- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

Old suit

Ronald Wilson Reagan will celebrate his 90th birthday tomorrow, only the third such president to live to such a ripe old age.

To coincide with Mr. Reagan's milestone, Harper Collins will release a new version of "Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator," edited by former Reagan Chief of Staff Frederick J. Ryan Jr., now the vice chairman and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications Co. in Washington.

"Ronald Reagan has made so many memorable quotes, the challenge in this book was deciding what not to include," Mr. Ryan tells Inside the Beltway. The chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation adds that all royalties from the book will benefit the California library that holds volumes on Mr. Reagan's life and presidency.

"Ronald Reagan loved the truth," Peggy Noonan, the president's former speechwriter, writes in the book's afterword. "He thought that the truth was the only foundation on which something strong and good and even towering could be built."

And while Mr. Reagan has fallen silent, his wife, Nancy Reagan, cast this in a positive way.

"Although Ronnie has begun what he called 'the journey into the sunset' of his life, I believe his words and ideas will brighten America's skies and lift our national spirits for many generations to come," she says.

Difficult though it may be to choose the most memorable quote, a favorite was this one, spoken at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin on June 12, 1987 "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

He often needled with quick wit. When he was delivering an address to the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal in 1985, several of the Communist Party members walked out in protest. "I'm sorry that some of the chairs on the left seem to be uncomfortable," he observed as they filed out.

In the months after one of John Hinckley Jr.'s bullets came within an inch of killing him in 1981, Mr. Reagan spoke at rally in Omaha, Neb., where a balloon exploded with a sharp retort. Said the president, to a stunned silence: "Missed me."

When Mr. Reagan returned to the Washington Hilton, the scene of the assassination attempt, for the first time after the shooting, he was asked by a reporter: "Do you have any fear and trepidation about going back?"

"No," replied Mr. Reagan, "but I'm wearing my oldest suit today."

Blushed Rush

The Rev. Carroll Oubre, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Arlington, was listening when I substituted for Rush Limbaugh on Friday, and writes to say that he recalls the day he served as an intermediary between Mr. Limbaugh and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

And as with all kind gestures, the favor was soon returned.

"Justice Scalia, my parishioner [at St. Catherine's in Great Falls], knew I would be in the audience for [Mr. Limbaugh's] TV show, so he called ahead and told Rush to treat his associate pastor right," recalls Father Carroll, who is now assigned to St. Timothy's in Chantilly.

"Rush went way out of his way to make me feel welcome and singled me out throughout the show. He even gave me the VIP chair for the show. It was great. We went on stage and spoke to him for about 15 to 20 minutes. I even got the nerve to give him a Miraculous Medal and told him, 'Rush, you would be a great Catholic.'

"He blushed."

Taxes and failure

The Cato Institute will release its biennial fiscal report card on the nation's governors today, providing grades for 47 eligible governors, including former Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Can we peek?

"Two governors will receive an 'A,' three will receive an 'F,' the rest are in between," says the Washington-based think tank. "Those who increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades."

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