Guests: Norman Schwarzkopf, Sheila Tate, George Schultz
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR: The man who proclaimed that it was morning in America has reached his final sunset. Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States who came to personify the decade of the 1980‘s, who oversaw his own revolution, who witnessed and prompted the end of another revolution. Ronald Wilson Reagan, sports broadcaster turned actor, turned labor man, turned governor, turned president, revivifier of his own political party long after he had left his first political party. Ronald Wilson Reagan, personable and dynamic, whose life began when the 20th century was still new, whose candidacy changed politics, whose presidency changed America, whose change of view changed the world. Ronald Wilson Reagan has died on this fifth of June, 2004, at the age of 93 at his home in California. This is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the death of President Ronald Reagan.
Good evening. To borrow one of the most elegant phrases he ever spoke from the Oval Office, today, Ronald Reagan, in the words of the poet, John Gillespie McGee, “has slipped the surly bounds of earth to touch the face of God. The current president of the United States, George Bush, is speaking in memory of Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The strength that comes with character, the grace that comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom. He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save. During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self-doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny. Now, in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you. He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too. His work is done and now a shining city awaits him. May God bless Ronald Reagan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President George Bush in a statement recorded moments ago in Paris. He was, of course, in France today for the commemorations, the 60th anniversary of D-Day and spoke of the late President Ronald Reagan who died this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. after a 10-year struggle with Alzheimer‘s. While at 93 years and just a day short of four months, Mr. Reagan was the longest lived of all of our 42 former presidents. It is an easy to forget fact that he was also the oldest man to ever enter the office of president, in so doing, changing perceptions about the outward limits of age and of politics. And when he took over as this nation‘s commander in chief in January, 1981, he had already lived many different lives. NBC‘s Tom Brokaw now taking a look back at his incredible journey from the heartland to Hollywood to the Oval Office.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE United States: As a boy, I saw streets filled with Model T‘s. As a man, I have met men who walked on the moon. I have not only seen but lived the marvels of what historians have called the American Century.
TOM BROKAW, NBC CORRESPONDENT: He was rooted in the heart of America, a small town Midwest boyhood centered in home, family, country.
R. REAGAN: We were taught very directly what it means to be an American.
BROKAW: Lessons that would guide him through a lifetime to his first job as a sportscaster.
R. REAGAN: Roy, this is Mr. George Gibbs.
BROKAW: .and to Hollywood whereas a dying athlete, we first heard him say.
R. REAGAN: Win just one for the Gipper.
Go out there and win one for the Gipper.
BROKAW: In the 1950‘s, he was acting on television.
R. REAGAN: Right now, let‘s see what General Electric has done to make your television viewing more enjoyable.
BROKAW: In 10 years, with G.E., he completed a transformation from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican.
R. REAGAN: Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we‘ll ever see on this earth.
BROKAW: It was 1964. Reagan was supporting Barry Goldwater‘s presidential campaign. Two years later, he ran for governor of California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan has played many roles. This year, he wants to play governor. Are you willing to pay the price of admission?
BROKAW: They were. In his two terms, Reagan pared down state government, erased the deficit, cut the welfare roles but he also signed a liberal abortion law. In 1976, he challenged Gerald Ford to the presidency barely losing the GOP nomination. Four years later, after a bad start, he came on strong in the New Hampshire primary.
R. REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone.
BROKAW: Reagan chose George Bush as his running mate and took aim at Jimmy Carter.
R. REAGAN: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
BROKAW: The former actor carried 44 states.
R. REAGAN: I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear.
BROKAW: At age 69, he had become the nation‘s oldest president. And then just two months in office, an attempt on his life yet he recovered quickly. Nancy Reagan became his partner in the White House overseeing security and travel even helping him with reporters.
NANCY REAGAN, WIFE: Doing everything we can.
R. REAGAN: Doing everything we can.
BROKAW: The country also suffered through its worst recession in 50 years before the economy started expanding again. Reagan had charmed Congress, winning big cuts in taxes and social programs and big increases for defense, including billions for space-based defense systems. As defense spending soared, so did morale in the military, which embraced Reagan. When 241 Marines died in a terrorist bombing in Beirut, Americans seemed not to hold him responsible.
R. REAGAN: If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office and with this president.
BROKAW: Reagan‘s foreign policy also included the invasion of Grenada. Financing El Salvador‘s right-wing government, and his worst crisis, the Iran-Contra affair, illegally selling weapon to Iran to free American hostages and using the profits of the sale to fund Nicaraguan paramilitary groups. Yet, all of this was overshadowed by Reagan‘s biggest foreign policy achievement: the beginning of the end of the Cold War. The man who said of the Soviets.
R. REAGAN: They are focus of evil in the modern world.
BROKAW: .was also able to engage a new generation of Soviet leadership, leading to the first treaty to cut Soviet and American nuclear weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission. And it has cleared the tower.
BROKAW: In times of tragedy, Ronald Reagan was the nation‘s great comforter.
R. REAGAN: We will never forget them nor last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bounds of earth to touch the face of God.
BROKAW: Ronald Wilson Reagan, after eight years as president, had become the leader of the modern conservative political movement and he had also restored America‘s faith in itself. He left office, his popularity in fact, and continued to receive the nation‘s support when he revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease.
N. REAGAN: Just four years ago, Ronnie stood before you and spoke for what he said might be his last speech at a Republican convention.
R. REAGAN: Whatever else history may say about me when I‘m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts. Goodbye and God bless each and every one of you and God bless this country we love.
OLBERMANN: Tom Brokaw recounting the life of Ronald Wilson Reagan. The 40th president of the United States dead today at the age of 93. Tom mentioned the war in Grenada. Though his extraordinary work in the Gulf War of 1991 dates to the administration of the first President Bush, our next guest served as deputy commander of the U.S. invasion in Grenada in 1983 during President Reagan‘s first term in office, General Norman Schwarzkopf. The general was originally supposed to be joining us tonight to talk about the Normandy invasion but has been kind enough to switch gears under these unhappy circumstances.
As always, sir, an honor to have you with us.
GEN. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF RET., DEPUTY COMMANDER GRENADA INVASION:
OLBERMANN: Give us Ronald Reagan‘s life from your point-of-view, sir.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, you know, I‘ll never forget the Grenada operation. It come—it came right on the heels of the Marine barracks and I think the morale within the military was an all-time low and certainly, the confidence of the American people after Vietnam and that was very low. So when the Grenada operation came about, we were getting a lot of help, believe me, from a lot of people who were telling us how to do our job. And then we got a message from the president and he simply said, “You know what needs to be done. Go do it. God bless you.”
OLBERMANN: Did you have a sense and did you and your colleagues have a sense that the military‘s strength and reputation had been restored through the influences and offices of Ronald Reagan?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, there‘s absolutely no question about it. It was huge steps forward in the confidence of the military. A lot of things that we did turned out well and a lot of it was due to the president‘s leadership and also the restoration of a lot of funding for things that were desperately needed in the military. So I think really, that‘s a time when we really stepped away from Vietnam and stepped forward in what we had to do in the future.
OLBERMANN: Your own experience with him, General? Did you interact much with President Reagan?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I did not.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and all of us who would be in that category would agree with you. A serving military man obviously must be of necessity, an internationalist. It‘s hard to fathom this in retrospect, but clearly, Ronald Reagan was not viewed as that during his campaign for office and probably in his early days in office. That certainly changed in a hurry, did it not?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, there‘s no question about that particularly with regard to his support of the military, that the rebuilding of the military really, he participated in that, really lead the way in that and that really endeared him very much to the military people.
OLBERMANN: General, as you served in that military, and as he served in that White House, the Cold War went from a chilly one in about 1980-81 to one of the lowest and perhaps most terrifying points in ‘82, perhaps, and then to a sudden and inconceivable ending. How much of that do you suppose, mixing all of your experiences together, was the crush of military expenditure? How much of that was the inevitable tide of history? And how much of that was truly directly attributable to the efforts of Ronald Reagan?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, you know, at that time I was the operations deputy and sat in on all the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I can clearly remember the briefings we would get about the Soviet Union, about the military strength of the Soviet Union, the economic strength of the Soviet Union. And it turned out; it was all wrong, completely wrong. And really, we emerged as so far ahead in that particular climate and in that particular race, and it was, to me, directly attributable to the president of the United States.
OLBERMANN: I‘m going to use a phrase a couple times over the next few hours and I hope nobody gets sick of it. But I‘m struck that this man‘s extraordinary life was one of accomplishment in the face of naysayers. Everything from the sports broadcasting to the d’tente with Gorbachev had been dismissed by somebody somewhere along the line as something Ronald Reagan could not achieve. There are a number of lessons, I would suppose, that one could draw from the life of this man. Would you agree?
SCHWARZKOPF: Absolutely. And you know with regard to the military, he made us feel proud of ourselves when we were recovering from feeling shameful about what happened in Vietnam and this sort of thing. He made you proud to be a soldier. My wife was just talking tonight about the fact that he came on Fort Meyer one time to be doing something, and as he passed our house, our little house. I was standing out front and I saluted him as he went by in civilian clothes and he saluted me back. And it just—he just made you feel good.
OLBERMANN: There—that touches on something I think that is perhaps a watershed of the early years of his presidency. In the country, generally, I guess you didn‘t have to be in the military to have a sense that in the late ‘80s, not to blame Mr. Reagan‘s predecessor, President Carter for this, but there was in Mr. Carter‘s own words, a malaise in the country. There was a certain lack of pride in the country and if whatever else changed during the Reagan two terms, I think that sense that you have that there was a growth of pride in the military probably was reflected generally in the country. Was it not?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, yes. I will never forget the night before we kicked off the Grenada operation and we had just gotten the word that the next day it was a go. And I was standing out on a platform on a ship and I thought Grenada and we are going to do what? And what is the reaction of the American people going to be to what we are about to do? Well, the reaction of the American people was absolutely overwhelming. I mean, in—
I mean the Rangers did a great job. The Marines did a great job. The Army‘s 82nd did a great job. It made us very proud of ourselves. But the American people were proud of what we had done.
OLBERMANN: General Norman Schwarzkopf of the Gulf War, of the invasion of Grenada, always an honor to speak to you, General. I‘m sorry it‘s under these sad circumstances.
SCHWARZKOPF: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: As we spoke earlier of the death of President Reagan and that phrase that he used in the wake of the Challenger disaster that the Challenger astronauts had “slipped the surly bounds of earth to touch the face of God.” When he said those words more than 17 years ago, he helped steer this nation through tragedy and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Today, the nation now facing its own challenge, remembering, assessing the legacy of its 40th president. Ronald Reagan losing his decade long battle with Alzheimer‘s disease this afternoon.
If you are just joining us, the 93-year-old former chief executive died at his home overlooking Los Angeles. The residence that has been his primary refuge since his poignant announcement by letter in 1994 that Alzheimer‘s was forcing him to retire from public life. The two term president led the conservative revolution, the Reagan revolution, as it was called, that changed the face of politics not only here in the United States but throughout the world. The champion of supply-side economics, a subject we‘ll be discussing with one of his former advisors in just a moment, Mr. Reagan presiding over both sweeping tax cuts and then deepening deficits. And while his legacy will forever be marked by the scandals of the Iran-Contra affair, Ronald Reagan‘s presidency began with the release of the Iran hostages. And while it began also with preparations for perhaps conflict with a country, the Soviet Union, that he called the evil empire, it will also certainly bear much of history‘s credit for that country‘s final decline and the freedom of Eastern Europe that blossomed in its wake.
It is a grim and stark reality that Ronald Reagan‘s family and Ronald Reagan himself had nearly a decade to prepare for the end that came earlier today. He wrote to the American public in 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer‘s. His presence came and went there after in the intervening 10 years. Those times when he could recognize his friends and family and his beloved wife, Nancy. It diminished in frequency as the insidious disease and old age took more and more of him away. Only about a month ago, Nancy Reagan again broke with the current Republican president to urge more extensive research into cures and treatments for that disease by the use of stem cell innovations.
And during all this, the preparations had been made for the inevitability of this day. It is expected now that Mr. Reagan‘s body will be removed from the ranch in southern California to an aerial—area funeral home in that area. We‘re expecting that now to occur between 4:45 Pacific and 5:15 Pacific Time, 7:45 and 8:15 Eastern, of course. And then, as family and staff and friends gather at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the body will be brought there lying unofficially in state for another day or so. Mr. Reagan‘s remains will then be brought to Washington for the formal state services to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda with, it is presumed, public access. But in the wake of 9/11, who is to say how public that access will be. The possibility exists that that will take as long as three days. A funeral to follow at Washington‘s National Cathedral and that will be the first state funeral in this country for a president since the death of Lyndon Johnson in 1973. Richard Nixon did not get a state funeral when he passed away about a decade ago. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill Clinton are, of course, all still living.
And then finally as it will to all men, the ultimate ending will come for Ronald Reagan after that state funeral in Washington. And he will be sent finally home via Vandenberg Air Force base in California just before sunset for burial at the Reagan Library. Now, the man whose campaign slogan, “morning again in America,” will be laid to rest at sunset.
The health of the president had been back in the public consciousness since his wife‘s admission last month that he had by then gone to a place where she could not reach him. By the middle of this week, the Washington rumor mill and a separate one in California had turned over many times with stories that the end might be near. Last night, Ronald Reagan‘s two sons, Michael and Ron, appeared at the family ranch. Ron Reagan, shortening a trip to be there. That escalated the speculation. This morning, an unidentified White House source told the Associated Press that he had been told by those close to the family that President Reagan‘s health had deteriorated but that while the end could come this weekend, it might yet be days or weeks or even months.
Then at mid day, Mike Wallace of CBS News voted Nancy Reagan, herself, as having told him—quote—“it was very, very, very near the end.” And at 1:00 p.m. today, Ronald Reagan died. President Bush in France for the 60th anniversary commemoration of D-Day notified at 4:10 p.m. Eastern Time.
Lawrence Kudlow is known to viewers as the co-host of CNBC‘s business news talk show, “Kudlow & Kramer.” He served the late president as the associate director for economics and planning in the Office of Management and Budget. And he has been good enough to join us now from New York.
Larry, good evening.
LAWRENCE KUDLOW, REAGAN ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Those were tough years in this country economically. What was President Reagan‘s role in facing them and helping to change them?
KUDLOW: You know he had a very strong, almost radical program where we were set with stagflation for most of the 1970‘s and early 80‘s. It was a dreadful period in the history of the U.S. economy. And Reagan‘s idea was very simple: lower tax rates to spur economic growth. And he worked with Paul Volcker to retain the money supply and increase the dollar‘s value to stop the inflation.
Nobody, and I mean almost nobody, outside of the administration believed in Reagan‘s policies. He really had to fight the tide. And it turns out, within a year or two, things got better and then progressively better as jobs started falling in and the economy resumed its growth. And let me just say how important it is.
You heard General Schwarzkopf talk about the military revival. The economic revival was the backer of the military revival and sent the signals to the Soviet Union that we could out produce them. And this was Reagan‘s great genius. He linked the domestic economy to his strong anti-Soviet foreign policy.
OLBERMANN: So if we had a military revival and an economic revival interplaying with each other, and those perhaps leading to a revival of confidence, if you will, in the country, would the final verdict 23 years out be that Reaganomics, whether or not they literally worked from an economic point-of-view, certainly worked from a benefit to the United States point-of-view?
KUDLOW: You know I think it‘s becoming more and more acceptable. I mean for example, economic politics, Keith, has changed. It‘s very rare for politicians to want to raise taxes, for example, either at the federal or the state or local level. The idea of economic incentives or tax incentives to promote investment or consumption has now become part of economic literature. Some of Reagan‘s great advisors like Arthur Laffer and Martin Anderson and others have really had a tremendous impact on academia, so I think this is becoming more accepted because look at the end of the day, we had a 7-1/2 year prosperity cycle.
And frankly, in the 1990‘s under Mr. Clinton, although he raised taxes in the first term. Clinton lowered taxes in the second term. You can just about say Reagan launched a 20-year prosperity cycle. The likes of which we hadn‘t seen in the entire 20th century.
OLBERMANN: I asked General Schwarzkopf this question and he had to answer it with a regretful no. Did you have interactions with Ronald Reagan while serving in that administration?
KUDLOW: Yes, I did. I was a sub-cabinet officer, but I was not one of his top aides, obviously. But yes, I had considerable interaction in meetings and also in the Roosevelt Room and in the Cabinet Room. But no, I was not close, intimate. My boss was David Stockman, the director of OMB and I guess I was one of senior staff there as associate director.
OLBERMANN: So you had still an insight look at this man and saw him in progress and in action and in his presidency. And there were so many different conflicting views at the time as to how engaged he was, how much he really was the president as opposed to being a spokesman for—a spokesman for a group of leaders or this or that. Many of the same arguments that have been stated about the current President Bush.
KUDLOW: Yes, I‘d like.
OLBERMANN: Give me the eyewitness account.
KUDLOW: I‘d like to really speak to that because I think so much of that is flawed thinking from Mr. Reagan‘s critics or enemies. He was highly engaged. He was involved in all aspects of policy. This was a man who had been governor of a huge state like California for eight years and he was well aware of all the budgetary and policy minutia. And this was a man whose principle, personal goal for 30 or 40 years before he became president, to overthrow Soviet communism. The idea that he was some wild-eyed liberal has just never been the case. So he was very engaged.
I‘ll tell you a funny story about Reagan. He just handled himself so darn well. One time, I was presenting something to the Cabinet. It had to do—I‘m not going to bore you—but it had to do with some housing and mortgage financial matters and deregulation. And it was a pretty good idea. And I think the president was for it but he didn‘t think it was the exact right time to do it. And the way these Cabinet meetings would work, you‘d make your pitch and then you‘d wait to see if there was a question from the president. And if the president didn‘t ask you a question, and might look at Ed Meese or Jim Baker or someone like that, you knew you were lost for that day. Well, let‘s just say he didn‘t ask me any questions and he started talking to Ed Meese about something and then everybody got up and the Cabinet meeting was over. And the OMB chair is right near his office. So he comes—files by the OMB chair where I was sitting and he stopped and he starts telling me a funny story. And I just about died. I thought he was stopping to fire me. He stopped to tell his funny story. And then he goes in, he puts his arm on my shoulder and then he leaves. So I go back to my office and I get a call from Craig Ford who in those days was the Cabinet secretary, and Craig said, “Well done.” I said, “Well done? What do you mean? I lost. He said no.” Whenever the president stops by and tells a story to you that means you got a great future. So that‘s the way the guy handled things. I thought that was pretty cool.
OLBERMANN: It certainly sounds it in retrospect. Lawrence Kudlow of our sister network, CNBC, former economic advisor to the late President Reagan. Thanks for that story and thanks for your time this Saturday evening, sir.
KUDLOW: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: November 4, 1991, not a day usually associated with the Reagan administration or the presidency. But on that day, it marked the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. There a collection of memories and mementos, those of both the public and private lives of the former president. That is where his body will unofficially lay in state before it is flown to Washington for the official services. NBC‘s George Lewis is at Simi Valley, at the Reagan Library and joins us now.
George, good evening.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Keith. Well, right after the word of President Reagan‘s death came, the flags here were lowered to half staff and the visitors at the library were told that they had to leave, that the library was going to be closed down. This, obviously, in preparation for bringing Mr. Reagan‘s body here so that he can lie in state briefly for friends and family members. The press had gathered at the library. They were told to get out as well.
Here at the front entrance, you can see behind me. People have been leaving off flowers. There are—there‘s a whole cordon of cars coming along, people with flowers in the cars. They‘re being told by police that the library has been closed down that they have to wait to deliver the flowers somewhere. We‘re also being told that the press will be credentialed eventually to get into the library, that a few TV trucks will be allowed in and we will be allowed to observe the proceedings on the library ground. But right now, things are in their preliminary phase as we wait for the Reagan family press representatives to get here and brief us on the next steps.
But as you said, we believe that Mr. Reagan‘s body will be brought here to lie in state briefly before being taken to Washington where the major formal ceremonies and then eventually, he will be brought back here. There is a gravesite being prepared overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It‘s a beautiful, spectacular view, looking out from the library grounds to the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Reagan wanted to be buried here. Nancy Reagan, when she dies, will also be buried here.
OLBERMANN: George Lewis outside the Reagan Library where the former president who died today will eventually be buried after the state ceremonies in Washington. And after ceremonies there—and obviously the signal was lost from there in the middle of George‘s report. We‘ll go back to him, of course, later in the evening as MSNBC‘s coverage continues as we mourn the death of President Ronald Reagan.
And it is worth remembering that his life was almost cut much shorter. Just 69 days into his first term in office, a deranged young man trying to impress the actress, Jody Foster, took a shot at the new president and all sorts of presidential historians went cold because every president elected in a year ending in zero, dating back to 1840, had died in office, among them, Lincoln and McKinley and Harding and FDR, and John F. Kennedy. And Ronald Reagan had been shot less than three months into his first term. He did not, most obviously, die on that terrible day. Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News takes us back to that harrowing afternoon.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan is president only two months when he arrives for his speech at the Washington Hilton. But as he leaves, a would-be assassin opens fire. In less than two seconds, six shots. The president hit.
Secret Service agent Jerry Parr:
JERRY PARR, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I grabbed the president‘s left shoulder and bent him over, giving him a tremendous heave into the car. As soon as that door shut, I said, “Let‘s get out of here.”
MIKLASZEWSKI: On the street, chaos. Agents quickly overpower the lone gunman, a 25-year-old drifter, John Hinckley Jr. Three lie seriously wounded. The most critical, press secretary, Jim Brady, shot in the head, permanently disabled.
JIM BRADY, FORMER REAGAN PRESS SECRETARY: I recall a very sharp pain over my left eyebrow. That was the last thing I (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MIKLASZEWKSI: In slow motion, Hinckley‘s hand and .22 caliber pistol emerge from behind reporters and cameras. Agent Tim McCarthy turns to shield the president. A bullet slams him to the pavement.
TIM MCCARTHY, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I tried to just get myself between where I thought the shots—hoping they weren‘t shots—were coming from the president.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Another shot ricochets off the limo and hits Reagan in the left side. From here at the Hilton, the armored limo speeds off but it‘s headed toward the White House because no one, not even the president himself realizes he‘s been shot. But when Reagan starts coughing up blood, Agent Parr makes a critical decision that saves precious time and the president‘s life.
PARR: When I saw that blood, I just made a quick decision, hospital. Three minutes after the shooting, the limo roars up to George Washington Hospital. Reagan walks into the emergency room and collapses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was picked up and they were carrying him like you carry somebody in a football game, up over their shoulders. So here was the president of the United States being—they were running with him.
MIKLASZEWKSI (voice-over): Bleeding internally, he loses half his own blood. Dr. Joseph Giordano is the first surgeon on the scene.
DR. JOSEPH GIORDANO, SURGEON, GEORGE WASHINGTON HOSPITAL: It‘s clear to me, had it been a five or 10-minute delay in getting him to the ER, I think the results might have been a lot different.
MIKLASZEWSKI: X-rays show the bullet stops inches from the president‘s heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I know, the bullet is still in the president.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Back at the White House, the staff is in turmoil.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As of now, I am in control here in the White House.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Nancy Reagan rushes to the hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that‘s when they told her that he had been shot. She went right to the chapel and she was very quiet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NBC Nightly News.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. Here‘s the latest. The president is still in surgery. His condition is described as good and the doctors are optimistic.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Even as he‘s wheeled into surgery, Reagan never loses his trademark sense of humor, joking with doctors who would save his life.
GIORDANO: He looked at me and he says, “I hope you‘re all Republicans.” And I looked at him and said, “Yes, today we‘re all Republicans. Mr. President.” I had to say it that way because I‘m really a Democrat.
MIKLASZEWSKI: He remains hospitalized for 12 days. It will be three months before he fully recovers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do when you get home?
R. REAGAN: Sit down.
MIKLASZEWSKI: John Hinckley is later found not guilty by reason of insanity and remains confined today at a Washington mental hospital. But the shooting has a profound impact on the Reagans. Nancy Reagan becomes so protective; she now personally approves the president‘s travels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Nancy never was the same after that shooting regarding the safety of her husband. She was always nervous.
MIKLASZEWSKI: The Secret Service also turned more cautious, tightening the ring of protection around Reagan and all future presidents. Two seconds of sheer terror that forever leaves their mark on the White House and the Reagan legacy.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: As we continue to mourn the passing of former President Reagan, we‘re joined now by Sheila Tate, Nancy Reagan‘s former press secretary, who‘s in Washington.
Miss Tate, thanks for your time on this sad occasion.
SHEILA TATE, NANCY REAGAN‘S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Tell me of—to the best degree that you can of the period of time since Mrs. Reagan‘s address on the subject of stem cell research when she talked about how her husband was no longer reachable by her, what you know of the last month, what it has been like for Nancy Reagan.
TATE: I don‘t specifically know the details because we made it a point not to talk about them. When anyone asked her how he was doing, she always said, “As well as can be expected.”
What I do know is over the last few years, she‘s—I have heard an acceptance in her voice that she‘s come to terms with his disease. But even with that, I know she must be in real shock today because they were so incredibly close and she has spent the last 10 years—well, she‘s spent her whole married life protecting Ronald Reagan. But the last 10 years, she has protected his dignity and allowed his legacy to shine clearly and not be muddled by, you know, pictures of him as he got frailer and frailer. And for that, I think we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
OLBERMANN: Pat Buchanan, who is of MSNBC staff, and was on this broadcast about 40 minutes ago, talked about the relationship of Ronald and Nancy Reagan as one of the great love stories of American—certainly, American political history and clearly, of American public history of the last century. Have we made too much of that? Have we romanticized the romance?
TATE: I don‘t think so. I was fortune enough to spend a great deal of time with them over the years and you always saw that light in their eyes when they saw each other. The attention and respect they paid to each other. It really was a strong and formidable bond. And you felt like it was different.
OLBERMANN: It‘s always a sad thing to discuss the logistics of a process at a time like this. And it‘s, I guess, for the entire country, this is almost new territory. We‘ve not had a state funeral since, as pointed out earlier, Lyndon Johnson passed away in 1973. Do you know what the process is from here on in? We‘ve touched on it briefly.
TATE: I do know, in general, but I would caution you that it‘s—because of everything going on with regard to the G-8 Summit meeting and the D-Day and everything, all of the timing and arrangements have to be coordinated with the White House. So I know that the office of President Reagan, Joann Drake, will be releasing details probably tomorrow as they‘re worked out.
But essentially, he will lie in state in California for a day or so to allow Californians and close friends of the Reagans who are unable to travel to pay their respects. He will then—his body will be brought back here where he will lay in state at the Capitol. The official funeral will be at the National Cathedral. And then his body will, on the same day, be flown back to California where he will be buried at the library at sunset in a much more personal family service.
OLBERMANN: And that leads me to my final question, it is personal and it is family and it is about, if you know of the initial responses to the passing of a man they knew not as president but as father. How are Ronald Reagan‘s children doing?
TATE: Well, this is a time that I think none of us want to intrude. It‘s a family time. I know the children have been there most of the day and I know they‘re probably all in deep grief. And I—my heart just goes out to them. I don‘t know what else to say about it.
OLBERMANN: As many of ours do here, too because, of course, Ron Reagan has done work for MSNBC. He was here throughout most of the primaries and is a favorite of many people in this building. And our grief goes out personally to him, obviously, as well.
OLBERMANN: Sheila Tate, formerly the press secretary to Nancy Reagan, joining us with a lot of information and a lot of insight on this very sad occasion and we thank you for all of that and for your time tonight.
TATE: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Continuing on this subject, the former president‘s children and grandchildren began to gather at his bedside in California yesterday. That was exacerbating the stories that we heard throughout the night and into this morning that proved sadly to be true. NBC‘s correspondent Mark Mullen is there.
Mark, what‘s the latest from outside the Reagan home?
MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, it‘s a good point that you
make in this introduction because for that matter, it‘s been actually two
or three weeks since all of the rumors about the president‘s failing health
began circulating, though quietly. A few news agencies, including NBC,
reported this but we continued to monitor the situation. Then by last
night when we were here on this very spot—we were the only people here -
· it became fairly clear that it would become more than just rumor because we saw many of the family members beginning to converge. We saw Michael Reagan, the son of Ronald Reagan, from his first marriage, arriving here along with two of his daughters, two of the president‘s grandchildren.
Early this morning, Ron Reagan showed up here along with his sister and Michael Reagan joined them later, and they didn‘t leave. They were here throughout the entire day until word finally came down just a bit later during the course of the day that the president had indeed passed away. At that point, everything changed here in terms of the tone. They had simply up here a Bel Air security guard, a private police force up here. As soon as it was announced that had the president had passed away, the Secret Service came and augmented the detail already attached to the Reagans right here. Los Angeles police came here in force, erected this tape completely, basically, barricaded everything. The chief of police here paying their respects and making sure that everything was going.
And as well, some of the people who just happened to be visiting Los Angeles, as well as those from the area, began to converge on this area simply to pay their respects and to sort of look at what they figured might be sort of a glimpse, a last glimpse of where the president spent his final days.
Logistically now, we understand from a spokesperson just a moment ago that a hearse is coming. It should be here probably within about 10 to 12 minutes or so from a funeral home, which will go into the family compound and then transport the former president, the 40th president of the United States, to a funeral home in preparation for the days to come—Keith.
OLBERMANN: Mark Mullen outside the Ronald Reagan home where the former president passed away at about 1:00. There‘s been some confusion about that, Mark. Let me get the timing of it. That has been referred to several times in press accounts as simply 1:00 p.m. not given as Pacific or Eastern. When did the president pass away?
MULLEN: I‘m afraid I can‘t be of help. The interesting thing in all this is although Ronald Reagan‘s office did make some comments, there really hasn‘t been an absolutely official press release chronicling all of the details as of yet. So you know what we know.
OLBERMANN: The circumstances, as I suggested with Nancy Reagan‘s former press secretary, Miss Tate, this is almost new territory. We have not had something like this since 1973 and the state funeral for Lyndon Baines Johnson. These are new areas for not just the country but—and also not just the media, but for the people involved directly in the process. So I would imagine there would be a lot of this uncertainty and delay in statement and unsurity of protocol. Have you seen any of that there?
MULLEN: I have indeed. And to think about this, we have had almost a 10-year notice, sad to say, that these days might be inevitable from the first time, as you have reported, that Ronald Reagan had written that poignant letter detailing the fact that he did have Alzheimer‘s. Up until several weeks ago when Nancy Reagan also made that speech at the fundraiser in which she had detailed the way that this disease, Alzheimer‘s, has ravaged her husband.
There was plenty of notice but it really wasn‘t, I think, until this moment hit that people had to realize what they would do. And basically, it‘s more than just the family which is involved even though this is a former president, there‘s a lot of protocol issues, especially when it comes to all of the arrangements which have to be made in Washington and probably they didn‘t want to get ahead of themselves. They figured there would be adequate time to do so.
But certainly, as you have pointed out throughout the course of your broadcast, Keith, regardless of the party, there‘s little doubt that this president was iconic at least in our lifetime. And it should be interesting to see how people throughout California, his home state, throughout the United States and throughout the world pay their respects and note the passing of this 40th president of the U.S.
OLBERMANN: Mark Mullen standing outside the Bel Air home of the late President Ronald Reagan and awaiting there along with the rest of the media assembled, that hearse on the way from Santa Monica‘s mortuary to the Bel Air home. It‘s another sad moment of this sad evening. Mark, thanks very much and I‘m sure we‘ll be getting back to you later in the hour or in the next one.
As we said, in discussing Ronald Reagan‘s son, Ron, who is a political analyst that has—who has worked with us here on MSNBC, there is a personal connection to the passing of the president that is felt just in this building that perhaps gives us just an edge, just an inkling of the personal feeling of sadness shared by so many in the Reagan family or those in sort of the extended political Reagan family. And I‘m joined by someone who I think would accept that designation right now. Peggy Noonan, who wrote many of Mr. Reagan‘s great speeches and works with NBC News and MSNBC as an analyst, has joined us.
A sad occasion, Peggy. Sum up your thoughts for me.
PEGGY NOONAN, MSNBC ANALYST: You know, I feel like this is a funny thing, but we have known this is coming for a long time. We‘ve really known for years and yet, somehow it is hitting not like a loss but like a blow. I‘ve been talking to people the past few hours and I‘ve been on—exchanging emails, and I got to tell you, people seem—I‘m getting the impression that there is a general sense out there that we have just lost the last agreed upon great man in the United States and a great leader. And I think there‘s—I think over the next few days, people are going to find it kind of hits them a little harder than they might have known.
OLBERMANN: I‘m going to go back to my clich’ here. This man succeeded every time someone said he was not going to succeed whether we‘re talking about his sports casting days at WHO in Des Moines, recreating the baseball broadcast of the Chicago Cubs or when he decided to go out to Hollywood and take a shot at Hollywood stardom or at least active work in the movies right through to running the Screen Actor‘s Guild right through to becoming a corporate spokesman when people didn‘t think he had the gravitas to do that, into politics in a conservative function at a time when the conservatives of this country have probably taken the deepest and most painful hit in their history after the defeat in landslide form of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Governor of California, a success at it and many controversies overtaken. A candidate for president when you did not run for president based on your political career, having been an extension of an acting career. How much of American politics did this man change?
NOONAN: Well, he changed a heck of a lot. I think there were two things. Everything that you say is true. When he ran for president, however, the biggest thing that he had going for him is not that he used to be on “Death Valley Days” and that he was the Hollywood star in the 1930‘s, rather, he was a successful two-term governor of California just around the time when it was starting to look like maybe California wasn‘t governable, terrible deficits, high taxes, et cetera. So he came in. He entered national politics as a guy who was already proven regionally.
I think there are two things so moving about him though. One, he came from nowhere. He‘s a Midwestern kid, no money. His father was an alcoholic and somewhat itinerant in his work habit, a shoe salesman. His mom, an evangelical Christian, a very hopeful person who helped Reagan develop his natural optimism. But this is a guy who really came from nowhere and who felt all of America was open to him, was open to just another nobody as it was the great country, opened to all nobodies.
The second thing is I think it took courage for this guy to reach adulthood. And he had been thinking kind of establishment things all along the way. Everything that—he was a liberal Democrat in Hollywood just like everybody else, but when, for serious reasons, he started to go in another direction, it was tough for him. It took a lot of guts to follow his natural thoughts and beliefs. And then it was heroic for him to yank the country to see it in his direction. I‘m sorry to be garrulous here but I feel there‘s so much to say about this great—authentically great man.
OLBERMANN: Peggy, people had the sense—and I‘m wondering of the
presidents immediately before and after him, if this has been not true or
true in a far lesser degree, regardless of party, across party, but people
had the sense that the man they saw on television or the man they saw
talking to the winning sports team after this event or that event, and
phoning here and phoning there that that was the real guy. How close—we
· this debate raged while he was the president. It has raged since. How much of the public Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan and how much was he, things that you had written for him?
NOONAN: Oh, my gosh. Well, he started—you know when he started out in politics, it was with a breathtaking speech in which he made the case for Barry Goldwater, as you mentioned, in the 1964 presidential campaign better than Barry Goldwater ever could. This speech became—put him on the map nationally and it became known as the speech in politics.
OLBERMANN: Peggy, just pause for a second for me. Pause for a second for me just—I just want to explain to people what we are seeing here and then we can pick up talking about the speech. That is a live picture from outside Ronald Reagan‘s home. As we told you a few moments ago in our discourse with Mark Mullen, our correspondent there, that a heard had been reported on its way from the mortuary in Santa Monica to the home in Bel Air to, of course, pick up—and again, these are the all of logistics of the passing of any individual. They become so magnified when it is a former president of the United States, a two term president, Ronald Reagan. They are there. That backing up, that slight up-hill motion is there to take away the body of the late Ronald Reagan after so long an illness, after so long a torturous time for his family and those who respect him and love him. And again, Peggy Noonan, one of the speech writers in the Reagan administration, foremost among that group.
And we‘ll continue with Peggy as we see more of these pictures and let that play out. But Peggy, you were speaking of the speech and of the running debate of how much was the real Ronald Reagan and how much was a performance.
NOONAN: Oh, God bless his heart. God bless his heart to think of him leaving us at this time and to think of the pictures that you are showing now. This man is going to be missed. He‘s been missed in a way for a long time, but now there is, of course, a finality to his departure and hopefully, for him, a great and beautiful liberation.
Look, what was the difference between Reagan in public and Reagan in private? Very little, from what I saw. Reagan was deeply, deeply engaged intellectually and emotionally by great issues, by great thoughts and ideas. When he sat at his desk, that‘s the work he was doing. He loved writing letters. He loved writing radio addresses and speeches.
I‘ll tell you something I thought of when you mentioned public and private. It was once said of Reagan, and I can‘t remember if it was said by Mario Cuomo or Mike Deaver, but somebody once said of Reagan‘s public persona, this is a man who, when the baby sees him, the baby smiles. There was something radiant, natural and unfiltered between him and you. And he‘d sit and tell you his thoughts and you would get them. You would receive them and you‘d think, oh, I get how he‘s thinking. And that is such an important thing for leaders not just that people know what your decision is but they get how you‘re thinking. They understand the philosophy behind your ultimate decisions.
OLBERMANN: What do you think in terms of the political legacy? I wonder if—I keep thinking—it‘s three or four times today that I thought of this now, the week of the inauguration in 1981, some cartoonist somewhere, and I don‘t know how I happened to see this, it must have been in a paper that was available in New York, had a drawing of portraits of the four preceding presidents, all of them, I guess it would have been Carter and Ford and Nixon and Johnson all dressed in typical mid 20th century clothing and their portraits framed and hanging in this cartoon. And the new one being lifted up was a picture of Ronald Reagan in a top hat, a maniacal and a scowl, a cravat, and the dates on his presidency, 1881 to fill in the blank. The perception of this man was that there was some sort of throw-back to the days of Chester Alan Arthur. Has any president, do you suppose, been elected more misunderstood or the predictions about his presidency proving less accurate than in Mr. Reagan‘s case?
NOONAN: Well, you know, what you bring up is just very true and it is so true of Reagan that, if you will forgive me, I don‘t mean to be pejorative, but the elites, the elites of journalism and the Academy, the great writers and columnists. They thought this guy was an 18th century guy. They thought modern liberal Democratic Party philosophy was just the thing.
Reagan was really different for them. He startled them. He startled some people in the country because he said, guess what? The ideas and the thoughts of the founders about freedom and the size of government and the strength of America in the world, that‘s what we ought to be talking about and that‘s how we ought to be living. So he was a very startling person for the elites. However, this man did nothing but win landslides. I often thought of him—that he had nobody with him but the people.
OLBERMANN: As we continue to look at those pictures intermittently from Bel Air, California where the hearse has arrived from a mortuary in Santa Monica, and Mr. Reagan‘s body will be taken away to the—to that mortuary, let me ask you one last question here, Peggy. That landslide that you spoke of, 1984. We see the presidency of Ronald Reagan as one continuous event. There‘s the beginning, the middle and the end, but you know how it turns out.
OLBERMANN: There was a time in 1983 and 1984 where it did not look like there would be a second term.
NOONAN: Oh, sure. There were tough times. Reagan had to take a serious recession in order to get rid of inflation, which under the previous administrations had been—gosh, I think it was hitting like 14 percent or something like that. He had to take a major hit in order to straighten things out. He took it. By the time—he didn‘t just win big time in ‘84 in a landslide, two terms as governor of California, landslides. Two terms as president of the United States, landslides. This man never had a squeaker even when he was president of the Screen Actor‘s Guild.
OLBERMANN: Peggy Noonan of the speech writing staff of President Ronald Reagan remembering him today. And we thank you so much for doing so. And I imagine unfortunately, under the circumstances but fortunately for those of us who are interested in knowing this man and interested in putting him in historical perspective, fortunately, we will be speaking again, I guess, later on this evening. Thank you, Peggy.
NOONAN: Thank you. Thanks very much.
OLBERMANN: There are reactions, of course, coming in from throughout the political world and the world itself. One statement that—I don‘t think it has been read in the last hour from the briefest of statements said through her chief-of-staff, Joann Drake, by Nancy Reagan that “my family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer‘s disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone‘s prayers.” And interesting to note in that the --- that Mrs. Reagan included a reference to Alzheimer‘s disease in that very briefest of statements and otherwise, unemotional statement that she issued.
As you see again in California, awaiting for the hearse to take away the body of Ronald Reagan from his home to a mortuary in Santa Monica and then onto the library in Simi Valley for a ceremony of lying in California state, if you will. And then, eventually on to Washington for the cathedral and the Rotunda of the Capitol for the first presidential laying in state since 1973 and Lyndon Johnson.
George Schultz stood at Mr. Reagan‘s side as secretary of state for most of Mr. Reagan‘s two-term tenure in the White House. And he is to join us tonight from San Francisco.
Secretary Schultz, we thank you kindly for joining us this evening. Let me ask you—tell me about this man who succeeded repeatedly in so many different things when people told him he was not going to be successful.
GEORGE SCHULTZ, REAGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, people didn‘t tell him that very much. But he was very confident that the ideas that he advocated were the right ideas for America. And since they were the right ideas, they‘d triumph. He was very comfortable with himself and comfortable with his views.
OLBERMANN: The ultimate goal of his international approach would obviously be best known by the people that he worked with, the people in his administration, would probably be best known and most easily described by you. Did he go in saying my dream is to leave office and have the Soviet Union leave the stage with me?
SCHULTZ: Well, he made a speech early in his presidency in which he said that the Soviet Union did not have a great future. And he was convinced that communism was essentially a faulty system and would self-destruct sooner or later. So that was his view.
OLBERMANN: It was expressed in two entirely different ways though, was it not, from the beginning when he termed the Soviet Union the evil empire to the end when really, the association, I don‘t want to go so boldly as to call it a friendship, but the warm association with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union in essence. The—how does a man go—how does a president go from talking about an evil empire to essentially negotiating the end of that evil empire with smiles on both men‘s faces?
SCHULTZ: Well, it was an evil empire. And I remember once after he made that statement, I think it was in early 1983, people were outraged by it and then they were asked the question, well, have you considered the possibility that the statement might be accurate? And it was accurate. But of course, as time went on, what Ronald Reagan thought would happen, what I thought would happen, and some others, that the Soviet Union ran into increasing difficulties. And then we did have a—Mr. Gorbachev came along that seemed to understand it better and so, the Soviet Union changed. And naturally, you describe it differently when it changes.
OLBERMANN: Can you tell me about the negotiations at Reykjavik, involving Mr. Gorbachev and President Reagan? Was that the tipping point, to use today‘s popular phrase, when suddenly on the table was this possibility of absolute nuclear disarmament and the entire fundamental part of the Cold War was suddenly up for discussion?
SCHULTZ: Well, it was certainly a tipping point. And I think as you
look back on Reykjavik, you can see that we basically agreed to have zero -
· to take out of deployment all the intermittent range nuclear missiles, to cut strategic weapon in half, to equal levels, with the bomber counting rule, to have human rights be an acknowledged regular part of our agenda. All of these things that were put on the table at Reykjavik were big things and they represented sort of a cracking of the ice in the Cold War even though they weren‘t consolidated at Reykjavik. And of course, Ronald Reagan did have the dream that we should have a world without nuclear weapons. That was his aspiration.
OLBERMANN: Many of those aspirations, obviously, have come to pass as today, his life has ended today. George Schultz, Mr. Reagan‘s secretary of state for most of the two terms in the White House, we thank you so much for joining us under these sad circumstances. Thank you, sir.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: As we continue here on MSNBC to cover the passing of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the many developments will continue throughout this evening as will our coverage. You‘re watching MSNBC.
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