updated 10/25/2004 10:28:41 AM ET 2004-10-25T14:28:41

Guest: Kati Marton, Ann Gerhart, Gail Sheehy, Bob Colacello

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  She said, she said.  Teresa Heinz Kerry takes a shot at Laura Bush‘s resume.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY‘S WIFE:  I don‘t know that she‘s ever had a real job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  The first lady responds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  I mean, it didn‘t hurt my feelings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  When it gets personal between the wives, a revealing look at the women on the campaign trail...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  My husband, and the next president of the United States...

BUSH:  Please welcome my husband, President George Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Plus: how the nation views these two women might surprise you.  America‘s first ladies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY:  It‘s a very small, little sisterhood, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Some have shunned the spotlight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY:  I‘m not going to try to change myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Others have embraced it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY:  There were so many highlights to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  How the role of first lady has changed with the times.

CLINTON:  Someday I hope there will be a first man or a first mate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Plus: life without Ron.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  And I just really can‘t bear to lose any more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  An intimate look at Nancy Reagan, from her Hollywood romance...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  I was the happiest girl in the world when “I” became “we.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  ... to her battle for stem cell research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  I just don‘t see we can turn our backs on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Tonight, one of Nancy‘s closest confidants on the Nancy Reagan we didn‘t know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  I was very blessed to find him.  I really was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  From MSNBC world headquarters, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s been known to say what‘s on her mind.  Who can forget her telling a reporter to shove it?  Well, once again this week, her comments got her into a little bit of hot water.  In an interview with “USA Today” that was also videotaped, she was asked if she‘d be different from first lady Laura Bush.  Here‘s what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  She seems to be—she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good.  But I don‘t know that she‘s ever had a real job, I mean, since she‘s been grown up, so her experience and her validation comes from important things but different things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Well, when it was pointed out that Laura Bush, who has a degree in education and a master‘s in library science, worked as a teacher and a librarian for nine years, Heinz Kerry apologized by issuing this statement.  She said, “There couldn‘t be a more important job than teaching our children.  I appreciate and honor Mrs. Bush‘s service to the country as first lady and am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past.”

Mrs. Bush said the apology wasn‘t really necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  It doesn‘t matter to me.  I mean, it didn‘t hurt my feelings.  It was perfectly all right.  She apologized and—but she didn‘t even really need to apologize.  I know how tough it is.  And actually, I know those trick questions, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  She knows those trick questions.  Well, Teresa Heinz Kerry was also criticized for forgetting to remember that Laura Bush is also a full-time mother, and we‘ll hear what Karen Hughes had to say about that in just a second.

But first, let‘s get into this whole Heinz Kerry versus Bush in the

heat of the battle on the campaign trail thing.  What the wives do or say -

·         does it help or hurt their husbands‘ campaigns?  With me tonight are three women who have each written about first ladies and their role as presidential wives.  Kati Marton is the author of “Hidden Power,” which looks at how presidential marriages affected administrations.  Ann Gerhart is a “Washington Post” staff writer an the author of “The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush.”  And Gail Sheehy is the author of a biography of Hillary Clinton which is entitled “Hillary‘s Choice.”  And I thank you all for being with us.

You know, I have to say, does anybody really care what the spouses say out there?  They‘re not the ones running for office.  Kati?

KATI MARTON, AUTHOR, “HIDDEN POWER”:  Well, it‘s clear that it‘s become a big story, what the spouses say, by the level of media attention. 

I think this is very indicative of how integrated into the campaign these -

·         both of these spouses have become.  And of course, what Laura Bush has all over Teresa Heinz Kerry is that Laura Bush comes across as almost entirely apolitical, which, of course, she‘s not.  But she has such an unthreatening manner that she can get away with saying things and with seeming to be above the fray.  I thought it was very interesting that...

NORVILLE:  And yet Gail, when you look at these remarks, do you think that it does change anybody‘s perception of the candidate because of what his wife has said out there on the trail?

GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR, “HILLARY‘S CHOICE”:  I think it has an effect, I

do, because the first lady is part of the presidency, whether you like it -

·         and therefore, the candidate who‘s challenging the president—I think, for instance, Laura Bush is the perfect complement.  Her stately, unflappable demeanor can correct for Bush‘s hyperactive, towel-snapping taunts.  And she also is very effective.  When they send her out to defend him, she does so very effectively.  And she shows the same blindness that he does to his mistake, which she doesn‘t apologize for.  She was on the “Tonight” show—I thought it was very interesting—after he‘d scowled.  And Leno asked him—asked her, Everybody saw your husband scowling.  Why? 

And she said, I didn‘t see it.

(LAUGHTER)

SHEEHY:  So the people who don‘t want to see it would, you know, take comfort from Laura‘s perception.

NORVILLE:  And yet, Ann Gerhart, you literally wrote the book about Laura Bush.  She may come across as apolitical, but behind the scenes, the woman that you write about is someone who‘s quite involved in the strategy and the process of the campaign.

ANN GERHART, AUTHOR, “THE PERFECT WIFE”:  I think that‘s absolutely true.  She just will never tell you what that is.  I mean, repeatedly over the past four years, I and other people have certainly pressed her on ways in which she disagrees with her husband.  Her answer is uniformly the same, and it is, If I have disagreements with him, I‘m not going to tell you what they are.  So she presents, as both Gail and Kati have said, this extremely perfect complement to him.  I mean, she is the perfect wife.

NORVILLE:  And America seems to like it.  When you look at a survey that was just done by “USA Today” newspaper, along with “McNeil/Lehrer” and the Gallup organization, they love it out there in America.  Laura Bush has a 74 percent favorable rating, to a 16 percent unfavorable.  Teresa Heinz Kerry is really more almost evenly split: 40 percent like her, 34 percent aren‘t quite so sure about that.  Gail?

SHEEHY:  You know, maybe we need the retrospective because the most respected first lady in this century was Eleanor Roosevelt and the second most respected one was Hillary Clinton.  But I think that we are in recovery from Hillary Clinton‘s co-presidency.  She was so activist that—she did things like, when Clinton wasn‘t making anything happen in Kosovo, after she hasn‘t spoken to him for 18 months because of the Monica affair, she called from abroad and said, You‘ve got to bomb Milosevic.  And he did.  Now, that‘s about as activist as you can get!

NORVILLE:  Kati, do you want to weigh in?  Because you might have a personal connection to that particular part of history.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTON:  Yes.  Leaving that aside, I just want to return for a second to one instance where Laura really did express a difference with her husband, very early on in the game.  Her first month in the White House, she came out in favor of choice, in favor of...

NORVILLE:  Abortion rights.

MARTON:  ... Roe v Wade, abortion rights.  And—which is much more than her far more controversial mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, ever said.  And yet again, because she said it with that unflappable, serene smile of hers, no eyebrows went up.  I mean, Hillary Clinton would have already been pilloried for such a difference from her husband, so...

NORVILLE:  And I wonder how much of a role these wives play in softening the edges, taking the sharp points off, if you will, of the perceptions and, in fact, the realities of their husbands.  Take a look at Laura Bush.  You mentioned the “Tonight” show.  Take a look at Laura Bush on another subject on the “Tonight” show recently with Jay Leno.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST:  Occasionally, your husband will make a gaffe which we will exploit to the hilt.

BUSH:  Yes.

LENO:  I mean, do you—do you guys have fun with that afterwards?  I mean...

BUSH:  We do.  We laugh about it sometimes.

LENO:  OK.

BUSH:  Sometimes we don‘t laugh.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Which may be one of the most honest things we‘ve said.  Now let‘s fast-forward, and let‘s take a look at Teresa Heinz Kerry.  She was on “The View” the other day on ABC.  And you almost had the sense that there was a concerted effort to maybe make her look like less of the power figure that she‘s occasionally appeared on the campaign trail.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What do you advise him to do?

MARTON:  Well, I‘m not a lot with him or talk to him maybe once a week for about two seconds.  But I would say, Be yourself, be warm, be vulnerable, because I think vulnerability allows you to lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Ann Gerhart, what does that tell you, when you see Teresa Kerry appearing in that way on television?

GERHART:  I think the real challenge for Teresa Heinz Kerry throughout this campaign is to not make this campaign be about herself.  She, if she were to become the first lady, will be unlike any of her predecessors because none of her power really derives from him.  Eleanor Roosevelt, even, became an activist after her husband was in the White House.  And Hillary Rodham Clinton has been conjoined with her husband politically ever since they were young.  Teresa Heinz Kerry derives her influence from the work she‘s done over the last eight or nine years, running those extensive philanthropies.  And I think she‘s gotten used to people wanting to know what she says, taking her seriously, and she can‘t tone it down very effectively.

This is not about her, this is about him.  And I think that there have been attempts to manage her, and she‘s resisted them.  She frequently says, I‘m too old to have anybody tell me what to say.

NORVILLE:  And part of you kind of endorses that, but part of you goes, Honey, you know, you got to play the way the playbook‘s written.  Kati?

GERHART:  That‘s right.

MARTON:  Well, you know, she is an original, no question.  First of all, she‘s the first foreign-born—potentially, the first foreign-born first lady since John Quincy Adams‘s wife, not only foreign-born, African-born.  She speaks five languages.  You know...

NORVILLE:  She‘s also really rich.  I mean, that‘s the elephant in the corner.

MARTON:  OK.  OK.

NORVILLE:  She‘s got more money than anybody we‘ve ever heard of.

MARTON:  Not the first—not the first first lady who will be really rich.  I mean, you know, the Bushes aren‘t poor, either, and neither was Jackie Kennedy.  And by the way, neither was the sainted Eleanor Roosevelt, who really was the iconic first lady of the 20th century.  So leaving aside her wealth, I think the originality of Teresa is that she‘s so multicultural—you know, Mozambique-born, speaks all these languages.  And I think that at a time when the United States seems so isolated in the world, I think that she might be a very useful envoy to the world and help her husband in mending—if he gets that opportunity, in mending all these frayed relationships.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  And you know what?  That‘s a great place—that‘s a great place to leave off.  We got to jump to a commercial break.  But when we come back, we‘re going to talk more about the potential role that either of these two women could play in a future White House.  And we‘ll also look back in the past.  We‘ve talked about Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Hillary Clinton.  How has the role of the presidential wife changed?

We‘ll be back in a moment, but first this tidbit about another former first lady, Barbara Bush, not somebody you want to mess with.  Last night, former president George Bush had this to say about his wife, Barbara‘s reaction to some of the criticism of their son, the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 

The constant attacks on our son have really gotten her steamed up, and it‘s not good to get her steamed.  I don‘t know who‘s going to blow first, Barbara or Mount St. Helens.  I know this.  Barbara gets her hands on Senator Kerry, he‘s going to need another Purple Heart.  I‘ll tell you that!  Sorry!  My only political comment!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BILL CLINTON: 

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was Hillary Clinton.  And boy, she took a lot of flak for that comment back in 1992.  And she has certainly contributed to the changing role of the first lady.

Back to our discussion with authors Kati Marton, Ann Gerhart and Gail Sheehy.  And you know, when Hillary made that remark, she thought she‘d be more of a player on health care.  And it didn‘t happen.  And Gail, you wrote her biography.  How much of a disappointment was that to her, that there wasn‘t that possibility, the way she presumed there would have been?

SHEEHY:  Well, she genuinely believed it could be a co-presidency.  And of course, they campaigned that way.  They believed it together.  You know, Bill Clinton was a very remarkable man.  He absolutely totally respected and needed her, was just as dependent on her to become president as she was on him.  And when the co-presidency was rejected by the public because she wasn‘t elected, because she wasn‘t confirmed by the Senate and people properly resented it, and Congress deferred to her and then, you know, closed in on her, she was shocked and devastated.  And many other devastations happened in that year.

NORVILLE:  Today‘s understatement.

SHEEHY:  Yes.  But including, you know, the death of her great friend and many other things.  So she, I think, in the second administration, believed that things were really righting and that she could have a larger role and also that things were better between she and Bill.

NORVILLE:  And yet the choice of the spouse really does say something about the man himself.  Ann, what does the choice of Laura Bush as wife for George Bush say about him as a man?

GERHART:  He recognized he needed somebody to settle him down.  I mean, he had not made a great success of himself.  He was bouncing about Texas.  She, in fact, was a very passionate librarian and teacher, deliberately choosing poor schools in which to do her work.  She—I remember interviewing people who used to go out for happy hour, and they‘d be talking about their boyfriends and she would be talking about how important it was to get 2nd graders reading—I mean, almost to the extent that they would sort of roll their eyes and tease her.

And he liked that sort of sobriety from her, if you will.  She was very graceful.  He was a big talker.  She was a good listener.  Even now, I mean, today, she has finally abandoned her private campaigning schedule and rejoined him for this final week, their last campaign together, and he will settle down.  He will not be as jumpy and as fidgety as he usually is.  His aides know it.

NORVILLE:  And Kati, what does it say about John Kerry in his choice of Teresa Heinz Kerry as a mate?

MARTON:  Well, it‘s a very interesting choice, isn‘t it.  First of all, she‘s several years older than her husband, which is unusual.  And he seems beguiled by her eccentricities.  He never seems to try to sort of muffle her or rein her in, which I think speaks rather well of him.  He seems able to stand next to a woman who has a very pronounced personality and is a real grown-up.

So I—you know, I—I think—I think we—it is legitimate for us to examine these marriages because they do reveal things about these people.  And by the way, just for—Deborah, for a second, to return to Hillary, who really did get off on the wrong foot as first lady—but then she—you know, Hillary is a very fast learner, and she really repositioned herself and became a very traditional first lady and really seemed to enjoy that role and all the opportunities that that represented.

But of course, then she decided that if she really wanted to do what she‘d always wanted to do, which is to make policy at the highest levels, then she‘d have to seek office on her own, which, of course, now she‘s gone on to do.  So the White House really changes all these people.  And once they‘re in there and the history of that place and all their—the predecessors who really still live with them, really has a tremendous impact.  So it‘s hard to predict in what ways, let‘s say, a Teresa Heinz Kerry will be altered.

NORVILLE:  Yes, but I want to do that, and I‘m going ask—I‘m going to throw that one to you, Gail first.  What do you think Teresa Kerry—because she‘s an independent woman.  She certainly has had a very full and rich life before she met the senator.  What kind of first lady would she likely be?

SHEEHY:  Well, I don‘t think she really wanted this job.

NORVILLE:  So you don‘t think that they didn‘t discuss this before...

SHEEHY:  No, I think she had to know...

NORVILLE:  ... they were married?

SHEEHY:  ... before they were married that this was probably where he might want to go.  It was where her first husband was going to go, and she knew that.  She wasn‘t crazy about that idea, either.

But you know, what she‘s missed is really projecting the fact that she was a full-time wife and mother, totally happily involved in that role for 30 years.  The only reason she became a professional at 52 is because her husband was killed, and she had to make the choice whether she was going to live on the great inheritance or whether she was going to take on this huge role as CEO of a multi-billion-dollar corporation, which she did and has done brilliantly.  She‘s highly respected.  She is now fiercely protective of that identity...

NORVILLE:  She says she wants...

SHEEHY:  ... which she won so late.

NORVILLE:  ... to keep doing that...

SHEEHY:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... if he is elected.  Is that feasible?

SHEEHY:  It‘s unrealistic.  It‘s silly.

MARTON:  Well, I don‘t know, Gail.  I—you know, I—I think that remains to be seen.  There are certain professions which I think are inappropriate for a first partner because I—like Hillary Clinton, I‘m hoping that in our lifetime, there‘s going to be a “first gentleman,” and then he can face all of us and he can navigate these tricky waters.  That will be interesting.  You can‘t be lawyer as first lady.  I mean, that‘s a non-starter.  But I think you could be a doctor, conceivably...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Yes, but they got all over Judy Dean.  They got all over Judy Dean about—when she said, when Howard had a chance at the president, I‘m going to continue my practice.

MARTON:  I think it would have worked.

NORVILLE:  People went bananas.

MARTON:  That was not Howard Dean‘s biggest problem, let‘s face it.  He had other impediments.  I think—I think Judy, if anything, would have been an asset.  I—you know, I think that the American people might adjust maybe a little bit more...

NORVILLE:  Well, let me just...

MARTON:  ... show more flexibility...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Let me just throw up a couple—let me show you what the American people think about this, this same poll that “USA Today” did, when they looked at whether a wife, a first lady, should have an outside, paid job in the private sector, 50 percent said, Don‘t think so, 47 percent said it would be inappropriate, 50 percent said it would be OK.  So they‘re pretty much split on that.  But fast-forward at some point in the future, if there is a first mate or first partner or whatever the guy might be called if a woman gets elected, president, it‘s just fine.  If the man wants to go outside and have a paid job in the private sector, 81 percent say that would be appropriate.  A third of the folks say no.  So we clearly haven‘t got these roles figured out.

SHEEHY:  Well, they understand men‘s egos.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Well, listen, this is a great subject, and the race ain‘t over yet, so we can come back and address it more.  Kati Marton, Ann Gerhart, Gail Sheehy, thanks so much for being with us.

MARTON:  Thank you.

SHEEHY:  Thank you.

GERHART:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  And we‘ll be right back.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, a glimpse of the Nancy Reagan few people knew, from the eyes of a close confidant.  And the former first lady‘s personal crusade for stem cell research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAGAN:  We‘ve lost so much time already, and I just really can‘t bear to lose any more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Theirs was a love story for the ages.  President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy had a marriage that at times seemed like a fairy tale.  He wrote love letters to her constantly and seemed to be delighted every time she entered a room.  Nancy Reagan, in turn, focused her life on her husband from their early days in Hollywood to the White House and in the years that followed.  She was utterly devoted to him and perhaps the only person that Ronald Reagan completely trusted.

As he suffered from Alzheimer‘s disease, Americans saw Nancy Reagan as the one person constantly by her husband‘s side.  And the nation grieved with her when Ronald Reagan‘s long battle with Alzheimer‘s ended this summer.  Author Bob Colacello is a long-time confidant of Nancy Reagan, and he spent the last six years writing “Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House, 1911 to 1980.”

I recently sat down with Colacello to get an inside look at the Reagans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

And joining me now is Bob Colacello.  Why was it so important for you to take the Nancy and Ronald Reagan story and expand it into book form?

BOB COLACELLO, AUTHOR, “RONNIE AND NANCY”:  Well, I think it‘s a story that really has to be told.  This is a marriage and a relationship that made a presidency possible.  I interviewed over 200 people, ranging from early social friends of the Reagans to, you know, administration officials like George Shultz.  All of them said he would not have made it without her.

NORVILLE:  And you wouldn‘t have been able to talk to that many people unless Nancy Reagan had given her blessing to this project.  How hard was that to get?

COLACELLO:  Well, I‘ve known her a little bit over the years because her daughter-in-law, Doria (ph), was my secretary at “Interview” magazine.  But she was very—she doesn‘t give interviews since she left the White House.  She really doesn‘t give interviews.  And she‘d say to me, you know, We can have lunch, but this is not an interview.  And at first, she wouldn‘t let me take out my tape recorder, and then I was trying to take notes and eat at the same time.  And finally, she said, Oh, OK, you can put it on tape, but it‘s not an interview, you know?

She—after the “Vanity Fair” articles, where I really sort of outlined how important her role was behind the scenes, I think, she—you know, there was some trust there.

NORVILLE:  Right.

COLACELLO:  People came back to her and said, Finally, someone‘s giving you the credit you deserve.

NORVILLE:  She also liked you.  You open the book, “Ronnie and Nancy,” with a story of a dinner you were having with Andy Warhol, for whom you worked at the time at “Interview” magazine, at a very well-known New York restaurant called Le Cirque.  And then-President and Mrs. Reagan were there, and you didn‘t rush over, and she liked that.

COLACELLO:  Yes, she did like that.

They were there with their friends Alfred and Betsy Bloomingdale, Claudette Colbert and Jerry Zipkin.  And they had been to see “Sugar Babies,” a play with Mickey Rooney and...

NORVILLE:  Ann Miller. 

COLACELLO:  Ann Miller, exactly.

And the whole restaurant had been kind of packed with Reagan friends by Cirio (ph), the owner of the restaurant.  And Andy Warhol and myself were at a table hosted by Carolina Herrera, the fashion designer. 

And when we finished our dinner, the Reagans were still eating.  And everyone at the table sort of got up and rushed over to the Reagan table to be introduced.  And I went over to the coat check.  I was kind of—it just seemed embarrassing or something.  And I suddenly heard Alfred Bloomingdale‘s deep voice saying, where is Bob Colacello?  He is a real Republican. 

And I am a Republican, although this is a nonpartisan look at the Reagans. 

NORVILLE:  It is really a biography. 

COLACELLO:  It is a biography, exactly.

And so I went over to the table.  Mrs. Reagan—I was introduced—took her hand in mine and said, I have heard so much about you from Ron and Doria (ph).  And I said, well, I have heard a lot about you, too.  And she just starts—this great big laugh comes out of her.  This prim and proper woman in the Adolfo suit and out comes this sexy, knowing deep laugh that is very seductive. 

NORVILLE:  You say that everybody you spoke with, the 200-plus, all say Ronald Reagan wouldn‘t have become president were it not for Nancy. 

And in the book, you trace not only his early days, but hers as well.  And her mother was an incredible influence on her in a number of ways.  She had a chaotic childhood starting out.  And yet her mother was a role model for her on being a good wife. 

COLACELLO:  Yes. 

Once her mother married for a second time to Dr. Loyal Davis, a rising neurosurgeon in the days when neurosurgery was still a kind of experimental field, the mother really helped propel Loyal‘s career.  I think Nancy saw that.  She did it through social means.  The mother had been an actress.  She kept friends with some of the very famous people she met in the business, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Colleen Moore, Walter Huston. 

These people would come for dinner and even stay over at the Davis apartments in Chicago.  Her mother would give dinner parties mixing them with the important doctors who could help Loyal up the ladder.  And Nancy really saw how that worked.  The mother was also totally devoted and in love with this man.  It wasn‘t just pure calculation, you know?  Nancy saw that.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  And as you quote George Will in the book as saying, Ronald Reagan had one best friend.  He married her.  And they were really like this. 

COLACELLO:  They were like that. 

Ronald Reagan‘s father was an alcoholic who kept losing jobs and they kept moving from town to town.  So he was always the new kid in school. 

I think he had a hard time making real friends.  He liked everybody.  He got along with everyone.  But even his closest male friends, Kitchen Cabinet members, who he went horseback riding with, said there was always a part of Ronnie they couldn‘t get to.  He didn‘t open up...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Sort of a mile wide and an inch deep kind of thing. 

COLACELLO:  Yes.  His children said that, too, that he was somehow remote. 

He didn‘t—he wasn‘t a man who showed his emotions very easily, beyond affability.  But, with her, obviously, she was the one who he confided in, who he relied on, I think, to boost him.  That eternal optimism that we all admired, in a way, had its source in Nancy at night telling him, not only he was great, but sort of listening to him and I think just being his sounding board and ego booster. 

NORVILLE:  And even when he was elected president and is serving in the White House, we all remember how well Nancy helped hold her husband up during those moments when, in retrospect, you wonder if the Alzheimer‘s was already beginning to show its little vestiges. 

COLACELLO:  That is very hard to say.  It became obvious about 1992, three years after he left the White House.  But I think—don‘t forget, he was the oldest president elected. 

NORVILLE:  Sure. 

COLACELLO:  He had cancer twice, prostate and colon cancer.  So there were times when he was tired.  And she was there again to boost him and hold him up and be his No. 1.

NORVILLE:  Well, remember this, when they were out at the ranch and a question was asked of the president, what are you doing about?  And here was Mrs. Reagan to the rescue.

COLACELLO:  Right.  Exactly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

NANCY REAGAN, FIRST LADY:  Don‘t everything we can.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Doing everything we can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  God bless.  Don‘t we all wish we had a spouse who would come through us?  Unfortunately, the microphones picked it up, which didn‘t serve the president particularly well.

COLACELLO:  Right.  Right. 

But he loved her as much as she loved him.  We see that in his love letters.  And they kind of fulfilled the missing parts of each other.  They completed each other in a way that I think is unique.  It‘s not—they‘re not the only couple where that happens, but, in this case, it really took them all the way. 

NORVILLE:  You spoke not only with Mrs. Reagan‘s friends, but you spent a great deal of time with Nancy Reagan.  Does she own up to the role she played in assisting her husband in reaching the presidency?  I mean, you talk about a power behind a throne, the woman behind the man.  She was certainly that.  Does she recognize that? 

COLACELLO:  Little by little.  She recognizes it, but she doesn‘t like

·         she is very afraid that in some way it might diminish his legacy.  I don‘t think it does, because he was the visionary.  He was the man with the big plan, defeat the communist empire, lower taxes, make government smaller. 

But she was the practical one.  And she was the one who was a better judge of character and made sure he had the right people around him.  I think she has accepted that it is OK now for people to know what she really did.  But she has said to me:  Please don‘t make me sound like some master backstage manipulator.  Everything I did, I did for love for Ronnie. 

NORVILLE:  How distressed was she by that image?  Because, after the assassination attempt, when it became public knowledge that she had on occasion consulted an astrologer, she was portrayed by many as sort of a Machiavellian, scheming woman who was really taking an inappropriate role in the White House. 

COLACELLO:  Well, that does bother her.  And I think it was heightened by having Kitty Kelley as her only biographer up until now.  And we know Kitty Kelley always takes a negative and exaggerated kind of slant on things.

But astrology—one of things I discovered, it was Ronald Reagan who got into astrology way before he even met Nancy Davis.  And all of Hollywood was into it.  There was a guy out there called Carol Ryder (ph), who was Betty Davis‘ best friend.  And he was doing daily readings and weekly readings.  So all the stars you can think of...

NORVILLE:  So it might have seemed wacky to somebody in Indiana, but if you lived in Hollywood, it was sort of part of the deal. 

COLACELLO:  Actors are very insecure people, because they don‘t know where their next job is coming from.  And politicians are very insecure, too.  In fact, two other governors of California, including Pat Brown, were clients of Carol Ryder, Ronald Reagan—so there were three governors in a row who were consulting Carol Ryder. 

And I don‘t think the astrology ever really determined policy.  It might have—if they had a choice of two dates, maybe one date was a better day according to the astrologer.  But I think it was exaggerated, the role it played.

NORVILLE:  In the book you say that after the assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan did not truly enjoy a single day in the White House. 

When we come back, we are going to talk about that defining moment during the Reagan presidency and Nancy Reagan‘s continuing fight to preserve her husband‘s legacy. 

More with Bob Colacello in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Nancy Reagan as only a few know her, the inside story of one of America‘s most beloved first ladies from one of her confidantes continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

N. REAGAN:  Please, please, just say no. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Back now with Bob Colacello. 

Ronald Reagan, as you said, was the oldest man to go into the White House.  He also had the misfortune of an assassination attempt very early on in the presidency.  And that was a defining moment in more ways than one for Nancy Reagan. 

COLACELLO:  Oh, very much so.

Her stepbrother, who she is very close to and spent all the holidays at the White House, never talked to anyone before.  He told me that after the assassination attempt, he thought Nancy never had another happy day in the White House.  He said she just—that great laugh sort of went, that he realized she wasn‘t smiling very much.  And she was kind of uptight about the way the press was really coming at her. 

In fact, she called me on one occasion.  And I was on the phone with her for like an hour and a half. 

NORVILLE:  What was her concern? 

COLACELLO:  Her concern was, why does the press hate me?  And my take on it was, one, I think a lot of people felt this way.  It was hard to dislike Ronald Reagan.  He was so affable and such a nice guy.

So Nancy became the focus of criticism for his political enemies.  But, also, she was very defensive.  And I think the assassination attempt made her nervous. 

NORVILLE:  And built a bigger wall between her husband...

COLACELLO:  And built a bigger wall.  And that showed, particularly in television interviews. 

She also came into the White House when feminism was at its height.  And she was anything but the feminist role model.  She said, my life began when I met Ronnie over and over again. 

NORVILLE:  And she meant it. 

COLACELLO:  And she meant it.  She really did mean it. 

NORVILLE:  And in the book, you talk about—and the cover, we see Mrs. Reagan with the adoring gaze, not at her husband, but, typically, if the two of them were in proximity, she wouldn‘t be looking away.  She would be looking up at him.  And she was criticized for what they called the soulful gaze at her president—at her husband.  But that‘s the way she always was, apparently, around Ronnie.

COLACELLO:  And he was that way around her, too. 

Someone told me, when she walked into the room, he looked at her as if

she was a flower of the Nile.  And this is 20 years after they were

married.  But she really adored this man in every way.  There was a

physical attraction.  There was an emotional bond.  There was a political -

·         they were a political team.  It worked on every level. 

But Nancy Reagan is very attentive to men in general.  She has one-on-one lunches with Barry Diller, with Warren Beatty, with George Will.  And she—it‘s that same kind of gaze.  She is a real sort of man‘s woman.  She likes powerful, interesting men.

NORVILLE:  When you have lunch with her, is she leaning in and staring at you and really getting into what you are saying to her? 

COLACELLO:  Yes. 

And she is a woman of not that many words.  It‘s more the uh-huhs and yes.  And she encourages the man to talk.  She is a great listener and she does have that great laugh.  And I have had three- and four-hour lunches with her at the Bel Air Hotel.  And she is a very engaging woman and a very smart woman. 

And she really, I think, makes men feel—she is a bit flirtatious. 

You know, she just has a way of making men feel good and feel important. 

NORVILLE:  One of the reasons you have your long lunches at the Bel Air Hotel is, it is just five minutes from the Reagan home. 

COLACELLO:  That‘s right.  That‘s right. 

NORVILLE:  And while the president was sick, she told me she never spent a night away in case he woke up and realized that she wasn‘t there. 

How is she doing now in these initial months after the passing of the president? 

COLACELLO:  Well, the other day, she was telling me that it has really kind of hit her that he is not coming back. 

And she said, as ill as he was, I still wish Ronnie was there in his room and I could sit and talk to him.  And she said friends have said, well, you can still talk to him.  But she said, you know, I just wish he was there.  She said to me, I‘m lonely.  The house is empty.  And I have to figure out a new way—a new life for myself, because everything—she said, you know, I had my own life.  I‘m my own person, but everything was centered on Ronnie.  And it always was.

NORVILLE:  And the focus now is on stem cell research.  And Nancy Reagan has spoken very eloquently and very emotionally about that.  I want to play a little bit of what she said earlier this spring and then get a react from you. 

COLACELLO:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

N. REAGAN:  Ronnie‘s long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him.  We can‘t share the wonderful memories of our 52 years together.  And I think that is the probably the hardest part. 

And because of this, I‘m determined to do what I can to save other families from this pain.  And now science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that have for so long been beyond our grasp.  I just don‘t see how we can turn our backs on this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  When Nancy Reagan gave that speech, it wasn‘t the former first lady.  It was a wife who was bereaved.  And I think a lot of people identified with her, regardless of where they come down politically on the issue. 

COLACELLO:  Oh, exactly.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Does she recognize that, in a sense, she has gone full circle?  She‘s gone from being, by some, a scorned and disliked woman to an incredible role model to whom so many people look up? 

COLACELLO:  Well, you know, she has said to me that what really has helped her through these last years is when she goes to a restaurant in Los Angeles or goes to a shop, so many people would come up to her and say, Mrs. Reagan, we really—we have Alzheimer‘s in our family.  We know what you are doing.  We thank you for taking care of the president. 

And that meant a lot to her.  Stem cell research means a lot to her.  And I was at a dinner in Washington last year where she—I saw her lobbying Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff.  She has been doing it up until the speech.

NORVILLE:  And he was probably trying to get away from her, too.

COLACELLO:  He was kind of easing his way out of the room. 

But she is determined.  And she has done most of her lobbying behind

the scenes.  She is very friendly with George and Laura Bush.  She stayed

in the White House two nights when she got the Medal of Freedom.  That was

one of the rare times she left her husband‘s side.  And they just visited

her recently in Los Angeles, visited for an hour and a half.  And I‘m sure

·         she hasn‘t told me this, but I‘m sure that she gets her message in.  How effective it is, I don‘t know. 

NORVILLE:  On the other hand, she is an 83-year-old woman.  She is frail.  It is unrealistic, is it not, to expect that Nancy Reagan will embark on some grand crusade across America on this issue.

COLACELLO:  Well, she didn‘t go to the Republican Convention because she said she, No. 1, just not up for traveling.

NORVILLE:  Sure.

COLACELLO:  No. 2, she is in strict mourning for at least six months. 

She is very traditional. 

NORVILLE:  Good for her. 

COLACELLO:  And I don‘t think she is going to go barnstorming around the country.  I don‘t think she‘s going to make some frontal attack on the White House.  But I‘m sure she is working the phones. 

She has always worked the phones on behalf of Ronnie.  And this part of, I think—she sees this as part of her support of his legacy.  Alzheimer‘s was part of what he went through.  And I think she wants to spare other families that, if possible.  She wants to put his suffering to some good use. 

NORVILLE:  Well, it is a great story.  And, boy, if you like name dropping, this book, it just—they drop—every other sentence, we‘ve got six names.

COLACELLO:  Well, they had such glamorous lives.  They didn‘t spend their pre-White House years in Plains, Georgia.  They were in Hollywood.  And even before Hollywood, Nancy had an incredibly fascinating life. 

NORVILLE:  Well, they‘re -- 587 pages, and it only gets you inaugurated in the White House. 

COLACELLO:  That‘s right. 

NORVILLE:  There will be more to come.  The book is “Ronnie and Nancy.”  The author is Bob Colacello.

Thanks a lot, Bob. 

COLACELLO:  Thanks.  Thank you so much, Deborah. 

And up next, Sinclair Broadcasting‘s decision to air excerpts of an anti-John Kerry documentary has a lot of people furious.  And that includes a lot of you.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  A lot of you wrote in about my interview with a former reporter and a representative from Sinclair broadcasting company over the company‘s decision to broadcast an anti-John Kerry documentary on a number of television stations that the company owns. 

Well, Debra Dean wrote in and said: “I am deeply troubled by SBG‘s overt political power play.  This is a not a Republican or a Democrat issue.  This is an issue concerning the integrity of our nation‘s free elections.”  She says, “I find SBG‘s actions frightening.”

But Jason Wigley writes and says—quote—“You media types always seems to lean a little to the left.  Thank God for people like Mr. Hyman that are not afraid to air something that may not put Kerry in a favorable position.

Well, I took exception with Mr. Hyman‘s characterization of the political season as silly.  It‘s his word, saying I thought the selection of a president was a pretty serious thing. 

Waldemar Kalinowski agrees.  He says: “I, too, think that this election time is not a silly season.  Thank you for not letting the Sinclair spokesman off the hook.  His smug comments and attitude point to Sinclair‘s disregard for what‘s important to us all in this political season, the future of our country.”

Ah, but here‘s Ted from Tampa Bay.  He says: “Please.  If you don‘t think this is the silly season, you obviously don‘t either read the papers or listen to the news.”

And, finally, Paul Millard writes and say: “I‘ve already stopped watching the local affiliate, WGME, because his,” meaning Mr. Hyman‘s, “nightly editorials, ‘That‘s the Point,‘ are so blatantly biased and unsubstantiated.”  He says, “I for one would be happy to challenge their license application to the FCC on moral grounds.”

As you can see, we love to hear from you, so send your e-mails to us

at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  We‘ve posted some of them on our Web page.  That

address is NORVILLE.MSNBC.com

And coming up next, never say never.  We‘ll explain in a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  This week‘s “American Moment” belongs to the Boston Red Sox and their long-suffering fans. 

No team in the history of Major League Baseball has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.  In fact, it‘s only happened twice in the history of all North American professional sports.  But this week, the Red Sox did just that against their archrival, those damn Yankees.  Down to their final three outs in game four, the Sox battled back, won that game, and then won another three in a row.  They are now in the World Series. 

And the last time they won that was 1918.  Of course, it was two years later, in 1920, that the Red Sox sold their prized player, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees.  And baseball folklore says that that was the beginning of the curse of the Bambino.  The Sox have been in the Series four times since 1918, and they‘ve lost every time. 

But now they have taken a giant monkey off their backs by beating the hated Yankees. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For the last generation, for the last century, for the last 86 years, this is what they wanted, and we‘re celebrating it for them and for everybody else. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Well, they‘re even getting a good laugh out of the Sox beating the Yankees in New York.  You‘ve heard that expression, ah, that won‘t happen until pigs fly.  Check this out, a cartoon from “The New York Post” newspaper.  The pigs are flying.  And you see down in the corner, yes, it‘s a cold day in hell.  The Red Sox won. 

The Red Sox, however, do still have to beat the Saint Louis Cardinals in the World Series to put an end to all the talk of the curse and end that 86-year drought.  But whatever happens there, the Red Sox now own a piece of baseball history.  And that makes them this week‘s “American Moment.”

And that is our program for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Coming up on Monday night, with all the talk that is going around, it‘s possible there could a settlement in the offing in the Bill O‘Reilly case.  That‘s what we‘ll check out on Monday.

That‘s it for us.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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