Nancy Reagan was exceptionally influential as First Lady

R.I.P. Nancy Reagan (1921-2016). How big was her political influence as FLOTUS over Ronald Reagan’s administration? Read few comments.

 Myra GutinProfessor of Communication, Rider v University, Author of the book – The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century

I believe that Mrs. Reagan was politically savvy and always had the president’s back. If she felt that someone was not serving the president effectively, she was not shy about saying so. I recall she did not feel that Donald Regan was not an able Chief of Staff for her husband and was one of a number of people who supported his firing (he was subsequently fired). I believe she knew about most things that were going on in the administration.

Philip Seib, Professor of Journalism, Public Diplomacy, and International Relations, University of Southern California

Nancy Reagan was exceptionally influential as First Lady because was one of the very few people – perhaps even the only person – whom Ronald Reagan fully trusted. By all accounts, they discussed everything. She was totally devoted to him and was very protective. He was a remarkable president and benefitted from being able to rely on her.

Gil Troy, Professor of History, McGill University

Nancy Reagan was an extraordinarily influential First Lady. She and her husband Ronald Reagan had a special relationship, a bond so tight that their children often felt neglected. Ronald Reagan was an affable fellow who loved to be liked. As a result, he needed Nancy’s toughness sometimes to fire, to make hard decisions. He trusted her and usually followed her advice, most famously when it came to firing his second term chief of staff Donald Regan.

To balance out the fears of her getting too close to power, Nancy Reagan also led an anti-drug crusade. Her “just say no” to drugs campaign didn’t solve the problem but it did reflect a cultural shift from the indulgence of the 1970s to the moralism of the 1980s. At the same time, playing Queen Nancy to his King Ronnie, the two presided over the relatively peaceful and prosperous 1980s, as the old-fashioned, fashionably dressed benign leaders of American democracy.

Paul Kengor, Professor of Political Science, Grove City College, His books includeThe Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism

Nancy Reagan is receiving plenty of tributes right now. I’m glad to see it. This was a First Lady who took some serious lumps in the 1980s, and not all undeserved. Nancy could be notably unkind to those she believed were undermining her husband. And right now, many of those she mistreated or who disliked her are speaking up.

Negative public attitude toward Nancy changed permanently for the better as we watched her take care of her beloved husband once stricken with Alzheimer’s. No one was untouched by the image of a teary-eyed Nancy stroking her husband’s funeral casket at the Capitol Rotunda in June 2004, speaking softly to her deceased Ronnie inside.

In truth, the Nancy picture was always a complicated one, a love-hate relationship with the public and even with many devoted Reaganites. One example I knew well was the person of Bill Clark, Reagan’s longtime intimate adviser from Sacramento to Washington. I became Clark’s biographer, and was very close to him. Clark believed that Ronald Reagan would not have become either governor or president without Nancy. He said that Ronald Reagan daily needed “good cops” and “bad cops” to watch over him. She was his bad cop. Mrs. Reagan was vigilant in watching her husband’s back. Her son, Ron, observed that while his father trusted everyone, his mother trusted no one.

Overall, Nancy Reagan was Ronald Reagan’s supreme protector. She was very important to his life not only personally but professionally. She was crucial to his professional success.

Michael Schaller, Regents Professor of History, University of Arizona, Author of the book Ronald Reagan

She was his closest friend. Probably his only real friend. Both considered their children a nuisance. I don’t think she directly influenced most policies but probably served as his security blanket.

Betty Winfield, Professor Emerita of Journalism, University of Missouri

Much like very strong First Ladies, the second Mrs. Wilson, Nancy Reagan was quite protective of her husband and even instigated the firing of some of his high level staff members,

No doubt, she impacted some of her husband’s policy decisions via “pillow talk.”

 

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