Matt Towery

You can bet that during this long holiday weekend, the name Ronald Reagan will be invoked reverentially by Republican candidates across the nation who are running for everything from city council to governor.

As they recite the momentous accomplishments of the late president, I hope some will take time to reflect that many of his triumphs, and potentially the Reagan presidency itself, might not have happened without "the other Reagan" -- Nancy.

President Reagan made no secret that he considered Nancy a working partner in all aspects of his life. During his presidency, the press often had harsh words for the first lady. They even took shots at her for being elegant -- for wearing designer clothes and for restoring what had become a rather shabby-looking White House to a place that Americans could again take pride in.

Glenn Beck

This abuse amounted to a double standard. Jackie Kennedy could be elegant in her person and in her decorative tastes for the White House, and receive nothing but praise for it. Current first lady Michelle Obama is also stylish and graceful. She, too, catches little grief for it.

But journalists and pundits made a cottage industry of routinely pummeling Mrs. Reagan. With wit and flair, she turned things around on them at the press' annual Gridiron event in 1982. There, she dressed in rags and sang a parody, "Second-Hand Clothes," that mocked her own image.

Yet it's not for her style or grace that I urge Americans to acknowledge Nancy Reagan. Instead, it's the behind-the-scenes role she played at so many critical moments in her husband's career. Those times made her part and parcel of the Reagan legacy.

During her husband's 1980 presidential campaign, it was Nancy who steered Ronald to one campaign manager, and then later to another. Her initiative helped rescue his presidential bid when it appeared to be faltering after the Iowa caucuses.

Once Reagan became president, Mrs. Reagan was protective of his time and his image. Again and again, they demonstrated that their marriage was what a marriage is supposed to be -- an alliance that's loving for being so practical. It sometimes seemed they couldn't bear being apart for any length of time. He constantly sought her quiet, firm council.

Take, for example, when she insisted that the president pursue talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The subsequent negotiations prompted the beginning of the end of the Cold War that had so haunted the world for decades.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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