Ronald Reagan Over 51 Years: A Study 1943-1994 A Private Picture of a Public Man
Highlighting His Development, Philosophy, Assessments and Personal Thoughts Highlights of a Remarkable Correspondence
In 1943, just two years after he had played George Gipp in the classic Knute Rockne, All-American, Ronald Reagan’s career as a movie star was at its height. As did so many others, a 13 year old fan from Philadelphia named Lorraine Makler joined his fan club. Now Reagan was different from so many other actors in that he actually took time from his busy schedule to write to his fans, rather than pawning the job off on his secretary, and he wrote Lorraine words of warm welcome. She was thrilled, and the fact that he had reached out and touched her had a powerful impact. She began to write him regularly, and he continued to answer her. Her letters were interesting and his were sincere and personal, not just fluff.
Over the first years, as Reagan continued to respond to her in a manner she found meaningful, Lorraine Makler became intensely loyal to him. He apparently sensed this, and thought well enough of her to confide some very intimate feelings when Jane Wyman filed to divorce him in 1948. He also made some fascinating comments on issues he faced as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947-52.
In 1950, when Reagan’s home town of Dixon, Ill., honored him, Lorraine was there along with her new husband Elwood Wagner (“Wag”), whom she had met because he was also a Reagan Fan Club member. The Wagners attended all of the Dixon ceremonies, and got to spent time with Reagan. They also came to know Reagan’s mother, Nelle, who took a liking to Lorraine and wrote her numerous letters. Sensing Lorraine’s intense loyalty to her son, she had the Wagners to her home in California, where they also saw Reagan himself. By now, it was clear that the relationship between “Ronnie” (as he had Lorraine call him) and Lorraine was out of the ordinary.
Reagan’ political activity in the S.A.G. and his public anti-Communist stance put him in the public eye, and he began to draw fire. Here is where the correspondence between Reagan and Wagner began to fill with issues. She reacted to attacks on him in print by writing to the magazine or newspaper. She would first ask Reagan questions about his beliefs and statements, and use his answers to mount a complete and detailed defense of her friend. For example, when Drew Pearson attacked Reagan in 1950, it was Lorraine who handled the defense and set him straight. This was loyalty writ large, and Reagan came to see that Lorraine could be useful as well as loyal. This helps explain the political content and detail of the letters Reagan sent her. Fortunately, Lorraine Wagner retained file copies of her letters to Reagan, so the context of the vast majority of his responses can be determined.
Ronald Reagan is a man who has always been loyal to his friends, and he counted Lorraine Wagner among them. This correspondence says a lot about the man, and puts the lie to the often heard accusations that he is an elitist, a man interested only in the wealthy. Lorraine spent her career as a clerical worker, living in a modest house in a modest part of Philadelphia. She had no claim to wealth or power.
During the 1950’s, as both families were involved in raising young children, and Reagan spent so much time on the road for G.E., they mostly exchanged presents and communicated on holidays. The letters are far between. However, with the 1960’s came the Goldwater campaign, the rise of Reagan’s own political fortunes and his election as Governor of California. These exciting times brought him back into close contact with Lorraine, and initiated a lengthy period of frequent correspondence which continued though his first serious bid for the presidency in 1976 up to his successful run in 1980. Important issues were discussed and the letters are of great historical significance.
Despite the calls on his time, Pres. Reagan had the Wagners to the White House on three occasions, and kept in touch with Lorraine by mail. He no longer had the opportunity to correspond as frequently, nor at as great length, but clearly enjoyed their visits and letters.
All of this changed when he left office. As the retired President thought of their long relationship and his own career and achievements, his letters to Lorraine came more often and are compellingly interesting retrospectives. He comments on such topics as the start of his political career, Gorbachev and the USSR and Pres. Bush’s part in his administration. These letters continued right up to 1994, when ill health forced him to cease corresponding. At that point, Lorraine and “Ronnie” had been writing each other for an amazing 51 years!
His correspondence with Lorraine Wagner therefore covers Reagan’s entire political career, and undoubtedly provides as intimate a view of the man and his philosophy as can be found. This private picture of a public man will affect how people think about Ronald Reagan, and no biography of him will be complete without knowledge of the contents of these letters.
There are also many letters from Nancy Reagan, including one written right after her husband was shot in 1981. Reagan’s mother and children Maureen, Patty, and Ron are represented as well.
The Rigors of Labor Negotiating. November 29, 1946. “What's a fellow going to do when they don't even give me time to get a night's rest, I mean the studio and the unions. I'm getting to be an old man, no foolin'.”
The Actors Strike. January 24, 1947. “The strike's still on, still the many meetings, so we don't have much social life, it's all a "pain in the neck."
How He Got the Nickname “Dutch”. 2/30/47. “Speaking of make-up I don't even use it in pictures any more. I keep brown enough so it isn't necessary and am I ever glad. Dutch is the name I carried to college and as a sports announcer on WHO.”
He Can’t Believe Jane Wyman Doesn’t Love Him Anymore. 1/8/48. “Janie is still a pretty sick girl, but I'm still hoping that things will be different when she gets over the nervousness, so don't listen to things you hear, please. I know she loves me, even though she thinks she doesn't… Keep your fingers crossed for me. Thanks for writing.”
His Dear Sister Dies. 2-21-48. “My little adopted sis Lulamae Imhoff passed away last Sunday A.M. I can't seem to get out of the daze. I really loved her as my sis.”
Old Man Reagan. September '48. “Guess you know without my writing that you are most heartily welcomed by old man Reagan: be lost without all you swell gals, honest I would.”
Send Gifts to the Less Fortunate. 9/26/48. “You know I won't be a bit pleased if any of the members send me a gift, or gifts at Christmas time. I am anxious that this money they spend on me would go instead to the less fortunate, it's the only thing to do, while there's so much suffering in the world and I have everything I need. I'll do my part and send a donation when it comes nearer the time which will be very soon.”
Reagan is Elated That Truman is Elected President. 11/13/48. “Yes indeed, I was happy about the election. I'm sure Truman, with a Democratic congress, will do lots to make things better in every way, and what a landslide it was for him, the votes boy! It was great…Well, there comes a time when the best of friends must say goodbye, and that time has come now, but instead I'll say "I'll be seeing you, Lorraine"
He Intends to Settle Some Political Scores, and is Out of Work. 9/21/49. “Guess maybe you'll be glad to know that I was elected pres. for the 4th term of the S.A.G. and a bunch of us have a few things to settle with V.P. in New York. Have you heard how Warner's have turned me out. I'm under contract to them or just one picture a year, they decided I wasn't a very big drawing card, and are afraid to risk giving me good parts… I can sign up with any of the studios since I'm freelancing… Was I ever happy to reach the old USA. I hope I can stay in California the rest of my life.”
Reagan Buys His Famous Ranch. 3/29/51. “I've been scouting around to find a larger ranch…boy of boy, wait till yo see the one I bought. It's a honey, great big ranch nearer the ocean, swimming pool and everything, feel like a kid with a new toy.”
Reagan is Grateful That Lorraine Defends His Record of Anti-Communism, While He Maintains the Cause of Actors Against the Press. July 12 (1951). “I'm really grateful to you for championing my cause – actually it is the cause of all actors. Your letter is so "on the nose" I'm taking it to our "Motion Picture Industry Council" to show them how different the "voice of our public" from the nagging voices of our "gossiping buzzard brigade…He assumes that you have charged him with Communist sympathies. You did nothing of the kind – you cited my anti-Communist record and urged that because of it I deserved some consideration…His charge that he can show you stories that I censured! Of course he can. But he doesn't explain that the only stories I get (or any actor) to censure are interviews in which we are being quoted. What if his interviewer has me "saying" things I didn't say in the interview certainly I change them – this is certainly my privilege…Anyway you have most of the facts, as many as I can think of and I have faith in your good judgement. In writing to him may I remind you of something my pop once told me – "there is one kind of contest you should never get into with a skunk."
He Already Feels the Press is Irresponsible, and Calls Lorraine a “Champion Without Equal.” Aug. 8 (1951). “With regard to your questions, in an “off-the-record” discussion with several people I did mention or clarify what I meant by irresponsible press”. However, I have never mentioned the name of any individual or publication to the press and the stories quoting me as doing so are completely false…Now as to the "Producers Association". This is the organization responsible for our voluntary sponsorship code… It is because we the actors feel this group hasn't set a high enough standard that we are going to (in our negotiations) tell them of our problems.”
G.E. Sets Him on the Road to Politics as His Acting Career Declines. Sept. 13 (1954). “I'm up to my neck in this G.E. business… They want me to visit some of the G.E. plants this fall…You usually settle for any passable role if the script looks like a good story. I know one shouldn't but the search for material is so tough it works that way.”
Reagan’s First Major Intervention in a Conservative Cause (the Controversy with Drew Pearson Over Socialized Medicine) Draws Nation-Wide Attention (and Calls for Him to Run for Office). July 13 (1961). “Very simply I'm in favor of helping those who need help. In the last session of Congress…we adopted the measure…known as the Kerr-Mills bill. This provides federal funds for the states to furnish medical care for the aged…Now I'm in favor of this bill, and if the money isn't enough I think we should put up more. However the groups lobbying for the King…want a compulsory health insurance program tied on to Social Security for all senior citizens whether they need it or not. These people are so wild-eyed and misinformed…The Socialist magazine says it is the first step they must have to bring about eventual socialized medicine…I am not opposed to providing medical care for those who really need it and can't afford it but do not believe in compulsory health insurance or a government bureau for people who don't need it or who have incomes or even a few million dollars tucked away… Incidently you won't find the threat of socialism spelled out in the bill, it never is. It comes about through the rules and regulations the Department of Health, Education and Welfare put into effect to administer the bill.”
Reagan Wants Aid Programs Administered at the State Level as Opposed to Creating New Federal Government Agencies. Aug.16 (1961). “Whatever the govern-ment provides, it will be paid for by the people through taxes. The increase in Social Security taxes to finance the King bill will apply to all of us not just old people. I simply believe the other program administered at the State level can be more economical and efficiently managed than if we create a vast new government bureau in Washington. All history indicates this is what happens every time the federal government invades a new field. With reference to socializing of medicine and what it will mean to freedom of doctors we must look beyond immediate bills which serve only as a foot in the door… we can no more have partial socialism than a person can be a little bit pregnant.”
He Battles Communists in Hollywood and They Fight Back, Then Insists on Portraying Prayer Over the Objection of Atheists. June 3 (1962). “I had to fight right down to the wire to make the Communists villains. When I say "fight" I mean really that. On our producing staff the liberal view that Communism is only something that "right wingers" dreamed up prevails, and they literally resorted to sabotage to pull the punch out of the show. Two individuals including the director wanted to cut the whole scene about the little girl saying her prayers. Finally in a near knock down drag out, they admitted their objection was because they were atheists. Twas a merry time we had.”
On the Death of His Beloved Mother. Aug.15 (1962). “Mother's passing was peaceful and without pain, just a matter of going without waking. I'm sure it was what she wanted, too, because these past few years have found her unable to do any of the things that had always made her life meaningful.”
Reagan Opposes Censorship of News Reporting. Nov. 20, 1962. “I don't think straight news reporting should be edited or censored. For example, out here ABC taped an interview with a newspaper editor about the Hess broadcast, but then edited the tape in such a way that the broadcast appeared favorable to Hess when actually it had gone the other way.”
His Autobiography Will Tell the Story of the Communist Assault on Hollywood. July 25, 1963. “It is autobiographical. The publisher wanted it that way in order to get at the story of the Screen Actors Guild and some of the communist assault on Hollywood.”
Reagan Wants to Help Those Less Fortunate. January 2, 1964. “So much good fortune has been ours we feel we should do more and receive less.”
On the Supreme Court, School Prayer, Goldwater and the 1964 Election. June 16, 1964. “A concerted campaign has been made to keep people from knowing where he [Goldwater] really stands…With regard to the Prayer Amendment…we have only an interpretation by the Supreme Court…The Constitution is pretty explicit that Congress shall do nothing to create a State church. Our Congress has made no such law so what is affecting us today is an interpretation by the Court that in itself assumes the power of law, and…violates the Constitution in that it restricts religious practice by refusing to allow a child to say a prayer while on public property. The suggested amendment is…a clarification so that the Constitution would spell out that we could pray voluntarily, any place and at any time…I am for it…because this Court has gone a long way toward taking over the functions of Congress with regard to making laws.”
Reagan on Civil Rights and Goldwater’s Record of Helping Minorities. July 2, 1964. the assault against him has now reached such a point of desperation that there seems to be no conscience whatsoever with regard to ignoring things he has actually said… he did his best to explain that he was for civil rights but against obtaining civil rights at the cost of invading certain basic rights of all citizens of both races. I don't know whether you know this, but I think you should, that curiously enough Barry has a fantastic record of personal involvement in behalf of negroes long before he ever got in politics…he had desegregated the [Phoenix] airport, desegrated the National Guard, I believe the first State where this was accomplished, desegrated the schools in Arizona and was the first employer to hire a negro secretary. The NAACP made him an honorary member. All of this they seem to have forgotten. He didn't confine his work to just this particular racial problem. His efforts in behalf of the Indians in Arizona have made him the most beloved white man on the Reservations. He is the only life member of a Mexican American Legion Post, and this happened as the result of his work to get a better break for Mexican Americans…I think it's wonderful of you to keep an open mind but also to make such an effort to find out the facts on all sides. I wish there were more of you and less people operating on just plain predjudice.”
Why Reagan Opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Says That Free, Private Investment is What the Poor Countries Need to Take Them to Prosperity. August 4, 1964. “I personally believe that the present civil rights bill is purely an emotional bill based on political expediency. You will find that many of the things the bill supposedly does are already covered by law, and that the problem has been unwillingness to enforce existing laws. The main point that caused concern in the present legislation… was the dangerous precedent now established that a man is guilty when charged and must prove his innocence…One of the great advances in human relationships under our Constitution was the idea that a man is innocent and his guilt must be proven by the State beyond the shadow of a doubt. Under this new bill any individual can charge the proprietor of a cafe, or bar, or hotel, or an employer with discrimination, and the man accused is guilty as charged until and unless he can prove the charge is false. I personally believe the danger in this far outshadows the evil we are trying to correct…The U.N. question is too complicated…No one, including Barry, suggests locking the door and closing up shop, but no one in the beginning even contemplated a U.N. in which some sixty new and very uneducated Nations such as the new African States, with a total population between them less than that of the United States, could outvote the United States sixty to one…On the basis of what we did in Africa, the U.N. could today actually demand the right to move into the South and take action on our racial problems…I think Barry's point with regard to foreign aid is aimed at a bigger or higher level of national policy, for example pointing out that our great prosperity and wealth was the result of free, private investment, without government cartels, controls and the State monopoly now practised in so many countries.”
Fighting Discrimination is the Individual’s Job, and People Shouldn’t Rely on Laws. September 8, 1964. “[Barry and I] are not in disagreement at all about injustice or the need to do something for people who are the victims of injustice, but aren't we toying with a very great danger, namely that of deciding the end justifies the means. Once we accept this, regardless of how noble the end, we have opened the door for almost every kind of mischief…Take for example an apartment house. Rather than pass a law that says to the proprietor he cannot manage his property, doesn't the real respon-sibility lie with the individual tenants…saying, if this building has rules discriminating against people because of race or religion I won't live here. Sometimes it seems to me that a lot of well meaning people who feel strongly about intolerance, don’t feel strongly enough to stand up and be counted as individuals to make a fuss, so they feel a law can remove this responsibility from them and thus they can have what they want without having to take an individual stand…Some years ago I faced this decision with regard to a country club that barred membership to one group on the basis of religion. I resigned and stated reason for resigning…You'd be surprised what a follow up effect there was & how many people decided that it was their individual responsibility also.”
He Confides That He Will Run for Governor. 5/65. “I know it's confusing but think of it this way – no one can say "yes,” he's gong to run this early. So, you say yes but also you say maybe…I'm fairly certain I will – run that is.”
Announcing His Imminent Candidacy.12/24/65. “I’ll be making the big announcement on statewide television here on January 4. From then on I guess it’ll be for real.”
Reagan’s Motive in Running for Office is to Preserve America for Future Generations. Feb. 13 (1966). “I hope you believe me when I say that my decision to enter the political race was because I want so much to help preserve this wonderful country for you and the Skipper and all the young Americans. There are so many things to be thankful for in America, so many things that must not be lost; our right to go to different churches, have our own ideas on government, choose our friends and what kind of work we'll do when we've finally finished our school days. If some of us help keep this for you, I know you'll keep it for other young people when you grow up.”
He Begins to Realize the Scope of California’s Problems. December 8, 1966. “Each day I learn more of the problems confronting us and discover things I wish I'd known during the campaign. I didn't say half enough.”
New Governor Reagan Loves His Work. March 20, 1967. “The pace is just as fast… There are bright spots showing through and I think we'll win the battle of higher education…Just between us, I'm having some fun in this job.”
He Reduces the Size of Government Health Programs. 7/27/67. “You mentioned the mental health ruckus. It's just part of the general rebellion stirred up some of the die-hards who resist any reduction in the size of government…The old fashioned concept was really warehousing mental patients – putting them in mental institutions and leaving them there for life. Out here we are curing the curables and thanks to the new tranquillizer drugs do a good job of getting out patients back into a norman life…We have a number of local care centers and the released patients continue getting care and treatment as they go about their daily lives. These local centers are run by the counties with the state putting up most of the money. Incidently we added $6 million to the budget for these local centers this year…All we are doing is reducing employees this year to maintain the present ratio of 2-2/3 patients to one employee. The head shrinkers are upset because they'd like a private room for each patient with around the clock private nurses. That's about all there is to it which proves how easy it is to get a scream of pain when someone's program is stepped on.”
Reagan Insists on Appointees Who Favor Smaller Government. February 15, 1968. “It is true that the Doctor has spent his entire life in government service…his entire approach to the many problems in our welfare situation was always to go for more government instead of less. In other words, if our Medicaid is breaking down, then enlarge it…Please assure your Uncle that my philosophy about medical care for the poor can be stated very simply — no one in this country should be denied medical care because of lack of funds, and no one will be denied such help in California…In reality, the issue with our Public Health Doctor was a simple one of my right to institute the programs that I believe in, and thus my right to appoint the team members who will implement them. If the people don't approve then they get rid of me at the next election. But I don't believe I should be forced to try and put into effect my programs with the past Governor's appointees doing their best to see that they don't work.”
Welfare is a Failure; Its Aim Should Be to Salvage People to Take Care of Themselves. May 31, 1968. “We must rule out taxing property to pay for welfare and education. Property should pay taxes for those services which properly actually receives, such as fire protection, street maintenance, sewers, water, garbage, etc…We have a feeling out here (I do definitely) that welfare is a failure. The aim of welfare should be to salvage people and make them able to take care of themselves. We can't do all we'd like to do because of Federal restrictions, but we have started a pilot program in one city – Fresno. We put all the welfare programs into one package under one director, and we've set it up to take welfare recipients to one end and carry them through screening, analysis of their problems, basic education if that's needed, job training, and finally independence by way of jobs in private industry. In America today there are 458 different welfare and poverty programs, and the only result seems to be more people on the dole, not less.
Reagan Claims That He Would Have Won the Republican Nomination for President if It Had Gone to a Second Ballot. September 3, 1968. “The convention was exciting, and you are right about the first ballot. If he hadn't made it on that one, the ball game was over because of the number of delegates who were pledged for only one round and intended changing votes on the second…Anyway, we'll work our heads off to elect him.”
At the Height of Anti-War Protests, Reagan Advocates Flag-Waving. August 27, 1969. “A little flag waving now and then won't hurt…This whole welfare subject is going to be Nixon's biggest challenge. Right now it's almost totally out of hand.”
On Welfare as a Moral and Philosophical Problem, Vietnam and Peace Talks, the Grape Boycott and Crime. October 7, 1969. “You are right that I meant welfare is the most serious problem domestically. Vietnam of course is in a class by itself…But welfare is getting to be not just an economic problem, but one of philosophy and morality. We're getting like ancient Rome where being poor has become a career as they organize and demand their rights — so called. They become a potent factor as they did in Rome with politicians becoming demagogues in order to win their support…On the Vietnam question, I can't help but feel…Nixon has no intention of going on with the talking while our men are being killed beyond a certain point. I think he is giving every opportunity for the peace talks to work, but at a point in the not too distant future we'll deliver an ultimatum to Hanoi…There has probably been more confusion and outright deception of good people on [the grape boycott] more than on anything else. This is not a legitimate labor move. The farm workers in California are more protected and have higher pay and better working conditions than anywhere in the world. We are a model in that particular sense.”
He Resents the Radical Kids. December 29, 1969. “You know I've always resented the radical kids spoiling the Churchill V for Victory sign by their use of it as an anti-Vietnam gesture.”
He Opposes Homosexuals in Government. April 16, 1970. “You asked why should a suspected homosexual represent a risk in state administration. I agree with you that the national viewpoint is one, of course, based on the security risk — the possibility of blackmail or extortion using this information to get government secrets. Such a thing, of course, is not a threat at the state level, but I think we have to recognize they are still outside the law. While many people are suggesting more open recognition and a change in the laws, their tendencies do have them in violation and, therefore, if exposure comes, there would be a reflection on government.”
His Reelection Campaign is Rough. November 25, 1970. “I can assure you of one thing — when we were sitting inside the President's bulletproof car listening to the rocks bounce off, if it had been a show staged by me I'd have used a double!
On Vietnam, the Brutalization of War and Lieut. Calley. April 23, 1971. “I think the Calley affair is one of the most complex problems we have…At the risk of over-simplification, let me say I think we must accept that some men become brutalized by war. There is no way to know in advance who those men will be. When it happens, you remove the man much as you would remove him for combat fatigue…There is no question that he did wrong. On the other hand, the people we're fighting against, and even those on our own side, have a different standard than ours. They both practice a great cruelty among themselves. Unfortunately, the press, in all these years, has never played up as they did in World War II the savagery and the atrocities performed even on our own men. Not since the Indian wars have we fought an enemy who sent women and children on to the battlefield armed with knives to torture the wounded…It does, somehow, make more understandable the willingness of a man to kill supposedly non-combatant women and children. He is not a hero, but on the other hand, I'm not sure he should be treated as just a wanton criminal. I think he must be viewed as a man who probably could have gone through life without committing a single crime until we exposed him to the brutalizing force if war.”
Nixon is Right to Work With China as a Counter to the Soviets. August 3, 1971. “The situation in the U.N…is, the U.S. can no longer hold down the majority who want to admit Red China. Behind the scenes we have succeeded, however, in making it necessary to have a two-thirds majority to oust the nationalist Chinese. So by backing away on our resistance of the first, we have pretty well guaranteed the continuation of Taiwan in the U.N…Personally, I think the Red Chinese are a bunch of murdering bums. I think the President probably believes the same; but in the big chess game going on, where Russia is still head man on the other side, we need a little elbow room. It was very interesting to note the other day how little attention was paid to the fact that the North Vietnam negotiator from Paris showed up in Peking.”
Reagan Has No Sympathy With the San Quentin Prison Uprising, and Will Oppose Showing Obscene Films on TV. September 8, 1971. “I share your disgust about the news coverage of the San Quentin slaughter, Jackson was a hard-bitten, violent criminal who engineered what was nothing less than a massacre. I wish some of those bleeding hearts could have had to make the phone calls I made to the widows of the guards…Once upon a time the motion picture industry literally had a phone number. We on the Guild could get on the phone and in a short time have a meeting concerning industry problems with the leaders of the entire industry. Today it is scattered hundreds and hundreds of independent producers — too many of them out for a fast buck — and no real cohesive force. I am beginning to see the first little signs that TV might be loosening the bars a little so they can begin showing some of the modern crop of obscene movies. I will be ready to join an organized holler if they do.”
Equal Education Doesn’t Mean Equal Spending on Each Child. April 3, 1972. “The Serrano case…is presently in the courts. It is based on a demand that every school district in a state must spend exactly the same amount on each pupil. I think it's ridiculous. In the first place, it doesn't cost as much to educate a student in a small town as it does in a city. The other danger is that if the decision should hold up, what is to keep the same philosophy from being applied across state lines; that equal educational opportunities means equal spending nationally — in other words, a national school system?”
He Wants to Step Up the Bombing of North Vietnam to Force It to Negotiate Peace. April 24, 1972. “I think the Vietnam offensive you mentioned is pretty plain proof of what the enemy has always been like. This is obviously his answer to the President's offer of a peace plan. Now, I believe we have to bring him to the negotiating table, not by promising to quit bombing, as Johnson did eighteen times, but by carrying on the bombing until he hurts so badly he has to come to the table. Actually, the President has no choice. This is the only way to protect the less than one hundred thousand men we still have there, and who are awaiting transportation home.”
European Leaders Support Nixon’s Approach to Peace. August 16, 1972. “It was good to hear every European leader I met with talk about this President being the first one who was really approaching the problem of peace in a realistic, practical manner. It sounded better than those "Yankee go home" lines we used to hear about.”
A New Saint is Needed to Bring Peace to Ireland, and Bureaucracies Do Sabotage Programs. March 20, 1973. “Thanks for the greeting on St. Patrick's Day. I hope before the next one they'll find an answer to the foolish and tragic killing on the Emerald Isle. Right now another saint is needed…Administrations and even Congress are sabotaged many times by an upper level of the bureaucracy. In our own welfare reforms we had to watch some departments that would carry out the reforms in such a way as to make them appear unworkable. They didn't mind victimizing innocent and deserving welfare recipients in their attempt to create an impression that we were being destructive and unkind. Like you, the people carrying out the orders weren't to blame, but somewhere above them an executive was shorting out Administration policy.”
Reagan Accuses JFK of Stealing the 1960 Election, and Believes That Watergate is Small Potatoes Compared to Other Cases of Presidential Corruption; His New Tax Reduction Initiative Moves Forward. June 22, 1973. “I also share your frustration about Watergate. I have to tell you it is not hard for me to accept that this could have gone on without the President's knowledge. Just judging it by my own much smaller shop. If my staff wanted to keep something of this kind from me, it would be very easy for them to do so…In the world of politics this really, taken in perspective, is not as serious as things where graft and corruption were involved, such as the Bobby Baker case or the Bill Sol Estes case. Then, of course, looking back over the several years to 1960, there now is very much documentation for the charge that the 1960 election was stolen outright, mainly in Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas, Texas…On the other hand, that doesn't make this right. A little group of individuals, we're not sure how many yet but we'll learn it from the court trial, did a very stupid and criminal thing, and I'm sure they're going to be punished…I still have confidence that when the smoke clears we will find the President was not involved… No, the POW's were not bitter, but most patriotic and most supportive of what the President has been doing in the war…Yes, we have gotten all the petitions signed so that our measure will be on the ballot for a tax reduction. It will not reduce government services.”
On the Proposition 1 Tax Initiative. February 8, 1974. “Your uncle, who says Proposition 1 favored the well-to do, has been victimized by the falsehood that property taxes would have to go up and they do hit the lower earner harder. Actually, we have a provision preventing a property tax increase unless the people themselves voted to increase them. The measure only put a limit on the percentage the state could take from the peoples' total earnings.”
He Writes His Own Speeches. October 22, 1975. “I'm still writing my own speeches, although I do have a staff help now on research.”
Reagan Charges Ford With Railroading Delegates at the 1976 Republican Convention. June 14, 1976. “California really outdid our greatest expectations with a win even greater than the '66 Gubernatorial race. We won all but two counties and they were close…This challenging of delegates is standard now with the Ford people. They railroaded both the Arkansas and Kansas conventions in a shameless manner and caught us by surprise. Then can Missouri and we were ready. They challenged 395 state delegates but on Saturday morning were forced to withdraw the challenge. It was a real head to head contest. Ford was there with all the pomp and panoply of his office. I was there minus the p & p. We actually won a clean sweep of all 19 delegates but our people thought we should give up one to their Governor (for Ford) and I agreed. It's a battle now for a single delegate so we'll go after the undecided or the shaky committed…We just picked up three more in Ohio on a recount. In another district there is a delay because of some ballot boxes that had been tampered with.”
Reagan Says Carter is Disturbing and a “Real Phony.” October 26, 1976. “I'm out on the road campaigning as much as I was during the primaries. I have to swallow hard now and then but I keep telling myself that we can at least hold our man to the platform and it is a good platform we can all believe in. Carter disturbs me more than a little. I have a deep-seated feeling that he is a real phony.”
He Dislikes the Tri-lateral Commission Because It is Elitist. Summer, 1978. “Your concern about tri-lateral commission is shared by many, including me. I've enclosed a packet that gives some background as well as a few eyebrow-lifting remarks by a commission member…It isn't a research piece which digs down deep, but it's obvious the tri-lateralists believe there is an elite which should guide the affairs of men.”
Reagan Reveals the Manoeuvering to Make Him the Vice Presidential Candidate in 1976; He Opposes Gun Control; European Leaders are Worried About a Weak America Under Carter. February 15, 1979. “He says I claim to be opposed to gun control but, as Governor, signed an extremely restrictive gun control bill infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens – The Mulford Bill. Well, it is true that I did sign such a bill, but I hardly think it was gun control. The Black Panthers had invaded the legislative chambers in the Capitol with loaded shotguns and held those gentlemen under the muzzles of those guns for a couple of hours…Don Mulford introduced a bill to make it unlawful to bring a loaded gun into the Capitol Building. That's the bill I signed. It was hardly restrictive gun control…Well, I can assure you that the national leaders I met in England, France, and Germany could not hide their concern about us and what we are doing over here. They are extremely concerned and want the solid dependable United States, including the solid, dependable dollar that they once knew…Now, to your question about the vice presidency. The two staffs had agreed that the winner at the convention would call upon the loser. Our people had told the Ford staff that there shouldn't be any talk of the vice presidency if he had anything of that kind in mind.. It was around one o'clock in the morning when Ford got to my suite at the hotel. What I later said on the TV show was that half of the leadership of the party, including my own supporters and the Presidents, came to me on the basis that this was necessary to save the party and win the election. But Nancy and I both knew that that would be virtually impossible to say no to. As a matter of fact, the very next morning my supporters and 29 state chairmen did come to see me asking permission to talk to the President about my being on the ticket in order to strengthen the chances of victory. Before they had gone very far in their approach, the phone rang, and it was Ford telling me he had chosen Dole. So Nancy and I never actually had to face whether we would do it or not, and obviously Ford had no intention of offering it to me. Frankly, I think the Lord was watching out for us because I really didn't want it…”
Friendship With China Need Not Mean Betraying Taiwan. June 12, 1979. “You asked about my affirming support for Red China. I think what he must be referring to it a passage in a speech in which I said that probably all of us, maybe I should have said most, approve of the bettering of relations with mainland China. That was not the issue. The issue was the dumping of a long time friend and ally, the Republic of China on Taiwan, and I then added that we would have everything we now have with Red China without betraying Taiwan.”
The President Sees His Official Schedule as in Control. July 22, 1981. “If somebody were to ask me "What is the most powerful entity on earth?" I believe that my reply would have to be "The official schedule!"
He is Bored by His Deposition in the Iran-Contra Case. March 4, 1990. “My interrogation on the Poindexter case was at worst a few hours of boredom. I had to say "I can't recall" to so many questions – like what I did on November 26, 1986. I was tempted several times to reply by asking the lawyer "where were you three years ago last Friday?" But I didn't.”
Gorbachev is Having Problems at Home, and Reagan is Sympathetic. June 9, 1990. “My visit here with Gorby was short but as usual good. He's having some problems back home with the zealots who don't want to tone down Communism. I hope he wins. He's trying to bring into being some of what we have. I hope he has his way.”
He Calls Himself “the Gipper.” June 30, 1990. “Your greeting was "one for the Gipper."
Reagan is Thrilled, and Convinced That the Nations in the Old Soviet Empire are on Their Way to Democracy and Free Enterprise. October 26, 1990. “Let me tell you, our trip to Germany, Poland and Russia was amazing. In all three countries people on the street would actually applaud and cheer for the USA and this would include high ranking government officials. They are definitely on their way to democracy and free enterprise. I can understand your caution and believe me I agree but I base my opinion on deeds not words, and the deeds are actually visible. In every meeting with Gorbachev I'd hand him some names of dissidents and tell him I was interested in those people. In every case in only a matter of days those people would be allowed in immigrate.”
Reagan Doesn’t Know if Gorbachev and the Reformers Can Prevail in Russia; He Defends S.D.I. and is Pleased to See a Rekindling of American Patriotism. February 16, 1991. “Was my administration responsible for a decision not to use neutron bombs. That is part of S.D.I.- to come up with a defense against nuclear missiles that would render them useless. At the same time we started negotiating limits and reductions of such weapons. There is the I.N.F. treaty where Soviets and us agreed to eliminate such weapons. We are negotiating with the Soviets trying to get a mutual reduction of "strategic" nuclear missiles…You are right about “Desert Storm" kindling patriotism. Yesterday I was at B.Y.U. in Provo, Utah and Salt Lake City. In both towns virtually every house had flags in their windows and even the trees were wrapped in yellow ribbons. And yes, the Patriot Missile is an off-shoot of S.D.I.”
He is Against Employing Women in Combat Roles in the Military. April 1, 1991. “I'm with you with regard to women serving in combat in the military. I'm against it. Even the most primitive tribes back through history did not involve their women in combat. I think our men today are better soldiers if they are fighting in defense of our women.”
NAFTA Will Result in Greater Prosperity in the U.S. and Mexico. May 31, 1991. "How will the free trade policy make more jobs in America?" I'm convinced there will be an increase in trade both ways which will result in more jobs on both sides of the border. Mexican workers will be able to buy more because they'll have more money. I don't have all the specifics but I do now there has been a lot of study and not just by government bureaucrats but by the business community here.”
He Now Feels Optimistic About Russia’s Move Toward Freedom. January 3, 1992. “I've just addressed a letter Mikhail Gorbachev and another to Boris Yeltsin. I'm really optimistic about what's going on in the Soviet Union. My letters were in reply to letters from each of them. I think the Soviets are really working to become free as we are.”
Elder Statesman Reagan Supports His Former V.P. February 11, 1992. “I don't believe I should take sides in the primary, only in the general election. However I personally hope Bush will be the next President.”
He Reminisces About “The Speech” in 1964, the Start of His Political Career, and Credits George Bush With Being an Important Figure in His Administration. March 12, 1992. “Now I come to the "speech." I was still in show business and had no thought of going into politics. Not being able to sing or dance, when I did personal appearances I made speeches. I wrote them myself and went out on the circuit much of the time. During campaign years I went out on a speaking tour on behalf of people I believed should be elected. The "speech" as you termed it was one I'd been delivering at appearances at fundraisers for the Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater…The Republican leadership asked if I would make my speech (and it was mine written by me) on national radio if they bought the time and they paid. I said yes and did the speech. It was very successful and raised $8.5 million for the Goldwater Campaign. Well, after the campaign those same Republican leaders called on me and asked if I would run for governor of California in the coming campaign. I had never given a thought to public life for myself. I was happy to be in show business. They kept after me until Nancy and I were having trouble sleeping. I thought they were crazy. Finally I told them if they'd make it possible for me to accept all the speaking invitations I was getting in California, I'd come back and tell them who should be running for governor and I’d campaign for him. After a few months I discovered the people wanted me to be the candidate. Nancy and I talked it over and I gave in. I was a victim of "the speech"… George Bush was a darn good vice president for me and didn't just sit on the sidelines. He played a major role in everything we were doing.”
On His Battles With the Democratic Congress. August 6, 1992. “We must end this century-old rule of the House of Representatives. I can't tell you the years of up-hill fight I had with the Democratic Congress. This is Bush's problem now and we must find a way to give a Republican President a Congress that is on his side. I truly believe that Bush's problem is one of constant opposition by the "House." Remember that I had eight budgets put on the shelf by a Democratic Congress. They declared every one "dead on arrival."
The Last Letter. June 20,1994. “I am grateful for your friendship through the years.”
The Excitement Surrounding Announcement of Reagan’s Candidacy for Governor. January 12, 1966. “Between the holiday excitement and Ronnie's announcement things have been pretty hectic around here…We're still reeling from all of that. It turned out to be the largest press conference ever held in California! It's quite a feeling to walk into a room filled with 200 newsmen – TV people, national magazines, etc. They're a rough bunch, believe me. Newsweek which came out today was its usual snide self – even needled me by making me four years older than I am and I'm female enough to be mad as the devil! Seems to me that's sinking to a new low – any day I expect them to take pot shots at my children if that's the way they play.”
The Reagans Welcome Support from Frank Sinatra, and Want to Bring as Many Democrats as Possible into the Republican Fold. July 31, 1970. “You asked about the Sinatra support. We, of course, are delighted to get it…If Ronnie's philosophy can help attract people to the cause in which we all believe, then that's all for the good. You don't win elections by excluding people from your party. You win them by welcoming them with open arms, and then further trying to cement the philosophy in which you believe. Republicans could learn a lot from the Democrats in this because they tend to be quite stuffy about it, and I certainly don't see the logic to it at all.”
Philosophical Differences are More Important Than Personal Attitudes. February 1, 1973. “By now I'm sure you know we went to the inauguration and we thought the President's speech was very good. Ronnie was very impressed with your worry – he treated Ronnie very well and with respect. We don't know anything about an abrasive attitude – sometimes people do have that but it seems to me a difference of philosophy is what is really important.”
She Comes to Her Husband’s Defense. October 17, 1973. “Ronnie's comment on the Lou Cannon book was as cryptic as I assume it must have sounded. He hasn't read it nor has he any intention of reading it. It's a very unfair book to both Ronnie and myself, and he tells some stories there, even some on me, that are just absolutely not true. And, no, Ronnie never did say, "Once you're seen a redwood, you've seen them all."
Reagan’s Presidential Campaign Strategy Will Be to Appeal to Liberals, Independents and Democrats as Well as Republicans. November 10, 1979. “A quick note before we start officially on the campaign…we need liberals and conservatives – the same as we needed them in California – a Democratic state where Ronnie had to attract all spectrums of the party plus Democrats and independents – which he did. I think we all get bogged down with labels.”
After the Assassination Attempt, Nancy Thanks God She Still Has Ronnie. June 1, 1981. “Thank God this whole nightmare is hopefully over – I still can't believe it really happened – but God was really sitting on our shoulders – I still have Ronnie.” This wonderful collection is now at the Reagan Ranch.