Manual Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan

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Because she made some of the really tough—personally tough—decisions. She took the heat for it, and he would sit there and still be this nice guy. I think they had a unique marriage. Ronald Reagan is a loner. But the one person who has always been in his world is her. And that was enough.

Ronald Reagan had asked James Baker to be his White House chief of staff the morning after the election. Finally, a new role was created for him: counselor to the president. Because Baker had such limited experience with the Reagans, it was thought that he needed a Californian as deputy chief of staff: Michael Deaver. Every single day Jim Baker was in that White House he accumulated power. Reagan tapped Meese as director of the transition—Meese had already set up a talent-recruiting effort for the new administration in secret during the campaign, run by E.

But Reagan also gave his blessing to the Transition Advisory Committee, which was chaired by William French Smith and dominated by the old Kitchen Cabinet tycoons, who were determined to play the same role they had in Sacramento—that is, to choose the real Cabinet. Reagan, as he did in California. Meese and Pen James took part in all four, and Reagan attended the last two. Reagan had asked the committee for three choices for each Cabinet position, and for the most part their first choice was also his. The two major exceptions were General Alexander Haig for secretary of state and Donald Regan for secretary of the Treasury.

And then there was the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which, along with the Departments of Education and Energy, Reagan had suggested closing down during the campaign. A very nice man, but soft, as it turned out. Pierce Jr. William French Smith was spending Thanksgiving weekend in Palm Springs when Reagan called to ask him to be attorney general. After Reagan announced most of his Cabinet appointments at a December 11 press conference, French Smith gave up the chairmanship of the Transition Advisory Committee, and Bill Wilson took his place.

We did not take their recommendations as commands. We had not given them the feedback they wanted. Now we were not including them in the selection of the sub-Cabinet. Henry Salvatori wistfully recalled the days when Ronald Reagan was governor and they were accorded the status they deserved. Although he was persuaded to return and was named director of the White House personnel office, the infighting continued. The problem was compounded by the fact that the Kitchen Cabinet and their wives were busily raising the funds to have Ted Graber, the Los Angeles interior designer favored by the group, redecorate the White House.

And in the interim, you had the Fords and their entire family and their retinue of animals. You had the Carters, their family, and their animals. The place was a shambles. Several of the California couples—the Bloomingdales, the Darts, the Wilsons, the Annenbergs, and Charles and Mary Jane Wick—took apartments or permanent suites at the Watergate complex. Lee Annenberg was named chief of protocol after Walter reportedly turned down the ambassadorship to Japan. He stayed five hours. Wilson said he was now the guy Reagan wanted to run it, not Al Bloomingdale.

Customs for not declaring two Dior dresses from Paris, probably stopped the talk. There was also talk of sending Justin Dart to the Court of St.

Nancy : a portrait of my years with Nancy Reagan / | Wake

Michael Deaver reveals how the Kitchen Cabinet problem was resolved. There are certain rules and regulations. Baker got them together with Fred Fielding, who was counsel to the president. That was the end of it. Not quite, according to Bill Wilson, who reportedly turned down the ambassadorship to Mexico and was then made envoy to the Vatican, a part-time post. And either Justin or Holmes would go back to Washington and talk to Ronnie about it. But he might have done what he was already planning to do.

She was both steely and mystical—and there would have been no him without her.

You have to remember, there were a lot of problems that Reagan had to handle. The Iran-contra thing. The political right was appalled. And Washington was open for it. They were delighted. And, yes, it bothered the true believers. It bothered some of the Californians. But I think it was ultimately a very smart thing. It was the same kind of thing as picking Jimmy Baker, even though the longtime Reagan people were very unhappy about that.

Jimmy Baker made it possible, in my opinion, for Reagan to have two terms. He had the street smarts about this town that none of us had. I think he was the one who doped it out in his mind that things would be much easier for them if they did give themselves a chance to spread some of that charm which came so naturally to them. He sussed everybody out before they met the Reagans. It was brilliant. She was the little girl with her nose pressed up against the candy-store window. Neither Deaver nor Nancy Reagan, however, was merely social climbing. And in the long term their social strategy was successful, partially because the so-called enemy was no longer quite what it had been.

Joe Alsop certainly was not.

Colin Powell on “indomitable presence" of Nancy Reagan

His brother Stewart was not at all liberal. I was liberal when I was young, but rather centrist in my grown-up period. That unrelenting earnestness of Democrats, particularly of Democrats who have made it, just really gets to be tedious after a while. No issue, no conversation, is too ephemeral not to try to draw the eternal verities from it.

Deaver was assisted in his bipartisan social approach by Muffie Brandon, the wife of London Sunday Times correspondent Henry Brandon and herself a Democrat. These lunches for six or eight women soon became the talk of the town. It was the damnedest thing.

I was standing at the door. Ted Graber was with her, and all the Secret Service, and we just automatically embraced. It was instantaneous liking. Because we were sure that nobody would ever understand our friendship. The lunches would go on for about three hours. I think we had one at the White House. You talk about a range of things—what they were sensitive about, or what was the press doing to them, or, you know, what the Post maybe was saying.

On March 30, , 70 days into the presidency, while Ronald Reagan was giving a speech to 3, members of the A. The group had already attended a morning reception at the Phillips Collection, and Mrs. Reagan decided to leave the lunch early. It was pretty scary. One of the six Devastator bullets fired outside the Hilton by John W. Hinckley Jr. Another Secret Service agent, Jerry Parr, pushed the president into the limousine as the driver took off for the White House. It was only when Reagan began coughing up blood that Parr ordered the driver to head to George Washington University hospital.

The bullet had come within three inches of his heart. David Gens, one of the surgeons who helped treat Reagan, later said.


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But none of us knew it. Reagan returned to the White House 12 days later, wearing a red cardigan sweater over a bulletproof vest. For three weeks his schedule was limited to two morning meetings, one with the Troika and one with the National Security Council N. The only outside visitor he had during this period was Terence Cardinal Cooke, who flew from New York and spent an hour with him on Good Friday.

The plan was based on supply-side economics, the theory that tax cuts stimulate the economy and lead to increased revenues in the long term. If Reagan seemed invincible in the aftermath of the shooting, his wife seemed to become weaker and more out of touch. Her weight slipped from pounds to less than In the eyes of many journalists, she could do no right. And it happened to be Nancy. In May she gave a dinner for Prince Charles in the private dining room on the second floor of the White House. But here, as you know, all hell broke loose. The president was so sweet that night.

In July, Mrs. The British press ridiculed her six-car motorcade of Secret Service men and her failure to curtsy to the Queen. Although the Lenox China Company was paid by the Knapp Foundation of Maryland, the donor was not named in the original announcement. As you can imagine, the columnists and cartoonists had a field day with that one.

By the end of , Nancy Reagan had the highest disapproval rating of any First Lady in modern times. From mid to late , the country went through the worst recession since the Great Depression. Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker kept interest rates at record-high levels in order to force inflation down from As the newly homeless moved into the streets and parks of major cities, polls showed that 52 percent of Americans felt Reagan favored the rich.

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Reagan the day after she returned to Washington from her first tour of drug-rehabilitation centers, in February Nancy does not like smoking. So please honor that.

Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan

And there was Nancy sitting in a haze. The venue was the Gridiron Dinner, an annual event put on by a club of 60 print journalists for Washington power players. Traditionally the president and First Lady attend the dinner, which is essentially a roast of them. Tate says that she proposed having Mrs. But that summer, shortly after the Reagans returned from a tour of European capitals, including an audience with the Pope, the First Lady was hit with two terrible blows: the deaths of her stepfather on August 19 and of Alfred Bloomingdale the very next day.

Michael Deaver recalls that Nancy Reagan was with Dr. She could not let go. I could never get over the gap in perceptions between Ronald Reagan and the rest of the world when it came to Nancy. We all thought of her as a demanding and somewhat aloof person. But in his adoring eyes she was the sweetest, gentlest, most wonderful person in the world.

Some of us did a good deal of speculating as to why this was so. Our best theory was that Ronald Reagan intended to make this marriage work no matter what. Although he never said so, we sensed that the breakup of his first marriage was one of the great disappointments of his life. It appeared he had made up his mind that this would never happen to him again and as a consequence he gave in to Nancy more than he might have otherwise.

He was infinitely patient with her and only on the rarest of occasions would blow up at her—but then it could be in front of a staffer. Only once was I witness to it in the White House. She was relentlessly pursuing the ouster of a person and badgering the President mercilessly. I saw them every day after hours up in their private quarters.

He never came in without kissing her hello, and he never left for the office in the morning without kissing her good-bye.


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One year later an impoverished Vicki Morgan, whose lawsuit had been thrown out of court, was murdered by her homosexual roommate, Marvin Pancoast, who died in jail years later of aids. She knows what a friend is. It was a good combination. Whatever else happened, I knew nothing about.

Over the next six years Betsy Bloomingdale would probably stay at the White House more than any other Reagan friend. In fact, remarkably few friends were asked to stay overnight by the Reagans. Among those who did spend a night or two were Bob Hope, the Reverend Billy Graham, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Houston oil-and-gas tycoon Oscar Wyatt and his wife, Lynn, who tells me that the first time they stayed over was after a dinner for Prince Rainier of Monaco. Both women had been appointed trustees of the Kennedy Center by President Reagan, and were in Washington for a board meeting.

You have to take a picture of me. It was the funniest thing I ever saw. Richard Davis, and his wife and children, were usually there. Everyone took a turn. Including the president. Including Nancy. I just felt, here were these two superpowers sitting here, and it was silly not to get together. During the first two years of his administration, he launched the most massive military buildup ever in peacetime, including deployment of the new B-1 bomber and MX long-range missile system, and he declared that he would stick to a decision made during the Carter administration to install medium-range Pershing II missiles in nato countries in order to counter the SS missiles which the Soviets had introduced into Eastern Europe.

He instituted what came to be called the Reagan Doctrine, whereby the C. They saw that the policies and the man were one. No other politician could give a speech like that. The difference is, Ron had a message to communicate, as well as the ability to communicate it. I sat there almost purring, because I was so thrilled. Not everyone was purring. Opposition to the Pershing II missiles was so great in Europe that it threatened to split nato. By that fall, East-West tensions were at their highest since the Cuban missile crisis.

In September the Soviets shot down a Korean Air Lines passenger plane that had strayed over Siberia, killing people. In October, U. Marines were killed in Beirut by a car bomb driven into their barracks by a Shiite Muslim extremist. Four days later the United States invaded Grenada, which the Reagan administration claimed was being turned into a mini-Cuba. Pershing II missiles by a vote of to The next day the Soviets walked out of the Geneva arms talks, which had been initiated two years earlier to negotiate an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces I. But when he called them an evil empire, half the State Department almost revolted, because this was undiplomatic.

But Brezhnev was already ill, and died in November For them, the Evil Empire business was a daily mantra. For Reagan it was a tactic. The official stance of the Administration was that there would be no summit meeting between the leaders of the Soviet Union and our country until the Soviets took concrete steps on human rights and arms control. But behind the scenes, Mrs. Anatoly Dobrynin was whisked into the East Wing where Mrs. Bill Clark was livid when the President told him what had happened. He says that Nancy Reagan invited him and his wife to dine with just her and the president in the White House two nights before Shultz was scheduled to meet with Dobrynin at the State Department.

The meeting lasted almost two hours. Among other things, Reagan asked for freedom for a group of Pentecostals who had taken refuge in the American Embassy in Moscow, and four months later the Soviets allowed them to emigrate. It was a modest, but symbolically important, beginning. The ongoing power struggle between the pragmatists and the ideologues, in particular between Shultz and Clark over control of Central American and Middle Eastern policy, came to a head in the last week of July, when Time put Clark on the cover with the headline big stick approach.

Later that day, July 29, Nancy Reagan called me. She was furious. She thought Clark ought to be fired.

Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan

Ronald Reagan, with his soft heart, would never fire Clark, but at some point, Nancy would prevail upon him to act in his own interest. And Watt said they were nothing but a bunch of pot-smoking hippies and reprobates, so he banned their appearance. It was a fiasco. No one else understood the significance. Deaver, Inc. For a time he was in business with another Reagan aide, Peter D. Hannaford in a public relations firm named Deaver and Hannaford. Deaver also worked at the Washington, D.

My job was filling up the space around the head. I didn't make Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan made me.

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Deaver died of pancreatic cancer on August 18, at age 69 at his home in Maryland. We met great challenges together I will miss Mike terribly. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American political consultant. The New York Times. Retrieved 1 September August 18, Archived from the original on August 19, Retrieved The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, National Archives.