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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nancy Reagan

We all are self-absorbed, even narcissistic. Whenever anybody dies whom we know or have heard of, we think about how that death affects us. Funerals, of course, are at least as much for the living as they are for the departed.

In that tradition, I relate the following . . .

Getting my Mustang ready for a run to the nearby McDonald's for my morning iced coffee, I heard that Nancy Reagan had died at age 94. It proved more of a shock than I would have expected. I have never made secret my admiration and appreciation for Ronald Reagan, the man who saved the Free World in spite of itself, but had never given too much thought to his wife, Nancy Davis Reagan, or so I thought. It, however, turns out, judging from the sadness and sense of loss I felt on hearing the news of her passing, that I had.

Nancy Reagan was a patriot, a great FLOTUS, and a person of consequence.

She had a major, some say critical, part in getting her husband to run for President, especially after his loss in 1976 to Gerald Ford, and in helping him drive the stake into the heart of the Soviet beast. She played the role of First Lady with intelligence, grace, wit, charm, and a steely resolve--nobody better mess with her hubby. She seemed both regal and one of us: not easy to do. She understood the age of modern media perhaps better than anybody in the White House before or since, and knew how to stage her appearances for maximum effect. It was a masterful performance. We will all miss her.

All this leads, of course, to some more narcissistic reflexion.

I worked for Ronald Reagan's daughter, the late Maureen Reagan, for a couple of years and developed a close although at times testy relationship with her. I met her when I served at the US Misison to the UN, and she became US Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). I got to travel all over the world with her, wrote dozens of speeches for her, and helped her negotiate many, many resolutions. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

One fine day, now some 30 years ago, Maureen who was in DC called me in New York to get some information for her. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it involved calling some foreign diplomats, getting their views on a burning issue of the day, coordinating speeches with the UK Mission, and coming up with a suggested plan of action for the CSW meeting the following week in Vienna. She asked me to call her back with an unclassified version of the conversations, and gave me a private number to a direct line to the family quarters at the White House. She told me to phone at 8 pm.

At 8, on the nose, I called. She answered; I launched into a rapid fire account of my activities, "OK, this is what I found out . . . for our meeting in Vienna we need to be ready for this and that . . .." I went on for a bit and then noticed an unusual silence on the other end of the line. Maureen usually would chime in and interrupt with comments and questions. A very calm voice said, "I gather you want to speak to Maureen Reagan? This is Nancy Reagan."

The floor dropped out from beneath my young bureaucratic feet. I had visions of opening US Consulate Yakutsk.

Maureen took the phone and started our conversation anew. I, however, kept apologizing for having disturbed her step-mom.

An exasperated Maureen finally said, "Lewis! Just forget it! OK?"

But, I never did.

Nancy Reagan, thanks for everything. You had a good run. RIP.


  1. Given that our current FLOTUS hated her country until it elected her sh'mo (what's his name?) of a husband POTUS, we can all remember Nancy Davis Reagan as a patriot as well.

  2. Also, Nancy Reagan was a patriot. We should expect that as a given for every FLOTUS, but now that we have a FLOTUS who hated her country before it elected her husband, we can't anymore.

    Yes, RIP, Nancy Reagan.

  3. It is always sad when a person who has contributed so much, and lived a principled life, leaves the stage.

    They really don't make them like Nancy Reagan any more.

  4. The media really tried and tried to make her name a joke. She dealt very well, imo, with Reagan's descent into Alzheimers. I guess thinking back, she made some statements that showed concern and respect for a guy who was obviously not just a shadow of the man she knew. Need some serious balls to go through that well.

    - reader #1482

    1. 'obviously just' not 'obviously not just'.

  5. Neat story. I see why you don't forget it.

  6. At times like this, Senor Diplomad, I wish you had a "Like" button in your comments section.

    1. HarryBro: If you have a Google account you can "+1" Senor Diplomad's posts.

    2. @Ted Henkle

      I do have a Google account. I'm referring to liking individual comments. (It goes without saying, naturally, that I like all of Senor Diplomad's posts.)

      As long as I'm here, I may as well go off-topic for a moment and ask whether Monsieur Amselem -- or anyone else here -- has read Keith Laumer's tales of Jame Retief, diplomat-at-arms. They're a thoroughly engaging complement to the Diplomad's own real-life adventures over the years (although surely less entertaining). For a little background:


  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. A touching story about one of the best FLOTUS in our lifetime.

  9. I'm not quite as much of an admirer of Nancy Reagan as some: she had some very odd ideas. However, she was supportive and protective of the President, and to me that is the job of First Lady, which she did well. Certainly she did not deserve the ridicule the media heaped on her during and especially after her time in the White House.

    All the recent Republican First Ladies knew what their role was. The same cannot be said for all the Democrat ones.


  10. I enjoy the story, from the book "Riding with Reagan" written by the Secret Service agent who was first assigned to them after the election because he was the only one who could ride a horse. On Inauguration Day, the Reagans were leaving the White House with the departing Carters and Nancy addressed the agent by his first name. Rosalyn Carter turned to her in disbelief and said, "You know their names ?"

    1. It's possible Mrs. Carter was surprised she'd learned a name already.

      One of the curios of the Carter White House (if what I've read is correct) is that the agents were told not to greet the President unless they were acknowledged beforehand. In Ron Nessen's account of the Ford White House, Gerald Ford was a good deal friendlier than that.

      It's bothered me that Carter has had Secret Service protection all these years. The Nixon's gave theirs up after 12 years and Jacqueline Onassis only had a detail from 1965 to 1968 (and her son only from 1965 to 1973); her husband had a private island, but mostly Jackie O schlepped around Manhattan like anyone else.

    2. That killer rabbit may still be out there.

    3. Jimmuh 1. was probably afraid of an attempt on his life because of all the dictators he was buds with, and 2. wanted all his dictator buds to know he was important with a security detail too.

  11. "You know their names?"
    Speaks Volumes and raises more questions...
    I'd like to read that book: "Riding with Reagan"

    ~~~On Watch

    1. It's excellent. "The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan" is also very interesting. It's about his use of a private intermediary with Gorbachev. I'd be interested in our host's opinion of it.

  12. Like Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan was a gracious lady. Unlike Mrs. Obama, who will not deign to go to her funeral she and Lady Bird, who I knew in my teen years, had class.
    The bunch in the WH have no class...thus they are attending a music festival in Austin, when they could do the funeral and then to to the music fest.
    At 15, I prayed to become a gracious lady like Lady Bird. My Mother found that a worthy wish.

    East Texas Rancher

  13. A former first lady that I admire above all others', excepting Eleanor Roosevelt...would be Laura Bush.