Guests: A.C. Lyles, Marty Anderson, Mickey Rooney, Jan Rooney
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And in this national vigil of mourning, we show how much America loved this good man and how greatly we will miss him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believed in the essential goodness of the American people and that we had a special duty to promote peace and freedom to the rest of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful, gallant man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Under gray skies and a soft breeze a somber and peaceful national day of mourning here in Washington as President Ronald Reagan made his final journey through the nation‘s capital.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews with MSNBC‘s special live coverage of the funeral of America‘s 40th president.
The body of Ronald Reagan is winging westward right now, flying for the last time across the country he loved so much. The Reagan funeral entourage is scheduled to land within the hour in California, where he‘ll be buried at his library in a ceremony at sunset, as was his wish.
Earlier today at the National Cathedral here in Washington, world leaders and other dignitaries gathered for President Reagan‘s funeral. In an especially poignant moment, Nancy Reagan was escorted to her front row seat by President Bush.
And former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who was President Reagan‘s vice president, delivered a terrific eulogy to the president he served.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps as important as anything, I learned about—a lot about humor, a lot about laughter and, oh, how President Reagan loved a good story.
When asked how did your visit go with Bishop Tutu, he replied, “So-
so.” And it was typical. It was wonderful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan, President Reagan‘s communications director,
will be with me all night.
I didn‘t know he had it in him. But boy, he came through today.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He was authentic. He was—
George H.W. Bush is not a terribly eloquent man. What you saw was he‘s speaking from the heart. He was choked up at a couple of points in that speech. A eulogy, Chris, where he could barely talk. It was tremendously effective and affecting.
MATTHEWS: And so important. Because one, it was genuine humility, rarely seen in this city. Sometimes people fake humility but they‘re really arrogant.
But he was expressing, it seems to me, that he‘s a regular guy, George Bush. A guy who made it because of a lot of circumstances but didn‘t have the magic of the boss.
BUCHANAN: What it was, it was George H.W. Bush talking about his friend Ronald Reagan, and then you come to realize both these men were president of the United States. But he was speaking the way he would speak about a friend in a living room.
And I thought it was—he choked up, I thought a lot of folks choked up there. None of us—I had not heard the Tutu, so-so which is vintage Ronald Reagan. A little bit of touch of disrespect. You know, Reagan‘s humor at the expense of a visitor. And the whole place, it broke the whole place up, because nobody had heard that before.
MATTHEWS: He started out with the sort of what seemed to be the personal part of the speech, by that line where he paid tribute, condolences to Ron and Michael and Patti Reagan, the kids.
He says, “At the age of 80, I‘m allowed to say ‘the kids.‘” That‘s when it started, this whole rift that was the delight of the day.
And it‘s something to have a funeral—of course, we‘re all used to funerals having a touch of humor, especially when it‘s an older person who passes away.
But anyway, it‘s great having you with us. Pat Buchanan is going to be staying with us the whole evening.
But right now, let‘s go to NBC‘s Mark Mullen. He‘s out at Point Mugu Naval Air Station.
Mark, tell us what‘s happening. You‘re all waiting for the plane to arrive, I guess within the hour?
MARK MULLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It is within the hour. President Reagan is almost home. I mean right now the plane, which has the call sign, the presidential 747, of Sierra Alpha Mike 28,000, is very close to coming here.
We just got some information that it might even come a little bit early. Obviously, it has had priority traffic clearance from coast to coast.
And everybody eagerly anticipates it. Not the least of which is the military which has been playing, as all of us know, a very large role in ceremonies both here in California, in Washington and once again as this entire process concludes, that includes the U.S. Navy.
Not only the Navy but people who are serving on board the new aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which happens to be in Brazil now but its personnel are here.
Your function tonight is a dignified one. Please tell us what that is, Lieutenant Jack Miller.
LT. JACK MILLER, U.S. NAVY: We‘re here to honor the president upon his arrival.
MULLEN: As well, the flag which flew above the ship.
MILLER: That‘s correct. The captain of the ship is—will be presenting a flag which was flown above the USS Ronald Reagan at the time of his death. That will be presented to Mrs. Reagan.
MULLEN: Seaman Guzman also, enlisted personnel, you‘re awfully young, if I may be so personal. A lot of people might wonder what this means to you, since you were so young when the president was actually in office.
SEAMAN VIANNEY GUZMAN, U.S. NAVY: It is a great honor to be part of the ceremony, especially since I serve on the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76.
MULLEN: Thank you both. We appreciate you being here and making some time for us, obviously.
Other people that we look forward to hearing from will be the president‘s children at the interment ceremony, as well.
They have an extensive guest list which really reflects, Chris, the many years that the president spent both in Hollywood, both having friends in the sports community and also in politics.
Everyone from former governor George Deukmejian. Tommy Lasorda will be there tonight. Norman Lear, Hugh Sidey, the journalist and editor and writer. Margaret Thatcher, as well. Tom Selleck, Nancy and Tina Sinatra and the many millions around the country and the world who will be watching Ronald Reagan finally come home.
Back to you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mark.
Pat, you know, working for him those years, your special feelings about the occasion?
BUCHANAN: Well, I‘ll tell you, the most dramatic moment for me is when the casket came up that aisle and was being moved up that aisle, and it came right by me. And everybody put their hand on their heart and you realized this is our old friend and our leader, Ronald Reagan.
I tell you, there was a lot of sobs in there and a lot of people choked up, and I was one of them.
It was very dramatic. I‘ll tell you in terms of the speech that president—first President Bush was outstanding. Margaret Thatcher, I thought it was magnificent.
MATTHEWS: Completely agree with you.
BUCHANAN: It was...
MATTHEWS: It was like Winston Churchill.
BUCHANAN: Here is this woman, and you realize she‘s had several strokes and it was taped a little bit earlier but it was—I just couldn‘t believe how splendid an address this was.
MATTHEWS: That‘s going down in the history books. Those remarks were historic.
Pat Buchanan is going to be staying with us. And when we come back, Hollywood producer and long time friends of the Reagans A.C. Lyles—there‘s the name of a producer for you. He‘s going to be with us to tell you about the Hollywood days. I talked to him before. We‘re going to show this to you now. A great interview with an old timer who was with Reagan from the beginning of his Hollywood days.
More of our continuing coverage of America‘s farewell to President Reagan when we return. You‘re watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN MULRONEY, FORMER CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I say au revoir today to a gifted leader, historic president and a gracious human being. And I do so with a line from Yeats, who wrote, “Think where man‘s glory most begins and ends. And say, my glory was that I had such friends.”
MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: He lifted up the world. And so today, the world in Prague, in Budapest, in Warsaw and Sofia and Bucharest and Kiev and in Moscow itself, the world mourns the passing of the great liberator and echoes his prayer, God bless America.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life. I learned kindness. We all did. I also learned courage. The nation did.
The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm. Though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. There is a future for the man of peace.
God bless you, Ronald Wilson Reagan, and the nation you loved and led so well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re waiting—the country is waiting for the plane carrying President Reagan to touch down in California. He‘ll be laid to rest tonight in a ceremony at sunset.
Earlier I spoke with Hollywood producer and Reagan friend, A.C. Lyles, an old Hollywood hand. I asked him what it was like to be a pal of the Reagans during the Hollywood days.
A.C. LYLES, FRIEND OF THE REAGANS: I met Ronnie in 1936 when I was an office boy for Adolf Zucker, through my friend Jimmy Cagney. So I‘ve known Ronnie all of these years. And I knew Nancy four years before she met Ronnie.
And to see Ronnie come up from no place and become a well-known actor and then run for governor, be governor twice and be president of the United States twice.
And I think the most thrilling moment of my life is when I was there with the Reagan family, watching Ronnie being sworn in as president of the United States. And I rushed back to the White House to see him enter as then officially the president of the United States.
But you know, Chris, all the things he‘s accomplished, Ronald Reagan did not change personally one way.
In all the speeches that he made—I think one of the reasons why he was so great, Chris, is because I‘d heard him say 20 years before that, 25 years before that, the same words. And his speeches were honest, and they were from his heart. And they were what he wanted to say and what he usually wrote himself with the help of, of course, of some speechwriters.
But he was the most honest person I know. And his first, his whole desire is what can I do for this country? What can I do for this country? He was destined.
MATTHEWS: Did you know that, A.C., back in the days when he was still trying to make it in acting when he was making, you know, the movies, the cowboy movies and all those in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
Was he talking politics back then?
LYLES: I‘ll tell you, Ronnie never talked Hollywood; he talked politics. And he just was everything.
I remember that in 1958, way before he was a candidate for anything in the late 1960s, I wrote to three of my friends, had it notarized and said, “Keep these letters, because Ronald Reagan, my friend, is going to be president of the United States.”
And there‘s a film I think that you have in which he says, “A.C. wrote letters before I was a candidate for anything and said I was going to be president. If you know A.C., you can‘t let him down. So here I am in the White House.”
And he was just destined.
And I remember when time came for me to vote—Ronnie is my senior, I talked to him and I said, “Ronnie, are we Democrats or are we Republicans?”
He said, “We‘re Democrats.” I became a Democrat.
Some years later he then went over and became a Republican, and he called me and said, “There‘s a lady coming to the studio today to see you. She‘s going to reregister you.
I said, “Reregister me about what?”
He said, “From a Democrat to a Republican.”
I said, “Oh, are we Republicans now?”
And he said, “Yes.”
I said, “Ronnie, why are we changing?”
He says, “We aren‘t, they did.”
So that‘s how we became Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about hanging out. When you went out to a place like Chasen‘s or somewhere like that with the Reagans and James Cagney and James Stewart. Are those—I mean, those were the biggest stars in Hollywood in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Was Reagan an equal with those guys, or was he a little bit lower off the page? I mean, I don‘t think of him being that big a star as Cagney and Jimmy Stewart.
LYLES: I‘ll tell you, Chris, he might not have been in the salary category, but in the hearts of all of us in Hollywood, he was equal with Jimmy—with the two Jimmys.
LYLES: And all those. But he was president of the Screen Actors Guild more times than any other actor in the history of our business, and he had a very, very successful career in movies.
But he had, certainly, a better career and a more successful career as governor and as president.
And as I look at his proceedings of this funeral, I‘ve never seen anything like that. And incidentally, I just got off the phone with Michael Reagan. And he was having dinner—lunch there with some of—all of the family.
And I told him I was going to come over and do your show, Chris. And Michael asked me to pass along the family‘s best wishes to you and to thank you for all that you‘re doing for Ronnie.
MATTHEWS: I love doing that—Michael‘s radio show.
Let me ask you about the big question that most people like to know, and that‘s the relationship between Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan. How did you see that developing? What was the connection, the chemistry there?
LYLES: I‘ll tell you, in our history of Hollywood we‘ve had a lot of lovers all the way back to Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and the other people like those love teams.
There has never been a love team in our business or in the world, I think, like Nancy.
Nancy had a problem with another person that had her name, and she was doing a picture with Mervyn LeRoy. And Mervyn said, “Call Gill, and they will arrange for you—the other person to change her name.”
And she called and talked to Ronnie, and Ronnie...
MATTHEWS: She had been—she was being threatened with black listing, right?
LYLES: Absolutely. Absolutely, by some other name.
And Ronnie said, “Well, I‘m making a picture.”
She said, “I‘m in a picture, too.”
He said, “Well, I have an early call.”
She said, “I have a very early call tomorrow.”
And they said, “Well, we‘ll just have a bite and talk, but I can‘t stay long.”
And they met, Ronnie looked at her, she looked at him, and Ronnie says, “I have a confession to make; I lied to you. I don‘t have to be at the studio until 1.”
She said, “I lied to you, too. I‘m off tomorrow.” And that started it.
And they‘ve been together ever, ever, ever since. And those letters that he wrote, which Nancy published, is an indication of the tremendous love that these two have for each other.
And those of us that have been privileged to have been their close friends all of these years really just—I look at them in amazement that this love has continued.
And the three big things that have happened to Ronnie, I guess, is when he was elected governor, when he was elected president, but the third and more important than anything, is when he met and married Nancy, bless her heart.
MATTHEWS: OK. And I guess it‘s until death do us part. We‘ve seen it all...
MATTHEWS: A.C., you‘ve seen it all personally.
LYLES: I have.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you on the show at this important time.
Thank you very much.
LYLES: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: A.C. Lyles, a man of Hollywood.
LYLES: More of was—what you‘ve been doing, congratulations.
MATTHEWS: Thank you much, A.C.
MATTHEWS: Imagine, friendship for seven decades. That‘s A.C. Lyles, a great Hollywood producer, telling us about the early days of Ron and Nancy.
Our special coverage returns on MSNBC after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: May every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a city.
ANNOUNCER: The world says farewell to our 40th president. Continuing live coverage from California and our nation‘s capital on MSNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. We‘re waiting for the presidential—actually, the ex-president, the late president‘s plane to fly over his library in Simi Valley, California. That‘s going to be the next event of this interesting day.
Let‘s go right now to NBC‘s James Hattori. He‘s at the staging area of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Isn‘t that right, Jim, that the plane is expected to do a flyover?
JAMES HATTORI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we were given the heads up a few moments ago that it would be coming by. Actually, it‘s running behind schedule from what we were told last, anyway.
But we do expect it any moment to come and make a flyover, a quick flyover, probably very similar to the way it did over Tampico, Illinois, where—President Reagan‘s hometown.
Perhaps if we‘re lucky we‘ll get a chance to see a huge 747, perhaps, tip its wings in respect as it makes a flyover here in the Santa Susana Mountains.
You can see, it‘s a fairly clear day. And other traffic has been restricted in this area. So it‘s not like there‘s going to be any mistaking of which aircraft.
But as you say, we‘re just sort of waiting for the big moment, and hopefully it will be shortly.
MATTHEWS: We have Marty Anderson joining us right now, who‘s another longtime Reagan insider. He was head of domestic policy. He was a Reagan White House key member, I should say. He printed the book with Reagan, “The Life and Letters.”
You brought back a lot—in fact, you brought—you revealed, is the right word, a part of the Reagan life we didn‘t know about. His epistolary effort all those years.
MARTY ANDERSON, REAGAN FRIEND AND ADVISER: In fact, it was a surprise to me when I found it. We found an enormous number of handwritten letters that he had written. So far we‘re up to 6,500 and still counting.
We‘ve found hundreds and hundreds of handwritten speeches. Six hundred and 80 handwritten policy essays that he wrote by hand. And I think they are having an impact.
It was interesting today...
MATTHEWS: Explain that to regular people watching, not the political people but why was it so important for the people that were concerned with the Reagan legacy that it be known that he was a man of deep thought and diligence?
ANDERSON: Because all his life, including the time he was in the governorship and the White House, he‘s so casual. He makes things look so easy. He‘s so friendly. He‘d laugh. He talks and he tells jokes like, you know, “I heard hard work wouldn‘t kill someone but hey, why take a chance.”
And people began to think he was an amiable dunce, that people like Pat and me would hand him some stuff and he would read it. And he would...
MATTHEWS: Right. He was Ted Baxter.
MATTHEWS: That was the knock. Tell us about the letter that was selected by President Bush to read today at the altar.
ANDERSON: Yes. That‘s one of the letters out of our book.
MATTHEWS: Tell about that, for those who missed it.
ANDERSON: Oh, there was a wonderful letter in there where a kid writes in and says his mother has declared his room a disaster area and he would like to get a grant.
So Reagan—this is one of the ways he—he writes back and said, “This is very interesting. However, we‘re a little short of money and besides that, the person that gets the grant has to be the person who is declaring it a disaster, so you‘ll have to talk to your mother about that.”
MATTHEWS: Well, how about the woman spoke—he apparently corresponded with for, like, 60 years? Who was...
ANDERSON: Yes. This was a woman who was a fan of his and just started writing about the movies, and in the early years his mother used to answer the mail and sign his name.
ANDERSON: But he kept up talking to her, and they became good friends and I don‘t know, hundreds of letters back and forth.
Let me just say he liked to talk to people. And he insisted while he was president that every three or four weeks he be handed 20 or 30 letters from ordinary people just calling him, some of them saying you‘re doing a terrific job, some saying things I can‘t say on the air. And he would answer them.
MATTHEWS: Why are conservatives generally nicer to individual people, and liberals are generally cold to individual people but very good for masses of people? And conservatives aren‘t particularly good about masses of people. What is this about, Marty?
ANDERSON: I don‘t know. You know, and in fact, Reagan explains that in one of his essays. He says, “Look, I never talk about the masses. I see each—I see individual people when I‘m doing this. I write to an individual. I speak to an individual.”
MATTHEWS: Right. But when he cut Social Security, doesn‘t that individual get hurt?
ANDERSON: It depends what you mean by cutting Social Security.
MATTHEWS: Reducing the growth of...
MATTHEWS: We know how to do that. You can have it either way.
We‘ll be right back with Martin Anderson and Pat Buchanan. Coming up in the next 30 minutes, the plane carrying President Reagan‘s body will be landing at Point Mugu Naval Station in California. And from there, the family will lay the former president to rest.
Our coverage continues in a moment here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re watching a picture, of course, of the plane carrying the body of Ronald Reagan, heading back to where he‘s going to be honored forever out there at the Simi Library—site of the Ronald Reagan Library.
This is part of the trip here, so much a tribute to him and to his legacy. Stopping at his birthplace, flying over Tampico, Illinois, where he grew up. And here we are, to where he‘s going to be remembered forever, thanks to Nancy Reagan.
Let‘s go right now to James Hattori, who‘s out there in Simi Valley—
HATTORI: Chris, you can see the aircraft designation SAM 2800. One of the planes used as Air Force One, now just passing over the Simi Valley library and headed out toward the Pacific Ocean.
Point Mugu is a little further to the west, as well, from here. But it‘s also to the northwest. So it‘s going to probably have to maneuver a little bit to get there.
I‘m not sure it‘s going to make another turn, but we‘re told that it passed over here at 3,200 feet, which is, for a plane that size a pretty good size, a pretty good sight. And we got a really good look at it as it came by.
Didn‘t know if it did much in terms of a maneuver or—or movement of the wings or not, but we did get a good look at it. And it was quite a prelude to the ceremonies there, upcoming here, which is about to get under way in another—the arrival should really start in another half hour or so, the ceremony in an hour and a half.
The ceremony itself will last another hour beyond that. And this will be the end of the long week of marking of this—of the death of the former president.
So, earlier today, we did see some guests coming by who are—there are about 700 in all who will be attending the interment ceremony here, including some celebrities from Mr. Reagan‘s Hollywood days. We also saw Wayne Gretzky, the world famous hockey player. He stopped by and talked about how President Reagan would sometimes show up at hockey games and even go into the locker room and spend a few moments hanging out with the guys and talking shop.
Mr. Gretzky said that the president was a big sports fan, of course, also had the congressman from this area, Elton Gallegly, come by. He says to give his regards to you, Chris, talking about how he would ride in not that plane, but Air Force One, the previous, making trips cross-country with the president and how the president would always regale whoever was on board with stories pretty much nonstop during the flight.
We also got to chance to talk with Captain Jim Symonds, who is the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan, which is the aircraft carrier, Nimitz class, which was commissioned just nine months ago. We will probably all remember those pictures of Nancy Reagan christening the ship then and giving the order or the sign for all hands to take their places in the ship and get it under way.
It is currently in Brazil cruising in that area. But the captain will be here as part of the ceremonies today. He will be handing a flag to Nancy Reagan toward the end of the funeral services here.
So, Chris, things are pretty much getting ready in place. And we‘ll have more to tell you, what is going on as events unfold.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk to you later, James Hattori.
And let‘s go to Mark Mullen, who is at Point Mugu Air Base, which is -
· the president—we can see the plane beginning its landing.
Go ahead, Mark.
MULLEN: Final approach right now, Ronald Reagan about to come home to his beloved state of California, very close to the time and to the place where this week of remembrance will end.
Chris, what was interesting is that what you can‘t see right now as we continue obviously to follow the plane, for good reason, is, down below, at Point Mugu, assembled are probably about 1,500, 2,000 different people, mainly military, because this was not one of the public venues. They knew that our cameras would be here to provide that.
But many fans of Ronald Reagan—and, of course, we‘ve heard many glowing things about Ronald Reagan from here, as we have in Washington and throughout the country this week. But one thing was interesting. We were here at this very place on Wednesday, when Ronald Reagan and his family departed for Washington. And almost everyone that we went and interviewed said many of the glowing things about Ronald Reagan.
We heard something different today, yes, good things about Ronald Reagan, as you see now the presidential aircraft now wheels-down as it goes into final approach, this very picturesque Naval base right next to the Pacific Ocean, just north of Malibu in California.
What we heard from some of these people today, Chris, they talked a lot of Nancy Reagan, which we didn‘t hear. Nancy Reagan, as you know, had sometimes a not-so-kind reputation when Ronald Reagan was in office. And even based on the comments that we heard today, from Wednesday, as people have watched her sharing this grief with the country, obviously something that hasn‘t been easy, I think it‘s taken this long for many people in the public to really appreciate her love and her devotion and really what her protectiveness was all about.
MATTHEWS: That‘s interesting.
That‘s the same feeling I get back here, Mark, the sense that, in this capital city of Washington, I must say that loyalty has always counted highest, more than truth.
It‘s a rough thing to say, but it‘s true, isn‘t it, Pat, loyalty more than truth?
BUCHANAN: I‘m not sure I‘d go quite that far.
MATTHEWS: Martin Anderson, you worked for Reagan. Loyalty counts the most, right?
ANDERSON: Well, only if you get in trouble.
ANDERSON: No, but listen, Nancy is something else, everything you said.
But she‘s also—I always think there‘s something that is very smart, courageous, a very great judgment. And she went to Smith College. Think of her as a Smithie, not as a movie actor.
BUCHANAN: You‘re right.
At the funeral today, Nancy—you‘re exactly right—was in all—virtually every speech I can think of right now. Margaret Thatcher paid tribute to her. All of them did in their eulogies.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that, you know, as we—as we are on television right now, I can tell you there‘s probably tens of thousands, if not more, Alzheimer‘s caregivers right now watching the show right now.
They watch television because they need companionship because they‘ve lost it. It‘s drastic reality. And I think that people feel for Nancy and they salute her. She ran the course. She kept the course.
MATTHEWS: And ‘til death do us part means a lot when you‘re married to somebody with Alzheimer‘s. It‘s the whole game.
Mark, this plan to loop around the library, was that added on later or was that part of the original plan, the flight plan?
MULLEN: You know, quite frankly, we don‘t know.
But the way that the winds were blowing—I‘m not an aviation expert. I‘m a private pilot. But I sort of checked the wind direction. And basically it seemed to take—here we are getting very close to touchdown. It seemed to take the plane almost directly over the ranch to begin with.
So, at this point, we‘re not sure if it was intentional or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s touching down right now. We‘re watching it right now. This is the end of the road for Ronald Reagan, back across the country for one last trip, the remains of Ronald Reagan. Here he is back in California for the last time. He is going to be buried tonight, a very, I must say, exclusive ceremony.
We‘re going to be able to watch it on television, but not many people are going to be able to attend it in person tonight. So television is where it‘s at right now, cable television, in fact, as we watch this historic moment tonight, as it comes when the president is laid to rest.
I think the most important moment to look forward to tonight, in terms of, I guess, the climax of these days and the climax and the end of the Reagan era is when the first lady receives the folded flag. Very historic.
I was just thinking that one of the things that I notice is that we were at a special meeting over at the Reagan Building today, with hundreds and hundreds of people who worked in the campaign. And they don‘t have a sense that it‘s the end. And I think what has happened is that, look, he left office 15 years ago.
But what has happened, when a president dies, people generally are nice to him. And they look at the good things he‘s done. And I think this is the first time there has ever been a comprehensive review of, what did Reagan accomplish, what were the good things he did. And that‘s had a stunning impact. And I think it surprised a lot of people when they added them all up.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go right now—Martin and Pat, we‘re going to go right now to James Hattori, who has a very special guest at the Reagan Library—James.
HATTORI: Hey, Chris.
We have with us Mickey Rooney, who everyone will recognize, and his lovely wife, Jan.
HATTORI: Mickey, now—welcome. Thank you very much.
MICKEY ROONEY, ACTOR: Thank you very much.
HATTORI: I wish it was under more pleasant conditions.
M. ROONEY: Yes.
HATTORI: But, nonetheless, it is sort of a time to look back fondly on your memories.
M. ROONEY: And reflect.
HATTORI: You actually lived in the same apartment building, is that right, as Ronald Reagan?
M. ROONEY: That‘s right.
HATTORI: As you were young actors.
M. ROONEY: Yes, in Montecito.
HATTORI: What was that like? What was your remembrance of him?
M. ROONEY: Well, he was a wonderful neighbor and a great gentleman.
And I never dreamed one day that I was meeting the 40th president of the United States. But what a thrill it was.
HATTORI: How did you meet?
M. ROONEY: Well, I came downstairs one day.
You want to tell them the story?
JAN ROONEY, WIFE OF MICKEY ROONEY: No, you tell them.
M. ROONEY: Because...
M. ROONEY: ... tells the story.
J. ROONEY: Well, President Reagan told me a beautiful story about my husband at the Montecito hotel where they first had met.
And Mickey had run out to hear an accident out in the front, the front of the...
M. ROONEY: Come on.
J. ROONEY: I get choked up thinking about it.
M. ROONEY: We haven‘t got all that time.
J. ROONEY: And the president, at the time, he was a marvelous actor, tells me the story that Mickey had saved this poor little dog from death and he...
M. ROONEY: I came back into the apartment house and he said...
J. ROONEY: He thought Mickey was the most wonderful person in the world.
M. ROONEY: I said, we better get this dog to a clinic or something.
Find out, he said Mickey, you‘re a great humanitarian.
J. ROONEY: Well, he told me this story..
M. ROONEY: He loved to joke all the time.
One of his favorite—I made him laugh—was, he said—he was always saying about he was getting old. I said, you‘re not old until you wake up in the morning and you forgot what you got up for.
J. ROONEY: Well, no, I think the better joke is, what time is it?
M. ROONEY: Yes.
But, anyway, I think he‘ll always be remembered as one of the greatest presidents this nation has ever had.
I was in the second world war, and I am a veteran of foreign wars. And I was in the Army for three and a half years in France and Germany and Luxembourg, Belgium. And I was with AFN for a long time. And I was at the Nuremberg trials the first day they had them. And that was something you‘ll never forget.
HATTORI: Well, both you and the former president share a lot of history. And we thank both of you, Mickey Rooney.
J. ROONEY: Thank you so much.
M. ROONEY: Well, Jan and I, certainly, we hope that everybody will remember the great...
J. ROONEY: Everyone will.
M. ROONEY: And everyone will never forget. He will never be forgotten. They‘re talking about—and I guess you know—to put him on Mount Rushmore.
HATTORI: They‘re talking about that. Yes, they are.
J. ROONEY: He loved America and we loved Ronald Reagan.
HATTORI: Thank you very much.
M. ROONEY: The world is much better because of Ronald Reagan.
J. ROONEY: Yes, it‘s true.
Thank you both. Good luck.
M. ROONEY: Thank you for having us on.
HATTORI: All right—Chris, back to you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, James.
Well, I guess not everyone in Hollywood is a liberal, Martin Anderson.
ANDERSON: No, but that—that particular—that is a letter in our book that Reagan wrote. And the first time he ever met Mickey Rooney, he brought this dog in. And Reagan said, I said to myself, that‘s got to be a nice guy.
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s amazing to think about these guys. There is Mickey Rooney. And I remember him from “Andy Hardy” series, like everybody else, Judge Hardy. Remember those days? And he‘s gotten a little older, but of course he was a teenager in, what, the ‘30s, the early ‘30s.
BUCHANAN: Wasn‘t he in “Boys Town,” Chris?
MATTHEWS: ... “Boys Town” with Spencer Tracy.
BUCHANAN: Yes. Sure.
He ain‘t heavy. He‘s my brother.
MATTHEWS: Tracy got the Academy Award, which brings us to a question, Martin. I‘m sure—you live out there. You wonder about this thing. Why is Hollywood—I don‘t want to stick it to Mickey Rooney. It‘s a tough question for a Hollywood community guy. Isn‘t it a shame that Hollywood has never given him one of those awards, the Jean Hersholt Award or one of those awards, the Irving Thalberg Award. They give them away every year to somebody, life achievement award.
ANDERSON: Well, it‘s simple, the same reason why today we simply have as a matter of fact most universities and Hollywood are run by left-wing liberals. I‘m sorry. And they aren‘t going to do it for political reasons. That‘s the way life is.
MATTHEWS: What don‘t the Hollywood moguls honor him in some way?
ANDERSON: They feel the same way.
MATTHEWS: If he was a liberal Democratic president the same level of achievement...
ANDERSON: He would have the achievement.
MATTHEWS: He would have these awards?
ANDERSON: No question.
Now, listen, but that‘s OK. Things change slowly. Let me make one point. What is going to happen with Reagan is that he did a lot of things which became the model. And his legend—when I talk to all the friends I know that worked with him, they aren‘t that upset. They don‘t think it‘s over. They think it‘s just beginning.
What he did on national security, what he did in economics, what he did in Social Security, how he handled people, the whole thing. And they‘re delighted. And they‘re delighted the media is covering this thing in a very objective way.
MATTHEWS: So they think it is going to be one of those phenomenon where—phenomena—where a person dies at a certain state of importance, like Elvis Presley, for example, was down and pretty much down in Hollywood -- he was down in Vegas doing stuff.
ANDERSON: Yes. Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Came back.
ANDERSON: Yes. And Frank Sinatra.
MATTHEWS: And Sinatra came back. They get bigger. They grow.
ANDERSON: They get bigger.
BUCHANAN: And Harry Truman.
ANDERSON: The longer they go out, the bigger they get. And I would argue that, today, Reagan is stronger and more powerful than when he was president.
MATTHEWS: You know who that happened for? Abraham Lincoln.
MATTHEWS: Could he be bigger than he is now?
BUCHANAN: Harry Truman left at 23 percent. He was virtually thrown out of town.
BUCHANAN: And McCullough and the book came back. Now, I don‘t agree with it, but there‘s no doubt Harry Truman is now called near great, great president, phenomenal.
ANDERSON: Absolutely. Sure. Sure.
BUCHANAN: Everybody quotes him, Republicans, Democrats. And he left office lower than Richard Nixon when he left in Watergate.
ANDERSON: And let me say, one of the—the key to this is history. For most of my life, I‘ve tried to do policy. But, for the last three years, I‘ve been doing history, which, by the way, is a lot more fun.
MATTHEWS: More controllable.
ANDERSON: Yes. Well, it is amazing the information that is lying out there that nobody is looking at.
MATTHEWS: I want to get to the point.
MATTHEWS: Because a lot of people watching want to know why Reagan has come back in stature so much in the last couple of months. You did the book on his letters, which stunned a lot of the liberals.
ANDERSON: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: They go, wow, this guy was the deep thinker.
ANDERSON: He could think, right.
MATTHEWS: He was much more intellectual.
MATTHEWS: Then you went back. Was it you went back and got all his radio addresses?
MATTHEWS: Another piece of work.
MATTHEWS: Nancy Reagan must love you for doing this.
ANDERSON: Actually, Nancy Reagan is responsible for us doing it, because all these things are copyrighted. And you can sell a letter, but you can‘t publish it.
And we talked to Nancy. She opened up the private files. We talked to—there were several letters she said, whoa, these are a little embarrassing to people. And I said, but they show what Reagan is doing. And she said, OK, I want everyone to know who Ronnie is. Publish them.
MATTHEWS: Full disclosure.
ANDERSON: Full disclosure.
MATTHEWS: Well, in the act of doing that, you have deepened the legacy.
The answer is simple. If you‘re writing—if you‘re a historian and you‘re writing a book and you start off with the premise, the guy is an amiable dunce, you get in real trouble trying to figure out, how in the hell did he do all these things? If you start off with saying, he worked all the time, he‘s really smart, he did all kinds of study, and he talked to experts, and he wrote it himself, which most people find difficult to handle a blank piece of paper, history changes.
MATTHEWS: How come Democrats always accuse successful Republican presidents, whether it‘s Ike or it‘s this president we have now, George Bush, or it‘s Reagan...
MATTHEWS: ... of being stupid?
MATTHEWS: No, let me go on with this.
ANDERSON: All right.
MATTHEWS: And all Republicans call Democratic presidents lefties?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t know. I know they didn‘t call Jack Kennedy...
MATTHEWS: Why does everybody turn everybody into a cartoon in this business?
ANDERSON: Part of the reason is that, look, it‘s the attack in the political machine. The last 72 hours have been really nice.
ANDERSON: People aren‘t attacking.
ANDERSON: They‘re just trying to find nice things about people.
MATTHEWS: Has there ever been a stupid liberal? Why don‘t you guys ever attack—on the right—ever attack a liberal for being stupid? Aren‘t there any?
ANDERSON: Not when 98 percent of the liberal intellectuals and politicians in power say there aren‘t.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get back to the reality of tonight here, serious business, of course.
James Hattori, tell us about the ceremony coming tonight. It‘s been described as a private ceremony. To what extent is that the case? Are the cameras able to capture all the events and emotions of this evening‘s funeral?
James? I think we lost him there for a bit. We‘re watching—we‘re watching—we‘re back with Mark.
Mark—let‘s go back to Mark Mullen, who is right out there at Point Mugu.
Tell us about the ceremony we‘re about to see, Mark.
MULLEN: Actually, it is going to be fairly short, especially as we sort of get to the end of the line right now.
This particular transfer, as it‘s being called, which is already under way, as we see the ladder coming down, probably will last only about 15 minutes or so. It‘s still poignant in many ways on a variety of levels, not only because we‘re continuing to witness history, but also—Chris, you know this. And Pat Buchanan there knows this as well.
This is a very familiar airport to the entire Reagan family. On Air Force One, even though it wasn‘t the 747 sort of new fancy ones—George Bush, the father, was the first to ride in those. This was the airport, after all, this Naval base at Point Mugu, where the Reagans used to look forward to coming, because this was the one closest to the Reagan ranch.
Here they come in an Air Force One-type aircraft one last time, Ronald Reagan making his homecoming with his family, as we see the door opening. One thing I noticed as well, obviously, there has been tight security around this trip. There are some aspects where security is tighter, some less so, more security in terms of one thing I have not seen.
When all of the California Highway Patrol cars came out here and Secret Service cars and motorcycles, these are police vehicles. And, still, all of the hoods and trunks and doors, everything was open, and they went through the same vigorous bomb-sniffing dog searches just to make sure that all of their patrol cars, all 35 or so of them, not including the police motorcycle vehicles, were clear. That‘s one aspect of tighter security, a little bit less so because this is a so-called private ceremony tonight, though the Reagans have graciously allowed the cameras and the rest of the world to see in.
Unlike when Ronald Reagan headed to Washington, they have published in local papers and local press the route, more or less, which will be taking the president back to the library, which will allow people to line the roads and say hello and goodbye to Ronald Reagan as he passes by—always sort of synonymous, highways and Southern California. It even applies in a case such as this, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Do we have a sense of who is going to be at the ceremony tonight up at the library?
MULLEN: I‘m sorry. Say again? Who will be there?
MATTHEWS: Yes, what kinds of people will be there? Because, of course, most of the East Coast people who are involved in the ceremony back here are behind the trail, they are not able to get out there. What kind of people are going to be at the ceremony tonight?
MULLEN: It‘s interesting.
You can sort of track Ronald Reagan‘s life, and by doing so, based on the different types of jobs and different types of friends which he made along the way will be on the guest list. Let me just sort of go. We saw Andy Rooney with James Hattori just a moment ago.
But let me just sort of give you a small idea of some of the folks. Mrs. Reagan and Ronald Reagan were very spiritual. And in between their stint in politics, living in Sacramento and Washington, they spent a lot of time at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, a retired pastor of which, the Reverend Michael Wenning, will actually be presiding over ceremonies today.
We will see a number of Hollywood celebrities, from Bob Hope‘s wife, the current governor of California and his wife, Bo Derek, Tommy Lasorda, many of the Sinatra clan, on and on and on. You can almost sort of map out a chronology of the Reagans‘ life by simply looking at this guest list tonight.
I think, though, what most people will look forward to hearing are the words, though, of the children, who will speak in this order, Michael Reagan, of course the eldest son by Ronald Reagan‘s first marriage, first, followed by the children of Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Patti Davis to speak second, and Ron Prescott Reagan to speak third—Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Mark Mullen.
We‘re going to watch this ceremony as it progresses. It is going to be quite poignant once again, as we get to the final stages of the ritual that Nancy and Ronald Reagan themselves put together for this week for the final national viewing of Ronald Reagan.
Let‘s just listen and watch.
MATTHEWS: That‘s, of course, Mrs. Reagan coming down the ramp there with Major General Galen Jackman. He‘s, of course—he‘s—he‘s from the Washington military district. He has been her escort through all these days and hours, a very distinguished general, obviously. And what an interesting and powerful role he has gotten to play.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Present!
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