Behind the Oval Office Doors: The Powerful Archive of Ronald Reagan to his Close Confidant

More than 40 letters and several photographs, many unpublished, dealing with press bias, leakers, religion, support for Israel, women, including Margaret Thatcher, the Challenger disaster, space travel by civilians

Reagan and Morrow in Hollywood and Washington: confidential communication touching on many of the most important people and events of the Presidency: Challenger, Social Security, the press, privacy of the President, taxes, the Supreme Court, God, support for Israel….

“The Space Program has understandably taken great pride...

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Behind the Oval Office Doors: The Powerful Archive of Ronald Reagan to his Close Confidant

More than 40 letters and several photographs, many unpublished, dealing with press bias, leakers, religion, support for Israel, women, including Margaret Thatcher, the Challenger disaster, space travel by civilians

Reagan and Morrow in Hollywood and Washington: confidential communication touching on many of the most important people and events of the Presidency: Challenger, Social Security, the press, privacy of the President, taxes, the Supreme Court, God, support for Israel….

“The Space Program has understandably taken great pride in the Program’s many flight and exploratory achievements. And it has also understandably grieved for the programs failures, few as they have been…”

Douglas Morrow was a Hollywood screenwriter and film producer. He earned an Academy Award for his 1949 script, The Stratton Story, a biography of baseball player Monty Stratton, who was disabled in a hunting accident. Reagan, who catapulted to fame as an actor, became friends with Morrow when Morrow sought to cast him in that part, they remained close friends throughout the Hollywood days and kept in contact through most of his presidency.

Reagan confided in Morrow about his troubles with the press, and when it came time to send a civilian into space, Morrow threw his hat in the ring.  Reagan turned to him before and after the Challenger disaster.

Provenance

This archive was acquired by Raab from the heirs of Morrow and has never before been offered for sale.

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS

The collection includes a number of great rarities from Reagan, including:

  • The only letter of Reagan written from aboard Air Force One we found having ever reached the market;
  • The only letter of Reagan we have found having been offered for sale mentioning the Challenger disaster or the “first teacher” / Christa McAuliffe initiative (there is more than one);
  • The only letter of any President of any other President mentioning his affairs we have found on the market;
  • A powerful and evocative statement on the President’s belief in heaven.

On the Media:

“It goes without saying that Bill Moyers on the CBS special presented a totally dishonest report on poverty. We can refute every heart-rendering experience he portrayed as being the result of our economic program – they weren’t. (April 26, 1982)

“It gets frustrating. A black family back here had a cross burned on their lawn. I visited them. I wanted to do it without press so they couldn’t say (as they did) that I was doing it as an image building device. There was no way I could do it my way. We were a parade all the way.” (January 10, 1983)

“Like Jimmy Durante, ‘I’ve got a million’ of those examples of press dishonesty.” (January 10, 1983)

“Now let me show what we’re up against with the press. You saw coast to cast fire storm – Ronald Reagan wants to tax the unemployed. No one called first to ask if it was true. They never do.  A few weeks ago, as you know, the market dived 36 points in one day.  The TV news that night and the papers next morning trumpeted that it was the biggest loss since 1929 when the market fell 38 points. Then they added – ‘just before the great crash and the depression.  But none of them pointed out that the 36 points were from a Dow Jones of about 1040.  In 1929, the 38 points were from a Dow Jones of only 200.”  (January 10, 1983)

On John F. Kennedy Sneaking Women into the White House

“It’s the South Lawn gauntlet you have to run. Yes a President [alluding to John F. Kennedy] once smuggled pretty little cocker spaniels [women] in and out of the White House but believe me that can done only as long as he’s not with them. Now don’t jump to a false conclusion – I’m not engaged in that sport. But I have been able to meet with some important figures with no press awareness.” (January 10, 1983)

On Leaks from the Administration

“Now let’s get down to the real frustration – the leaks. Doug, I’ve never seen anything like it and we’re trying everything but a ‘plumber’s squad’ to find and clobber the guilty. I’m convinced they are at a lower level and yes they are grinding their own axes with no regard for us or what we are trying to do. They are responsible for the stories of feuds and in-fighting which I assure you are untrue.” (January 10, 1983)

On Campaign Opponents and Democrats:

“The Democrats show signs of marshalling their forces to resist our efforts. So we’ll take our case to the people.” (January 7, 1985)

“You were right about the first debate. I’d heard him [Walter Mondale] peddle so many falsehoods in the course of campaigning, I crammed so that I could rebut with fact and figure. The result was that I left my fight in the locker room. I knew I was flat when the curtain went up.” (Written On-Board Air Force 1, November 17, 1984)

“We agree also about the Soviet Union and the unhappy surprises they can give us along about October. I am sure that they will throw a few bones to insure, if possible, the Carter win. One of those I have been betting on is that in some way they would deliver the hostages prior to the election.” (July 14, 1980)

(On being able to walk on water, politically) “Just give me an ‘overnight’ on the Red Sea but bring your rubbers. The bottom may still be wet. I’ll await your report from China.” (November 10, 1981)

On Space Travel and the Challenger:

[Doug Morrow wanted to be a civilian sent into space] “I’ll continue to plug but don’t over-train. What with the international program plus such things as the ‘first teacher’ idea it looks like there is a waiting line out the building.” [The “first teacher” would be Terry McAuliffe.] (June 26, 1985)

“It’s absolutely incomprehensible to me. Why would anyone want to get any higher off earth than you can get by sitting on horseback.  Seriously, you have made a very impressive case and I intend to put it in the hands of the Director of NASA myself with my own additions about one – Doug Morrow.” (March 5, 1985)

[After the Challenger disaster]. “We do have some problems, the financial one of course but a number of others such as the backlog of various machines to be put in space. We’ve only been able to touch on that and whether a spurt in non-manned launches should be used to reduce the backlog. Now of course we’ve had the recent finding by Jim that the existing shuttles have 44 things that need correcting before they fly again.” (May 19, 1986)

“Wait up a minute. Money isn’t the big delay on the shuttle. Safety is… The next shuttle launch can’t be scheduled until the first quarter of 1988. The study of and testing of the solid rocket boosters are part of the problem. Added to this are safety features on the shuttles themselves which are being studied.” (July 16, 1986)

“As you know, I have been concerned for some time, even prior to the Challenger accident, about a major aspect of the Space Program that has been one of the best-kept ‘secrets’ in America. I refer of course to the literally hundreds of human-oriented technological spin-offs from the program.  The country has been well aware of the various stages of the Space Program. It has understandably taken great pride in the Program’s many flight and exploratory achievements.  And it has also understandably grieved for the programs failures, few as they have been…” (September 11, 1986)

On reaching him privately at the White House

“I get them [your letters] directly if on the envelope above the name you put 16690.”  (July 7, 1981)

On Social Security and Taxes

“The tax on Social Security when there is outside income was one of the steps taken by the bipartisan commission that set out to rescue Social Security from bankruptcy. If we can get our tax reform passed, I believe the new rates plus the doubling of personal exemptions will minimize the tax to a considerable extent.” (June 26, 1985)

“When we came here the program (Social Security) was going bankrupt and would have become so by July of ’83.  I tried to get the situation corrected in ’81 but our Democratic friends claimed there was no problem and then used the issue in the ’82 election – quite successfully I might add. Truth was that Social Security didn’t make it to July ’83. We had to borrow $17 billion to keep sending checks.  Then the Democrats (after the election) came around and volunteered to join in an effort to repair the system.” (June 10, 1985)

On Faith in God:

“We have to trust in God’s infinite mercy and wisdom and know that Angela is in a better and happier world as we’ve been promised” (April 20, 1985)

On Support for Jews and Israel

“On the day of the Sinai return, while I was on the phone to Prime Minister Begin and he was telling me I was the best friend Israel ever had, a group of Jewish demonstrators were out in front of the White House protesting my anti-Israel attitude. (April 26, 1982)

On Margaret Thatcher and Women

“All of this talk of some women about equality is foolish. The plain truth is that they are superior, as she clearly demonstrated. I don’t know about you but I don’t mind a d—m bit that they are. As a matter of fact, it’s rather comforting. During the recent Summit one of our members – leader of one of the seven nations – gave Margaret Thatcher a bad time. Later I said to her that he was certainly out of line and shouldn’t have talked to her that way. She pleasantly and calmly said, ‘Oh – women know when men are being childish.’”

On the toll of the Presidency

“With the Supreme Court nomination (Robert Bork), the Persian Gulf, the Budget Deficit, the upcoming Soviet Summit, the Stock Market and of course Nancy’s unexpected surgery and her mothers death, we’ve really had our hands full. ”  (November 12, 1987)

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