. Reagan blamed for ineptness after it was disclosed that Mr. Reagan had secretly approved arms sales to Iran.

Behind the scenes, Mrs. Reagan was the prime mover in Mr. Reagan’s efforts to recover from the scandal, which was known as Iran-contra because some of the proceeds from the sale had been diverted to the contras opposing the leftist government of Nicaragua. While trying to persuade her stubborn husband to apologize for the arms deal, Mrs. Reagan brought political figures into the White House, among them the Democratic power broker Robert S. Strauss, to argue her case to the president.

Mr. Reagan eventually conceded that she was right. On March 4, 1987, the president made a distanced apology for the arms sale in a nationally televised address that dramatically improved his slumping public approval ratings.

His wife, typically, neither sought nor received credit for the turnaround. Mrs. Reagan did not wish to detract from her husband’s luster by appearing to be a power behind the presidential throne.

In public, she gazed at him adoringly and portrayed herself as a contented wife who had willingly given up a Hollywood acting career of her own to devote herself to her husband’s career. “He was all I had ever wanted in a man, and more,” she wrote in “My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan,” published in 1989.

He reciprocated in kind. “How do you describe coming into a warm room from out of the cold?” he once said. “Never waking up bored? The only thing wrong is, she’s made a coward out of me. Whenever she’s out of sight, I’m a worrier about her.”

In truth, she was the worrier. Mrs. Reagan wrote in her memoirs that she sometimes became angry with her husband because of his relentless optimism. He didn’t worry at all, she wrote, “and I seem to do the worrying for both of us.”

It was this conviction that led Mrs. Reagan to take a leading role in the Regan ouster and in other personnel matters in the White House. “It’s hard to envision Ronnie as being a bad guy,” she said in a 1989 interview. “And he’s not. But there are times when somebody has to step in and say something. And I’ve had to do that sometimes — often.”

She did not always get her way. Mr. Reagan ignored her criticism of several cabinet appointees, including Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

In 2001, seven years after her husband announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease, Mrs. Reagan broke with President George W. Bush and endorsed embryonic stem cell research. She stepped up her advocacy after her husband’s death on June 5, 2004. “She feels the greatest legacy her family could ever have is to spare other families from going through what they have,” a family friend, Doug Wick, quoted Mrs. Reagan as saying.

Years on Camera

Born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921, in New York City, Nancy Davis was the daughter of Edith Luckett, an actress, and Kenneth Robbins, a car dealer who abandoned the family soon after her birth. Ms. Luckett resumed her stage career when her daughter was 2 and sent the child to live with relatives in Bethesda, Md. In 1929, Ms. Luckett married a Chicago neurosurgeon, Loyal Davis, who adopted Nancy and gave her the family name.

Almost overnight, Nancy Davis’s difficult childhood became stable and privileged. Throughout the rest of her life, she described Mr. Davis as her real father.

Nancy Davis graduated from the elite Girls’ Latin School in Chicago and then from Smith College in 1943. Slender, with photogenic beauty and large, luminous eyes, she considered an acting career. After doing summer stock in New England, she landed a part in the Broadway musical “Lute Song,” with Mary Martin and Yul Brynner. With the help of a friend, the actor Spencer Tracy, her mother then arranged a screen test given by the director George Cukor, of MGM.

Cukor, according to his biographer, told the studio that Miss Davis lacked talent. Nonetheless, she was given a part in the film she had tested for, “East Side, West Side,” which was released in 1949 starring Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason and Ava Gardner. Cast as the socialite wife of a New York press baron, Miss Davis appeared in only two scenes, but they were with Miss Stanwyck, the film’s top star.

After her husband went into politics, Mrs. Reagan encouraged the notion that her acting interest had been secondary, a view underscored by the biographical information she supplied to MGM in 1949, in which she said her “greatest ambition” was to have a “successful, happy marriage.”

But this was a convention in a day when women were not encouraged to have careers outside the home. In his book “Reagan’s America: Innocents At Home,” Garry Wills disputed the prevalent view that Miss Davis had just been marking time in Hollywood while waiting for a man. She was “the steady woman,” he wrote, who in most of her 11 films had held her own with accomplished actors.

The producer Dore Schary cast Miss Davis in her first lead role, in “The Next Voice You Hear” (1950), playing a pregnant mother opposite James Whitmore. She received good reviews for her work in “Night Into Morning” (1951), with Ray Milland, in which she played a war widow who talked Milland’s character out of committing suicide. Mrs. Reagan thought this was her best film.

Mr. Wills wrote that she was underrated as an actress because she had become most widely associated with her “worst” and, as it happened, last film, “Hellcats of the Navy” (1957), in which Ronald Reagan had the leading role.

How They Met

As she so often did in life, Nancy Davis took the initiative in meeting the man who would become her husband.

In the late 1940s, Hollywood was in the grip of a “Red Scare,” prompted by government investigations into accusations of Communist influence in the film industry. In October 1949, the name “Nancy Davis” appeared in a Hollywood newspaper on a list of signers of a supporting brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the convictions of two screenwriters who had been blacklisted after being found guilty of contempt for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Such newspaper mentions could mean the end of a career, and Nancy Davis sought help from her friend Mervyn LeRoy, who had directed her in “East Side, West Side.” LeRoy found it was a case of mistaken identity: another Nancy Davis had worked in what he called “leftist theater.” He offered to call Ronald Reagan, president of the Screen Actors Guild, to make sure there would be no problems in the future. Instead, Miss Davis insisted that LeRoy set up a meeting with Mr. Reagan.

The meeting took place over dinner at LaRue’s, a fashionable Hollywood restaurant on Sunset Strip. Mr. Reagan, recovering from multiple leg fractures suffered in a charity baseball game, was on crutches. Miss Davis was immediately smitten.

Mr. Reagan, though, was more cautious. According to Bob Colacello, who has written extensively about the Reagans, Mr. Reagan still hoped for a reconciliation with his first wife, the actress Jane Wyman, who had divorced him in 1948.

After dating several times in the fall of 1949, Mr. Reagan and Miss Davis drifted apart and dated others. But they began seeing each other again in 1950. Miss Davis had been accepted on the board of the Screen Actors Guild, and she and Mr. Reagan began having dinner every Monday night after the meetings, often with the actor William Holden, the guild vice president, according to Mr. Colacello.

Mr. Reagan and Nancy Davis were married on March 4, 1952, at a private ceremony at The Little Brown Church in the Valley, in Studio City. Mr. Holden and his wife, Ardis, were the only witnesses.

After their marriage, the Reagans bought a house in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, where their daughter, Patricia Ann, was born — “a bit precipitously,” Mrs. Reagan wrote in her memoirs — on Oct. 21, 1952.

At the time of their marriage, Mr. Reagan’s film career was, as his new wife put it, at a “standstill.” Although Nancy Reagan had vowed not to be a working wife, she made a low-budget science-fiction movie, “Donovan’s Brain” (1953), with Lew Ayres. Her working was “a blow to Ronnie,” Mrs. Reagan observed in her memoirs, “but quite simply, we needed the money.”

The money worries ended early in 1954, when Music Corporation of America, the entertainment conglomerate, offered Mr. Reagan a television contract for $125,000 a year to be the host of “General Electric Theater.” It had a long run, broadcast on Sunday nights until 1962, and Mrs. Reagan herself acted in a few of its episodes.

Indeed, when her film career was over, she continued to work sporadically in television, in episodes of “Zane Grey Theater,” “The Dick Powell Show” and, as late as 1962, “Wagon Train.”

A Loyal Supporter

By then, Mr. Reagan had changed his partisan affiliation from Democratic to Republican and was giving political speeches. In Hollywood, Mr. Reagan’s shift toward the right was often attributed to Mrs. Reagan and her father, Loyal Davis, a staunch conservative. Both the Reagans denied this; she was barely interested in politics at the time, they said. Ironically, when President Reagan began to negotiate with Soviet leaders, conservatives accused Mrs. Reagan of pushing him in a liberal direction. Evidence is lacking to support either suspicion. As Mrs. Reagan put it: “If Ronnie hadn’t wanted to do it, he wouldn’t have done it.”

Though Mrs. Reagan was not at first keen on her husband’s entry into politics, she loyally supported him. His career took off when he made a rousing nationally televised speech for the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater on Oct. 27, 1964. The following year a group of wealthy people from Southern California approached Mr. Reagan about running for governor of California. He was interested.

From the first, Mrs. Reagan was part of the campaign planning. “They were a team,” said Stuart Spencer, who with Bill Roberts managed the Reagan campaign. New to politics, she said little at first. But Mr. Spencer found her “a quick learner, always absorbing.” Before long she was peppering Mr. Roberts and Mr. Spencer about their strategy and tactics.

Mr. Reagan won a contested Republican primary and then a landslide victory in November against the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Edmund G. Brown. For the Reagans, that meant a 350-mile move to the state capital, Sacramento.

Mrs. Reagan was not happy there. She missed friends and the brisker social pace and milder climate of Southern California. And she hated the governor’s mansion, a dilapidated Victorian house on a busy one-way street. So she persuaded her husband to lease, at their own expense, a 12-room Tudor house in a fashionable section of eastern Sacramento. Mr. Reagan’s wealthy Southern California supporters later bought the house and leased it back to the Reagans.

The mansion episode, and Mrs. Reagan’s unalloyed preference for Southern California, aroused parochial resentment in Sacramento. She in turn disliked the city’s locker-room political culture, which required her to socialize with the wives of legislators who had insulted her husband. She bristled at press scrutiny, which became more intense after Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, wrote an unflattering article, “Pretty Nancy,” in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968. The article described Mrs. Reagan’s famous smile as a study in frozen insecurity.

Mrs. Reagan, who thought she had made a good impression on Ms. Didion, was crushed by the article. Katharine Graham, the longtime publisher of The Washington Post and later a friend of Mrs. Reagan’s, said the article set the tone for other unfavorable ones.

But not all the press coverage was unflattering. A few months later, The Los Angeles Times published an article whose tone was telegraphed by its headline: “Nancy Reagan: A Model First Lady.” She also received positive publicity for welcoming home former prisoners of war from Vietnam and taking an active role in a Foster Grandparents Program for mentally disabled children.

Governor Reagan left office in 1973. Within a year, with President Richard M. Nixon enmeshed in the Watergate scandal, the Reagans were planning their next political move. In May 1974, they met with supporters at their home in Pacific Palisades. Among them was John P. Sears, a Washington lawyer who had worked for Mr. Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1960. Mr. Sears, alone of those who attended the meeting, predicted the Nixon resignation. That made an impression on Mrs. Reagan.

After Nixon resigned and was succeeded by Gerald R. Ford, Mr. Reagan began planning to challenge Mr. Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. Mrs. Reagan recommended hiring Mr. Sears to direct the effort, which Mr. Reagan narrowly lost. (Mr. Ford was then defeated by Jimmy Carter.)

Four years later, as Mr. Reagan again sought the nomination, Mrs. Reagan played a leading role in the firing of Mr. Sears. The campaign had just won the New Hampshire primary, but Mrs. Reagan nevertheless came to believe that Mr. Sears was a disruptive influence. She also had a hand in the hiring of his replacement as campaign manager, William J. Casey, whom Mr. Reagan later named director of central intelligence.

But after Mr. Reagan won the nomination and got off to a flustered start in his campaign against President Carter, Mrs. Reagan became critical of Mr. Casey and urged her husband to bring in Stuart Spencer, who had run Mr. Reagan’s first campaign for governor. Mr. Spencer was persona non grata in the Reagan camp because he had managed Mr. Ford’s campaign in 1976. But Mr. Reagan followed his wife’s advice. Mr. Spencer joined the campaign and ran it smoothly.

Not all of her advice was equally good. For instance, she opposed Mr. Spencer’s proposal that her husband debate President Carter. Mr. Reagan decided to debate and did so well that he surged ahead in the polls and won convincingly a week later.

A Sophisticated Turn

As first lady, Mrs. Reagan was glamorous and controversial. The White House started serving liquor again after the abstemious Carter years. Mrs. Reagan reached out to Washington society. More sophisticated than she had been in Sacramento, Mrs. Reagan also reached out to politicians, Democrats as well as Republicans. She became friends with Millie O’Neal, wife of the House speaker, Thomas P. O’Neill, who was a political foe of President Reagan by day and a friend after hours. During one period in 1981, when Mrs. Reagan was getting “bad press,” as she recalled, Mr. O’Neill leaned across at a luncheon and said, “Don’t let it get you down.”

Mrs. Reagan’s critics said she had brought the bad press on herself. After one look at the White House living quarters, Mrs. Reagan decided to redo them. She then raised $822,000 from private contributors to accomplish this. Another contributor put up more than $200,000 to buy a set of presidential china, enough for 220 place settings; it was the first new set in the White House since the Johnson administration.

With a slim figure maintained by daily exercise, Mrs. Reagan looked younger than her years and wore expensively simple gowns provided by Galanos, Adolfo and other designers. One best-selling Washington postcard featured Mrs. Reagan in an ermine cape and jeweled crown with the label “Queen Nancy.” It touched a nerve with Mrs. Reagan, who had been surprised at the press criticism of the china purchase and the White House redecoration. But the rest of the country was kinder. In 1981, a Gallup poll put Mrs. Reagan first on the list of “most admired women” in the nation. She was in the top 10 on the list throughout the Reagan presidency.

White House image-makers, aware that President Reagan was generally well liked for his self-deprecating humor, urged Mrs. Reagan to use humor as a weapon against her critics. She did so spectacularly on March 29, 1982, at the Gridiron Dinner, an annual roast by journalists, where, to standing ovations, she made sport of her stylish if icy image in a surprise on-stage appearance as “Second Hand Rose,” wearing feathered hat, pantaloons and yellow boots and singing a parody of “Second Hand Clothes.”

Mrs. Reagan’s darkest memory was of March 30, 1981, when she received word that her husband had been shot by a would-be assassin outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. She rushed to the hospital, where her husband, although fighting for his life, was still wisecracking. “Honey, I forgot to duck,” he said to her, borrowing a line that the fighter Jack Dempsey supposedly said to his wife after losing the heavyweight championship to Gene Tunney in 1926. But Mrs. Reagan found nothing to laugh about. “Nothing can happen to my Ronnie,” she wrote in her diary that night. “My life would be over.”

After the assassination attempt, Mrs. Reagan turned to Joan Quigley, a San Francisco astrologer, who claimed to have predicted that March 30 would be a “bad day” for the president. Her relationship with Ms. Quigley “began as a crutch,” Mrs. Reagan wrote, “one of several ways I tried to alleviate my anxiety about Ronnie.” Within a year, it was a habit. Mrs. Reagan conversed with Ms. Quigley by telephone and passed on the information she received about favorable and unfavorable days to Mr. Deaver, the presidential assistant, and later to the White House chief of staff, Donald Regan, for use in scheduling.

Mr. Regan disclosed Mrs. Reagan’s astrological bent in his 1988 book, “For The Record:From Wall Street to Washington,” asserting that the Quigley information created a chaotic situation for White House schedulers. Mrs. Reagan said that no political decisions had been made based on the astrologist’s advice, nor did Mr. Regan allege that any had been.

But the disclosure was nonetheless embarrassing to Mrs. Reagan; she and many commentators saw it as an act of revenge for the role she had played in forcing Mr. Regan out after the Iran-contra disclosures. Mrs. Reagan’s low opinion of Mr. Regan was well known; she had said tartly that he “liked the sound of chief but not of staff.” In fact, however, Mr. Regan’s resignation had also been demanded by powerful Republican figures, and the president had agreed to it. When Mr. Regan saw a report of this on CNN, he quit and walked out of the White House.

Within the White House, Mrs. Reagan was known as a meticulous taskmaster. Some staff members feared incurring her disfavor. The speechwriter Peggy Noonan was wearing walking clothes in the White House the first time she passed by Mrs. Reagan, who looked at her with disdain. “The next time I saw her I hid behind a pillar,” Ms. Noonan wrote in the book “What I saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era.”

Other staff members found Mrs. Reagan more approachable than her husband. One of these was the speechwriter Landon Parvin, who worked with Mrs. Reagan when she was engineering her husband’s recovery from the Iran-contra scandal and drafted the apology in the president’s televised speech.

Her Own Causes

As first lady, Mrs. Reagan traveled throughout the United States and abroad to speak out against drug and alcohol abuse by young Americans and coined the phrase “Just Say No,” which was used in advertising campaigns during the 1980s.

In speeches about drug abuse, Mrs. Reagan often used a line from the William Inge play “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” in which a mother says of her children, “I always thought I could give them life like a present, all wrapped in white with every promise of success.” Mr. Parvin, in an interview, said she had become emotional when she read this line, “as if it had a power that went back to her own childhood.”

On Oct. 17, 1987, a few days after cancer was detected in a mammogram, Mrs. Reagan underwent a mastectomy of her left breast. Afterward, she discussed the operation openly to encourage women to have mammograms every year.

After the presidency, the Reagans returned to Los Angeles and settled in a ranch house in exclusive Bel Air. In 1994, Mr. Reagan learned he had Alzheimer’s disease and announced the diagnosis to the American people in a poignant letter, which Mrs. Reagan had helped him write.

For the next decade, Mrs. Reagan conducted what she called a “long goodbye,” described in Newsweek as “10 years of exacting caregiving, hurried lunches with friends” and “hours spent with old love letters and powerful advocacy for new research into cures for the disease that was taking Ronnie from her.”

At Mr. Reagan’s funeral, at the National Cathedral in Washington, she remained in tight control of her emotions. Then she flew west with the coffin for a burial service at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where Mrs. Reagan will also be buried. At the conclusion of the ceremony, at sunset, soldiers and sailors handed Mrs. Reagan a folded American flag. She held it close to her heart, put it down on the coffin, and at last began to cry.

nytimes.com

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