- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

The press has not been kind to Nancy Reagan over the years, often casting the former first lady as a calculating, pampered and cold woman.

Not true, says Michael Deaver.

Former President Ronald Reagan’s longtime aide has written “Nancy,” a new book that dispels entrenched gossip about Mrs. Reagan as peddled in “The Reagans,” a CBS movie so inflammatory that the network eventually canceled the broadcast and shuttled the film onto its Showtime pay-cable outlet last year.

“From the beginning, the press — particularly female reporters — went after Nancy’s clothes and the way she lived. They ignored all the good things she did,” Mr. Deaver said yesterday. “That’s why I wrote the book. It was time to tell the other side.”

There is much the nation can learn from Mrs. Reagan, he said.

“Old-fashioned loyalty and devotion. In the end, that’s what matters,” Mr. Deaver said. “Nancy was criticized and mocked for being a traditional wife and standing by her man just as the women’s movement took hold. But she stayed loyal, and remains loyal.”

The book gets to the guts of the press woes, citing a 1968 Saturday Evening Post article called “Pretty Nancy,” which Mr. Deaver says set the tone for hatchet jobs based on “feminist contempt.”

“The first lady has a media corps watching her every minute, just waiting for her to go under. … Nancy Reagan would wake each day to an abundance of negative press,” Mr. Deaver observed.

She armed herself with “a warm smile” and a strong but gracious presence over the years, which eventually persuaded even Washington Post reporter and longtime Reagan foe Sally Quinn to comment that Mrs. Reagan was “real.”

Still, journalists ignored the late-night call to Mrs. Reagan, placed by a distraught mother of a drug addict who had heard of the first lady’s “Just Say No” antidrug program. The woman phoned the White House — and Mrs. Reagan took the call, personally ensuring the son get successful treatment.

The press overlooked piquant moments, too.

Many criticized Mrs. Reagan’s purchase of new White House china with donated funds. But no one acknowledged that Hillary Rodham Clinton — as new first lady rather than Democratic senator from New York— once rushed up to Mrs. Reagan and gushed, “I just want to tell you how grateful I am you bought that set of china. I use it all the time.”

Mr. Deaver also recalled the time President Clinton hugged Mrs. Reagan during the dedication of the new Reagan Building in 1998.

“Nancy looked like a mugger had embraced her,” he wrote.

As for the much-ballyhooed “White House astrologer” tales of the 1980s, Mr. Deaver sets the story straight. At one point, Mrs. Reagan did consult with astrologer Joan Quigley a few times a month, but it “had no impact on Reagan’s policy or politics.” Rather, the consultations were instead “a comfort to Nancy during a very hard time.”

The book recounts painful moments in much detail: the assassination attempt on Mr. Reagan, the couple’s separate bouts with cancer and Mrs. Reagan’s role as stalwart caretaker of her husband, now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“You can’t tell his story without telling hers,” Mr. Deaver wrote. “It is, above all, the story of a remarkable woman.”

“Nancy,” subtitled “A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan” and published by William Morrow, went on sale yesterday.

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