Guests: Harvey Perritt
LESTER HOLT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: The beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful.” That was the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants. And what is about to take place right now, the president pro tem wreath by Senator Ted Stevens will be brought forward, followed by the speakers wreath and Vice President Cheney attending the placing the presidential wreath.
Now the Senate Chaplain Barry Black.
BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Now Psalm the “Benediction.”
Oh, giver of every good and perfect gift. Accept our gratitude for the life of your servant, President Ronald Reagan. Whose love for freedom summoned our nation to embrace our best hopes and not our worst fears. Thank you for his ability to plant seeds of confidence and not doubt, and to lift liberty‘s lamp until totalitarian towers tumbled. In the days to come, remind us of America‘s opportunity to remain a shining city on a hill. Continue to comfort those who mourn. In a special way, be near to Mrs. Nancy Reagan and the family. May the death of this beloved leader prompt us to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly, day by day. Now fill us with your peace as we trust you so that we may overflow with hope by the power of your spirit. Amen.
HOLT: That was Michael Reagan, a touching moment, saying goodbye to his father and Nancy Reagan before that, and that stirring and just another extremely touching moment as her eyes filled with tears and she rubbed her hands across the flag-draped casket, and mouthed words that—we simply can‘t tell what you she said, and then escorted out by the vice president. And so concludes the state funeral for President Ronald Wilson Reagan at the Capitol Rotunda.
There will be a short time now as dignitaries file out of the rotunda, and a short time later, the public will begin to begin filing into the rotunda to pay their respects and that process will go on until about 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
Thousands of people lining Constitution Avenue to welcome Ronald Reagan back to Washington, D.C., today. This service, not for the public, but for members of the House and Senate, members of the Supreme Court were in attendance, as well as the president‘s cabinet.
The casket will lay, as you see it, east west on the catafalque in the rotunda, the head of the president facing east. The officer of the guard of honor will stand at the head of the casket, his back to the east door. And also at the head of the casket, you‘ll note the national colors that are closer to the northeast. The personal colors posted to the southeast, and four sentinels positioned at four corners of the casket. The three wreaths you saw placed there by the senate president pro tem, the vice president, house speaker, are the north, west, and south of the casket. That Honor Guard you see there will change every half-hour, the “changing of relief” they call it. They‘ll enter and exit the rotunda through north door.
Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan joining me here on Capitol Hill.
And gentlemen, your thoughts.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL”: Oh, I just—go ahead, you first.
PAT BUCHANAN, BUCHANAN AND PRESS: Well, I thought the eulogy of the vice president was extraordinarily eloquent and moving. I thought the others were excellent. It was a very powerful ceremony. But, especially, Dick Cheney was—it was understated. He described the man and his life and his career and the words, “big hearted, “idealistic,” “decent,” and “fair,” he took that right out of Ronald Reagan‘s second inaugural about America and applied them to the former president of the United States. He took us back to Dixon, Illinois, and to Reagan and his family, and I thought it was just a beautiful rendition of the president‘s life and his achievements and I think done with a kind of eloquence that we have never always associated with Vice President Dick Cheney. I was very moved by it.
MATTHEWS: Me, too. I thought (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one of the great lines which I will not forget, I‘ve written it down, that Ronald Reagan is being buried this week. Here‘s the phrase, “With the full honors of the United States,” and that‘s what this all is. That‘s what the cadence of the drums is. That‘s what the procession is. That‘s what the flying back here to the Capitol is. It‘s to receive the full honors of the United States. And I think that‘s what we‘re seeing here, what it‘s like to be fully honored by your country and that‘s what Ronald Reagan is receiving now. It‘s too bad he doesn‘t get to see it, in a sense. I guess he knew it was coming.
BUCHANAN: You know, I think he has captured this city in death as he never quite did in life. This was one of the—the District of Columbia that he never carried in an election, even when he had his 49-state landslide. But, what you saw up there, again, I think it is the whole—that is representative of everyone in the country. The Congress, the executive, both houses of the Congress, Democrats, Republicans, coming together in love and affection and farewell, and I believe this is a message of national unity that we haven‘t seen since the hours after 9/11. I think it‘s good for America and, well of course, we are saying goodbye to someone who‘s really, I think, a beloved man and who‘s really—in turned himself into the hearts—into the hearts of the American people forever, as well as their history books.
MATTHEWS: I think it is interesting, Pat. I may take issue with you on whether the people of the District of Columbia have come out in large numbers to salute him dead.
BUCHANAN: Well, I....
MATTHEWS: But, I do noticed along the parade route, and having lived in Washington for a third of a century, the people we saw along Constitution Avenue, we‘re checking on this, Pat, were basically the tourists, the people that come here this time of year especially, when the city‘s at its best. It‘s not too hot, it‘s warm, but it‘s beautiful. And, they come here with their children to show them the national monuments, the Lincoln memorial, the Washington monument, the Jefferson, if they can, in the old days they could tour the White House. They‘re the real gung-ho, I should say, traditional American families. And I think a lot of them, if not a majority of them, loved Ronald Reagan.
BUCHANAN: But, what I was referring to is the political city. The media was not—some 80 percent of the national media opposed him. They had strong opposition in the bureaucracy and the Congress, but you see that city, which is basically the voice of the country, in a lot of ways, it does seem in the last week, I‘ve seen it come together as I haven‘t seen it, as I say, since those hours and days after 9/11. And I think even among his adversaries and his critics, what we—what you got this week was a real respect and affection and a grudging admiration for what this man had achieved and who he was.
MATTHEWS: I think we‘re going to see magazine covers again next week. I think this man will hit the daily double in term of national acclaim, anyway. Back to you, Lester.
HOLT: Yeah, Chris, I want to talk about Harvey Perritt again. He has been gracious enough to remain on the phone with us. A former commander of the Old Guard that famed infantry unit of the U.S. Army that led the caisson down Constitution Avenue.
Mr. Perritt, I noted as the body bearers were bringing the president‘s casket up the stairs, they changed. It was a different group that actually brought him into the Capitol. Do you know why?
HARVEY PERRITT, FMR. COMMANDER OF THE OLD GUARD: Yes. The first group, the people who did the transfer from the Hearse to the caisson marched the whole way down to the Capitol and then brought him, brought the casket up part of the way. With Lyndon Baines Johnson, we only did 44 steps. This was over twice as many steps and the weather is much more severe than we had in ‘73, so the shifting replacement, if you want to put it that way, of the casket team, was a wise maneuver. It was a good call and it went very smoothly. I‘m proud of these kids.
HOLT: And, let me just pause a moment. You may be able to hear the rumble of motorcycles behind me, we believe some of the motorcades, perhaps the vice president‘s, perhaps Mrs. Reagan‘s will be passing by our location in a moment. We‘ll let you know when that occurs.
Mr. Perritt, help me understand the significance of the positioning of these members of the armed services now, who make up the Honor Guard.
PERRITT: OK. The four sentinels and the officer, as you earlier stated, the officer is at the head of the casket. The others are at the corner. They‘ll change every 30 minutes. The next officer will be a Marine. They do this in the order of presidents—depending on the birthday of the service, the one following will be from the Navy. And the sentinels will be from different services. They‘ll rotate so that you get a different group servicewise on each relief. An interesting note, they can the—they can either be at attention, as they are right now, or they can be at that parade rest. The signal for that...
HOLT: Let me cut you off for a moment, we believe the vice president is just passing by our location, now. He‘s leaving the Capitol, his motorcade and many of the other dignitaries, as well, making their exit—you may have just seen over my shoulder.
Mr. Perritt, I‘m sorry to cut you off. Let me ask about when you handled the funeral of Lyndon Johnson. He also lay in state under the Capitol rotunda; it was a different time, the security threats, not what they are today. How much do you think that will diminish the necessity of the kind of security that we face today may make this a much different kind of a public farewell?
PERRITT: I don‘t think state funerals will change. They‘ll have to be, obviously, more security in this day and age. We didn‘t worry about problems at the time, in ‘73 the likelihood of having terrorists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was pretty limited. But state funerals, the tradition is such that I don‘t think it will change. You might have greater security, but I don‘t think you‘ll—I don‘t think you‘ll change what goes on and how it‘s done.
HOLT: Mr. Perritt, you‘ve been a big help. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us throughout the evening.
PERRITT: Glad to do it.
HOLT: Mr. Perritt led the unit that—famed infantry unit that led the casket down Constitution Avenue today, the Old Guard.
We want to go to the Capitol Mall now, as we‘ve been telling you, in just a few moments, the scheduled time was 8:30. The Capitol will be open to the public to begin filing past the president‘s casket. NBC‘s Robert Hager is on the Capitol Mall to tell us about that crowd—Bob.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Evening, Lester. Well, this is now the crowd behind me. To set the scene here, we‘re in what‘s called a west front of the Capitol. The Capitol is about two blocks from here. This is the staging area for the public, those who wish to pay their respects tonight. The front of this line formed up at 6:30 this morning, and then when I got here late this afternoon, it was perhaps only several hundred, but then all of a sudden, it just exploded. And I would say, trying to compare it to a football crowd or something, we probably have about 15, 20,000 there‘s in line now, and as you can see, they‘re snaking forward now, then they‘ll go through security before they‘re allowed into the rotunda. The viewing will go on all through tonight, all through all of tomorrow, and then into Friday morning. They say by the time we‘re finished Friday morning, it could be more than 100,000, similar to what we had out in California.
We want here—let‘s just try a couple of people.
Do you mind? Where did you come from? Are you from around here?
STEVE WALTON, CAME TO PAY RESPECTS: From the eastern shore of Virginia.
HAGER: So, that‘s quite a little hike. Did you come just for this?
WALTON: About four hours. Yes.
HAGER: And why did you come?
WALTON: Because we love Ronald Reagan.
HAGER: I should ask your name.
WALTON: Steve Walton. This is my wife Cynthia.
HAGER: How are you, Mrs. Walton.
CYNTHIA WALTON, CAME TO PAY RESPECTS: Hi.
HAGER: And who else. Just to try another sample. How—where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m from Clarksville, Maryland.
HAGER: Clarksville, so that‘s what? About an hour away, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A half-hour.
HAGER: And why did you come?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I was a Democrat before Reagan came into office and he changed me into a Republican, he gave me hope.
HAGER: What‘s your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sharon Breedlauf (ph).
HAGER: Well, thank you very much for talking to us.
I—a gentleman passed through here a few moments ago. He said he came from 1,100 miles away, I think it was from it was Louisiana. That‘s a long way. And he came here just for that. And he said he was going back tomorrow morning. So, that‘s the kind of emotion that we‘re seeing here.
Another factor is the hot weather. A lot of these people that were waiting in line during day, the temperature got up near 90 degrees, here. So, that wasn‘t easy. Red Cross people are passing out water and so forth, so people here have been very patient, very orderly and very shortly, they‘ll open the rotunda and they‘ll begin to file through—Lester.
HOLT: Yeah, Bob, I saw one lady behind with you a pretty big over the shoulder bag. What are the limitations? Obviously, the security considerations of what people can bring or can‘t bring inside.
HAGER: No, I think so far, that they‘re allowing them to bring—I think it is fairly liberal. But, they will be searching it as they go through the security tent up there. And they‘ve asked people, they‘ve warned people not to bring the kinds of things that they seize in airports. That‘s the general guideline.
HOLT: Yeah, we want to take you back inside the rotunda. And this is a picture of Speaker Dennis Hastert who, of course, spoke during the service, presented a wreath and he is now taking his own private moment to pay his respects to President Reagan.
And as he concluded his remarks, we—I noted that Nancy Reagan appeared to be trying to get his eye and she mouthed the words, “thank you” to Speaker Hastert after the remarks. And there is that remarkable scene, the president‘s casket and the five Color Guards, Honor Guards, and the three wreaths that have been presented.
We‘d—it looks like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell joining us, now—Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Margaret Thatcher looking so frail, but you have to think that this is a very difficult time for her. She‘s had a stroke, she is really not able to speak in public any longer. She and Ronald Reagan were philosophical, ideological soul mates. When they got together, it changed the whole dynamic of the relationship in the G-7, what was then the G-7, before Russia was involved. This was during the Cold War and she supported him at every stage, and he supported her.
Escorted there by of course, majority leader—Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. She is very, very frail. She used to come to the United States, see some of us who used to cover her, some of her old friends, as well, and she has not been able to travel.
Now you see of course, Brian Mulroney, another one of the foreign leaders who was in a very close relationship with the man he called “Ron Reagan,” and his wife.
HOLT: Yeah, and Andrea, watching this picture of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney, it certainly takes us back to that time and kind of defines the moment of that presidency, doesn‘t it?
MITCHELL: Well, if you have just a moment, a few weeks ago, I had a long conversation with Mulroney about Ronald Reagan. And he shared one of those moments, after the United States was preparing to hit Moammar Gadhafi, Libya, with an air strike, Ronald Reagan called Brian Mulroney in Canada and said “I‘m going to send a young national security aide to tell us what our evidence is and why we need your support on this. And I‘m going to send this young man, Oliver North to see you.” And according to Mulroney, he said, “Ron, you don‘t have to send me an aide, if—your word is good enough for me. If you say you have the evidence, you have my support. And I‘m sure you‘ll have Maggie‘s as well.”
HOLT: Former Vice President Quail, Marilyn Quail.
MITCHELL: It speaks to a very different relationship among the allies, where there was trust.
HOLT: Former Secretary of State Shultz makes his way to the casket to pay his respects.
We expect this to go on for a few minutes, dignitaries, many former member of the Reagan administration, Alexander Haig and his wife.
And, Andrea, of course, Alexander Haig had a rather controversial role during the crisis after the president was wounded.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, Haig was forced out of the administration and never again dealt with Ronald Reagan. They didn‘t have a connection after that. It was a very uncomfortable parting.
HOLT: Chris Matthews, a face you know well.
MATTHEWS: Peggy Noonan, there she is with her boy. Boy, if there ever was a Reaganite, it is Peggy Noonan. She‘s so loyal to Reagan. She‘s written a couple of books on him.
One of them is called “When Character Was King.” That makes the statement that Peggy Noonan wants to make, a total loyalist, and I think one of the best speechwriters, Pat, that‘s ever been at the White House.
BUCHANAN: When I was communications director, she was under me and she wrote the Challenger speech.
BUCHANAN: And the famous book, “What I Saw at the Revolution.”
MATTHEWS: That‘s Ken Duberstein. Ken was on earlier this morning. He was the president‘s last chief of staff. That‘s Jackie (ph), his wife, there. Duberstein was one of the real peacemakers in Washington. We had a great relationship all those years I was with Tip and he was with Reagan.
He‘s one of those people that makes Washington—I know it sounds cynical—but makes it work, because he does keep friends on both sides of the aisle.
Pat, I think this is really quite an honors list here. I think these people were selected...
MITCHELL: That‘s Tricia Nixon.
BUCHANAN: Right, Tricia Nixon Cox, right.
MATTHEWS: There‘s Ed Meese.
BUCHANAN: Well, this is wonderful that they‘re bringing up—as well as the people who served in positions of great honor, they‘re bringing up people who might have served in lesser positions, but who are—immense loyalty, like Peggy Noonan, who were very important figures in their own right. And you see Tricia Cox, as I say, coming basically to represent President and first lady Nixon, who are no longer with us.
MATTHEWS: There‘s David Eisenhower, I believe. I may be wrong.
MITCHELL: No, this—that is Liz Cheney and her husband and sister Mary Cheney. That is the Cheney daughters and their...
MITCHELL: Liz Cheney is pregnant with another child, and her husband.
MATTHEWS: That‘s Liz on the left. Interesting, such interesting protocol. I have to see who has been selected for these honors.
BUCHANAN: I was with Peggy Noonan. She was up in Geneva at that first summit with Gorbachev.
During a break in it, we went back to look for the house where Lenin had stayed before they put him on that train. She has a terrific knowledge of history and a terrific interest in it.
MATTHEWS: There‘s Catherine Reynolds and Wayne Reynolds. They‘re major philanthropists in Washington, major contributors to the National Art Gallery and other cultural causes in the city.
There‘s Dick Schweiker, the former senator from Pennsylvania who Ronald Reagan designated as his running mate back in 1976, almost pulled an upset against Jerry Ford by picking a liberal senator from Northeastern Pennsylvania. That‘s Margaret Heckler behind him, the former congresswoman from Massachusetts, a Republican who later was named by Reagan to be ambassador to Ireland.
BUCHANAN: And she was secretary of HUD for a bit.
MATTHEWS: Secretary of HHS, yes.
BUCHANAN: The Schweiker pick was designed to break the Pennsylvania delegation open and help Ronald Reagan vault over the top at that 1976 convention in Kansas city. It didn‘t work. He was tremendously controversial. But Reagan remained loyal to him and gave him a position in his Cabinet when he won four years later.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, it‘s interesting watching this, isn‘t it, to see those old faces as they come in sort of randomly. We‘re watching them come through. Now the people are moving as...
MITCHELL: It‘s fascinating.
MATTHEWS: As the general public is moving more quickly now than the original VIPs.
MITCHELL: I just saw Dr. John Hutton, who of course was the president‘s physician in the White House and was close to him in years after, very close to him, helping Nancy Reagan with his care.
In fact, the few times that Nancy Reagan would take a break, although she had nursing care, she would let John Hutton come and stay at the house.
There is John Warner. There‘s Pat Roberts from the Intelligence Committee, the Kemps. But Dr. John Hutton, who is still in the military—he has got a major general status in the military and teaches out in Bethesda.
BUCHANAN: Jack Kemp, of course, has a central role in the Reagan revolution as one of the original architects of the Kemp-Roth tax cuts which were embraced by President Reagan in 1980. He then implemented and made his own. And it‘s a great part of his legacy.
MATTHEWS: We just saw George Will go by. He is certainly one of the most successful conservative columnists in the country.
In fact, he came in a bit before Ronald Reagan and sort of set the pace. His wife, Mauri (ph) Will, a longtime aide to the Republicans, especially Bob Dole. She would for him many years.
BUCHANAN: There‘s Marly Masson (ph). Marly Masson (ph) worked for me in the White House. George Will‘s wife.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, I have to tell you, you can‘t predict this country. I‘ve said it before today. All these years after his presidency and Ronald Reagan getting a send-off of such power and I think, class, it surprised me.
Actually, it‘s so tranquil and so positive and so unquestioned a send-off. I never would have expected that. I would have thought more controversy would attach to this occasion.
MITCHELL: I think there‘s a thirst in this country, especially in wartime, for heroes and for affirming presences.
And he had so much optimism. Dick Cheney described him in his eulogy as a providential men. He did arrive at a time of such tremendous stress, with the Iranian hostages and all the rest and the high energy prices, the downturn. And when he arrived, with the release of the hostage, there did seem to be a great spirit of Western optimism here in Washington.
It did sweep through the Capitol. And he was very activist, as Pat Buchanan well remembers.
You can see John Negroponte there in the crowd, after a tremendous success in the United Nations yesterday with the unanimous vote on that Iraq business.
But you‘re right, Chris. I don‘t think anyone would have predicted this outpouring of affection. And I think possibly, if you look at the polling data, it is linked to the fact that, since he left the White House, he has had the largest increase in popularity of any former president, a sharp 20-point increase since he left.
BUCHANAN: Andrea, you mentioned John Negroponte.
That does recall the tremendous controversies of those years, because Mr. Negroponte was down there in Central America during those Contra—battle for Contra aid, which was probably the most controversial issue of President Reagan‘s second term and the battles with the Congress of the United States. And, now, of course, he is ambassador to the U.N. and he‘s going over to serve the United States and this president in Baghdad.
MITCHELL: And you‘re right, Pat.
And that issue did come up in his confirmation hearing. It came up in a very kindly fashion. The senators like Chris Dodd, who had been there and had challenged him back then, as you well remember, said, well, we need you now. And that is passed. And they were ready to move on.
MITCHELL: Well, Andrea, I think a point you made just a minute ago is one I think is really valid.
Even today, with a somewhat acrimonious campaign, there is a real hunger and thirst in this country, I think, to be one nation and one people again. And people do recall now that Ronald—very positive things about President Reagan. And I think there‘s almost a will on the part of all folks who are on all sides of the issue to make this a real occasion of uplift and unity, and partly because of the way Ronald Reagan left us with that wonderful message 10 years ago, and then to us all to hear about that, that it is sort of a family coming together.
It is a very disputatious family. But a father has died and it has brought everyone together, at least for this moment and these days.
MATTHEWS: One of the other issues that I think has probably dampened any kind of incipient Democratic assault on this man‘s legacy, or even if it was a premature one this week, is the experience of 1994, because, as I recall in terms of the timing, just a bit before the president wrote that beautiful letter to the country declaring his Alzheimer‘s, the Democrats that year tried to run against the legacy of Ronald Reagan in 1994.
Remember? Clinton had been in office two years. They said, why don‘t we run on the notion of Clinton against the notion of Reagan. Well, the result was, they lost control of the United States Congress for the first time in 50 years. They were slammed. They were shellacked politically. And I think the lesson went out, if you‘re hoping to ever rule this country again, don‘t run against Ronald Reagan‘s legacy. Don‘t attack the people who voted for him, which include millions, if not tens of millions of Democrats in the 1984 election.
And I think the Democrats learned their lessons. Let him have his win. And I think that‘s probably one of the reasons why you don‘t even hear from the left benches, from the back benches of the Democratic Party, any kind of sour grapes this week.
BUCHANAN: When you saw this coming, what you‘re talking about, Chris, or at least it seemed to me, was when they dedicated the Ronald Reagan building. I think Pat Moynihan was over there.
I think it was a coming-together and everyone praising the former president of the United States who had been his adversaries and who had been his opponents. And it was a real sense that he had moved into the ages.
MATTHEWS: Let me on and introduce—let‘s give Andrea Mitchell a chance to talk about what she sees as the two most interesting moments tonight, the arrival of Nancy at the casket and, of course, Margaret Thatcher, the old war buddy of Ronald Reagan.
MITCHELL: Well, I don‘t think there could be anything more poignant than Dick Cheney escorting Nancy Reagan to the casket, and, as she said a farewell, she patted the casket. She spoke to it lovingly, as though to say, it‘s all right, Ronnie. You can be at peace now. And there was such a tender moment. To see something that personal, that loving on the world stage is just profoundly moving for me.
MATTHEWS: Margaret Thatcher, she apparently is not in a condition to give public statements anymore. Tell me about this scene here, Andrea. What a scene. This looks like the days of Churchill here.
MITCHELL: Margaret Thatcher, I‘ve often thought, is the most terrifying person I‘ve ever interviewed in a live interview. She would dispute you. She would contradict you.
We would do these live go-‘rounds on the “Today” program and it was ferocious. She was so strong and she was such a friend and ally. She promised Ronald Reagan that she would speak at his eulogy. And she has taped a speech, because she can no longer speak. Ten months ago, when she began failing, she taped the speech.
Now, I‘m not sure that that is actually going to be shown, although there have been reports that it will be shown at the other funeral service, the national funeral on Friday at the National Cathedral. But that relationship was so close. And they were together through what was derisively known as Star Wars, but was really the Strategic Defense Initiative. She supported him on that.
She supported him on the deployment of the Pershing missiles, the intermediate-range missiles in Europe, when the other allies, particularly Francois Mitterand were strongly against. Surprise. The French were against the British-American alliance.
BUCHANAN: Andrea, she was also the one that said, even before Ronald Reagan, when she met Gorbachev, she came out and said, this is a man I can do business with.
It was a real break there, because a lot of people had thought that Gorbachev was a tremendously tough customer coming in and that he was going to be in the Khrushchev mold. And it was said, even before Ronald Reagan headed to Geneva for that 1985 summit.
MATTHEWS: And to balance the ledger, of course, Ronald Reagan and this country supported the British and Margaret Thatcher in her war, something of a little war, but a war nonetheless with the Argentines over the Falklands or the Malvinas Islands. If you‘re an Argentinian, you‘ll call them that.
But, clearly, that was the point where her stock rose dramatically in Britain and Reagan supported her.
BUCHANAN: Solidified the relationship.
MATTHEWS: Well, there are the regular people, the American people themselves without special distinction or special honors, simply loyal to the former president and to their country. And they‘re lining up now on what is still a fairly hot night here in Washington.
Let‘s to go Bob Hager, who is down on the Mall—Bob.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I‘m guessing that we‘ve had 15,000, close to 20,000 people that are in line here waiting to go through the Rotunda and pay their respects.
It is a crowd that, a few of them showed up very early this morning. The first of them were here at 6:30 in the morning. I‘m not sure if we can pick up with the lights, but let‘s just take you over here and you can see how they snake people through here back and forth, a la Disneyland, and that the lines go back and forth. And that goes maybe 10 or 12 rows back.
And then you‘ve been seeing on your air pictures of this line as the head of it gets closer to the Capitol. So far, the general public has not gone into the Rotunda. The general public has not. It‘s been the invited guests and dignitaries.
But, very shortly now, that will be finished and the general public will pour in there. And we talked to these people. They come from all over. They‘re all ages. Some of these people are even too young to have lived through the Reagan years. But they still—they‘ve told us adoring stories. These people are not coming out here so much as curious tourists, as they are coming with purpose, coming because they wanted to pay their respects, and many of them coming from very long distances.
The heat here through the day has been a factor. I‘m sure it will be again tomorrow. And tomorrow, there‘s a little rain ahead, but with temperatures hovering up around 90 degrees and with the humidity index pushing it. So it felt like 100. There were Red Cross people here handing out water, and from time to time, will wade into the crowd and ask if everyone is OK.
A very orderly crowd. They go through security before they go up to the Rotunda. And, so far, it‘s all gone very—in, as I say, a very orderly manner, not much cutting up in line here, a tenor that suits the kind of somber occasion that it is—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Bob Hager down on the Mall.
It reminds me of a Republican convention, very orderly.
MATTHEWS: And the man with the gavel or woman with the gavel says, please clear the aisles, you guys actually do it, as opposed to a Democratic event. I don‘t want to say this is partisan, but there‘s a very nice crowd of people who are very loyal to the former president, but, also, caught up in a mood which is almost communal here.
BUCHANAN: It is. And you‘re right about the cultural difference between the two parties, the Republican and Democrats. The Democrats have always been a more boisterous, frankly, a more exciting constituency.
MATTHEWS: Maybe we should place the third party movement—we should have had it all those years the pitchfork brigade.
BUCHANAN: Pitchfork brigade.
MATTHEWS: ... more mannerly or more excitable.
BUCHANAN: My strongest votes came from people who made between $15,000 and $30,000 a year. So you‘re talking about some Reagan Democrats, working-class Democrats, those folks.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the mood here and the presence of this.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the push that we‘re reading about in the
papers today for some permanent, permanent, recognition of Ronald Reagan‘s
grandeur, or greatness, should be established in the United States
currency? Is that a real movement or is a bit of
BUCHANAN: Let me say, I hope not.
I agree with Nancy Reagan on this. The $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton there, the first secretary of the Treasury, architect of the American economy, who is coming back now with that new biography which I‘ve been reading.
MATTHEWS: And I am an enormous fan of Hamilton.
More important, Ronald Reagan would not want that. I think Ronald Reagan would have been skeptical of a building. He would have loved that aircraft carrier. He would have been down there with his hat on saluting. That is really what he loved. He loved the military, those kinds of representations.
And I think, I would hope that a period of time would go by. Now, Franklin Roosevelt has got a—he doesn‘t have a monument like Jefferson or Lincoln. He has got something like that. And after some time, if the Congress wanted to do that, I think fine. But I would not do that. I hope they would not do the $1 bill.
MATTHEWS: You wouldn‘t do it in a way that exploited the current elections.
BUCHANAN: I would not exploit that. And I also would not do something that the president himself probably would not want done and his wife would not want done.
MATTHEWS: I think we have to remember a couple things. First of all, it would be perhaps implausible for anyone to suggest that Washington be taken off the dollar bill or Lincoln off the five.
MATTHEWS: The only reason Hamilton is vulnerable is because he‘s a president. He wasn‘t born in this country.
BUCHANAN: Of the six great founding fathers, there are only two that didn‘t make president. That‘s Franklin and Hamilton. But...
MATTHEWS: Well, Hamilton will never—I‘m sorry. Hamilton is the most vulnerable, because I was reading today—and it so exquisitely partisan and political—because Pennsylvania is considered a toss-up state this year, you are not going to touch Ben Franklin of Philadelphia.
MATTHEWS: Because Tennessee is also the home state of the Senate majority leader, you are not going to touch Andrew Johnson, who appears on all the ATM machine bills.
BUCHANAN: But you got Grant, I guess, is on the $50 bill, isn‘t he?
BUCHANAN: No, I don‘t think they ought to be changing the dollar bills.
MATTHEWS: And the dime I think, in all fairness...
BUCHANAN: The FDR dime?
MATTHEWS: The dime was basically because of polio and because Franklin Roosevelt was such a leader in the March of Dimes effort.
BUCHANAN: I can remember the little mercury dimes they would have.
BUCHANAN: Yes, before FDR was put on it. And my father objected to that change.
MATTHEWS: So Patrick Buchanan speaking still for the political right to some large extent would say that we‘re best to wait a bit before making changes in the currency.
BUCHANAN: Oh, I frankly would hope they would not change the currency no matter what they do.
I do believe Alexander Hamilton is—if you‘re talking about economics, is the central figure in the history of the United States. I think he is more important than Adam Smith. I think he created the greatest free market internal system in history. He is studied worldwide. People that follow him I believe have been the successful countries all up through, up into the 20th century.
MATTHEWS: Would you expect Nancy Reagan to put a halt on this? I think she might, just knowing her a bit. She might feel that it is improper. And she could certainly put a halt on it.
BUCHANAN: I would hope so. Well, wouldn‘t advise Mrs. Reagan, but I think that she would be reluctant to have that change made. And I believe he would as well.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Reagan legacy, because many people that weren‘t watching us during the day—I was talking to Ken Duberstein, his last chief of staff, and a lot of Reagan loyalists like yourself.
And I guess people now in prime time would like to hear it from you, because you‘re a man of the right. And what is going to last? This occasion will be remembered. But what will last 10, 30 years from now? The FDR legacy is right down the street here. It‘s all those big federal buildings.
BUCHANAN: I think—I do believe Reagan is moving into history almost on a level with Franklin Roosevelt and into the hearts of the American people, certainly the Republican Party.
You saw—what did we see? We saw Ted Stevens, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Hastert, three Republicans, which meant that the Republicans control both houses of the Congress and the presidency. This is the house that Reagan built. He was not the first man of the conservative movement who fell for it. It was Goldwater. Reagan brought it to fruition.
Nixon created the new majority coalition. Reagan brought it to fruition and added something to it two things, optimism and secondly the idea that we have a program to match the Democratic New Deal programs. And that is reduction through tax cuts, that Nixon and Agnew did not have when they put together their 49th state.
So he created that. Now, that‘s endured—it has endured certainly from 1980 up through 1992. But I don‘t know how long these things last. It was Nixon in ‘68 and in ‘72 that broke the New Deal coalition.
MATTHEWS: My belief is that the Republican Party controls the Congress today because of Reagan‘s insistence on tax-cutting. The tax cutting is the lynchpin to that suburban rural majority.
BUCHANAN: The last Reagan landslide was ‘94.
MATTHEWS: Right. Exactly. That was when this house was built Republican, Pat, as you well know.
Let‘s go back to Lester Holt—Lester.
HOLT: All right, Chris, thank you very much.
I‘m happy to be joined by Peggy Noonan, former special assistant to President Reagan and author of “When Character Was King.”
Peggy, you have thought long and hard about this moment. We saw you as you paid your respects to the president. You were not in the state funeral, but you were in a room with many people from that era. What was it like?
PEGGY NOONAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
I was in the Mansfield room, where they put people who are not members of Congress, senators and congressmen, or Reagan family, but the folks who worked for Ronald Reagan. They were—oh, man, it was fabulous, Lester. I walked in there and I saw George Shultz and Judge Clark and Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett, and this whole huge group of people who had worked for Ronald Reagan.
And then I saw Labor Secretary Ray Donovan, who said to my son, look around this room. There are people here who changed the world. It was just beautiful.
HOLT: And one of them was Margaret Thatcher.
I was so lucky. I had this fabulous moment. I walked into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist‘s office at one point. The catafalque was coming down street and it was about to come up the steps. I walked in and I saw a lovely lady with bouffant hair looking through big windows at the scene, sunlight coming in. And, as I walked forward, she turned and it was Margaret Thatcher.
And she was—to me, it was like walking into an office and seeing someone turn from a sunny window and it is FDR‘s funeral and that is Churchill turning towards you and saying hello.
HOLT: And maybe we can play the tape. I don‘t know if we have it. I don‘t know if you could see when she paid her respects.
NOONAN: I did not see it.
HOLT: Yes, maybe they can roll that in just a moment. But here she is.
I just want you to give me a sense of the bond between these two and...
NOONAN: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
Lester, she loved her Ronnie. She thought he was a gallant man. But let me tell you, this is one gallant iron lady to come all the way from England, so ill, having had so many reverses physically in the past few years, so ill that the poor darling cannot speak.
Oh, look at her. She cannot speak at the funeral, but she wanted so much to come and show by her presence her respect. This is a lady who feels that tradition, civic tradition, the things we all go through together and live through as democracies, these are the things that keep us together. And so she has a beautiful, almost celebratory sense of these marvelous, huge political moments that remind us of who we are as a people and that remind us of who our friends and allies are.
HOLT: You also had a different view of the procession than we did. Watching it on television is one thing. But there were sounds associated with it which weren‘t always captured quite in the way that we witnessed them here.
HOLT: The applause.
NOONAN: Oh, my gosh.
There was something that was just really thrilling. I‘m in the U.S.
Capitol. I‘m looking out this window. Mrs. Thatcher went and sat down. And I stood at the window and looked out. We could see the caisson and the catafalque and the line of big black limousines coming towards the U.S. Capitol from the White House. And we knew where everything was by the sound of applause coming up.
As the limousines would come another few feet, more applause and more applause. I got to tell you, Lester, it gave us chills. There was a whole bunch of old Reagan hands at that window. And we watched the old man coming home to the U.S. Capitol. And we saw him get a standing ovation from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. It was moving and it was beautiful. And it made us happy.
HOLT: This is not coming home, though. This is coming back to where he sparked a revolution.
NOONAN: Indeed. Indeed.
HOLT: What was his relationship with Washington? He was outside of
NOONAN: Yes, he had a relationship with Washington that was bemused, distant, engaged.
Reagan was a Republican. Republicans think politics is something you have to do. Democrats love the great game of politics very often. They love the tug-of-war and the football of it and I sacked him and I killed him and all that stuff. Conservative Republicans think government is something they have to do. Ronald Reagan thought he had to come to Washington, be president of the United States in order to institute certain changes that he felt would be good for the country.
Was he deeply sentimental about Washington? No. He was a Republican. They‘re not sentimental about it. I think there‘s a bit of spin out there that, in the Reagan era 20 years ago, we all got along so much better. It was all so elegant and decorous between Democrats and Republicans. That is just not so. I was there, honey.
HOLT: But is history being retold here? Because we‘ve heard that in a lot of the conversations in the last several days.
NOONAN: I know. I know. I think there are people who want to make believe it is so. It was not really so.
HOLT: So what was it? What was it like?
NOONAN: It was rock ‘n‘ roll. It was a tug-of-war. It was a guy from California who came East and said, America, you have got to change in this way, this way, and this way.
And the establishment of Washington looked at him and said, you are a Martian. We will not do it your way. We don‘t care what you say, that people are with you, you win by landslides. It doesn‘t matter. You are different from us. He was so nonestablishment and he was talking to the Washington establishment. They did not love him, believe me.
HOLT: But you described something that could easily be described of the current situation. Yet President Reagan left the White House with a 62 approval rating.
NOONAN: Yes, he did.
Well, he just about walked into the White House with a 62 percent approval rating. He won a landslide as a very unusual candidate, the most conservative candidate for the presidency since Cal Coolidge in 1980. He won another landslide in 1984, after having suffered a serious recession back in 1981 and ‘82. And then he saw his successor, George Bush, win in ‘88 a landslide.
HOLT: All right.
NOONAN: So, oh, you know, we always say about Reagan, he had nobody with him but the people.
HOLT: All right, Peggy Noonan, good to see you. Thank you very much.
NOONAN: Thank you, Lester, very much.
HOLT: I know it‘s been a heck of a week for you. Appreciate it again.
And a live picture looking down the Mall at the Washington Monument on this warm Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.
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