tv Americas News HQ FOX News March 6, 2016 10:00am-11:01am PST
coming days. >> it's a sad picture to see that hearse rolling away. it's taking first lady nancy reagan to join her beloved husband, president ronald reagan. this is a fox news alert. i'm bret baier in washington. welcome to a special hour remembering former first lady nancy reagan. the news breaking just a short time ago according to her assistant, mrs. reagan died this morning at her home in bel air, california. the cause, congestive heart failure. she was 94 years old. nancy reagan was thrust into the political life when her husband ran for governor back in the '60s and then ronald reagan's political ambitions swept them into the white house in 1981 after a successful 1980 presidential campaign. she'll be remembered for her complete devotion to her husband. always standing behind him as his fiercest protector and
closest adviser. she will be buried alongside president reagan at the reagan presidential library in simi valley, california. william is outside nancy reagan bel air estate. >> about ten minutes ago a hearse arrived to pick up first lady nancy reagan's body. other family members may have arrived earlier. we don't know. we are in bel air, california, where mrs. reagan has lived since 1988, when she and the former president bought this residence. 1.5 acre estate. they have lived here or she's lived here for 30 years. she's known for her just say no campaign, her clothing, bringing glamour back to the white house and influential adviser to the president and known for culling
people around them she considered disloyal. she was known as a keen judge of character. nancy was born in new york city as ann francis robbins. her parents divorced thereafter. eight years later her mother remarried a chicago physician that adopted mrs. reagan and she changed her name to nancy davis. graduated from smith college. she appeared in a dozen movies and then met the president when he was head of the screen actors gild. she wrote a memoir in 1989 and ten years later released a volume of love letters that ronald had written to her. they were married 52 years. again, the reagan library will now remain closed. we're told that there will be services later this week for mrs. reagan that will be a closed casket viewing. there will be a service on the patio and she'll be buried next to her husband. we do not have exactly a date yet but that will be likely later this week.
back to you. >> william, is there a plan yet in place, do you know, at the library and what exactly is going to transpire as far as here in washington and out there in california? >> reporter: you know, we do know the plan is in place at the library. i don't know the details as what's going to happen in washington, any services elsewhere. they've had the plan in place for several years. i believe you're seeing video now of that hearse arriving. this is the only entrance to this property. it has not yet left. back to you. >> william, thank you outside nancy reagan's bel air home. joining us in studio, fox news contributor george will. president reagan's final communication director and a friend of nancy reagan. how are you? >> i'm well. >> how about this day? >> you know, it's a reminder of
the politics as a team sport. you have a political party. you have legislative caucus. most of all, you have your spouse. they were the most married couple i ever met. they would sit together in a room and ronald reagan would write her love notes across the room. he once wrote five words that i think is fair to say changed our lives and then the world. and then along came nancy. it gave him center to his life. he was a famously friendly man. i think a lot of his friendliness was to keep people at bay. i think he had one friend and he married her. and they were so close. they could communicate the way real married couples can do.
i think that it's a reminder of the difficulties of politics because she took a lot of the incoming fire because he was so admired and adored by many people that she became the target of choice for some of his enemies. and she was not adverse to engaging in politics. she certainly had something to do with the fact that after he had a stumble in the new hampshire primary in 1980, he changed campaign directors. that was part of her doing. she is said to have had something to do with the cashiering of the white house chief of staff. i don't know if that's true or not. he's said to have hung up on her and that was not wise. but most of all, this was a couple and they governed together. and she was as some people have already noted, she was completely devoted to him. this also, we should note, is a
passing of another link to the old hollywood -- this is hollywood of clark gable and frank sinatra. she had a wicked wit. she told me that one of the challenges of hollywoodette is you watch a film and it's god awful. you clap him on the shoulder and say you did it again. that was part of her sly wit and political sense. >> we saw the book of love letters by president reagan to nancy reagan. we saw their relationship. and then that iconic image at his funeral at the end of the day as the sun was setting in simi valley of her sitting there silent by herself with her husband. now she will be buried right there next to him.
their relationship is something that a lot of books have been written about. she had this -- there's the coffin of ronald reagan as she's tapping it there from the funeral. it's tough to put into words all that she -- the relationship met not only on a personal level obviously but as you mentioned inside that white house. >> a good bit of the presidential role, we're a unique country in that our president head of government is also head of state and performs some of the rituals we associate with royalty or a ceremonial head of state and she was an important part of that. the reagans followed the carters and there had been a certain cultural tension to put it politely about whether or not the carter have been too informal. obviously in a republic there's
a certain level of formality you don't exceed but a certain level of informality you don't fall below and the reagans wanted to restore style. i think you showed a picture of her and frank sinatra and the president. they brought a kind of glamour back that rubbed some people the wrong way but rubbed most of the country the right way. >> let's bring in chris wallace. your reflections today? >> i was just listening to george and george is being too modest. he and nancy reagan used to go out to lunch together. he knew what a great companion she could be and how great her gossip was and how great her wit was. they were very close. i would say a couple things about nancy reagan. first, on a personal level, and that's the most important, is that it was just such a deep love story. they loved each other so much. i can remember one time in the 1980 campaign they would sometimes travel together and sometimes they wouldn't. this was a time when they were
splitting off. he was going her way and she was going her way and they looked into each other's eyes and held each other and we were pretty grizzled reagan press corps and we looked away because we felt we intruded on a personal moment because of their obvious deep love for each other and they regretted having to be apart for a few days was so deep but you can't overstate how important she was. she was enormously influential. jim baker had been the campaign manager for george reagan's toughest opponent in the 1980 campaign. he knew washington. he knew how to handle the media and how to handle congress and she thought he would help reagan be a success and it would be good for him. she played an enormous role in
reagan reaching out to the soviet union. in 1984, he was the first president that never met with a russian leader and part of it was they kept dying on him. in september of '84 they invited the famous soviet foreign minister to the white house and at one point he turned to nancy reagan and whispered in her ear, whenever you're with your husband, please whisper peace in his ear and she said, yes, and i'll whisper peace in your ear, too, foreign minister and played an enormous role in the reagan/gorbachev teamwork in the second term. >> we talked about her dignity and grace and poise and all that she did for causes after she left the white house including obviously alzheimer's. that was a big part of her
speech to the republican convention about reaching out and trying to stop the disease that ended up taking her husband. >> this is kind of a personal story. i got to be friends -- i was fortunate enough like george to be a friend of nancy reagan's and in 1994, when that famous and touching and beautiful eloquent letter came out by ronald reagan talking about the fact disclosing to the american people that he had alzheimer's, i called mrs. reagan never expecting to reach her but just to leave a message how badly i felt and for some reason, she came on the phone and we talked for about 20 minutes and she talked in such a heartfelt way that she longed for these years when they would be together, the golden years and share extraordinary members of their life's journey and now that was going to be taken from them because obviously her husband was going to lose his memory because of this terrible
disease. as you say, she then made that a cause as she made so many issues like just say no to drugs in the second term. it was interesting. i did an hour documentary on nancy reagan for nbc in 1985. first ladies are often reluctant to talk about their influence. one of the things she wanted to talk about was her influence on her husband and her influence in terms of finding causes. i remember i escorted her on a trip to rome where she was going to meet with pope john paul and she was so excited. she met him before with the president but this was a trip of her own and she was so excited about the fact that the holy father was receiving her and her cause on its own and not just as the accompanying the president of the united states. >> stand by if you would. sam donaldson covered the reagan white house.
you remember many times, perhaps shouting out questions to president reagan in the rose garden. i was there for one of those. sam, your thoughts on this day? >> first of all, i want to say it was chris wallace that broke the story that he hung up on the first lady and i think you can say anything to ronald reagan and he would smile and shrug it off but you said anything about mama, you were dead. she came to town and redecorated the white house at public expense and bought china. new set of china. she said we need china and then it was the view that nancy reagan was borrowing clothes from designers in hollywood to wear for functions in washington and elsewhere. well, this is a lot of bad
press. [ inaudible ] >> i think, sam, we're losing you. we'll try to reestablish the connection. i think we're losing the connection there. chris, you heard sam talk about covering that reagan white house. it was quite a time. >> i'm going to just tell you because sam is exactly right. and this gives you a sense sometimes of the indirect ways that nancy reagan would work on her husband. she would say this person doesn't help you. you need to get rid of this person and didn't like don regan, the chief of staff in the second term and he basically at one point and they always got along, at one point he said, listen, get off my back. he snapped at her. and so i was outside the white house and one of reagan's -- i can tell it now. everyone is gone. one of nancy reagan's staff people came up to me and said that the problems between nancy
and don regan and that regan had hung up on nancy reagan. so i then reported this. she hadn't told -- nancy reagan hadn't told her husband, the president, they were both watching nbc that night. he turned to her after it and said is that true? she said yes. as sam suggested, that was the end of donald regan. >> george, your thoughts of that time? >> there was a steely side to her. and people who crossed her found out about it. more than that, people who crossed her husband. she had one function in life. i think it was said earlier she was sort of propelled into politics. she was part of the propellant. she enjoyed it. her father was himself a very
active committed conservative and she partook in all of his beliefs. she grew up on what's now called the gold coast of the lakefront of chicago. if you ever walk through the lobby of the drake hotel on lakeshore drive there, you will walk the path she took walking to grade school. she would cut right through the lobby of the drake to get to her school. she went to california. happily made a movie called "hell cats of the navy" starring nancy davis as she was then and ronald reagan and the rest is history. >> we have sam donaldson back on the phone. sad, we were rudely cut off by technology. welcome back. you were finishing your thought about covering the reagan white house. >> let me give you another story or two. i agree with george and chris
that nancy reagan didn't get into foreign policy but her husband's physical and political security were upper most in her mind. [ inaudible ] >> we are destined not to hear the end of this story. we'll try another line. chris wallace, you know, it's been said that nancy reagan changed a little bit after her husband was shot. that she was very worried about protecting him and seeing him out in large crowds after that assassination attempt. >> change would be a huge understatement. she was completely and utterly traumatized. this is the flip side of what george and i talked about earlier which was this deep love affair. ronald reagan was her life.
he was -- she was his life. and to be that close to losing her husband, i remember doing an interview with her some time afterwards and she said he would fall asleep after he got out of the hospital and came home, but she couldn't sleep. she was up all night and she said she would get hungry and she would get soft food, like bananas so she could eat them in bed and take care of herself but not disturb him. it was of course during this time that she became so traumatized by it that she began to consult an astrologer about what were good and safe days and unsafe days for him to go out and travel and this literally became part of the scheduling in the white house and the don regan stories goes full circle. after he had been canned by nancy reagan through pressuring her husband, he writes his memoir and he was the one who
revealed to the world in the first chapter that in fact she had to a large degree determined travel for the president of the united states through consultations with an astrologer during the second term. that was his way of getting back at her. >> washington can be a strange place. chris wallace, as always thank you very much. george, your reflections on -- i'm struck by this quote. ronald reagan says "you know, if nancy davis hadn't come along when she did, i would have lost my soul." seems like she was such an integral part of his entire being. >> politics requires a lot of energy. it's exhausting. there's the myth that ronald reagan they used to say of calvin coolidge turned the white house into a dormitory and slept all the time. he took work up all the night. he was a very hard working president and to do that you have to have the energy that is
inseparable from happiness particularly for a man to whom marriage was important as it was for ronald reagan. so i believe he would not have gone into politics and would not have risen in politics and would not have changed the world had he not been well married before this assent started. she had the just say no campaign that became a big part of her role as first lady against drugs and ran that effectively and talked about it even after leaving office. >> she did. the decline in drug use in the 1990s probably had something wi just say no slogan. it also had to do with the fact that a lot of people had seen friends and relatives ruined by crack cocaine. just say no came along at a time when that required a simple response. you mentioned a moment ago that
she was also active about alzheimer's. that put her a certain portion of the conservative community if that she felt it was important to approach a cure of alzheimer's through stem cell research which she advocated and some people objected and she didn't care. >> we're going to try once again with sam donaldson on the phone. i think we figured it out. we apologize for the technological problems. your thoughts? >> testing, one, two, three. >> you're good to go. >> i am in a house next to the mountains. it sound romantic. i was saying i think when last we talked that nancy reagan took care of her husband's security political and physical and didn't dabble in foreign policy or how he would deal with russians or what have you. but when john hinckley, jr., shot ronald reagan and three other people on that terrible
day, and i'll remember it because i was five feet away from john hinckley jr. when he fired, nancy reagan after going to the hospital, called their friend from hollywood and assistant chief of staff in and said in effect, that must never happen again. you see to it. he did. before that occurred, we would walk into the white house and show our card and go through the gate. all of a sudden security got a lot tighter and except for briefly during the 1984 campaign to the best of my knowledge, ronald reagan never appeared where the public was that had not been vetted. that had not been secured by the secrete service procedures, which again made a lot of sense. she cared about him in those kind of ways and of course when it came to his political security, george already talked about the 1980 campaign, and
also we've talked about firing donald regan, chief of staff after he hung up on her a couple of times, and she thought he was bad for reagan during the iran-contra affair and ronald reagan was under great pressure and rightly so because of the conduct of his administration and of course history is still arguing over to what extent he participated in some of the things that were wrong, but she was and she called in bob strauss. mr. democrat. an opponent of ronald reagan. called the white house to talk to her husband and give him some advice about how to handle things. she performed for him not only the loving part that we've talked about that you talked about so well but she performed for him services that he needed. she felt and she was almost
always right. >> she had a gaze across the room and also listening to president reagan speak but she had another gaze that sent kind of daggers to staff that weren't doing the right thing. i'm sure you've seen that. what was it about her, do you think, sam, that made her so effective inside that white house and so unique as a first lady? >> first of all, she was the president's wife. we've had a lot of first ladies. she was someone that everyone understood that they were an inseparable couple. they wanted to be together. the stories that george probably knows better than i do about how they much preferred to just have dinner alone in family quarters of the white house rather than go out. they went out when they needed to on occasion and they performed the function of the first couple but they wanted to be together and everybody knew that.
everybody knew that when nancy reagan spoke, she was laying down that unless you had terrific argument that would see you through on judgment day, you better follow what she wanted to do and her husband placed himself in her hands. he had absolute confidence in her also. perhaps they quarrelled on occasion. i don't know. i bet if it was, it was the kind of quarrel that most people would love to have with their spouse rather than angry words or what have you. >> george, a lot of people forget that she, too, was an actress. she performed in 11 films. that's where they met. but it also made her, i guess, comfortable in front of the cameras. comfortable in big events. >> exactly. they had been famous -- he was a b actor. he was more than that. he was a hollywood fixture. she had been in his slip screen
for a while so was used to presentational side of politics. ronald reagan said he didn't know how you could be a good politician if you weren't an actor. if you went through great actors of the 20th century, you would get to franklin roosevelt and winston churchill who understood how to command an audience. that's what democracy is. persuasion of ideas. she understood this. >> majority leader in the senate, mitch mcconnell, just put out a statement saying elaine and i join the nation in mourning the loss of nancy reagan. in many ways, the reagan love story was classic hollywood but it was unmistakably human, too. they rose to the pinnacle of political power, braved the depths of alzheimer's cold
embrace. everyone felt nancy's pain when she mouthed a teary farewell to a man she couldn't imagine life without. nancy and ron are together once more and we offer our most sincere condolences to the friends and family left behind. again, that's senate majority leader mitch mcconnell. sam, final thoughts here. thank you for your time. we finally figured it out. final thoughts on this day? >> we're all sad about the passing. we all do that some day but she was the last of the reagan couple. they have children of course. but she set a standard, i think, and george talked about this. not so much elegance -- can you imagine today, nancy reagan listening to some of the debates
we've heard recently? i won't say anything more about them except the standards have change changed in washington and across the country and she represents the old way. i can only say to you i hope we return to it. >> sam donaldson, thank you very much for your time. final thoughts from you, george? >> much has been made about how traumatized she was by the assassination. she knew immediately what the nation did not learn for many years which is how close to dying the president was. the bullet came very close to killing him. and she lived with that a lot. she also knew to get back to the presentational side of this fishbowl that they lived in, she understood the usefulness of being at a gridiron dinner when
the criticism of her for allegedly excessive glamour became too much and the fact that she borrowed and worn some gowns from major american designers. she sang a song called "second-hand clothes" and it did a lot to humanize her. those of us who knew her didn't think she needed humanizing but those who didn't needed to be taught. >> george, thank you for your time. sorry for your loss. thank you for coming in. a statement by george w. bush. laura and i are saddened by the loss of former first lady nancy reagan. she was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband and that devotion matched only by her devotion to her country. her influence on the white house was complete and lasting. during her time as first lady and since she raised awareness about drug abuse and breast cancer. when we moved into the white house, we benefited from her work to make those historic rooms beautiful. laura and i are grateful for the
life of nancy reagan. she inhabited many roles over the decades. hollywood starlet, style icon, political help mate. let's take a look back at her remarkable life. >> ann francis robbins, nickname nancy, was born in new york city on july 6th, 1921. she was raised by her mother and had little contact with her father after her parents divorced. in 1929, edie married dr. davis. nancy and her stepfather became close. he adopted her when she turned 14 and nancy took his last name. nancy graduated from smith college in 1943 with a drama degree. she appeared in plays in new york before landing a contract with mgm. she moved to hollywood and would ultimately appear in 11 films. in the fall of 1949, a trade
paper reported nancy had communist ties. in her 1989 memoir, she explained how a director friend asked the president of her union to help. >> late that afternoon the phone rang. nancy davis, this is ronald reagan from the screen actor s gild and i have answers for you. if you're free for dinner. i stammered i think i can manage it. >> the pair had a simple, secret wedding on march 4th, 1952. daughter, patty, was born in october that same year. son, ron, followed in 1958. nancy said she thought she married an actor but soon realized his real passion was working with the republican party. he ran for governor. won by a landslide and nancy served as first lady of california from 1967 to 1975. the reagans had been married nearly three decades when they moved into the white house and
nancy later admitted her years in sacramento did little to prepare her for the national stage. >> nancy reagan had this image that really didn't accurately portray her but it was very regal, above others. it was a totally unfair characterization. >> her priorities quickly shifted. >> i spent a good deal of time with her that day and she was definitely in shock. she was very quiet. >> from then on the president's safety became her utmost priority. she kept an eye on his travels and although criticized, turned to astrology for guidance and then came one of her most defining moments. >> just say no. >> those three words forever in the american lexicon. when it came to policy, nancy kept her distance. she focused on being the president's wife. >> you seldom saw them when they weren't holding hands. they genuinely preferred to be
with each other than anyone else. >> the reagans lived a private life after they returneded to california until 1994 when the former president revealed he had alzheimer's disease. a battle he would lose ten years later. >> it was what she described as the long good-bye. how difficult that was for her. i think she did it with great dignity and she preserved his dignity. it's part of her legacy and something we'll be remembered for. >> nancy lived quietly after the president's passing appearing at events occasionally honoring her husband. >> the statue is a wonderful likeness of ronnie and he would be so proud. >> and he proud of her. while the woman the secret service called rainbow is now gone, her time as first lady remains an indelible part of history not only to her country but to her husband.
>> nancy reagan dead at the age of 94. a special hour remembering her life. joining us now, ed rollins, judy miller and howard kurtz. ed was assistant to president reagan. judy was a reporter covering the reagan white house and howie, fox news media buzz. >> she was such an instrumental part of his life and equally as important he would never have been president, maybe not even governor without her influence. he didn't want to run again he told me after 1976 when he lost by 117 votes to gerald ford at the '76 convention. he was ready to go off and live on his ranch and what have you. she was the one that felt it was very important for him and the country and obviously it was. and she supported him totally. in 1984 after he had been shot, almost mortally wounded, their friend had been murdered, pope
had been shot, she was reluctant about running for a second term. he had other health problems and at the end of the day, she gave up that request to him and said, fine, if you want to go, let's go and she went ahead. you think of the things that happened in the second term. mrs. reagan had great people instinct and great political instincts. the president understood big pictures. not a guy interested in little m things. she understood pr and kept a great relationship with friends in hollywood and across the country knowing what people were thinking and was very valuable asset to me as political director. she always asked tough questions. you always had to respond to them and i had great appreciation for working with her and i think to a certain extent the country lost a great patriot and one of the greatest couples ever. >> judy, we talk a lot about
this. the love. the bond. the political bond as well. she was also a mother obviously to patty and ron. a stepmother to maureen and michael. and managed that all throughout her life as well. >> right. she also restored what i think having covered them at the time badly needed glamour to the white house. at the time we were just coming off of the hostage crisis. hostages had just been released as ronald reagan was being sworn in. we were told to put on sweaters and turn down thermostats and everything was very low key and understated. belt tightening. a tough time economically. but nancy reagan believed that the white house and the american people needed a touch of glamour and so she did things that feminists and democrats beat up on her enormously over whether it was the $200,000 white house
china she replaced with donations by the way from her wealthy friends and not from federal budget, but she was determined to kind of create a new era and new feeling about washington and about the white house. she did that. she was the first protector, the first partner, the first friend and her vision of exercising power was through a man which was of course during the time of rising feminine. she never veered from that and did it enormously skillfully. it's a different world today. nancy reagan was a formidable, powerful woman as others who crossed her found out. it was a different time. >> howie, we look at this through a picture of looking
back decades. you think about the press and how they handled the reagan white house. she did not have an easy time. >> that's a great point. i was flooded with memories of nancy reagan because sad news broke while i was on the air. in the 1980s, and i covered the administration, nancy reagan did not have a great image. it wasn't just at the outset of the administration she was famous for lavish parties and designer clothes and what was then called by detractors the decade of greed. unfairly but one of the symbols. later in the administration, the just say no anti-drug program some critics said it was an empty slogan and in second term revelation from one of her detractors that she contacteded astrologyist. she was not a player in the way that hillary clinton would be.
in the more than quarter century since the reagans left the white house, i think that the americans came to regard her with great love and affection particularly when her husband had alzheimer's and had to speak for him and keeper of the flame at the reagan library keeping the legacy of that president alive. >> we've seen her show up at republican debates. this cycle. last cycle. we saw sam donaldson on our air saying that dignity and grace he wishes would appear in this year's election. do you think that this remembrance will somehow affect this presidential campaign? >> president reagan also believed in the 12th amendment which was you don't speak ill of another republican. she was always a classic lady. she brought great class and dignity and my sense is he would be so disgusted by the people reaching for his mantel same time they call each other bad names. she would be disgusted with the whole thing.
one of the interesting things i was acting chief of staff once. she always tried to help him take care of him and he loved the ranch. the ranch was not this big glamorous dallas ranch. a two bedroom house with rattlesnakes and mosquitos and scenery but he loved to go out and work and chop weeds. he was looking forward to putting a new roof on. he was so excited. barney was the foreman of the ranch and she called barney and said i don't want him on that roof. you put the new roof on. we arrived out there and reagan was disappointed by seeing the roof. he said tear it off. my plans were to rebuild it. that's his great fun. she was a great addition to everything he ever did. a country obviously owes her a great deal. >> thank you very much. we're getting a lot of response obviously around the world and this is just in from the israeli
prime minister, benjamin netanyahu. i remember nancy as a noble woman who supported president reagan and stood by his side. she'll be remembered as a great friend of the state of israel. all of the political candidates have released statements in one way or another. we'll get to those a bit later. there's much more ahead in our special hour remembering nancy reagan. we'll talk to friends, historians, biographers about the place she'll have in history. stay with us. >> i know from all of the places i've gone how hard it is to turn your lives around. i know that. but we only make this trip once, i think, and we really should make it count. at ally bank, no branches equals great rates. it's a fact. kind of like bill splitting equals nitpicking.
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this room is where ronnie and i came after his first inaugural and it was in this room that we found -- we were told that the prisoners had been released and they were in iranian airspace and everything was going to be all right. nancy reagan in 2002 talking about the iranian hostages. joining us now, craig shirley and andrew oak. craig is author and historian. andrew is one of the producers of the highly acclaimed c-span series. thank you both for being here. craig, to you, talking about the influence of nancy reagan on president reagan and his administration. can you put in context in that
regard? >> he went out of his way -- this is a very sad day by the way. in 1980, the issue came up of what type of role she would have because rosslyn carter had been attending carter cabinet meetings and he said she wouldn't be attending cabinet meetings and they said, well, what cause would she have? he said mostly me. and he meant that because they were utterly completely in love. there was a marriage for the ages that made white house history and ranks with washingtons and the adams but she did later have causes, just say no, of course, and vietnam p.o.w.s and things like that. they were devoted to each other. they were best friends. they could be very, very happy just the two of them horseback riding or canoeing or at the ranch. >> andy, you've studied the first ladies. unique stories about this first lady? >> absolutely. you know, in my travels going around to all of the historical
locations, libraries and museums and things for every first lady, one of the unique ones about nancy is when i got to the reagan library in simi, california in 2013, nancy just handed over a little white box to the curator there and in the box were three keys. significant keys. gold keys with jewels on them at a beverly hills jewelier. something fancy as ronnie didn't spare expense when it came to mrs. reagan. the first key was the key to her first dressing room at mgm with her name on the door. tragedy and comedy keys with jewels for the eyes. and made for her for her dressing room. later when they bought their first house together, nancy returned the favor by getting two keys in the shapes of little houses and windows were jeweled and it said our first in her handwriting. it was these little personal things that really pulled these
older ladies and letters they wrote and when they were separated by distance, by travel for instance, when mr. reagan was president of the screen actors gild and later governor and president, whenever they weren't spending time together, he would sit at dinners by himself or in his hotel room and write activities of his day as if he was having a conversation with her. there was a real connection even when they were apart. it's really -- like we're hearing there, it's a love relationship, a marriage for the ages. >> craig, you studied the reagan white house and how integral she was in there. obviously she was trying to protect her husband. she had some personnel decisions she was a part of. she was a part of that white house. >> well, there were rumors at the time in '87 she had a hand in don regan's ouster. whether that actually happened is something that's only
speculated on. she didn't get involved too much in west wing activities. when she did, she said, look, i sleep with the president so i'm going to use my so i'm going to, you know, use my influence when i can. but it wasn't on nuclear policy or tax policy or budgetary things. it was sometimes on personnel but really more about him himself. i remember during the '80 campaign or, no, i guess it was '83 or '84, several years after the assassination attempt, he was wearing a purple -- a famous purple plaid suit he loved and she hated it, she despised it. she used to give him grief about it. on air force one one day and the president was getting ready to put on the suit because he would put on sweatpants to keep the crease in his pants. he was putting on the suit and she started nagging him about the suit, and he said, i like
it. i want to wear it. she finally turned to mike devers and said, mike, tell the president what the staff says about his suit. he turned and said, mike, what does the staff say about my suit? mr. president, the staff says if you were going to be shot, why couldn't it have been while wearing that suit? she was more concerned herself more with his wardrobe and things like that. speeches a little bit, things like that, but mostly she confined herself to east wing activities. >> andy and craig, thank you very much for being here on some reflections of first lady nancy reagan, died at the age of 94. a statement just has come out from the president and the first lady. president obama, that says this. nancy reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the white house. she was right, of course. but we had a head start because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example and her warm and generous advice.
our former first lady redefined the role in her time here. later in her long good-bye with president reagan she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of alzheimer's and took on a new role as advocate on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives. we offer our sincere condolences to their children, patti, ron, and michael, and their grandchildren. we remain grateful for nancy reagan's life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her husband, beloved husband, are together again. again, president obama and the first lady releasing a statement right now. stay with us. our special remembrance of nancy reagan continues. we'll go live outside mrs. reagan's home in bel air, california, coming up. >> would be so proud and so pleased to have this new medical
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the war against drugs is a war of individual battles, a heroes including america's young people and also someone very special to me. she has helped so many of our young people to say no to drugs. nancy, much credit belongs to you and i want to express to you your husband's pride and your country's thanks. >> nancy reagan at the state of the union there in 1988. newt gingrich is, of course, a former speaker of the house. he joins us now by phone. mr. speaker, thanks for joining us. your thoughts on this day. >> well, she was a remarkable sidekick to ronald reagan. she supported him totally at every stage. she often suborder nated her own desires. he loved going back to the ranch. she didn't like going to the
ranch but she knew how much it meant to him. she would spend hours on the phone with her girlfriends down in hollywood while ronnie went out and cut wood and rode horses and renewed himself. she also had a big impact, i think, on his conservatism because her father was a very active conservative and had a big influence on ronald reagan back when he was an actor before he ran for office. she played a major role hyped the scenes an even bigger role, and she and mike dever as a team made many decisions that shaped the reagan administration and how the president operated. those who know her well know how magnificently she rose to the challenge of alzheimer's and how much she did to try to make the president's last years comfortable. as she once said to me, it was a tremendously terrible disease because the person you're looking at looked perfectly normal and yet you knew in their eyes they were slowly fading
away. so she's a remarkable american. she, i think, has now joined ronnie and i think that those of us who know her will cherish the memories of her forever. >> i talked about it earlier, the iconic image of her it at the end of that state funeral and at the end of the day at simi valley at the library just sitting there at the gravesite which now she will be buried next to president reagan there at that very site. kind of an amazing image after you look back at that funeral. >> i think they were that close. i think they truly were very, very intimately bound. there's a point where reagan was off on one official trip and he finally turned and said to the team, i have to get back to nancy. period. he'd been gone as long as he could take it. >> yeah. >> and i think that bond was much deeper and was a big part
of reagan's humanness was the ability to lean on nancy and relate to her, share life with her, and she responded in kind. she built her entire life around it. >> mr. speaker, stand by as we look at this image of the video i just talked to, nancy reagan, dead at 94. i'm brett bair in washington continuing our coverage of nancy reagan's passing. she died today in california at the age of 94. joining us continuing with us on the phone former speaker of the house newt gingrich. we were saying about her influence, newt, in the white house itself, and over the years, not only the relationship between president reagan and the first lady but also her ability to affect the operations inside that white house. >> well, she had one, you know, star that guided her and that was