Nancy Reagan Dead At 94

Nancy Reagan was a crucial part what made Ronald Reagan the man he was, and today she passed away at the age of 94.

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan, former First Lady of the United States, has died at the age of 94:

Nancy Reagan, the stylish and influential 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.

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.

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.

Ronald Reagan would go on to act for several more years before moving to a career on television, but then there was the turn to politics:

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. (Today it is used as a museum.) 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.

It was her time as First Lady, though, for which she will be most remembered, both for the times of controversy and the times during which she was an essential ally at her husband’s side:

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.
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.”

On a few occasions both during President Reagan’s struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, Mrs. Reagan granted interviews in which she discussed, at least to some degree, the struggles that a family member of someone suffering through the disease goes through. Through all those interviews, though, and in the years since the former President Reagan died, she was always careful to maintain her husband’s dignity and did not discuss any of the details of his condition or the difficulties it may have caused her personally even though they clearly must have been numerous. In the years since his death in 2004, Mrs. Reagan made it her mission to maintain her husband’s memory through his Presidential Library and Museum and could often be seen in the front row of the events that the facility sponsored throughout the year, including Presidential primary debates in both 2008 and 2012. When she did not attend the debate held at the Library in September, rumors began to circulate that she was in failing health although, characteristically, there were no public statements issued regarding her health struggles. The other sight that was common during the years after Reagan was the sight of Mrs. Reagan, by then confined to a wheelchair leaving flowers at her husband’s graveside on both his birthday on February 6th and the anniversary of his death on June 5th. Other than that, though, Mrs. Reagan stayed mostly out of the spotlight over the past ten years.

More from The Washington Post on Mrs. Reagan’s years as First Lady:

As first lady from 1981 to 1989, Mrs. Reagan appointed herself the primary guardian of her husband’s interests and legacy, a bad cop to his good cop, which often put her at odds with his senior staff. After the 1981 assassination attempt on her husband by John W. Hinckley Jr., Mrs. Reagan famously kept his senior aides at bay while he convalesced. She argued vociferously against him running for reelection in 1984, in part because of fears about his safety.

“She defined her role as being a shield for the emotional and physical well-being of the president,” said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, National First Ladies Library historian. “I believe she would see her legacy as having helped forge her husband’s legacy.”

Always working behind the scenes, she interposed herself in the hiring and firing of senior staff at the most pivotal junctures; she insisted over the objections of some senior advisers that he publicly apologize for the government’s secret arms sales to Iran, a scandal that rocked his presidency; and she bucked the right-leaning ideologues in the administration in pushing for improved relations with the Soviet Union, conspiring with the secretary of state to make it happen.

(…)

Her most prominent initiative as first lady was the “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign, aimed at preventing and reducing recreational drug use among young people. But time after time, her efforts at developing a substantive role for herself were overshadowed by parallel revelations about her pricey clothes and rich friends and her meddling in her husband’s official business.

In a stunning parting shot at her husband’s advisers in November 1988, as Reagan prepared to leave office, she told the Los Angeles Times: “I don’t feel this staff served him well in general. I’m more aware if someone is trying to end-run him and have their own agenda.”

(…)

Nancy Reagan took Washington by storm in 1981. Even before her husband — a former movie star and governor of California — was sworn in, she swept into town with a larger-than-life cadre of wealthy California friends and celebrities who wore sable coats, knotted traffic with their shiny white limousines and threw lavish parties the likes of which were unprecedented at inaugural festivities. At first, the public seemed to embrace what was billed as the return of style and glamour after four years of the more modest style of peanut farmer Jimmy Carter.

But the glamour soon was seen as ostentation during a steep recession. After complaining that the White House residential quarters were in disrepair, and noting that she could find no set of matching china in the place, Mrs. Reagan turned to affluent friends to raise funds for $800,000 in renovations and $200,000 of new china.

Although no public money was spent, these two expenditures became symbols of her excesses and attitudes. A flamboyant trip to England for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana six months into the administration, during which she attended 15 glossy events in five days, gave her detractors added fuel.

Her critics took to calling her “Queen Nancy,” which eventually became a popular postcard. By December 1981, a Newsweek poll reported that 61 percent of the public considered her less sympathetic than previous first ladies to the needs of the disadvantaged.

Around the same time, it came to light that she had been accepting thousands of dollars in gifts of jewelry and gowns from designers, which she declared were merely loans that she would return. She had vowed to stop borrowing the fancy threads and baubles, and White House lawyers agreed that any of the so-called loans would be reported annually, as ethics laws require.

But five years later, it was discovered that she had continued to borrow the clothes — and sometimes kept them, according to the designers who were anxious for recognition. She first denied continuing the practice, but then her press secretary allowed that “she set her own little rule, and she broke her own little rule.” She acknowledges in her memoirs, “My Turn,” that it was a mistake not to make her practice of borrowing public.

“During Ronnie’s first term, I was portrayed as caring only about shopping, beautiful clothes and going to lunch with my fancy Hollywood friends. During his second term, I was portrayed as a power-hungry political manipulator,” she lamented.

In an attempt to deflect the criticism a year after arriving in Washington, she donned a bag lady costume at the 1982 Gridiron Dinner and sang “Second-Hand Clothes,” a parody of “Second-Hand Rose,” before the assembled journalists and Washington power players. The self-deprecating performance, which surprised even her husband and brought down the house, earned her a brief reprieve from her critics.

Perhaps most interesting was the role she played in buttressing her husband’s decision to reach out to newly installed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev:

Nancy Reagan saw early on in her husband’s term that he could have a profound impact on his legacy by working to thaw Soviet-American relations, and quietly conspired with the pragmatists in the administration to make it happen. Reagan credited his wife with “lowering the temperature of my rhetoric.”

Ronald Reagan had built his conservative credentials as a hardliner, opposing the Soviet Union and communism. As far back as his days as head of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan refused to step up and help those in the entertainment industry whom Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) tried to expose as alleged communists.

In the White House, Ronald Reagan had referred to the Soviet Union as “the evil empire,” and surrounded himself with ideologues who had no interest in extending an olive branch to the Soviets — or engaging in a nuclear arms reduction.

But at some point, the president saw the benefits of opening a dialogue with the Soviet Union and his wife saw an opportunity. “Nancy believed this was her husband’s destiny,” Deaver said in Kati Marton’s “Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our Recent History.” “A man of his age who had lived through two world wars would be the one to break the deadlock of the cold war.”

Over the strenuous objections of national security hawks, she plotted with Secretary of State George Shultz to bring Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to the White House for dinner to break the ice. Despite Nancy Reagan’s open disdain for her Soviet counterpart, Raisa Gorbachev, the first lady was credited for her attention to detail during Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit to the United States.

As the heads of state developed a warm relationship, the wives started their own cold war. Nancy Reagan was said to be furious when Raisa Gorbachev said during her Washington visit, “I missed you in Reykjavik,” referring to the 1986 summit in Iceland. “I was told women weren’t invited,” Nancy replied coolly.

During a tour of the White House, the first lady was taken aback by Raisa Gorbachev’s relentless questioning about historical and cultural minutiae, some of which Mrs. Reagan couldn’t answer.

“We were thrust together although we had very little in common and had completely different outlooks on the world,” Mrs. Reagan wrote in her book. “During about a dozen encounters in three different countries my fundamental impression of Raisa Gorbachev was that she never stopped talking, or lecturing, to be more accurate.”

Although she was certainly among the more traditional First Ladies who operated behind the scenes than what we have become used to over the past twenty years or so, there’s no denying that she was an essential part of her husband’s life and that their relationship was, in many ways, the rock that he relied upon in times of crisis or uncertainty both inside the White House and outside. In later years, when biographers were given access to more personal items such as former President Reagan’s diaries and the letters and notes that the two wrote each other throughout their more than half a century together before he died. Whatever else one may have thought about the public image that the Reagan White House portrayed to the public, it was clear that the devotion between Ron and Nancy was deep and sincere, and one can only imagine the pain that watching someone you cared so deeply about suffer through Alzheimer’s Disease must have been like.

As for Mrs. Reagan herself, she started out her time as First Lady on the wrong foot, for many of the reasons discussed above, but eventually turned that around and became as popular with the public as her husband, and at some points during her Presidency probably more so. In part, she did this by using her contacts in entertainment to reach out to the public via popular entertainment, taking her “Just Say No” campaign everywhere from a guest appearance on the hit situation comedy Diff’rent Strokes to The Tonight Show. Through it all, and in the years after her husband died, she was a staunch defender of her husband and his legacy. Most of all, though, she was an essential and loyal part of her husband’s life and it’s hard to imagine that there would have been a President Reagan without Nancy Davis by his side.

Not surprisingly, statements are already pouring in from various corners, including President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obamaformer President Jimmy Carterformer President Bill Clinton and former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clintonformer First Lady Barbara Bush and former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. Several Presidential candidates have also released statements, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John says:

    Really, the only person who I think ever *knew* Reagan was Nancy.

    RIP.




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  2. John says:

    RIP.

    I really think sometimes she was the only who knew Reagan, in a way. The love letters between the two were quite sweet.




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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    @John:

    Well he was an Aquarius after all.




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  4. John says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    All the first ladies had their quirks. Comes with the territory.

    I’ll say this though: screw Jeb, George, and Bill. I would pay big money to see Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush take on Hillary Clinton in an election. That would be one for the ages, most vicious potential fight for the Presidency since the infamous Landslide Lyndon/Ruthless Bobby/Tricky Dick triad of 1968. Thatcher, Gandhi, Meir… Nixon really wasn’t kidding when he mentioned on the tapes that women in politics were tougher than the men were.




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  5. bloated sack of protoplasm says:

    …and noting that she could find no set of matching china in the place, Mrs. Reagan turned to affluent friends to raise funds for $800,000 in renovations and $200,000 of new china.

    Nancy Reagan needs tablecloths? Vermonter sends paper linen
    Curtis, a Rochester resident, says he doesn’t even own a paper tablecloth. But in a letter accompanying the package he said that-as a “patriot”-he needed to act after “hearing of the distressful situation of the severe shortage of tablecloths.”
    https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2209&dat=19811203&id=laErAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gfwFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6876,552289&hl=en

    Ahh the Good Old Days™. Harmless political shenanigans.
    What will citizens be sending President Trump?
    I can only imagine.




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  6. Tony W says:

    I’m “just say[ing] no” to the kind tributes. The Reagan apologists will have to excuse me.




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  7. James Pearce says:

    @Tony W:

    I’m “just say[ing] no” to the kind tributes.

    I’m with you there.

    Also resisting the temptation to use this occasion to blame Nancy Reagan for the spread of the AIDS virus.




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  8. DrDaveT says:

    [If you can’t say something nice…]

    I abstain.




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  9. Franklin says:

    An interesting first lady, as many of them are. Rest in peace …




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  10. Gustopher says:

    What a horrible, horrible dress. Was there no better photo of her to be found? Wow. Was she in a marching band? And did she always wear clothing matching whatever room she was in?

    That said, she meant well, and I don’t think she ever actually made things worse, so that’s more than one can say about a lot of people. A lot of fun has been made of her devotion to astrology, but I don’t see why that is crazy when omniscient and omnipotent invisible people in the sky aren’t.

    And, if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have ironic “Just Say No” t-shirts to wear while smoking legal pot in several states.




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  11. Tony W says:

    @Gustopher: Oh, I show no favoritism for any particular form of superstitious nonsense.




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  12. bloated sack of protoplasm says:

    Nancy Reagan took Washington by storm in 1981. Even before her husband — a former movie star and governor of California — was sworn in, she swept into town with a larger-than-life cadre of wealthy California friends and celebrities who wore sable coats, knotted traffic with their shiny white limousines and threw lavish parties the likes of which were unprecedented at inaugural festivities.

    Let’s be honest here. We all want to be chauffeured around in limos and party like crazed weasels, most everyone who went to college anyway. And if I knew then what I know now I would have joined the Young Republicans when I got to campus in 1968 instead of the local chapter of the SDS.
    I guess the dawn of the self driving car is the only hope I have left to be able to practice such debauchery.




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  13. grumpy realist says:

    Rest in Peace, Nancy. I didn’t agree with you or your husband, but the love that you had for each other was quite inspiring.




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