Nancy Reagan Tells Jim Webb Not To Use Video Of Her Husband

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has told Democratic Senate nominee James Webb not to use video of Ronald Reagan praising him in campaign ads.

Nancy Reagan has ordered Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, a former Reagan White House military aide, NOT to use video of her husband praising Webb in an upcoming campaign ad. A three-paragraph letter from the former first lady’s office says the use of footage of President Reagan is “neither authorized nor appropriate.”

An ad Webb intends to begin televising Monday features Reagan praising Webb, then an assistant secretary of defense, during the 1985 U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony. On the video Reagan says, “James’ gallantry as a Marine in Vietnam won him the Navy Cross and other decorations.”

Webb was NOT immediately available for comment.

Former Attorney General Edwin Meese was a Reagan adviser. He calls the ad, “improper, unethical and very possibly illegal.”

I’m no lawyer but can’t imagine how the use of video of a then-president praising a then-cabinet officer at a public event at an official event at a public educational institution would be illegal. While Nancy is Ronnie’s widow, she has no right to “order” people not to use her late husband’s official statements.

On the other hand, I can see where Mrs. Reagan and Meese would think it “inappropriate” or “improper” — and perhaps even “unethical” — for a Democrat to use the video of the quintescential modern Republican as an endorsement against a Republican candidate who many believe is an heir to Reagan. Clearly, were Reagan alive and of sound mind, he would be campaigning for Allen, not Webb, in this contest.

I believe it is within the bounds of fair play for the Webb campaign to note that their man is a Vietnam war hero who served as Reagan’s ASD and Navy Secretary–although I bet they’re not going to play up the fact that he resigned in protest over Reagan’s policies. Still, it’s rather amusing to see both candidates in a bitter contest playing up the Reagan angle.

AP story via email from the Allen New Media outreach team.

UPDATE: I find it rather amusing that the AP refers to Webb, a former ASD and SECNAV, as a “military aide.” It’s not as if he was carrying around the president’s nuclear briefcase or arranging his social calendar.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. FredW says:

    I seem to remember Republicans taking on the mantle of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy? Is this that much different?

    Is Jim Webb any less brave or gallant because he’s running as a Democrat? If this was happening shortly after Regean’s death I agree it would be in bad taste.

  2. Personally, I’d say presuming to speak for the dead (e.g. “Clearly, were Reagan alive and of sound mind, he would be campaigning for Allen, not Webb, in this contest.”) is far more “inappropriate” or “improper” than playing a clip of something they actually did say in the past, but which his hangers-on don’t agree with.

  3. James Joyner says:

    SD: It’s hardly a great leap of faith to guess that Reagan, a staunch Republican since at least 1964, would be supporting a conservative Republican nominee.

  4. lunacy says:

    Political affiliation should have no bearing on whether one man uses another man’s quote about him to further his career.

    Either it is alright to use such a public endorsement in this manner or not.

    And frankly, it seems ludicrous to expect someone not to use it. If Reagan gave him praise in public than, the way I see it, Webb has at least as much claim that video as Nancy does.

    Now I’m no fan of Webb and I’m no fan of Nancy. But I’m sure I’d see it the same no matter who the players are.

  5. James Joyner says:

    lunacy:

    I think Webb has the right to use it and Republicans, certainly those closest to Reagan’s legacy, have a right to question its appropriateness.

    That Webb was a member of Reagan’s cabinet and that Reagan called him a war hero are part of the historical record. Still, using that fact to imply that Reagan would be endorsing his bid to oust a conservative Republican–and quite possibly turn control of the Senate to the Democrats–is a bit tacky.

    Amusingly, Webb’s status as a war hero is both undisputed and the primary basis for his candidacy. It’s interesting that he’s spending money trying to convince people of something that they presumably already know.

  6. lunacy says:

    Perhaps I’ve overlooked something. But it isn’t clear to me that using this quote of Reagan’s in any way implies or infers that Reagan would endorse him for office.

    If you said, “Lunacy is a great waitress!” in no way suggests that you think, “Lunacy would be a wonderful chef.”

    Lunacy(neither waitress nor chef)

  7. lily says:

    I don’t give a damn what a Republican thinks is appropriate or not appropriate– not after Republican money and Republican scriptwriters and a Republican Senator created the massive disinformation campaign of the 911 movie.

  8. MetaDC says:

    A Curious Strategy…

    James Joyner on Nancy Reagan’s request that Jim Webb not use her late husband for campaign purposes:I can see where Mrs. Reagan and Meese would think it “inappropriate” or “improper” — and perhaps even “unethical” — for a Democrat to…..

  9. I for see a devastating ad coming up. Nancy Reagan saying she doesn’t normally get involved with political campaigns these days, but Webb has forced her to become involved by trying to drag her husband into the fray. Then she points out that Ronald Reagan believed that America was a wonderful country that needed to be defended against those who would do the country harm. Webb apparently disagreed with her her husband and resigned from the Reagan administration rather than help her husband. So if you think America is a wonderful country that deserves to be defended, vote for Allen and not for those who quit before the job is done.

  10. Nick says:

    A better Meese quote has him talking about fraud. The problem seems to be how the footage was used, and that President Reagan isn’t around to condemn it himself. It has more to do with deceptive advertising than the public domain.

  11. Michael says:

    SD: It’s hardly a great leap of faith to guess that Reagan, a staunch Republican since at least 1964, would be supporting a conservative Republican nominee.

    So James, who do you think Reagan would be supporting in the CT senate race? Oh, and who is Bush supporting again?

  12. Given the extent that the GOP has explicitly rejected Reagan’s western-style limited government conservatism in favor of Bush’s southern-style populist conservatism, I wouldn’t be so sure he’d necessarily be endorsing today’s Republican candidates.

  13. Michael says:

    Amusingly, Webb’s status as a war hero is both undisputed and the primary basis for his candidacy. It’s interesting that he’s spending money trying to convince people of something that they presumably already know.

    Yeah, John Kerry and Max Cleland also were undisputed war heroes until GOP election-year politics tried to depict them as anti-American traitors. Webb is obviously smart, so I’m betting this is a pre-emptive defense against the probable “swift-boat”ing he’s likely to come up against. If that is the case, just making the public aware of Reagan’s past support may be enough to cut such an attach off before it can gather steam.

  14. diana price says:

    Although I would agree that Jim Webb seems to be quite a guy, he also has a lot of awards from his time in Viet Nam. All of his web pages mention his Nam service, but none state his length of service in Nam. From the list of awards, seems he had to be there for a while. Any one know the arrival/departure date of this gentleman?

  15. James Joyner says:

    According to Wikipedia, Webb graduate Annapolis in 1968 and he left the service to go to law school in 1972. He went to Vietnam right out of the Naval Academy (presumably, with a stop in Quantico for Marine Officer Basic School) and got the Navy Cross in 1969.

  16. diana price says:

    Yes, I read that too. Still no dates on any of his bio material. That’s what I’m after. Anyone?