Reagan Regalia

Posted: Jun 18, 2007 9:25 AM
Reagan Regalia

You only live once

Who from Ronald Reagan's inner circle wasn't on hand at the Wexler & Walker lobbying house on F Street Northwest for the first act of Nancy Reynolds' trans-Atlantic 80th birthday extravaganza, which now sets sail for Casablanca and Nairobi?

"The day after she celebrated her 70th birthday in Utah ten years ago, she started planning for this party," says longtime friend Maria O'Leary, who owns the apparel and jewelry boutique Nuevo Mundo in Old Town Alexandria. "She has the vitality of a 16-year-old."

Retired and living in Santa Fe, N.M., Mrs. Reynolds first came to Washington during the 1930s as the daughter of Democratic Rep. D. Worth Clark of Idaho, who later was elected to the Senate. Later, after several stints as a TV anchor, she became special assistant to Mr. Reagan when he was governor of California. She was a top Washington lobbyist when the Gipper won the White House in 1980, and Mrs. Reynolds took leave to help him and first lady Nancy Reagan, one of her best friends, with the transition.

Among those wishing a happy birthday and bon voyage to Mrs. Reynolds (unless they will be joining her at Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, and then on safari in Kenya) were Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver and former Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada.

'Just between us'

Fred Ryan, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, kindly forwarded to Inside the Beltway a copy of "The Reagan Diaries," the just-released, often-intimate, day-to-day journal that Mr. Reagan penned throughout his presidency.

In two separate entries, one in 1981 while recovering from the assassination attempt, and again in 1983, Mr. Reagan jotted down his observations about two lengthy one-on-one interviews he gave in the Oval Office to Washington Times political reporter and syndicated columnist Donald Lambro.

It so happened that during the height of his 1980 presidential campaign, Mr. Reagan not only read, but quoted from Mr. Lambro's bestselling book, "Fat City: How Washington Wastes Your Taxes." The president actually passed out copies of the book at one of his first Cabinet meetings.

In fact, it wasn't unusual for Mr. Reagan to approach Mr. Lambro for advice.

"I had done half a dozen interviews with him prior to his presidency, in hotel rooms, on the campaign trail, and I think he was pretty comfortable and candid in talking with me about his unspoken concerns," Mr. Lambro tells Inside the Beltway.

During his first Oval Office interview with Mr. Lambro, Mr. Reagan made front-page news by responding to Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman's published criticisms of the president's budget policies.

"At the end of that interview," Mr. Lambro says, "Reagan asked, 'You haven't any suggestions, have you, of more places that we can find to cut the budget?' And we talked about that a little bit."

Mr. Lambro didn't say what his recommendations were to the president, but let the record reflect that after the 1982 recession, the economy, thanks largely to tax cuts, rebounded between 1983 and 1986. Of course, at the end of his administration, those tax cuts resulted in huge budget deficits that more than doubled the size of the national debt.

"At the end," the columnist says of Mr. Reagan, "as he walked me to the door of the Oval Office, he leaned toward me, lowering his voice in a kind of conspiratorial way, and said, 'You know, just between us, one of the hardest things in a government this size -- no matter what our people way on top are trying to do -- is to know that down there, underneath, is that permanent structure that is resisting everything you're doing.'"

Go figure

Federal Election Commission member Hans A. von Spakovsky was testifying before Congress last week and trying to help an inquisitive, if not confused, lawmaker make sense of some behind-the-scenes legal maneuvering in a particularly puzzling case.

Mr. von Spakovsky replied that it reminded him of what an old law professor once told him: "You get four lawyers in a room, you get six opinions."

Prior to his January 2006 appointment, Mr. von Spakovsky served as counsel to the assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, where he provided expertise and advice on voting and election issues.