American Civil War, Art, biography, glasses, history, Joshua Jammer Smith, mechanical pencils, Military history, original photograph, Presidential Biography, Ron Chernow, still life, tea, Ulysses S. Grant
Grant by Ron Chernow
11 March 2019
"Innocence of Childhood" Myth, 1973, Adam & Eve, All the President's Men, An Ideal Husband, Archibald Cox, “Saturday Night Massacre”, Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, cicada, cicada shells, CNN, Dan Rather, Documentary, Elliot Richardson, Film, film review, Fun Home, graphic novel, Howard K. Smith, innocence vs ignorance, Literature, Lord of the Flies, National Innocence, Oscar Wilde, Political Corruption, Politics, President of the United States, Presidential legacy, reflection, Richard Nixon, Robert Bork, Sexual Rhetoric, Sexuality, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Seventies, The United States Vs Richard Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant, Walter Cronkite, Watergate, William Ruckelshaus
I know this is cheap bait I do honestly wonder whether cicadas masturbate during those 17 years they’re underground. The news has been buzzing in the last few weeks, that’s a pun you see, because once again the Cicadas, or annual locusts, are emerging from the ground. At least in New England. I’ve never understood news broadcasts taking time to discuss the appearance of these insects since it seems like every year I step out onto my porch to water the plants my wife bought and then decided to not cultivate when I discover a hallowed exoskeleton clinging desperately to the column post at the corner. My mom still makes fun of me to this day for the collection of “cicada shells” I at one time kept for three years. For three years those protein ladened shells rotted in one of my mother’s Tupperware dishes until eventually she confronted me with them and I was forced to take them out back and step on them hoping they would make that marvelous crunching noise.
Alas at that point they were soft, and so my barefoot was left smeared with left-over cicada juice instead. There was an innocence on my part thinking they would remain hard and crunchy and prime for stepping on, though really it was ignorance which leads me into the second lead-in for this essay.
My sister laughs whenever one of us says the statement, “Children are Innocent.” It’s an inside joke that started when my little sister was in eighth grade and she asked me for help editing a paper over Lord of the Flies. It was a great paper, from what I remember of it, but at some point the older literature enthusiast and philosopher took over and we spent the next half hour arguing over whether or not children were “innocent.” My argument was that the word innocence that people use for describing the unique quality that children possess is really false and that children are often referred to as such because people like to idealize children. Ignorance, I argued, is a better word because when we’re kids we’re not innocent of the word, we’re just ignorant of it. As we grow we learn more and more about our reality, our species, our culture, our universe, and intelligence tends to fuck up that ignorant state when we’re able to enjoy life. My sister argued against me as best she could, and eventually left in a huff. We’re cool now, though I occasionally get death threats through the mail written in blood and phone calls where all I hear on the other end is heavy breathing.
This notion of Ignorance is important because recently I’ve begun re-reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic for the twelfth or thirteenth time. I’ve lost track really. My borderline obsession with the book is based on more than just my Queerness seeping into another person’s journey of self-discovery (it feels like leeching off it sometimes I swear), but in fact is due more with the intricate complexity of the book. It took Alison Bechdel seven years to actually write and illustrate the graphic novel, and reading her second work Are You My Mother? reveals her emotional and psychological state during this time period, not to mention demonstrating the creative setbacks during the actual composition.
Reading over the graphic novel again I discovered this time around that I focused first on the idea of recognition, for as I wrote in a previous essay I “recognized” Bruce as sharing a similar erotic interest, but I also considered the idea of ignorance, specifically the way Bechdel explores it in the fifth chapter entitled An Ideal Husband. The chapter relates the events of the specific summer in 1973 when Bechdel was thirteen and all at once a series of events coincided that included: the appearance of the annual cicadas, the Watergate Scandal, her first period, her father was arrested for purchasing alcohol for one of his students, and her mother was performing in a local production of The Importance of Being Ernest.
Bechdel herself notes the serendipity of these events and the potential that listing them all in context to one another can be suspect, but in all cases Bechdel indulgence often leads to brilliance:
This page is beautiful not only for the symmetry, for the top of the porch appears almost like a pediment (a triangle structure often adorning Greek monuments) but also for the balance that sets the stage ultimately for the disequilibrium that is going to come in the next weeks. It’s also interesting to note that Bechdel herself follows my little sister’s policy of innocence. She describes America as an Innocent nation, referring to the Watergate affair as the “fall from innocence” that all children, and by extension, nations are supposed to eventually go through. Bechdel would likewise lose her “innocence” during this summer as she discovers not only the joys of masturbation, but also the erotic truth of her father.
It’s fascinating to observe how sex is always the agent of chaos disrupting our lives, particularly our innocent childhood. It may just be because I found one of my father’s Playboys when I was five and thus started on a path of interest in the erotic since, but I’ve never understood why sex has always been portrayed as something corrupting when my own experience with sex and expression of sexuality has done nothing but reaffirm the idea that life is interesting and worth living. Bechdel uses sex in the chapter, referring in the beginning with the cicadas which emerge, like insects do, to breed and then quickly die off. From this she moves to the scandal of Oscar Wilde.
If the reader is unfamiliar with the life of Oscar Wilde he was a Victorian playwright who, on the very night his most successful play The Importance of Being Ernest opened, was accused of sodomy, a charge at that time which could lead to imprisonment and in some instances death. Wilde fought the accusation in court but lost the case. Wilde’s sexuality along with Cicadas along with Bechdel’s own erotic exploration, and finally the glaring act of her father all combine to reaffirm the idea that sex creates a fall from innocence but if the reader pays attention all of these realizations come from learning.
The conflict with referring to lack of knowledge of sexuality as innocence is incoherent. It doesn’t accurately convey the idea that we learn and thus purge ourselves of ignorance. Innocence implies a character trait while ignorance implies simply unknowing. The best rhetorical example of this is the mass narrative of the Garden of Eden. The story that is often peddled in Sunday school classrooms and bad Veggie Tales Cassette tapes, is that when god made Adam and Eve (Not Adam and Steve unfortunately) he made them innocent, but warned them of the tree of knowledge. Eve was tempted by the serpent, who was really Satan, who then convinced Adam to take a bite. Once they bit into the apple they became aware of their nakedness and covered themselves, for this they were banned from the Garden forever. This narrative is one I’m painfully familiar with since I grew up in the Episcopal church and went to a Private Christian school, but something that has always bothered me about the narrative is the word innocence. Adam and Eve learned of nakedness by eating the apple, and by removing the ignorance of their state they were forever altered. I suppose this could just be a tomato/tomato potato/potato semantics argument, but I’ve always felt that Adam and Eve got a bum rap by being labeled innocent rather than ignorant.
Both of these examples is why I’m troubled by the idea of Innocence, particularly when referring to the Watergate scandal.
The reason for this concern is because I’m a Watergate nerd. I own a first edition hardback copy of All the President’s Men, and at least seven thick tomes dedicated either to Nixon, the Press’s reaction to the events, or simply the public reaction to Watergate. It may just be because my parents grew up during the seventies, but there’s something about the time period that has always fascinated me and not just because it Rock’s golden age. Before you cringe remember it gave rise to Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, and Aerosmith along all within a ten year period. Watergate is the political impression left upon that decade, so much so that it permanently added a word to the lexicon. Whenever something is called “X-Gate” it always implies that someone has been caught in a gross action that violates that person’s and by extension organization’s image. It doesn’t help that so many books, films, novels, and essays have been written about the event.
One of the best examples is the film All the President’s Men, which follows Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as they investigate the break-in. The film is dense in its detail but entertaining and has one of the best lines in American cinema:
Ben Bradlee: You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.
While this film captures the moment of the Watergate scandal so well, another excellent program provides a wider cultural perspective. The Seventies is a documentary series I discovered at 1 A.M. while possibly drunk, as so many of my great discoveries tend to go, and one episode in particular entitled The United States Vs Richard Nixon covers the entire scandal from beginning to end.
American politics is an entirely different animal than it was in the 1970s because at the time of the crisis people believed what they heard from the news. Men like Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, and Howard K. Smith were not just characters on your television set, they were reporters actively engaging and regularly investigating the actions of politicians because otherwise how would people know what was going on in their world. Today’s soft journalism, where character is preferred over quality and bias is the first agenda, could never really tackle an affair like Watergate because the break-in and investigation would be sold as a polarizing media event rather than a legitimate political scandal. My concern here isn’t to criticize contemporary journalism, but rather to observe the larger importance of Watergate as the moment in which America lost its ignorance of its own state as a nation.
History is often misused as a moniker for the past, but in reality history is just the discourse about the facts of the past. It’s important to recognize this distinction as I remind the reader that corruption in politics is as old as human civilization. Nixon was not the first world leader, or even American President, to be caught in a corruption scandal (Look up the illustrious carear of one Ulysses S. Grant) but the news organizations being better able to reach their audience directly thanks to television, the public had no choice but to understand the gravity of the implications. The “Saturday Night Massacre” is probably the best example of this.
On October 20, 1973 Nixon ordered the acting Attorney General to fire Archibald Cox, the lead investigator of the Watergate break-in. Elliot Richardson refuses and reigns immediately. The same night Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus is promoted and ordered to fire Cox. He also refuses and is fired immediately. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork is promoted active Attorney General and fires Cox…in one night. If that sounds like the set-up for a Marx Brothers film I’m sad to disappoint but the reader can actually find news footage from the period and see for themselves that the Saturday Night Massacre was not just the set-up for a wonderful political satire, but in fact was hard truth.
Well so what? says the reader. What does any of this have to do with innocence, ignorance, and Fun Home? More importantly what does the difference between innocence and ignorance have to do with my day to day life?
This is a fair question since the Watergate scandal so rarely appears in the mundane affairs of life. Paying for your gas with a debit or credit card doesn’t make you consider what would have happened if Congress hadn’t subpoenaed the tapes. Nor does having your hair cut make you wonder whether or not the scandal would have reached such a public head had Bernstein and Woodward not been assigned the story at The Washington Post. I would also advise you not to hire Waters Gate, the all drag barber-shop quartet that sings the history of the event set to show tunes.
The larger significance is found within the rhetoric of innocence. America was not an innocent country by the time the Watergate scandal had appeared in the public’s consciousness, for it had its own long blacklist of offenses**, but what kept these corruptions from sinking too deep into the nation’s mentality was most likely the closeness of it. Television brought the scandals of Washington D.C. into their homes and so as Nixon avoided the investigation, and then eventually tried to quash it, Americans began to recognize that they were learning more and more that they’re nation was not perfect. They began to recognize that they could not trust their President, and even America could suffer from corrupt leadership. Most importantly, by losing the ignorance of what Nixon had done, Americans lost something of their idealism. Even Presidents could be crooks.
As for Bechdel’s memoir, Fun Home from the very beginning of the book is about recognizing and learning about her father’s erotic truth and how it helped shape her life. Bruce, near the beginning of the chapter invites one of his students to join him for a beer, and it’s implied that he might have engaged in sex with the young man. Bechdel wouldn’t realize this until some years later, but it’s clear by her using Watergate as a context how she has compartmentalized this reality of her father.
Fathers, like Presidents, are odd creatures that try their best to guide the country and push it into the right directions. The conflict is when we’re young we tend to idealize our fathers, but as we age we learn about their characters and this knowledge tends to kill the perfect image we had of them.
Learning does not always generate happiness because when we learn we alter our original reality. Watergate has forever altered the American landscape by reminding its citizens that every office is open and vulnerable to corruption. Bechdel in The Ideal Husband observes how the summer of 73 left her no longer ignorant of sexuality, both her own as well as her fathers, and while this did leave a lasting negative impression of her father, it did not destroy herself.
Innocence is a character trait that’s unrealistic because as a species we learn and grow from mistakes. America has recovered from the Watergate scandal, just as Bechdel has recovered from her own loss of ignorance. The trick is not to mourn that loss of the former self, but rather to emerge stronger from it.
If I can use an obvious metaphor here, the healthy approach is to leave the exoskeleton behind, and like a cicada, or annual locusts if you prefer, fly off to a new state of being. The problem with clinging to the idea that your former self was innocent is that over time that becomes a corruptive state. If things don’t change it means they’re static, it means they’re dead, and so like my collection of old cicada shells many that try desperately to cling to this state wind up hollowed shells hoping desperately to find that substance which they once held so completely.
They also wind up covered sticky bug-juice which makes it rather difficult to get someone to go out with you to a movie. Just sayin.
I’ve included here a picture I took a year ago. My dog huckleberry had to pee before bed and so I stood out on the back porch while he did his business. I must have been looking around because I turned and spotted a cicada on the wall drying its wings out. Its shell was a few feet below it. It didn’t move as I approached and after taking a few shots I marveled at the brilliant shade of blue-green in its drying wings.
To further the point that America was not an “innocent” nation remember a few events and institutions:
The Salem Witch Trials.
Slavery of African Americans.
The Trail of Tears.
Reconstruction in general.
Henry Kissinger again.
The abuse of Jeannette Pickering Rankin after she was the only person to vote against the declaration of war in 1944.
The systematic abuse of the irish in the 1800s and Hispanic immigrants today.
The CIA making deals with Opium farmers during the Vietnam war
Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment.
The New York Riots.
Henry Kissinger’s face.
Just to name a few.
***Writer’s FINAL Note**
The Seventies is currently aailable for streaming on Netflix. Fun home: A Family Tragicomic is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Barack Obama, biography, Democrat, Donald Regan, Family Guy, First Lady, Iran-Contra, Joan Quigley, Just Say No, My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Presidential memoir, Republican, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, The Audacity of Hope, There You Go Again, Ulysses S. Grant, William Novak
I find it odd and amusing that despite the fact that I’m a Democrat I spend fair amount of time reading about Republicans. Now before the reader believes that this tendency is some sort of Sun Tsu “know thy enemy” strategy I can assure you that that isn’t it. It’s not entirely it. When I wrote my review about the book Tear Down This Wall: A City, A President, and the Speech that Ended the Cold War, I mentioned that the character of Ronald Reagan many people experience is often a cartoon character rather than the man himself, and in my desire to know the man further I decided to read My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan. Because after all I’m told wives know a fair amount about their husbands, even if they’re involved in politics.
My first exposure to the memoir was an episode of Family Guy when Stewie is reading the book, attempting to read it, while the family performs karaoke with their new dog aptly named New Brian. It’s an easy detail to miss given the fact most people don’t pay attention to titles of books characters read in art despite the fact that Alison Bechdel has made a career and won a McArthur Genius grant doing just that. It’s a small little detail that you observe, laugh at (or don’t) and move on. And to be honest I did. I didn’t know or care who Nancy Reagan was, and after I found out I shrugged my shoulders and went on about my life. Politicians weren’t worth my time, nor were their wives. It was only a few years later when my little sister began taking an American diplomacy class and described Miss Nancy Reagan as, to quote her directly, “Saucy” that I began to care more and more about the woman. After Tear Down This Wall, and a few more references to her in American Dad and Narcos, I decided it was about time I looked the book up, and sure enough at a book fair I was able to pick it up, easily recognizable with its solid red body and bright yellow letters, for fifty cents at a book fair.
Now for the most part there are two reasons that people involved in politics write memoirs or books. The first reason is gain political momentum. That’s just a fancy-pants way of saying public attention and sometimes sympathy. At the moment I’m reading The Audacity of Hope by President Barack Obama which was written before he ran and was still a senator. The book was designed to lay out his ideas of what politics should be, visions for the future, an opportunity to disagree here and there with the Bush administration, and finally of course to get his name and face out to the public. It worked, and while writing a book is not a promise of election many politicians, both republican and democrat alike, continue to advocate this policy as a means of self-promotion. The second reason is if you have won election, you are part of history and people want to know what you thought, what you did, why you did whatever you did, and whether you stand by what you did. The political memoir can be traced back as far as Ulysses S. Grant who, with a little help from Mark Twain, was able to sell his biography of his time in the White House for great profit. It has become a tradition since President Truman, and now the Presidential memoir is a genre of writing to itself.
Nancy Reagan’s My Turn is a bit of an oddity then, for often the wives of Presidents occupy a complex position in American politics. She describes it herself early in the book:
Part of the problem is that while the president’s job is clearly defined, nobody really knows exactly what the first lady is supposed to do. The Constitution doesn’t mention the president’s wife, and she has no official duties. As a result, each incoming first lady has had to define the job for herself.
Once upon a time, the President’s wife was seen and not heard. But there have always been exceptions, and ever since Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady has become not only more visible but more active as well. (57).
This has certainly become the case and there are few first ladies, apart from Eleanor Roosevelt whom she mentions, besides Nancy Reagan that have been so prominent in the cultural consciousness. The fact that her name summons the phrases “Just Say No” and “Dragon Lady” speaks to the social impact she made on American society. Nancy has, in some ways become a cartoon character much like her husband however like many first ladies the legacy of the man she was married to tended to steal most of the focus. But I’ll get to that in a bit.
My Turn is an attempt recount many of the moments that took place during the Regan administration however the first 222 pages don’t even deal with actual administration policies and conflicts. She begins with the Hinckley assassination attempt that placed Reagan in the hospital and follows that with addressing many of the scandals that dogged the administration, many of them related either to her clothes, her use of astrology, and her decisions to redecorate the East Wing of the White House. It’s in these opening chapters that the character of Nancy Reagan, or at least the most interesting aspects of her character, appear to the reader and to be honest the book reads like a conversation between Nancy and the reader.
I knew beginning the read that during her husband’s term as President she consulted with an astrologer and she dedicates an entire chapter to explaining and attempting to validate that decision. She explains:
My relationship with Joan Quigley began as a crutch, one of several ways I tried to alleviate my anxiety about Ronnie. Within a year or two, it had become a habit, something I relied on a little less but didn’t see the need to change. While I was never certain that Joan’s astrological advice was helping to protect Ronnie, the fact was that nothing like March 30 ever happened again.
Was astrology one of the reasons? I don’t really believe it was, but I don’t really believe it wasn’t. But I do know this: It didn’t hurt, and I’m not sorry I did it. (47).
To quote the homeless man who shouts at people whenever they leave my town’s Michael’s, “You go girl.”
Nancy’s memoir serves a unique political function in that often her closeness with the President was seen as suspect and the book serves to demonstrate that she played no real role in any policy decisions. The reader is able to decide for themselves whether or not to believe her. As for myself it’s a difficult position. Nancy the cartoon character is funny and interesting to watch, “Just Say No” didn’t work miserably and it’s hilarious to listen to people involved with that program talk about their own drug use at that time, but that may be because I’m of a different generation that didn’t see her in the White House. It’s easy to look upon the behavior of those figures of history as being behind us and dismiss them, until we see their like in our own times. Given the fact that Nancy had suffered tremendously from “Ronnie’s” assassination attempt I can’t hold it too much against her for coping the best way she could, though I might have suggested bourbon, or Long Island ice teas (I’ve never had either of these but I’m told it helps grown-ups with grown-up problems). Reading My Turn I often did feel sympathetic to Nancy Reagan as a woman in a difficult position, but as the book continues I began to raise my eyebrow more and more.
There is no real mention of the Challenger blowing up, however there is a photo of the funeral service, and an entire chapter is dedicated to the issue of Ronald Reagan’s second Chief-of-staff (boss of the employees that serve the President, think Leo from West Wing and then CJ which I was a little worried about at first but it really worked wonders for her character and everything and god that was such a great show and I just realized I’m ranting I do apologize) Donald Regan. She describes his bullying nature and how almost everyone except “Ronnie” was able to see it but him. One of the more “suspect” passages is her reaction to the Iran-Contra scandal:
If Ronnie was incredulous, I was furious. Later that evening I called Don Regan from my office to let him know how upset I was. I felt very strongly that Ronnie had been badly served, and I wanted Don to know. Maybe this was unfair of me, but to some extent I blamed him for what happened. He was chief of staff, and if he didn’t know, I thought, he should have. A good chief of staff has sources everywhere. He should practically be able to smell what’s going on. (318).
She goes on later discussing the formation of the Tower Commission which looked into the affair saying:
Despite the inevitable comparisons, Iran-Contra was not Watergate, and the Reagan White House was not the Nixon White House. By dealing with the problem openly, Ronnie may have saved his presidency. (319).
If this hints of the usual tripe of politicians defending bad choices and corruption then that serves as a test of the reader’s good intuition about politics in general, however I will play devil’s advocate, a poor metaphor for this situation, and defend Nancy Reagan as far as to say that by the time these two passages appear she has given nothing but herself and beliefs to the reader. While I feel that the last few chapters of the memoir build toward a kind of anti-climax (though the light saber duel with Fidel Castro set to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries would have been a great chapter to keep in the final draft) there is still the initial foundation of her character as a woman and as a wife. In many ways My Turn is not so much a memoir of the Reagan presidency from the point of view of the first lady, but is in fact a recording of a love affair between two people of influence.
My Turn possesses numerous glimpses into the real intimacy that took place between Nancy and “Ronnie.” One small passage in the final chapter provides one the best examples:
The day before the summit began, Ronnie and I had a tour of Fleur d’Eau, the twenty-room nineteenth-century château overlooking Lake Leman, where the talks were going to take place. When we walked into the meeting room, Ronnie sat down in his chair, and I impulsively sat in Gorbachev’s. Ronnie looked over at me and smiled. “My, Mr. General Secretary,” he said. “You’re much prettier than I expected.” (340).
The author would like it to be known that after he finished typing this his kitten Thomas O’Malley hopped up into his lap and said, “Daawwww, that’s sweet.” The author has elected to no longer consume mushrooms when writing about conservative romances, but does completely agree that this moment is adorable and stories like this abound in My Turn as Nancy relates one of the happiest couples that ever seems to have walked this earth.
My Turn comes across as a soft-historical record, but I won’t condemn the book for this. Anyone looking to My Turn for a solid historical account of the Reagan Presidency will have to look elsewhere (may I recommend avoiding the book Dutch, Edmund Morris has written better), instead the book offers itself as a glimpse into the life of a woman who found her soul mate. She explains it outright:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once again: My life didn’t really begin until I met Ronnie. (93).
From this line the memoir ceases to be about Nancy’s career as an actress or defending her choice to wear Adolofo (which happens to be an inside joke between my sister and I and also what eventually led us to discover a sweet picture of President Obama walking Nancy Reagan around the White House) and the rest of the book becomes about the life she built with Ronald Reagan…and then in many ways becomes about just that. My only real problem with My Turn is the fact that as the book goes on “Ronnie” seems to become more and more important to the point that Nancy spends more time writing about her husband than she does about herself. In one passage she describes the Carter/Reagan debate:
When it was Ronnie’s turn to respond, he smiled at Carter with a look of mock exasperation, shook his head, and said, “There you go again.” For millions of viewers, that phrase said it all. Carter may have been well informed, but there was something grim and moralistic about him that made people feel bad. “There you go again” quickly entered the language, and a few weeks after the election, when Ronnie used it again in a White House Press Conference, he brought the house down. (219).
After reading this passage again I found the clip on YouTube and watching it everything about Nancy’s commentary is correct, but the larger question becomes, why is that important to her? Why should I care about Ronald Reagan’s contribution to the zeitgeist rather than her own? What did Nancy do? How did my cat learn English and why does he have an opinion about Conservative republicans? Looking at all of these questions I believe it goes back to the beginning with her observation about the first lady. America doesn’t elect the wives of Presidents, and their presence so close to them is a bit unnerving to the collected populace. The American people have come to look upon the first lady in a kind of binary way. They become either the doting housewife tending to the President between difficult times and decisions, or else activists on their own pushing their own agendas, often in a softened “feminine” manner. Nancy Reagan was an oddity to this tradition, for while her media presence was often that of a caring wife first, she was a strong woman. My little sister’s favorite story about her involves a trip she and Ronnie took to Paris when they found out Nixon was also in Paris. The way she describes it Ronnie and Nixon were friends and he wanted to “hang out with his buddy” but Nancy said no because she felt Nixon would be a bad influence and tarnish Ronnie’s public persona.
Nancy Reagan was sometimes called the “Dragon Lady” for her forceful attitude, and in some ways that comes through the book, but like Tear Down This Wall this book provides an insight into the real woman beneath the cartoon character that has been drawn over her. Nancy Reagan’s memoir is a political biography and so every part of this book will be scrutinized and to be honest by the end I felt that the book was more of a love song to Ronald Reagan than it was an honest attempt to chronicle her life as the first lady, and to be honest the last half of the book begins to drag on the reader as she simply cites passages from her diary rather than narrate what was happening which, pardon my candor, feels like a cop out. Still, when I closed the book I did not feel that I had been preached to about politics for 300 pages. Instead I had listened to another human being describe their experiences, emotions, and final thoughts about one of the most strange and difficult but still wonderful periods in their life.
And if nothing else I learned that Nancy Reagan is quite possibly the only woman that could, and still can, pull off an all red pantsuit ensemble and make it look amazing.
I haven’t even tackled the issue of Nancy Reagan’s strained relationship with Raisa Gorbachev but once you get close to that 3000 word mark people stop giving a shit. But then again if you really want to know what happens the book’s still around.
I just had the strangest dream. My cat was talking and I wrote a review of a biography of a conservative Republican…man I gotta stop drinking. What’s this on my computer?