tv Nancy Reagan Reflects on Her Time as First Lady CSPAN December 30, 2016 1:53am-2:21am EST
will endlessly turn overhead and here they will stay, as they always wished it to be. resting in each other's arms, only each other's arms until the end of time. >> in september, 1994, nancy with anthony to talk about her time as first lady and how she dealt with the assassination attempt on ronald reagan. this portion of the conversation is part of our year end in memoriam program. do you think that ronald reagan could have been elected president without nancy reagan? oh!y reagan: [laughter] oh my!
well, i think i may have helped a little, maybe. i hope so. [applause] in your book, you describe after the attempt on the president's life, it you describe being at george washington university hospital and people in the emergency room -- and you said -- i have to get to my husband, they do not know how it is between as. and people were not listening. and you said again -- they do not know how it is between us. how is it between you? reagan: well, you have to the whole atand motion of the day which was -- the whole emotion of the day which was tremendous. not maybe ashings
precisely as you would have said them otherwise. it hasmeant was -- always been a very close marriage. and i can go through most anything as long as i know that ronnie is there. and the same holds true for him. and that is what i meant. withdo not know how it is us. he has to know that i am here. and the idea of him lying there and not knowing where i was or if i was even around -- you know, i knew that was not going to sit well. also at know you different moments have gotten angry because he does not get angry. in politics, have you always had
to play the bad cop and he was the good cop? well, in a sense. in a sense, yes. comenk mainly because because as you mentioned before, i am more -- i am more aware always of people who as you said -- and he was not. and say would step in -- you have to watch out for him. >> the president trusted your judgment then in personnel and character judgment. reagan: well, sometimes it took a while. [laughter] that one ofentioned the worst articles that had ever been written about you was one
in which a columnist -- mrs. reagan: which one? safire compared you to edith wilson who had protected her husband. roletially, that was the that you were attempting to play -- essentially protecting him. reagan: we come back to the shooting. shot, your threats and there is nothing that can describe your husband being shot. just nothing can describe that. and the emotions that you go through. it is something that never leaves you.
i mean, to this day, it never leaves you. every time -- with the increased threats, people would write and say -- he did not get him, but i will get him. you know. and every time he would walk through the door, to go out and talk to 10,000 people, my heart sank. i don't think it started rising again until he walked back. yes, that was all that i was trying to do. it was always on my mind. that this should never happen again, god for bid. >> when the press -- nancy reagan: excuse me. that was not the worst article.
>> what was the worst? nancy reagan: that was the worst in washington, maybe. [laughter] but before i got to washington, -- see, there was an article and this is part of my problem, i think. there was an article in los angeles by a woman whose name i have forgotten which may be freudian. it was a four-part serial. interviewed me but she interviewed a lot of other people who threatened to sue her. and this came to washington before i ever got to washington. so they had this preconceived idea of me. i was at i mean it was terrible. safire came along later. carl: when the press began
sometimes over-inflating your sense of protecting the president and trying to make more out of it than it was, you gave a particular speech, i remember, to editors, and you used humor. you had talked about all of the things that people accused you of doing and you managed to shoot it all down. ms. reagan: yes, i remember that. i remember i was so nervous, i couldn't sleep the night before, and i had three cups of coffee. now i never drink coffee. [laughter] i had three cups of coffee at morning and got there and i forgot exactly how i put it, but they asked me a question that was along these lines -- carl: you were saying something, that you at first thought you
would clean out the president -- ms. reagan: sock drawer, yeah. they asked me if i was doing something with some wonderful, marvelous scientific program. i said, no, there's not -- first i thought i would clean husband's sock drawer. that may not be it exactly. [laughter] carl: do you think the critics during the regan situation, do you think some of those critics were jealous because they resented the influence of a wife or a woman? do you think some of them were people that perhaps wanted to have that influence and didn't? ms. reagan: well, i think, you know, women or men, i think there's always a certain
jealousy, if that's the word you want to use -- of the one who is closest to the president. and obviously the one that is closest is his wife, or should be. [laughter] i hope. carl: the gap between the perception of your influence and the reality of your influence was, it was quite off target. the public perception -- ms. reagan: they made it much stronger. i was doing all sorts of things. i mean, i was managing everything, every program, i was running nuclear policy, i mean
that is when i said with the sock business. you know, in truth i wish i was -- was doing what any wife does. carl: what kind of situations that would arise which would make you feel strong enough talking to the president, or giving him your opinion of something, or maybe if he was thinking about a decision that could go one way or the other, were they usually personnel or policy things? ms. reagan: they were usually personnel. he didn't always listen to me, of course. sometimes they were policy, but usually personnel. carl: what about the bitburg situation? ms. reagan: i was very
uncomfortable with going to bitburg. i had a very dear friend, still who had los angeles been taken by the nazis and had been in auschwitz, the suites -- and dock out -- it took a long time for her to tell me anything about that. and when she did, i was just horrified. the idea of going back there, somehow i felt i was betraying her and i was just very uncomfortable with it. carl: were there other situations that ever arose -- now looking back, where maybe there were issues, public issues
that you might have wished you had offered him advice, or made a suggestion -- things that you decided not to say anything about? ms. reagan: gosh, 20-20 is always great, isn't it? i'm sure there probably are. but i can't think of any right now. you know, you always think, if i had just done, if i had just said something -- but i can't -- carl: you were one of several people who offered advice and he didn't always -- ms. reagan: not always, no. no, no. he listened, but he does have a mind of his own. carl: we've actually had two bachelors in the white house and four widowers in the white house. do you think today particularly,
with the kind of emotional strength it takes to be president of the united states, to cope with all these problems, on a world scale, do you think somebody who is unmarried has that same sense of balance, or would serve less effectively without having a spouse? ms. reagan: i don't think you can have a sense of balance in anything unless you are married. i mean, to me, that is it. carl: do you think that first ladies should be more formally included in some advisory teams? i know during the 1984 campaign, the -- that you would occasionally join others. ms. reagan: well, there was the one debate that was just terrible, awful, terrible, and i
died, and so did my husband, and i knew what had happened. they had thrown so many facts and figures at him that his mind was just -- and i said to them afterwards, leave it alone. he knows what he wants to say. leave him alone. and they did and he was fine. carl: so that kind of a personal influence can have a political effect sometimes. ms. reagan: yes. you know your man. carl: do you think that a first lady also might perhaps offer a different perception of how things are in america than a president could have? ms. reagan: sure. yes because people tell you , things that they won't tell the president. many, many times, people would
come up to me and say something and i would say, knowing that they were going to be seeing my husband, tell my husband. if something happens to them when they get in the oval office, it just doesn't happen. you are privy to hearing a lot of things that he doesn't here, -- hear, which is very useful. karl: at one point, carter said no, and betty ford said yes. do you think a first lady -- a first lady should be salaried, that a first lady should ever be salaried? i know certain ranks of career diplomats' spouses have been.
ms. reagan: no. i don't really think so. it's something you do naturally. i never -- no. carl: is there something about the role its self, though -- inherent in the role, being the spouse of a leader, that, particularly in this country, and the expectations that are put on a first lady, that you really wish could change, that you wish were altered in some way? ms. reagan: gee, expectations -- well, maybe if they -- in my case, anyway -- if they held off judgment a little bit, it would have helped.
i don't quite know how to answer that, carl. i don't know. carl: do you think that the expectations are really unfair? do you think that people carl: do you think that theperch a symbol as to expect her to be nearly perfect? ms. reagan: well, i think once you get into that white house, you are held up to a higher standard. the white house is a very special place and you have to try to live up to that. carl: what do you find that
people's greatest misperception was about your life in the white house when you talked to everyday citizens? ms. reagan: i think they thought that the white house was so glamorous, and your role was so -- what you did was so glamorous, your life was so glamorous, and all they saw were the parties, the meeting people, you know, and i've got to tell you, i never worked harder in my life. never. even when i was in pictures, or even when i was -- never have i worked harder. carl: how did it change you? what are the things that you suddenly found, because they were demanded of you, that you
could do? ms. reagan: your whole life changes. if your life doesn't change in the white house, then i don't know, you are living underwater or something. [laughter] but you are exposed to so many wonderful, interesting, fascinating people, and you are in the midst of making history. and you go to wonderful countries, and it is just a very expanding experience, or should be. carl: did speechmaking ever get easier for you? ms. reagan: oh, speechmaking. i remember when my husband first announced he was going to run for the governorship. and i had never given a speech.
and didn't really intend to give one. and i said to stu spencer, who was handling ronnie wash -- ronnie's campaign, i said i want you to understand, i don't give speeches. and he said, well, but you could stand up and take a bow. and i said, well, i guess i could probably do that. then they began to get me where they knew they could get me. they said, well, now, you know, your husband -- california is a very large state and he can't get into these little small towns. and he's really so tired. [laughter] ms. reagan: so of course, you know, i went to the little small towns and discovered that i loved it.
it was q and a and i learned a lot and i loved the people and it was fun. from then on -- carl: to the u.n. ms. reagan: never thought i would do that. carl: how about when unscheduled sorts of things happened? carl: how about when unscheduled things happen? here you are, a human being, but at the same time supposed to be this symbol. ms. reagan: there were so many funny things that happened. everyone talks about the serious things, and there were a lot of them. for instance, i have a habit of walking very fast. as you go into a state dinner, you are walking into the state dining room four abreast, and i'm walking on ahead, and
suddenly i'm aware that there nobody on either side of me. nobody. [laughter] ms. reagan: i left everybody way back there. i came to a stop. from then on, i crept. i didn't -- i was so careful. then there was a time that horowitz came to the white house to play his first concert after many, many years. we were all excited about this. and thank heavens, he had said -- because acoustically, he had said that he wanted to have a strip of grass in front of the platform, and plants, so we did that. and this poor man, i don't mean horowitz, i mean the man who let
-- led mrs. horowitz and myself, and my husband, to some chairs on the edge of the stage -- i remember mrs. horowitz and i, i was saying, you first, and she was saying, you first. finally, i went first. thank heavens. because i was on the edge. well the poor man had put the chair too close to the edge. all i did was -- that. that is all i did. and all of a sudden, i'm over on the floor. [laughter] and i thought i did it rather gracefully, actually. [laughter] and my husband got up and said, i told you not to do that unless it wasn't going well. [laughter]
[applause] i said, i thought i would just liven things up. as it happened, he saved my life, horowitz. then i will tell you one more. this is the topper. i woke up -- i was going someplace that day for a drug event, i'm sure, and in the middle of the night, my filling fell out of my tooth. this is one of the advantages of being in the white house. you can get a dentist right away. like you can get a plumber to come to the white house. so he came at the crack of dawn. we got the thing back in. now i have a meeting before i
leave with this lady who we were trying to convince to do something for the white house. i had on a blouse and a wraparound skirt. she got up to leave and i got up to shake hands with her -- [laughter] ms. reagan: the skirt is down by my feet. and i'm standing there in my pantyhose and my blouse. [laughter] ms. reagan: i don't know whether we ever got the money or not, but i said to her, i'm sure this is a meeting you're never going to forget. and jim rosebush, who i saw a little while ago, was my chief
of staff then. i could hear him coming up the elevator. i'm yelling, don't open the door. no, no, no. she leaves. i get my skirt back together. i rushed to the plane. now i'm really discombobulated. get on the plane, i have to go to the little girl's room, so i go to the little girl's room, i forget to lock the door, and the pilot -- [laughter] ms. reagan: the expression on his face. [laughter] [applause] >> sunday, in-depth will feature a live discussion on the presidency of barack obama. we are taking your phone calls, tweets, and facebook questions. our panel includes april ryan,
white house correspondent for urban radio networks. and author of "the presidency in black and white." princeton university professor eddie glaude. author of "democracy in black." and, david marinus, author of "barack obama: the story." watch in-depth live from noon-3:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. >> our in memoriam 2016 program continues with pbs news host en eiffel, who died in november at the age of 61. in 2003, she spoke with stuart thompson middle school about her career as a journalist. here's a portion of those remarks. gwen: i was in college in boston. i get my first job at "the boston herald american," which