tv QA CSPAN December 21, 2015 5:57am-7:01am EST
war ii and its impact. on christmas friday night we will travel to williamsburg talking with historians curators and interpreters. that's some of the programs featured this week in prime time. >> next, q&a with historian craig shirley author of the book last act. live at 7:00 your calls and comments on "washington journal." ♪ >> this week on "q&a," craig shirley discusses his book "last act," about ronald reagan's life after the presidency. and, the way he has been remembered since his death. brian: craig shirley, your book is called "last act."
the final years and emerging legacy of ronald reagan's. why did you feel the need to write this book? what period of time did you write about? craig: i wrote about his 16 years after the presidency. there's a lot of great books about the last years of presidents. wrote "fdr's last year." william manchester of course wrote "death of a president." no one had ever done a book on the reagan post presidency, and it's an idea that came from my younger son, mitchell, who was researching on a previous book i did about reagan. i had all these binders in the kitchen. his job was to highlight every
time reagan's name was mentioned. he was 11-years-old at the time. he asked, "dad, has anyone ever written a book about reagan after he was president?" that was about five years ago, and the birth of "last act." brian: was the most important moment in this book? craig: well, i interviewed dr. roger peele, the head of the psychiatric unit at saint elizabeth hospital. he told me how reagan reached out to him because he wanted to have a private meeting with john hinckley six months after he tried to kill the president. reagan had the idea, on his own. he called in the white house
physician, and he reached out to dr. peele. so, dr. peele said, "let me take it up with his psychiatrist." i think at the time, hinckley had six psychiatrists. to a person, they all said no. hinckley was the most sociopathic, self-absorbed patient they had ever had. he would have misinterpreted the visit as vindication. he ended up never meeting him, because of the advice of the psychiatrists. dr. peele, a wonderful man, told me, at one point, he was talking to reagan and said, it seems like he was talking from the clouds. later, he found out reagan was talking from air force one. brian: why would he want to do it? craig: it was his christian capacity for forgiveness. this was the man who was the leader of the free world.
he had his finger on the nuclear use it.nd didn't he met with gorbachev three or four times after the presidency. gorbachev was also out of power. gorbachev visited at the ranch. reagan visited him in moscow. they became friends. it is astonishing, because here they were, and just a couple of years earlier, they had death grips on each other. after the cold war. i think reagan had an infinite capacity for christian forgiveness. brian: you write that hinckley was never "cured." why was he out from time to time from saint elizabeth? craig: he petitioned the courts. the courts, the further we get from the assassination, the further we get from his death, the further we get from jim brady's death. which is interesting, because brady's death was ruled a homicide when he died last year. it was a direct result of hinckley's shot, which hit him in the head. but i think that the forces of political correctness, and
partially the time that has elapsed favor hinckley getting out more and more. and so, the memory is not as sharp as it used to be. brian: when did you meet ronald reagan? craig: in 1978, i was 21 years old, working on a campaign in new hampshire. gordon humphrey, he was running senate united states against tom mcintyre, the incumbent. reagan had not yet decided to run, but he was thinking about it. new hampshire was the first primary state. he had to tend the political fire. he walked into the old new hampshire highway hotel, the campaign headquarters going back to the 50's. ofht there in concorde, kind
charming hotel with a couple of restaurants and bars, gone now, torn down, demolished. reagan walked into the lobby with a couple of aides. the aides quickly disappeared to make phone calls or whatever. i was left alone there with governor reagan for a few minutes. he was there to film a a couple commercials for gordon humphrey. we talked about high school sports, the weather, neither of us liked the cold of new hampshire. he did not know me. there was nothing i could do for him, and yet, he was utterly and completely charming. brian: what do you do for living? besides writing books. craig: that's a good question.
[laughter] craig: i'm the head of the public affairs company, formed in december 1984. i am proud to say that 31 years later, i've never missed a payroll. my partner died years ago. and now another partner runs the firm, allowing me to pursue my passions, lecturing, teaching. brian: your other books, what were they about? craig: the 1976 book, mrs. reagan always said this campaign was the most exciting. i wrote the book, "reagan's revolution" in 2005. that was when he challenged gerald ford for the nomination. it got good reviews and sold well, and that led to my next book, which was, "rendezvous with destiny." brian: i wrote down some of the disconnected things you put in the book. stanford turned up his nose at
idea of ae at the library. why? craig: the same way that duke turned down the nixon library. craig: the same way that duke turned down the nixon library. nixon, obviously, had watergate against him, that was an added decision to have his library not there. stanford is liberal. reagan was conservative. it was kind of a mutual thing, they would kick each other's tires, then decide it wasn't going to work. there was private land, offered to donate. he liked the idea. it was halfway between los angeles and santa barbara, where the ranch was. so it would be easy to stop by. brian: it was known hillary clinton hated the reagans. how was it known?
craig: because of what she said, denouncing the 80's as the decade of greed. because of her her behavior during the funeral. bill was really the problem during the week of the funeral, because bill kept pestering everybody and anybody that he wanted to speak at the national cathedral. he didn't realize or ignored the fact that the program had been set years in advance. there were adjustments along the because the pallbearers everybody. outliving it was always going to be the
president of the united states, it was always going to be margaret thatcher. billy graham was going to act to as the conductor of the ceremony but he was too ill at the last, so they got an ordained episcopal priest. brian: you wrote in the book, there is an unofficial "do not admit" list at the reagan white house. they wanted to make sure those people did not get to the funeral. oliver north was among them. where was the unofficial list? craig: well, reagan stormed in his diaries about oliver north, claiming he briefed him at camp david about iran contra. beenn saying he had never there. then of course, when north ran for the senate in virginia in 1994, both nancy reagan and another to the unprecedented step of endorsing jim miller, his primary opponent. normally they would never get involved in primaries, but they
did. there was bad blood on the part of the reagan white house and the reaganites towards north over iran contra. brian: anyone else on the list? craig: i will have to take a moment on that one. [laughter] brian: is it an enemy list? craig: no, but it's an unofficial list. it is not really an enemies list, it is just a not welcome list. [chuckling] brian: he never spoke at harvard. why? craig: harvard's anniversary took place during the presidency. he was invited to the commencement, but not presented him with an honorary degree. it is customary to give it to all of their commencement speakers. it does not matter if they are president, or whoever, it is perfunctory that they present
them with an honorary degree. they wanted him to speak, but no degree. the white house told harvard to go pop off. [laughter] brian: you say that there was a difference between the ordinary people of the country and the elites. how do you define the elites? craig: it's like what the supreme court justice said about pornography, it's hard to define, but i know when i see it. there is a greater disconnect today than there ever has been. maybe it started with the reagan funeral. there's a greater disconnect, today, i think between the american people and their corporate leaders and political leaders. i do think that there's a corporate, political elite. the bank bailouts. so many issues with the american people are on one side and the political and governing elites and the corporate elites are on the other.
craig: you write in the book about edmund morris, about how ronald reagan was mysterious. your thoughts on this? >> my thoughts on ronald reagan was, it was not so much a writer's block, but it was a necessary period of when he came -- of puzzling him out. he was overly familiar. the recently departed president of the united states. he was covered in 70 books, which came out within a year of the departure of reagan from the presidency, my problem was to deal with him on the page in a way that would make them different and interesting. perhaps he was a mysterious
person, hard to figure out. for that reason, he was hard to write about. craig: that goes contrary to the scholarship of a lot of other right reagan biographers. lou cannon wrote 5 terrific books. he would never have said ronald reagan was mysterious. marty anderson, myself, we would never have found reagan as mysterious or unknowable. his daughter maureen, and i addressed this in the book, said it was all just nonsense. he was not unknowable. he and nancy had zones of privacy, and in some ways, the ranch was, other areas, just being on or sometimes--on a horse sometimes. he liked to read books. political tracts, economic tracts. but, this was a man who was open and engaging and had been in the public eye since the 1930's.
so, to say he's unknowable, i think that's a reflection more of the author not working hard enough to discover the individual he is covering rather than an indictment of the individual. brian: how angry were people you know that are reagan fans about the book? craig: very angry. "national review" devoted a half-dozen articles to tearing it apart. he gets his facts wrong. he goes between first and third person narrative, he channels himself in, gets a bunch of facts wrong, creates fictional characters. he's worst to mrs. reagan. the idea that reagan was "unknowable" emerged.
reagan was beguiled by morris. morris started meeting with him during the last couple of years of his office, as facilitated by senator hatfield. because he had written terrific books on theodore roosevelt and george washington. so, we talked about and compared reagan to theodore roosevelt. reagan was smitten with that. and so they brought him in and they gave him unfettered access for two years of his administraiton and into his retirement years in simi valley. brian: grover norquist was here seven days after reagan died. six days, june 5, 2004. >> we only know of 62 things named after president reagan. there have been a lot of discussions. we have certainly got a lot of e-mails. new york city is thinking of naming a highway in the city. louisiana just named a highway after president reagan.
only 62 things. so when people say we did a lot, but actually, no. there was a lot of discussion prior to reagan's death, but now is the time that i hope everyone at the 50 states will do something significant. brian: that's 11 years ago. how is the project going? craig: it's going well. route 101 is named after him in california. trails the reagan legacy in illinois. occasionally, my wife and i will take long drives across the country to get away. we are always surprised to see a bridge or school or some other thing named after ronald reagan. his legacy is not forgotten. i think it is important to push back. don't forget, the new york city government closed for the death of franklin roosevelt, for the death of john kennedy, robert
king, butartin luther did not close for the death of ronald reagan. brian: why not? craig: it betrays a political bias. there's no other reason why, really. brian: what did you do to approach this book? craig: i tried to construct a story line. i had a big white grease board. i constructed narrative with titles and subtitles, and it all kind of falls into place. i wrote in the book as many as a half-dozen times, for news reports, then second, based on a
library material, then third, based on first-hand interviews, fourth, based on other documents based on other sources. i usually write a book four or five or six times. i do not write a book once. withp backfilling interesting anecdotes and notes and things like that. brian: in the back of the book, in the notes, there are interviews with several people, including fred ryan and a gentle man named jim holy? craig: yes. brian: he seems to get a lot of
attention in this book, why? craig: my books, some historians write from 10,000 feet. i write from ground level. i don't just interview jim baker and ed neese. and the people appear. i interview the people who were, you know, who were actually doing the day-to-day work and kind of unsung heroes. they all had unsung stories and i find with all of my books it has worked very well to write from ground level. people have commented, my books have a feel that makes the reader feel like they are there. brian: what did jim holy tell you that we have never heard? craig: he told me all about the funeral, the turnout at simi valley, california, which had never really been reported before. he talked about the backroom machinations at the funeral home. the process of transporting reagan in. it was very important to getting me background information, in terms of california. one of the funny stories he told me was about how reagan and the entourage had flown after going to washington, and then back to
simi valley at sundown, and how he and some friends boarded air force one. there were maybe a half-dozen people on board, and they spent the whole time regaling each other with old reagan stories. they knocked back a few drinks and begin a flying halfway house of former reagan white house employees. brian: if i remember, you said the tail on that one was $28,000? craig: it wasn't a 747. it was in service for president reagan until the end of his administration when the 747 was unveiled. and so, it was on the market and fred was able to raise the money from t boone pickens and from a
lot of people to get it. then, they had to build a huge pavilion out at the reagan library. so it is enormous, but it is magnificent. brian: you say it is the biggest of all presidential libraries. why? craig: it covers the most square footage and gets more people than any other. by far, it gets more people. which is interesting, because simi valley is kind of off the beaten path, whereas brookline in boston is fairly easy to access. i have been to many presidential libraries. reagan remains a compelling figure to the american people. it is not just location, beauty, it is about the individual himself. brian: chris matthews gave a speech back in october 2013. it relates to something you said
in the book, and i want you to have a response. mr. matthews: at his 69th birthday party, the party went on all afternoon. reagan hardly drink it all, but reagan called for champagne. it is amazing, this guy ordering up champagne on afternoon, on a weekday. they all had champagne and reagan offers up a big toast, over-the-top. "if i had a ticket to heaven, and you did not go, give away mine and we would go to held -- go to hell together." [laughter] mr. matthews: and they were great friends together despite being political rivals. we could be friends in a room together, but afterwards we are political rivals.
brian: a day doesn't go by that someone doesn't say it was great back in the reagan/tip o'neil days. is this true? craig: there's a lot of mythology. if you want bipartisan cooperation, look at bill clinton and newt gingrich. that was with the 104th congress, truly a lot of bipartisan cooperation. clinton did not want to, but he did it for political survival and convenience. brian: how did this get started? craig: like anything.
repeated often enough. two irishmen, one is the president and the other is from congress. it fills the time and the void, but it's not true. he did not collaborate that much with tip o'neill. he signed this bill, and can't find against it. gingrich fight against it. reagan ahead broken his pledge on taxes and agreed to spending cuts. he signed it and gingrich fought against it, there was a real insurrection among the reaganites against reagan. it finally passed, and only because of the democratic support. and reagan signed it. the spending cuts never came. reagan said in his diaries, the bemoaning of the fact that the spending cuts never came. he never really did another deal with tip o'neill after that. the 1986 tax reform act was done without tip o'neill. brian: here he is talking about this relationship. mr. reagan: we got along and nancy and i had tip and his wife over for dinner.
then, one day i picked it up and read the paper where he at made a statement about me which was pretty harsh. i called him and said, "tipp, i thought we had a relationship, and now i read in the paper that you said this." he said, "hey, this is politics. after 6:00, we are buddies, we are friends." craig: i think that goes to my point, that's reagan viewed tip o'neill much more skeptically than chris matthews would have you believe. brian: in retirement, how many years did he live after he left the white house? craig: 16 years. brian: who was he closest to? craig: obviously, nancy. some of the ranch hands. fred ryan, a chief of staff. steve kolo, head of the secret service detail.
he saw friends, george schultz and others. they would come over the century city. he kept an active social life. brian: in 1999 we were at teh ranch, here is dennis leblanc. the guy who chopped wood with him. let's watch. [video clip] >> by 9:00, he would be up. he would go for a ride. from 10:00 to 12:00, they would ride. 1:00, he would go out and cut wood or whatever construction we would go through with, would start at 5:30. depending upon what time of year it was. brian: you said he did not make it to the funeral? craig: could not, was too grief stricken.
he had an assigned seat at the committal ceremony at the library. that was the friday after he passed. mrs. reagan was sitting, mrs. reagan had assigned seats. she noticed dennis' seat was empty. she later tracked him down. he had utterly lost it. he loved to ronald reagan. they were very close. he was very forthcoming. a lot of people kind of overlook the relationship. but he spent hours alone with reagan, chopping wood, horseback riding. clearing brush. they rebuilt the ranch together. there was reagan on the roof, and nancy said she was going into town for groceries. "dennis, don't let him on the roof." because he is 69, 70-years-old. she would come back later, and
there is ron on the roof patching it. dennis would just shrug his shoulders. "i can't stop him," he says. they were very close. it wasn't like father-son, it was like older brother, younger brother. brian: what did he tell you that you didn't know? craig: two years after the alzheimers, they were at the ranch. and, they were watching the democratic national convention in 1996 and they were watching clinton give a speech. and ronald reagan jumped out of his chair and said, "we have to do something about this." just about him not being there. things like that. other things, personal. mostly, he told me about how, when reagan left office in 1989,
dennis had been on loan from a corporation. they knew it was good to have a good relationship. so they could loan out dennis to atasionally help reagan out the ranch. reagan, i don't tow if i'll get the time off come help you anymore. reagan says, what's the name and phone number of your boss? reagan calls him and a couple of days later, dennis gets a phone call from his boss informing him that he is now at ronald reagan's disposal at any time he wants him.
brian: did david tell you the moment about ronald reagan did not recognize him anymore? craig: yes. it was at the ranch. it was a weepy, sad time. i believe it was august. it was just -- several years before he passed away. and dennis felt like for the first time, that reagan didn't recognize him. brian: we have a moment, the 83rd birthday celebration. ronald reagan is speaking, no longer president, and you say this was a critical moment. people thought that they discovered that he wasn't -- craig: they suspected that something was wrong. brian: this is only 30 seconds. let's watch this. president reagan: frankly, for a minute there, i was a bit concerned that, after all these years away from washington, you all wouldn't recognize me. [applause] president reagan: heck, pretty soon, i will have to get one of those credit cards with my picture on the front.
[laughter] brian: hailey barbara was there. did you talk to him about this? craig: yes i did. brian: what did he say? craig: he only came to reagan's defense, saying that the teleprompter had been improperly loaded and that is what caused reagan's glitches in his speech. he was diagnosed shortly thereafter with alzheimer's. brian: dr. helen. this was not in your book. she lays out -- not the positive on ronald reagan, and i want you to deal with this. it was april 26, 2002. let's watch. >> you know, i spent an hour and a quarter with ronald reagan i met in the white house -- what i spend an hour and a quarter with running reagan.
>> i spent an hour and a quarter with ronald reagan. i met him in the white house. i met his daughter in the playboy mansion. there is such a place in hollywood. patty said, i want you to meet my father. i think you can change his mind on nuclear weapons. everything he said was inaccurate. he didn't know anything about data, statistics, cia reports, technology. so he would say something and i would correct him. and he got quite uptight. so i held his hand and i spent at least half an hour and a quarter reassuring him. he got a paper out of his pocket and read it to me. the people who worked in the weapons industry are either kgb dupes or soviet agents. i said, that his last month's "reader's digest." he said, no, that is from my intelligence files. if i had to assess his iq, you have to with patients. you have to know if you can rely on them. and i estimated clinically his iq to be about 100. nice old man,
but totally inappropriate to be president. brian: what do you think? craig: it's nonsense. history refutes everything that she said. the liberal historian, his last book before he passed away was called "the making of history." about ronald reagan. in it, this liberal historian said that ronald reagan was one of our four greatest presidents. because like washington, lincoln, and roosevelt, he saved many people. and i think the facts are undeniable. when he leaves office in 1989, we are winning the cold war. something happened in the intervening eight years during the presidency of ronald reagan.
so to say that he was inappropriate, i will take reagan's legacy over her legacy. and also, when the kgb files came out, they did show that a lot of nuclear freeze leaders were paid soviet agents and dupes. brian: how many times have we read over the years that he would pull out cards and read from them? how do you explain that? craig: the same way that president obama uses a teleprompter. of things have a lot on their minds. credit it was to his that he wanted to be precise. he didn't want to go off onto
tangents and to deliver concise, consistent message, which i think shows he respected his audience. that he took his time to organize his thoughts. brian: you talk in your book, patty reagan, one of his four children -- what were their relationships? craig: complicated. to her credit, toward the end, she very much became a rock to nancy reagan. she was at the house in bel air, she was there the entire week of the funeral, with nancy reagan literally holding onto her. onto thewasn't holding military. head of the she was there when reagan passed away. and she is a very good writer. she has inherited a lot her father's writing ability. she grew up a typical 1960's california flower child who dabbled in this and chased that, you know, dream and whatever else. but in the end, she became a very reliable, steadfast daughter for her mother.
and now she writes books. you know -- look, i have four children. they have caused me headaches. and you talk about the reagan children, but you can also talk about john adams's children or james madison's children. who, he had a stepson who was a inveterate gambler. of course, abraham lincoln had his problems with especially robert. the roosevelt children said they never knew their parents. nixon and lbj had brothers who were associated with shady characters. billy carter was a bad news buffet all by himself. presidents don't choose the families. brian: were you able to talk to nancy reagan about this? craig: no. i have a deal with mrs. reagan. which is that she made exclusive to me files from the library for my four reagan books.
i have a fourth coming out next year, too. in exchange for i wouldn't ask her for an interview. files opened up because they are not catalogued yet and they were made available to me only for my book. brian: did you talk to anybody who was around him when he was not knowing anybody and the alzheimer's had totally kicked in? craig: yeah, i talked to his staff. i talked to mostly fred ryan and drake. but several others as well because they were the closest. of course doctors couldn't talk. because it is a violation of the oath. but there was enough material that i felt like i could get a pretty good sense. brian: what was his day like? craig: after? brian: when he was in the worst condition.
craig: well, you know, he would get up and sit on the back patio and look out at the california coastline, look out on the pacific ocean. but that was really toward the end when he was in his late 80's and early 90's. brian: what about the story which you suggest is not true about the leave raking? craig: that came from edmund morris. when i asked several reagan staffers about it, they said it wasn't true. i felt obliged i should put it in. but then -- brian: what is the story? craig: that secret service agents would take leaves and put them in the pool and then he would rake them out. but they said it wasn't true. brian: how do you test whether or not someone is telling you the truth? because people want to put the best light on people like him. craig: right. what i found, brian, is that most people -- in fact, everybody has been forthcoming. if anything was suspicious at all, i would backcheck it. either against the written record, against another
eyewitness, things that i just thought didn't feel right. plus, i was in many ways involved with the story myself, at least the campaign. so i knew what was accurate and what wasn't accurate. because, you know -- not that i was deeply involved, but from my vantage point, i saw what was accurate and what wasn't accurate. it is a test. there is no doubt about it. it is that the -- there is one guy -- i won't mention his name -- but he insisted i interviewed him because he ran the bush campaign. i said jim baker ran bush's campaign. and he said, i really ran it. i really did. i let them think that they did. [laughter]
you've got to be careful. brian: there is a controversy that you have been in the middle of involving george will and bill o'reilly. and you wrote your own piece for the "washington post." let's run the minute between those two men and then you can fill in the blanks from your perspective. george will: he wrote the book without feeling any obligation to talk to ed nease, jim schulte, ed baker -- bill o'reilly: and why did i not talk to them? george will: because they would have refuted -- bill o'reilly: no, because they have skin in the game. a motion in the game. we don't talk to anybody who is derogatory to the reagan's or anybody who was laudatory. we do our own investigation. "killing reagan" is a laudatory book toward ronald reagan and you did not even mention that. george will: it is not a laudatory book. it is doing the work of the in order to attack republicans, it must destroy reagan's reputation as a president and your book does the work of the american left with extreme recklessness. brian: people watching this are
certainly confused. george will was a conservative and this book is the fifth book that he has written. that seems awfully personal. what was going on there? craig: i think it did get personal because of the vitriol that o'reilly aimed at george. but george is right. it is not a laudatory book. it is full of half-truths and dubious facts and unsubstantiated rumors. it is not a laudatory book at all. it is the opposite. brian: you have it in your hand. craig: what i want you to see here is each of these tabs has a corresponding page that has error in fact or a suspicious that is not correct in this book. saying that al haig was reagan's favorite foreign advisor. reagan never got along without
-- with al haig, which is why he was let go in the first term. he wrote that the day haig left the administration, reagan wrote in his diary that night, that the only difference of opinion that i have with al haig was who was president. brian: how do you explain bill o'reilly then in this book? craig: i don't. i don't know why. maybe he didn't write it. maybe he just wanted to sensationalize it. you know, we have been successful -- the reagan narrative has been he was this lightweight grade b actor. with premature orange hair. even with all the successes of his administration, historians have consistently rated reagan low, i believe out of ideological bias. so a group of us -- i like to write about reagan because i grew up in the 80's.
i developed in the 80's. it was the halcyon time for us. but i also write about the facts. i don't make things up. and i don't think ed nease or lou can make things up. and i think two reasons that we have succeeded in repositioning people's thinking about ronald reagan so that the picture that emerges is of a very serious, deep thinking, considerate, solicitous man. and maybe he just wanted to push back against that narrative and painted picture of somebody who was shallow and cattish and a lightweight. brian: you quote spencer who was an aide of ronald reagan and you say that he never spoke of his time in office once he was out. craig: no. never. in fact, lou cannon once asked about it and he said that the american public will decide. and i will abide by the judgment.
it was perfectly in character for reagan not to dwell on the past. he did not hold grudges. i can think of very few people that he really held grudges against. he didn't -- he liked to talk about hollywood. he did like to talk about hollywood. because -- i think it made such a big impression on a kid coming out of the midwest, coming out of the great depression, going out to hollywood, which she had -- he had just seen on the silver screen and becoming a part of that culture and then succeeding in that culture. he happened to be very successful at it, too. brian: you had a poignant moment at the end of his life at the library, at the end of the funeral, nancy reagan is -- well, let's watch a little bit of it. and then you can tell us about the kids that are around her. and i want to go back to the kids and a second. let's watch this. -- in a second. let's watch this.
and the two of them are there in the lobby embracing and the cabbies are coming and going and the newspaper boys are coming and going and the businessmen and businesswomen are coming and going. the two of them are embracing as if they were the only two people in the world. and he said that he had never witnessed such remarkable love between two people before that day. and do not forget, too, is that she bore the burden of his alzheimer's for 10 years. and he wrote in his farewell letter, he said -- i am paraphrasing, but he said the burden is often on the family and i'm fearful of what this is going to do to nancy. it turned up to be prophetic because it was very, very difficult for her. you know, family came and went, staff came and went, doctors came and went. but she was there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. she wasn't eating. she wasn't taking care of herself. and so her grief was not just losing her husband of 53 years, but of the pain of the previous
10 years. brian: i want to show you -- we saw the children all there behind her. and maureen had died. here are a couple of clips with ron reagan, the son, and michael reagan on two different shows. >> i am worried about him all the time because it's a tough job and he is stressed. and every once in a while, i would see -- it is almost like you are watching television and it momentarily goes out of focus and it snaps back. what did i just see? i didn't know what it was. i just knew that i was concerned about him for all sorts of reasons, the shooting not the least of that. but i deduced in retrospect that it was possible that some of those things were early signs of alzheimer's. but i don't know and i don't want to make a claim. >> your brother was an embarrassment to your father when he was alive and now he is an embarrassment to your mother. >> i am outraged.
there are people on the left who have said ronald reagan must have had alzheimer's when he was president of the united states and tried to use that to disparage what he did as president of the united states. and then he has a son who provides fodder, here is what you need to prove your point, when there is absolutely no evidence. brian: the family. craig: right. a lot of presidential families have a lot of issues, a lot of problems. it is just that they are under the bright international spotlight so everybody picks up on everything. now there is no doubt that ron wrote the book. there is no doubt that there is a lot of controversy in the book. he stated that brain tissue had been taken out of reagan's head to determine that he had alzheimer's which is patently
untrue. he did go to the mayo clinic after the presidency and after falling off a horse in mexico and had three holes drilled in his head to relieve the pressure, drain the fluid. but they did not take any brain matter to determine that he had alzheimer's and he was not diagnosed with alzheimer's at that time. so, you know, families are families. the evidence is clear. reagan's diaries, reagan's meetings, reagan's staff, when he left office, he was still an intellectually stimulating, engaging, you know bright, conversational, thoughtful man as much as when he entered office in 1981. brian: you've got a couple of things that are not ronald reagan related necessarily that i want to ask you about. one of them is on page 19 of your book you tell a story about mrs. nixon. richard nixon showed little
interest when his wife grew faint in the sun. cot in to lie down on a the library. craig: that was from jim holy. he told me this story and i just thought it was too wonderful to leave out. it is not germane to the story, it is not central to the story, but it is a good backdrop to the story. she was laying there and she was pleading. saying tell nancy i wish i could have been there for her. and then she recovered. but the whole time she was laying there suffering from a heat stroke, nixon is talking about college football. she recovers and they go to the car and he goes to the door and goes in and sits down and leaves his wife to fend for herself. to go to the far door and open
it up and fend for herself. brian: did jim really think that represented the way richard nixon was to his wife on a regular basis? craig: i don't know. i did not ask him that. brian: then, later on in the book, page 316. craig: i knew that he was very miffed, richard nixon was miffed at hillary clinton for not attending his wife's funeral when hillary was first lady. she chose instead to hold a fundraiser for a female democratic candidate to the white house. rather than going to pat nixon's funeral. brian: you write, "in 2006 --" and this is about the way that you feel about things. "in 2006, when again the felonious knights of wall street drove the american economy into a ditch, george bush allowed henry paulson, secretary of goldman sachs, to cover the
markers of his buddies, sticking america with the bill." craig: a hundred billion dollars. brian: is that the real craig shirley stepping out on the page? craig: yes. it is true. wall street was bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. middle america has paid the bill. and no one on wall street has ever paid. for the deeds.ed brian: and you wrote that no one jumped from a building, disappointing many. [laughter] craig: that was a rhetorical flourish. brian: you write that "ronald reagan was simply one of the most compelling men in american political history. richard nixon often spoke derisively of television. only reagan and john kennedy recognized the power of the box in people's living room. -- room." craig: yes. yes. even now, how many years -- 51 years since john kennedy was president and you still watch these press conferences and they
are just highly informative, highly entertaining and utterly compelling. he just had a gift for television. he was just very cool. everyone goes to the famous nixon-kennedy debates of 1960, but you see his interview with walter cronkhite, there something compelling about this man that you want to believe him. you want to believe him, you feel comfortable with him as being president of the united states. i think reagan had the same effect on people. brian: another one. "over wine and cheese, the matrons of georgetown said the anti-drug campaign was really about her public relations." and it was not? craig: i think that she did some good work.
"just say no" is still part of the lexicon. i think there's probably statistics out there that show that her campaign lessened drug abuse and drug dependency in america. it was certainly a good thing to do. a lot of first ladies have causes. you know, jackie kennedy had the refurbishing of the white house as a cause. ladybird have the beautification of america as a cause. betty ford had addiction and breast cancer as a cause. it seems like it was a pretty good cause to me, which was at least to endeavor to get people to stop using drugs. brian: one of the interesting things on your wikipedia site is how many books you are writing. you have already finished a newt gingrich book? craig: yes. brian: for what publisher? craig: travis nelson. brian: is it a big biography? craig: i take the 20 most interesting years -- he will dispute that but i take the 20 most interesting years of his life, when he first goes to
congress in 1974 and loses, and when the republican revolution takes old and for the first time in two generations, republicans take control of congress. everybody knows the story of the 105th, but everybody doesn't knows those 20 years. there are flashbacks and flashforwards. but it is basically about those 20 years. because he was more than a foot soldier in the reagan revolution and the conservative movement, he was in many ways a leader. brian: when is it coming out? craig: next year. brian: you are writing a book on dr. howard snyder. the personal physician of dwight david eisenhower. craig: i have a house on the river. trickledown point.
we had a family contest. i always wanted to have named property. and we had a family contest and i wanted to name it animal farm. you know, after orwell. and i thought that was clever and cute. and my oldest son matthew joked and he said why don't you call it trickle-down point? and i said that's it. so we named it trickle-down point. actually, a reviewer of "reagan's revolution" said it was a very good book but i showed the same economic insensitivity to the poor that reagan did by naming my house trickle-down point. brian: a book on george washington's family. craig: i have a contract with harpercollins. i am doing a book on mary ball washington. no one has ever done a comprehensive book on george washington's mother. my early research is showing that she was not rebecca of sunnybrook farm. half helicopter mom, half mommy dearest. brian: and you have a fourth book on reagan. craig: it is called "becoming reagan." he goes through a complete ideological makeover and adopts a whole new world view as far as taxes, as far as communism, as
far as government, everything. when he changed from being -- he called himself he was not a bleeding heart liberal, he was a hemophiliac liberal. he later changed to becoming a republican conservative. varietynd of a garden beginner. bill buckley said the job of conservatives was to thwart history shouting, "no!" reagan adopted that worldview but then decided that it is not enough to say no! brian: we are out of time. our guest has been craig shirley and the name of the book is "last act, the emerging legacy of ronald reagan." thank you for joining us. craig: thank you. ♪
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>> next, live, your calls and comments on washington journal. noon, the excavating violence in jerusalem and what is needed -- the escalating violence in jerusalem and what is needed or world peace. >> all persons having business before the honorable supreme court of the united states are admonished to go in and get their attention. >> monday, on landmark cases, we oneonight, we will look at of the most divisive issues come before the supreme court -- abortion. >> roe versus wade was decided on january of 1973. it is a case that is controversial, that is constantly under scrutiny. and there is a question, i
suppose, whether it ever will cease to be under scrutiny. >> wanting to terminate an unwanted pregnancy but unable to because of a texas state law banning abortion, unmarried carnival worker norma agreed to be the plaintiff in the 1970 case that challenged the law. requesting she remain anonymous, the lawsuit listed her as jane roe, and the defendant was henry wade. dallas county district attorney. when she had the baby and put it up for adoption, her case made it to supreme court. >> jane roe went to several dallas physicians seeking an abortion but was refused care because of a texas law. she filed suit on behalf of herself and all of the women who in the past or the future would
seek termination of a pregnancy. >> we will discuss the court's versus wadein roe with our guest clerk forsyth, senior counsel with americans united for life and melissa murray, professor at the university of berkeley law school. that is live monday night at 9:00 eastern on c-span, c-span3, and c-span radio. for background on each case while you watch, order your copy of the "landmark cases" companion book. it is available for $8.95 plus at c-span.org/ landmarkcases. >> it this morning, congressional highlights from 2015. later, a missouri state
politician talks about his ideas recidivism for inmates. as always, we will take your ♪ host: good morning. welcome to the washington journal. we begin this morning with your top concern for the year ahead. national security? the economy? trade agreements? jobs? the presidential election? if you're a republican dial in at (202) 748-8001. immigrants, -- democrats, (202) 748-8000. independents, (202) 748-8002. e-mail,also send an journaat