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tv   Karen Tumulty The Triumph of Nancy Reagan  CSPAN  July 1, 2021 10:07pm-11:03pm EDT

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technology is being used to further autocratic agendas so basically, the way this technology is being used to be encourage and another means particular for those leaders who are democratic with antidemocratic aspirations. a. >> watch the communicators, senior fellow at the carnegie endowment and author of the rise of digital oppression. saturday at 6:30 p.m. eastern on c-span. c-span is your unfiltered view of government, funded by fees television companies and more. including media, the world of change. the media, internet traffic sword and we have never slowed down. businesses went virtual we powered a new reality because the media, we are building to keep you ahead.
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>> media, was forced c-span as a public service along with these other television providers and give you a front row seat to democracy. >> in this week's virtual event for public affairs we bring you a conversation with washington post national politics colonists, karen who is joining us incompetent printed new book, the triumph and nancy reagan in addition to working at the washington post she is working time magazine, and los angeles times and is the recipient of manys awards including prize for excellence. in act four years ago by simon & schuster biography, the ♪ ♪'s being published tomorrow on april 13th 2021. the reviews called the triumphant nancy reagan and exhaustive biography which chronicles the private life of political influence of nancy reagan in the book price and envious with rick cabinet members friends and family members and shares she became
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one of the most influential first ladies of the century. we now invite you to enjoy a virtual program with karen, joining conversation about reagan foundation and institute. also kathy much. >> good afternoon and i'm so pleased to welcome you for thisk very special think make an much-anticipated biography on former first lady nancy reagan read the book "the triumph of e nancy reagan" written by veten washington post columnist karen tumulty will be officially released tomorrow and karen tumulty is graciously agreed the reagan library one ofe our first stops on the book a tour. after devouring the book myself, i think readers will agree that it is a well researched, balanced and insightful book into the life of one of the 20th century's most fascinating and consequential figures. in the interest of full disclosure, i thought it would mention that i was privileged to work for the reagan as a young woman. a person the white house and
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then los angeles after the reagan press washington. and there i was part of the small staff and the vibrant because presidential life. and ultimately serving as their spokesperson and press secretary. it was an incredible adventure and one of the great gifts of my life read the journey over the six years open my eyes to the world. to the importance of decency, kindness, character and leadership rated and i also saw the private side of the reagan's during unguarded moments where i witnessed firsthand in their boundless devotion to one. another. i was not one of the sources for the bucket so i read it with tremendous interest just like all of you will. and i knew just about all there was to know about nancy reagan it in karen's book proved me wrong pretty karen tumulty spoke to hundreds of individuals over the course of four years drawing on archives, letters, and memoirs. president reagan diary and white
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house records, and, much more. karen, welcome to the ronald reagan presidential library in this webinar series that is become so popular especially during this year of difficult separation. and i really wish we could've been together at the presidential library overlooking the majestic mountains of simi valley are purged in front of that colorful section of the berlin wall. that section symbolizes freedom to overcome it is of the president reagan envisioned it and as we have learned in your property, and nancy reagan had a diplomatic handed in it as well. instead, we are relying on technology today to take us back in time and bring us together to better understand nancy davis reagan, the daughter, the actress, the partner, the mother, first lady, and then caregiver. before we launch into the meat of thek book and tackles many topics in, can you share a bit about what inspired you to take
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this on and how did you go about it and why did you start the book with the soviet union. karen: over small kathy thank you so much for having me and i too look forward to and we can be sitting out there on that beautiful patio at the reagan library where i spent so many wonderful hours defrosting from the frigidity of the winters at the library. i started, actually this book is not my idea. it was my publisher simon & schuster's. it was my editor on the book facilitating this one of my dearest friends, was my editor at time magazine. so she came to me in late summer or early fall of 2016, just a few months after missus reagan died and said, we would love to have a big biography of her.
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and there was just something about this idea, i remember the day of her funeral. i was driving around doing errands listening to it on c-span radio while i was driving thinking, there are so many layers to this very complex woman. and so there's just somethingas about the project that really struck me as interesting. especially since i came to washington in the 1980s. my knowledge of nancynd reagan s pretty much everybody else's. it tended to run it between one of two caricatures. eitherar she was this inquisitie socialite ors she was the scheming power and how to the throne. the really listening to some of the tributes to her at the funeral, and also watching the last decade of the presidents life and in her life beyond that. you begin to get a sense of the
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real just of this relationship. and i originally thought this is to be a book about a woman in marriage it would be a love story but as i got deeper and deeper into the research, i realized it was selfless for. it was really a whole new perspective on reagan's presidency and on his political life and i think ultimately a new on an entire era. so why did not come in the story that george schultz told me about the soviet union. i was really looking for something that wouldn't signal to the reader that this was not your typical first lady biography. in the story that george schultz told me about nancy reagan
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supposedly impromptu to the white house in the middle of the winter to have dinner, just the four of them. two couples upstairs the white house read and sound like a social invitation pretty george salt officials was pretty new and senior. he was only the secretary of state for seven months predictmo she didn't really know the reagan's all that will. you just got back from a long trip overseas that included a stop in china. and as the dinner progresses, the reagan's, both of them start heckling him with questions about when chinese leaders and did they have a bottom line and do they have a sense of humor and what makes them tick and beyond that that they start to talk about the soviet union. and schultz, away from the kind of typical national security council meetings, because realize something about ronaldon reagan. which is this man has never had
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a conversation the big-time c communist leader and that he is going to have one ended here early on about this a lot in these very confident in his own abilities of the o negotiator. but then schultz else which is this dinner invitation was not a social invitation. it really nancy reagan had wanted to give him a loan with the president so that he could begin to understand something about her husband pretty something that really has potential to change history. and he also realizes something else in that moment which is that he, george schultz i found an incredibly valuable ally in this first lady. the only person in the world that ronald reagan is truly truly close and you understand is her husband like nobody else does.
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and it seemed to me sort of a perfect opening into a book about her role, her very unique role as a first lady she was somebody who didn't step foot in the west wing all that often. but everybody there knew when she was displeased about something and people who worked in her favor tended not to last very long in the reagan white house because she essentially saw herselfau as they are to wah her husband's back. that he was someone who really didn't have much of an appetite for sort of interpersonal conflict or these metals in it that really she had a think a sharper sense of people. as james baker who was chief of staff and then treasury secretary told me, she had
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incredible radar. hers was better than her husband. there's so much here so i would love to start at the beginning. cathy: if you took an incredibly deep dive into nancy's childhood instability of her home life, larger-than-life power edith it was largely absent during critical years. her father you had no role in her life, and the stepfather, doctor davis who ultimately gave her the stability in left she craved. tell us about beyond nancy davis. karen: you're right, she was born, the product of a bad match between a very ambitious actress and a car salesman hill very shortly after birth, they go their separate ways. in her mother shortly after that, leave us a little baby
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name and francis robin in the care of relatives. and so for the next six years, of her life she just yard for this absent mother. and as her son and ron told me, another people pointed out to me, sort of cast a shadow on her spirit. sort of insecurity but never really leaves her credit is one of the reasons she was so complex. she believed that no matter how successful they were, there was always sort of a trapdoor in life rated than any minute the bottom and can all out and certainly, that is underscored two months after they get to the white house where she almost loses her husband it to the sansone bullet. she was a somebody who actuallyb shared a lot about herself.
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she was not one, her own children didn't really know all that much about her childhood. early the insecurity and instability that the lingering effect was hard tissue left her with. and her mother had actually abandoned her party to but i do find if you don't mind until one speech she gave in 1986, a boys town the famous orphanage near omaha. they were only during her pet under the day for her drug efficacy. and she says to these 400 children who come from you know, foster care robin elms pretty she said something really remarkable in the speech. it was a moment of vulnerability and openness and candor that really struck me. was she says is, the reason i am
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here today because of the award, it's because of you and there was a time when i didn't quite know where i belonged either rated when it wished for more than anything else in the world was a normal family. indeed what knows what happens when you are designed to mutually start closing the heart to people. because that is how you got hurt in the first place. you open your heart and another thing that happened, as you stop trusting people because somewhere along the way they probably didn't live up to your trust. and there's another thing that happens we have t been hurt. you start to think, you are not worth much. but how can i be worth anything if someone would treat me in this terrible way. so i understand why you would feel beaten down by a tall predict anything when you look at that and you look at the instability of ronald reagan's childhood as a son of an alcoholic to the family from one
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uncertain situation into another read you really realize, what is the basis for this incredible le story, this incredible bond between the reagan's. and that is in each other, they finally found a security, validation and that not really that the two of them had craved. so while this also explains kind of the insecurity of nancy reagan and the complexity of nancy reagan. i think it also explains her fearlessness. how she was absolutely fearless when she detected it anything that could possibly jeopardize the happiness and wholeness that that she and ronald reagan finally realized in each other. cathy: in that leads perfectly into my next question which is that we have all read and heard so much aboutha the reagan's me.
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in the evolution of their love story. and if you revealed in the book, ronald reagan was not in a great place in hisis life for his carr when the met. your books suggest that he was broken inside and that his heart was in a deep-freeze you say. she was loving and patient and his ron would like to write,ov nancy moved into my hearts and replaced an emptiness that i had been trying to embark on a very long time. share a little bit about the early years of the parts of the math on the marriage and of course the pitiful eloquent love letters that he sent her over the lifetime together and all of which she said by the way can tell us more. karen: so the fall of 1949, they have a supposedly blind date. i found evidence that nancy davis, young actress newly arrived in the mg lot and
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gmactually sorta been trying to make their paths cross long before that. but she opens the of her apartment last night. the sibling away that either she or ronald reagan could have begun to imagine the future delay had for the two of them. he was nectar, his career was really starting to scrape bottom. his first wife to his shock and dismay had essentially got bored with him and walked out. her star was on the rise. and really in ways he was still carrying a torch for jane and he did have the scars of his own childhood and he was quite literally a broken man as he stood there unto crutches on nancy davis' doorstep and thigh
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bone had been broken in a charity baseball came partied and spent the last couple of months and traction. i was later say, if nancy davis cannot come along when she did. i would've lost my soul. he is not somebody who is ready to settle down or even it to open his heart. i think because of her incredible radar, key sentencesn that she's going to have to wait this guy out. and at one point his mother, nelly even tells her that she says, to nancy who she likes a lot better than she ever like jane wyman andnd she said that i can see you fancy you are in love with him but he is not in love with you yet. you're going to have to wait and you will know when he loves you but you are going to have to wait. and she does. patiently and gently, take
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several years for him sort of come around and finally commit himself. if i found the early years of the reagan marriage fascinating as well. we've talked about as you reference interesting movie roles. the arrival of children, the bustling home life, ronald reagan begins traveling the country on behalf of general electric. speaking to audiences all over america owning his message and his speaking style and listening to issues that matter to working americans. to know led to the realization the ronald reagan connected one very real intimate way with people. and that it all took off. campaigns, sacramento, more campaigns, and in the white house. tells about those busy formative years that really prepared to the reagan's life as public figures. and force nancy f rules and allf the desecrated. karen: they really are scraping bottom.
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essentially financially and at one point, reagan agrees to probably what was the most humiliating professional endeavor, he becomes the mc of a portion las vegas. shortly after that, this new opportunity to go into television as a host of general electric theater comes along. this is something that a few years before that, ronald reagan would not have considered as he writes in one of his books. why would anybody pay to see somebody in a theater. i they could see it home for free and television. it's a sign off how sorta desperate they are created in the show takes spot and it also as part of the deal is he travels the country. tens of thousands of general electric employees doing promotional things for the company. that is really where he discovers his own gift as a
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politician. the people he has many in the late 1950s, the exact same people would later become the reagan democrats. but this puts an incredible stress on his life he had two small children, and is dealinghi with things from the earlier marriage. sort of in the course ofe that, these letters, these incredibly passionate letters become so important. if you don't mind, i would love to well so many of these letters are hot. cathy: please do. karen: okay this is one that he writes are in 1963. so this point they had been married for over aed decade. and he writes her, do you know that when you sleep, you curl your fists up under your chin and many mornings when is barely
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gone, i like looking at you until finally i have to touch you ever so slightly pretty won't wake up but touch you and must or i will burst. i'm probably this letter will reach you only a few hours before i arrive myself notri really because right now as i tried to say what is in my heart, my thoughts must be reaching for you without waiting for paper and ink and stamps and such. if i ache it is because we are part and yet they can't be because you are inside in a part of me. so we really are not a part at all. yet i ache because it would not be without the eight because b that would mean being without you and that i cannot be because i love you. anyway there are just dozens and dozens and dozens of these incredibly passionate letters and there are telegrams, and she is stating every one of them in
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a shopping bag in her closet. ronald reagan in many ways eloquent as he was as a speaker, on paper i found a place, even more so. cathy: in these beautiful letters to actual be compiled into a book predispute one that is right. ... ... other, and by the way they speak a little bit to the stress that's going on at home, he also keeps promising her that the wrong separation on them that this won't last forever and
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at one point he writes i just wish we could go to the farm, that would be the ranch that he had then and put barbed wire behind the whole thing and neither of us would ever leave without the other. even though the reagan's had been in public life for many years, and nothing prepared them for washington life in the media scrutiny that followed. you spend a lot of time in the book on nancy reagan's relationship with the ups and downs of her approval rating and her frustration about be misunderstood, as you alluded to earlier, the portrait of a shadow socialite drawn by her critics >> and that would be replaced by one of the calculating powers on both foreign and domestic. at concluded at one point american never quite figure out what to make of her. she was in a public relations
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tug-of-war. wasn't she? >> and that conundrum to me is how this woman who was so incredibly shrewd and incredibly sensitive about protecting her husband's image and almost always dead on the market by his image. and is clueless about her own. she brings a lot of her problems on herself. in thehe middle of the worst recession since the great depression for her to be going out and spend a lot of donated money. and then to spend it on a thousand dollar place setting china that they will play catch up as a vegetable for lunch menus.
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and how she brings all of this upon herself. and then to become a threat to her husband successful also in against the context of her time and is a proudly traditional wife if you see how shrewd she is to understand her own power. that this is set against the backdrop in sacramento and the turbulence of the sixties there is a burgeoning feminist
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movement. everything that it is that they were rebelling against. and younger women. and that midcentury housewife they were trying toea shake that it is interesting because that is the heart of the book. and she rescues the white house as the husband's presidency is she engineered the shakeup of the white house staff beginning with the firing of the chief of staff don reagan
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and also convinces her husband and then admit to herself and traded arms for hostages. this is where shifted all of a sudden and is getting applaudedau by her feminist critics if those were true first and foremost she saw herself as the protective of her physical well-being keeping an eye on the people around him a very sharp sense
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of who was serving the president he was helping the president and promoting that ronald reagan may not have shared. >> the defining moments of the reagan presidency occurred on m. when a deranged gunman took nearly took the life of present reagan as hes was leaving an event at washington hotel. it's hard to believe it has been 40 years since that day. that crisis changed everything especially for nancy. nothing can ever happened to my ronnie. my life would be over. while the world did not know it at the time how close he really came to death. ronald reagan was spared and he believed there was a higher purpose to his life. going forward he would be
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dedicated to that. nancy on the otheran hand was haunted playing with fear something like that could happen again. tell us about that moment. how she learned the news and how she had to carry that horror with her afterwards. >> i really did try to take the reader minute by minute and what that day was like for her. ahead of her secret service detail over the command center at the oval office there has been a shooting at that point they were told said roth have - -it rawhide is codename, hasn't been hit that he knows that nancy we - - nancy reagan has to get the news from him not any other way so he sprints up to the residence doesn't even wait for the elevator and gets
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there g and as soon as he says there has been a shooting she has to the elevator says i have to get to him and he says he's at the hospital so wait if he's not heard then why is he at the hospital he said i don't know maybe they are checking onn the wounded but please stay here mrs. reagann. we don't know what's going on he will be home soon and he is fine. she doesn't listen she says i will walk to the hospital if i have to so at that point they bring a car. by the time she gets there michael meetsee them outside and informs her in fact the president hasth been shot so she goes in and sees her husband lying naked under a sheet with a bunch of doctors around him
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she is the h daughter of a neurosurgeon and immediately knows how serious this is normally his ready cheeks are just - - and he says he's trying to calm her down which she immediately understands what happened and so for the rest of her life actually she is never sure that whenever he steps outside of the white house that there isn't some other treachery waiting for him and i think it's really important to understand that because she didn't have the same kind of grounding in religious faith that the president did. so later with the most insatiable and controversial role chapter that she has been
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relying on an astrologer that she has barely met in person to help determine thelp president schedule, it doesn't make sense of it that you can understand this is a woman that is just grasping onto anything she can find to give yourself some feeling for control so very good friend at the secret service from there on out so there is a lot of tension between the secret service and the political people because they always want the president to be out there touching people and the secret service if they would have their way they were put them in saran wrap and not let anybody near him.
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but i was told the secret service agent said whenever we were concerned about something all we had to do was go to mrs. reagan. so shifting gears as first ladies throughout history nancy reagan chose a cost to embrace while in the white house. for her it was the anti- drug cards. she knew she had a platform. and she knows the simple phrase just a no was not a solution it's easy for people to remember and it caught on. but the issueen was complicated and often filled with doubt to tackle such thorny issue and to the message and how she in the and reflected by saying thosesa provided me the most for filling years in my blood - - of my life.
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it sounded simplistic. and how she got the message out every way that she could. and you cannot doubt her own devotion to thisi cause. and to the sixties and when she was in california to see what drugs had done to the family. a lot of her friends. and just how effective that really was in it is a project called monitoring the future which really is the longest
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best long-term tracking of young people's attitudes towards drugs so most rethinking is not a big deal. if you follow the data it really changes then it starts to shift back little more once nancy reagan is on the team that and joe california who was hhs secretary undercard the on - - carter and he agrees that he put nancy his board. but she would do things that
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no small amount of heartburn was within her husband's administration. one of the things she does knew the end of the presidency and gives a speech at the united nations forgot that point the reagan administration was trying to crack down on people overseas supplying drugs to thishi country. and nancy reagan gets up there against the wishes of many of her own husband's administration and says wait a minute. that's only part of it. cracking down in the cocoa field of south america we have to look at the investment banker who goes out on his lunchoe hour to score a little cocaine. the demand side has to be
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dealt with and scholz told me afterwards, a lot of people from other countries came up and thanked her for her delivering a message that even in her own husband's administration didn't want to t hear. part of the blame is the demand and also not just a law enforcement issue. we really need to change social attitudes. >> and when you talk about george schultz i would love to just go back to the cold war for one more minute before we move on. have all the things that nancy wanted to see her husband achieve as president ending the cold war stood above the others. you write improving us soviet relations became nancye special cause. ronald reagan despised everything about communism and
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with a new kind of leader in gorbachev you have spoken about the role of george schultz that can you talk about how the right man for the moment and how nancy reagan worked behind the scenes to pave the way for peace? >> i don't think it was anything a great strategic sense on her part to feel so deeply about this. but one is that she wanted her husband to go down in history as a great president and a peacemaker. she really believed this was his role. she also made political sense that those that liked ronald reagan were afraid that perhaps he was a little too close on the trigger which she also understood something that
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many people did not about ronald reagan which is that along with his harsh anti-communist rhetoric there was an idealism to ronald reagan. and was philosophy of armageddon and the idea was to envision a world without nuclear weapons. and that something she understood and this is truly a marriage. and then to get them to tone down the rhetoric. and then she returned to the soviet union as an evil empire and i have a pretty hilarious scene of the two of them arguing over dinner one night.
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that she does understand with gorbachev he potentially and could work with him on this and actually pushing for this and by the way the reservations of that hawkish hardliner in her husband's own administration and caspar weinberger said in one of the oral histories that i read, she really hadn't was a lot more willing to trust the soviets and a lot of us were because she had a lot of faith in her husband's ability as a negotiator. as pros on - - president reagan wrote his letter with his diagnosis of alzheimer's
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talking about embarking on the final chapter of theirir love story. even the harshest critics would acknowledge the grace and determination she would show when her devotion was put to the greatest test. to see nancy strength the nation would gain a new appreciation on - - appreciation of her character never again would anyone doubt the adoring gaze that she affixed on her ronnie for all of those years was anything but genuine. she would become one of the most admired women in the country. i think a lot of us watched the way she cared for him as the ultimate expression of their marriage bows and devotion. i remember how fiercely protected she was of him. and how talk about how difficult that was for her. >> it is the cruelest disease that you can imagine. both reagan's assumed closing
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in on 80 but he is the only living president to complete two terms in office and leave office of high approval ratings. it doesn't look like the golden years are going to be warm and wonderful and reminiscing on all the things they have done together. then shortly afterwards, he becomes or begins to become incapacitated. at first there is a little bit of denial. she doesn't realize he is going down long road that she cannot follow him on. but then she comes to accept it and the physical caretaker of his dignity. she becomes very concerned because she has had breast
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cancer she is very concerned about finances. she is afraid he will outlive her and she wants to make absolutely sure that the resources are there for him to be taken care of and his dignity maintained. what is also interesting and this is why the library becomes so important to her. she also becomes the caretaker of his legacy. other presidentses survived decades after they are out of office. they have a chance too begin to write for themselves what history will think of them. ronald reagan is denied that. so it really becomes nancy reagan's job to make sure that what history sees of him is
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true to him and his values and his vision. so the library becomes extremely important to her in doing that. she wants to make sure it has the resources it needs. she also finds other ways to makeke sure that history remembers ronald reagan in a way that is true to ronald reagan. she is suspicious of the reagan wannabes that want to use his name and image for his own agenda and she does something that i found fascinating which is while on the one hand, among conservatives, ronald reagan becomes an icon. she resist with this
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perception among liberal scholars and historians on - - historians. he was reading lines that other people wrote for him. to be perceived as an actor. so she decides the very best is to put out there his thoughts and values in his own handwriting. very few presidents have done is real-time diaries so people can see in his own hand what he was thinking at these crucial junctures. she publishes lettersis at one
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point as he was getting ready to run for president and you can see in reagan's own hand that these were his thoughts and values. and that this library she didn't want it to be monument but to point the way to the future. and then where george w. bush lays out the vision for foreign-policy i can't even count how many republican presidential debates havebl been held in those programs that it still puts on with this
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frustrating epidemic going on. >> thank you for saying that. both patty and ron spoke so eloquently at nancy's funeral in 2016. i hope you will indulge me for a moment if i read some of their words that were so poignant. >> my parents were two halves of a circle closed tight around the world the love for each other was all they needed. while they might include no one truly cross the boundary into the space they held as they are. >> then ron spoke and followed with this. >> if my mother had one great talent, she knew how tod love and she loved one man more than the world.
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and then they look out across the valley my father would tell her that the lights are the jewels and that the stars turn overhead as they always wished it to be. resting in each other's arms, only eachly other's arms till the end of time. >> i don't think it could be said any better. are there any final words you would love to leave us today about nancy davis reagan her legacy and love for her husband and fascinating life? please do. >> i waited encourage people to read the book and come to it the way i came to it when i was researching it and writing it which is what you thank you know about and francis robbins
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or nancy davis or than later nancy reagan it is a complicated and painful story. but ronald reagan chosews well and his partner for life. and i do think the country owes him a debt for that. >> what you say about someone who gives your life meaning? what you say about someone who was always there with support and understanding? someone who make sacrifices so your life will be easier and more successful? what you say is you love that person and treasure her. [applause]
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i simply cannot imagine the last eight years without nancy. the presidency when have been the joy it has been for me without her beside me in that second-story living quarters in the white house with that big and lonely spot without her waiting for me at the end of every day. she went said a president has all kinds of advisers and experts who look after his interest with form policy or the economyhe or whatever. but nobody looks after the needs as a human being. nancy has done that. every president should be so lucky. [applause]
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i think it's all too common in marriages no matter how much partners love each other, they don't think each other enough and i suppose i don't think nancy enough for all she does for me. nancy come in front of all your friends today let me say thank you for all you do. thank you for your love, and thank you for just being you. [cheers and applause] >> the book is the triumph of nancy reagan. out tomorrow on sale everywhere. by simon & schuster. thank you so much for joining us today.
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technology, and powering opportunities in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. jason riley, it is a pleasure to be with you. we've been together on my radio show. you have made a number of videos and i read you in "the wall street journal." you are pretty ubiquitous in my life. i just want you to know that. >> thank you. good to be here. >> you have done a service to the intellectual life of america by writing a biography of thomas soul, and i will begin in an odd way how do you explain. nevertheless, i want your answer, how do you explain that one of the


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