Most of the inner circle who served Ronald Reagan from his governorship in Sacramento all the way to his presidency in Washington, DC are now gone. In 2006, Cap Weinberger and Lyn Nofziger left us. Only a few months ago, Mike Deaver departed. All of these men, as well as myself, wrote books about their experiences. Some of us have been the subject of biographies. A major exception has been the one Reagan adviser that many believe was closest to Reagan and had an especially interesting personal story to tell, not to mention a story of substantial historical value: William P. “Bill” Clark.
Thanks only to the persistence and diligence of authors Paul Kengor and Pat Clark Doerner, only now has Clark’s fascinating story—a true insider’s account of the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan, and especially Reagan’s effort to undermine Soviet communism—at long last been revealed. Clark would never have written the story himself. Only by appealing to Clark’s ongoing sense of duty to Ronald Reagan were the authors able to convince Clark to share what he knows. They prevailed by insisting, correctly, that if Clark did not go on the record, many crucial nuggets on Ronald Reagan and his governorship and presidency would never make the history books.
I know this story as well as anyone. In 1969, I was the one tapped by the governor to replace Bill Clark as Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff. Clark and I were both little younger then—he was 37 years old, I was 38, and he left some big shoes to fill. He had stepped into the spot during an emergency situation when the governorship was faced by a serious sex scandal involving the sitting chief of staff. Clark set the ship back on course. Between us in that first term, we helped pave the way for the successful governorship that followed, and which would eventually provide Ronald Reagan a stepping stone to run for the presidency.
There were many men angling for that chief of staff position when Clark announced he was leaving, but I got the job. Ronald Reagan found me capable and qualified. It didn’t hurt my case when Clark told Reagan that I was the one for the job. Reagan had a habit of accepting Bill Clark’s counsel.
Clark left for his first of many judicial appointments by Governor Reagan, eventually to the level of the state Supreme Court, where his dissenting opinions against any extremely liberal Rose Bird Court were rare glimmers of hope for California. It is there that he became forever known as simply “The Judge.”