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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Campaign Politics on hold This week out of Respect for Ronald Reagan; Study Showing Cholesterol Lowering Drugs May Cut Risk of Colon Cancer
Aired June 7, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Today public mourning private grief, 360 starts right now.
COOPER (voice-over): Ronald Reagan lies in repose. Public mourning begins as thousands pay their respects in California. His impact on the political and cultural landscape was staggering but what was Ronald Reagan's influence on world leaders, minorities and even his own children?
A high stakes summit begins tomorrow here in the U.S. Can President Bush sell his policies at this top level meeting of the minds?
And, is a cholesterol drug the next great hope for cancer patients? New research says yes.
COOPER: A special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360 live from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
COOPER: Good evening again from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. What a day it has been. Anyone who has been through this, not the death of a president, the death of a loved one, knows that some moments are harder than others.
A particularly hard moment came this afternoon for Nancy Reagan, as she and her family and a few friends sat on straight-backed chairs here at the library in a room that was dominated by the coffin and by the memory of her husband Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. Not that the day had begun easily either. Let's take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): Surrounded by her two children, Patti and Ron, Nancy Reagan arrived early this morning at the Santa Monica Mortuary, her first public appearance since her husband's death. They paused in front of mounds of impromptu remembrances, American flags, flowers, handwritten notes and jars of jelly beans, Ronald Reagan's favorite treat.
A few minutes later, the president's flag-draped coffin was loaded onto the hearse by eight military pallbearers. His journey of remembrance began 40 miles over the Santa Monica Mountains to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
All along the way, the motorcade saluted by well wishers. As the hearse passed beneath a huge American flag, suspended between the ladders of two fire trucks on an overpass, the traffic on the other side of the freeway came to a halt.
Ronald Reagan's body arrived at the library, a Marine Corps band playing "Hail to the Chief," and "My Country 'Tis of Thee." An honor guard representing all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces escorted him inside the library where he will lie in repose until Tuesday night.
The Reagan's closest family members and a few long time friends attended a brief ceremony officiated by Reverend Michael Wenning, the retired senior pastor at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church where the Reagan's had worshipped.
REV. MICHAEL WENNING: We thank you that this world is a better place because he was here.
COOPER: It was a very public event with very private moments. Outside, thousands waited. Some had gathered before dawn.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been a Reagan supporter since the age of 12. I went to visit his governor mansion. I sat in his chair when he was governor. I ate his jelly beans and I've been a fan ever since.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to lift up the rope and go in and touch it (unintelligible).
COOPER: All day long a continuous flow of mourners have come to pay their respects to Ronald Reagan, among them the current governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver.
COOPER: It has been a day of emotion, a day of remembrance.
In the White House, Nancy Reagan was known as the Lady in Red, her favorite color. Today, of course, she wore black, a wife, a widow in mourning. Nancy Reagan has lost her husband twice, first to Alzheimer's disease and now to death. For 52 years, she has been a strong gracious presence by his side. She was that again today.
Here's CNN's Frank Buckley.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nancy Reagan was escorted by her children as she approached the casket of the 40th President of the United States to the world, a husband and life partner to her. Before the public began paying its respects, Mrs. Reagan had her moment.
ED MEESE, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Nancy has been a remarkable person in her care of the president during this very difficult time, perhaps more difficult for her than it was even for him and I think she's holding up extremely well.
BUCKLEY: The legendary love affair between the Reagan's lasted for more than 50 years. For ten years, the former first lady looked after the president as his health slipped away, a fact not lost on many of those who passed by the president's casket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean what she's had to live with this past decade and how she's really protected her husband and guided the family through this experience, I have so much admiration for the former first lady.
BUCKLEY: The Reagan children, whose various estrangements with their parents were public fodder over the years, were by Mrs. Reagan's side, Patti Davis holding her hand throughout a memorial service.
WENNING: Thank you for the partnership that he and Nancy have shared together, for the wonderful example that they have been to us all and to the nation.
BUCKLEY: In his letter to the nation in 1994 announcing the Alzheimer's diagnosis, President Reagan wrote about the challenges Nancy Reagan would face, words that seemed to apply today. "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience" he said. "When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage."
BUCKLEY: A difficult ten years since the diagnosis of Alzheimer's for Nancy Reagan and a long five days of public mourning ahead but a spokeswoman for the Reagan family said while this is an extremely sad time for Mrs. Reagan there is definitely a sense of relief that Mr. Reagan is no longer suffering -- Anderson.
COOPER: Frank thanks very much for that.
Reverend Wenning called what has begun today a journey of remembrance and it is that. President Bush has declared Friday will be a national day of mourning.
Here's a quick news note on how that might affect your Friday. The U.S. Postal Service says it will not deliver mail on Friday and post offices will be closed. In fact, only those government offices necessary for national security will remain open. In addition, financial markets will be closed as well.
Well, it seems today that much of America stopped to watch the first leg of Ronald Reagan's journey of remembrance.
The business of state continues, of course. In Sea Island, Georgia, President Bush is hosting the leaders of several countries at the Economic Summit. There is much on the agenda.
CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash is there.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president returned from a three-day European trip prepared to pick up where he left off in his campaign to renew unity with estranged allies.
Mr. Bush is hosting more than 20 world leaders around the G8 Summit at this seaside Georgia resort and officials are working feverishly to finalize agreements on a U.N. resolution on Iraq and use it to symbolize disagreement over the war is evolving into agreement about Iraq's future.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Everybody now understands the key is an Iraq that is prosperous and moving forward. It really closes a page, closes the book on the past.
BASH: The French have wanted more clarity on Iraq's veto power of U.S. military operations but the White House was buoyed by positive words from Jacques Chirac during Mr. Bush's weekend visit.
For all the talk of the future at Sea Island, a key figure from the past, Ronald Reagan, looms over this summit as he does everywhere this week. Reagan, Bush aides note, was instrumental in giving then G7 meetings a high profile and are drawing parallels between Mr. Bush's diplomatic style and what they call Reagan's clear spoken rhetoric against communism that inspired change but also ruffled European leaders.
BASH: And here in Georgia promoting freedom and democracy in the Mid East is a central U.S. goal; however, key Arab leaders like from Egypt and Saudi Arabia declined an invitation putting into question just how effective the efforts to spark change in the Middle East will actually be -- Anderson.
COOPER: Dana Bash thanks very much from Georgia tonight.
A "Fast Fact" for you, the first economic summit was held in France in 1975, was actually a gathering of the G6, with the leaders of just six countries meeting, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy as well as the U.S. of course, their focus one thing the economic fallout of the 1970s oil crisis. In later years Canada and Russia were added making it what is now the G8.
Some other news to check on, including an explosion at a mosque in Iraq, here's a quick look at the "Up Link" tonight.
Kufa, Iraq, the mosque was being used to store ammunition for the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It caught fire after an explosion. Militia members said a U.S. rocket hit the ammunition's cache igniting it. The U.S. military denies that. A possible warning from al Qaeda, a pro al Qaeda website posts a warning about new attacks against western transportation, especially U.S. airlines. The statement is attributed to al Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia now, another al Qaeda connection, a Saudi diplomat says gunmen who killed a BBC cameraman and wounded a reporter yesterday were linked to al Qaeda. The attack was the fourth in five weeks on westerners in the country.
South Korea now, U.S. troops may be leaving. A Pentagon official says U.S. and South Korean officials are discussing the possibility of withdrawing up to 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula while maintaining security with military technology that reduces the need for troops. The official says no final decision has been made.
That's a quick look at our "Up Link" tonight.
360 next, a potential breakthrough in the fight against cancer, could you cholesterol drugs have bonus effects? Elizabeth Cohen with a health report you will not want to miss.
Plus, the Reagan children love, fighting, and finally reconciliation, the crisis that has helped heal family wounds.
Also tonight, campaigning and mourning, John Kerry goes quiet as President Bush gets ready to take center stage. That is raw politics all ahead.
First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on cnn.com right now.
COOPER: Medicine is replete with stories of treatments that were developed for one illness and wound up being used for something totally different. Botox, for example, was developed for treating eye ailments.
The latest case involves a drug that shows promise for cancer patients. Here's CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors had a hunch about these drugs, a hunch that they might do more than what's on the label.
DR. STEPHEN GRUBER, STUDY CO-AUTHOR: : We've been looking for drugs that can reduce the risk of cancer for quite a long time.
COHEN: And they may possibly have found it. In a study of some 3,000 people, those taking cholesterol lowering drugs, called statins, saw their risk of getting colon cancer cut nearly in half.
GRUBER: What I think is exciting about this is that this represents potentially a new class of drugs that might have broader effects than we ever expected.
COHEN: The drugs go by names such as Zocor and Pravachol and patients in the study had taken them for more than five years. The researchers aren't completely sure why cholesterol lowering drugs might help fight colon cancer but they have a theory.
GRUBER: They actually appear to affect the way cells grow and divide.
COHEN: Dr. Gruber warns this does not mean people should ask their doctor for statins to prevent cancer. More definitive studies still need to be done to see if they really work plus they can have side effects and there may be alternatives.
Studies are also being done to see if aspirin and similar drugs might help. So far, the only proven weapon against colon cancer is to get regular screenings, such as colonoscopies starting at age 50.
COHEN: Now, one reason to be careful about statins is that complications can include liver problems and muscle problems -- Anderson.
COOPER: It's great to finally at least have some positive medical news out of today. Elizabeth Cohen thanks very much.
Some other news including a delay in Martha Stewart's sentencing, as we look at what's happening "Cross Country" tonight.
In New York, Stewart's sentencing is pushed back three weeks to July 8th so the judge can consider her request for a new trial. That request, of course, is expected to be filed this week.
Nationwide, Mexican trucking, the Supreme Court rules that the Bush administration can open U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks and skip a study on the environmental effects of opening the border. President Bush ordered U.S. roads open to Mexican trucks two years ago but the dispute has been tied up in court, no longer.
Beverly Hills, J-Lo wedding number three, Jennifer Lopez reportedly married singer Marc Anthony over the weekend, this of course less than six months after she and Ben Affleck broke up and a week after Anthony divorced his wife.
And that's a quick look at stories "Cross Country" for you tonight.
360 next, the mended Reagan family tree, find out how the one time first family repaired its sometimes stormy relationships.
Also tonight, coping with Alzheimer's a sometimes unbearable pressure on families and glimmers of hope for treatment.
Also a little later tonight the politics of mourning, John Kerry and President Bush tread lightly on the campaign trail. That is raw politics.
(VIDEO CLIP OF NANCY REAGAN AND PATTI DAVIS)
COOPER: A terribly poignant and personal moment today between Nancy Reagan and her daughter Patti Davis, who after years of alienation reconciled with her parents in the mid 1990s.
"I have lived in the shadow of my father all my life," Davis once said. Their relationship, of course, complicated a word that may best describe his relationship with all his children really.
CNN's David Mattingly explains.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been suggested that Nancy and Ronald Reagan held each other so close during their years together that there wasn't much room for anyone else in their embrace, sometimes perhaps not even for their children.
MICHAEL REAGAN: I was an angry kid. I didn't spend much time with my parents when I was growing up. I was put away in boarding schools.
MATTINGLY: Michael Reagan was part of the former president's first family with actress Jane Wyman. Their oldest child Maureen, who died of cancer in August, 2001, resembled her mother but followed her father into politics, though she never won an office. She was close to her father and had a warm relationship with her stepmother but such was not always the case with her brother.
Michael, the adopted son of Wyman and the former president, was an infrequent visitor to the White House during his father's administration. In fact, his father didn't meet his granddaughter Ashley until the child was 18 months old.
M. REAGAN: You know I had always griped about my dad never hugged me, never told me he loved me or anything and then one day I woke up and said when was the last time I told him I loved him? When was the last time I hugged him? I never had.
MATTINGLY: But, he said, he learned to do that after writing a memoir to exercise old anger and is now a successful radio talk show host.
M. REAGAN: Yes, we're back everybody.
MATTINGLY: Patti Davis, the first child of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, occasionally starred in TV commercials with her dad but later she wrote a book about what she called a difficult childhood.
PATTI DAVIS: Well, there was emotional abuse. There was physical abuse. There was substance abuse. MATTINGLY: She married, divorced, posed for "Playboy" and seemingly had little to do with her parents but that changed when her father announced he had Alzheimer's. She now lives in the Los Angeles area and writes for newspapers and magazines.
Like Patti, her younger brother Ron has had a varied career. He's been a dancer and an actor and he shocked some with AIDS awareness ads.
RON REAGAN, SON: This is a condom.
MATTINGLY: Eventually, he went to work in television and, a few years ago, was interviewed on "LARRY KING LIVE" and spoke about his father.
R. REAGAN: A word that comes to mind for me is gentleman.
MATTINGLY: His daughter Maureen spent the final years of her life as an Alzheimer's activist but it's not the disease they'll remember but the man.
David Mattingly CNN Simi Valley, California.
COOPER: Well, just a few minutes ago, Ronald Reagan's son Michael, his son with Jane Wyman called into his radio show in Los Angeles where he talked about what having Ronald Reagan as a dad meant to him. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. REAGAN: I'm the luckiest man on the face of the planet because Ronald Reagan chose me to be in his family. He chose me to be named Reagan and, boy I'll tell you, I just hope for the rest of my life that I'm able to honor that name for which my father gave me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michael Reagan, of course, adopted which is why he's saying his father chose him.
Joining us from New York to talk about the relationship between Ronald Reagan and his children is Anne Edwards, author of "The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage." Anne, thanks very much for being with us today.
ANNE EDWARDS: Well, thank you for having me.
COOPER: A lot has been made, of course, over the years, especially in the last couple of days about the bond between Nancy and Ronald Reagan, 52 years their love affair lasted. But they also say that it excluded a lot of people, some say including their own kids. Did President Reagan leave it to his wife, to Nancy, to serve as sort of a gatekeeper between him and his kids? EDWARDS: There's no question about that. He did. Whatever Nancy had to say that was the final word where the children were concerned and, if any of the kids came to him with any of their problems with Nancy or whatever, he would say don't discuss it with me. Go to Nancy.
Nancy, I don't think was quite really up to what she came into, Anderson. She was instantly the mother of two children of divorce. It was not an easy role for her to play and then, of course, came her own children. There were a lot of problems there.
COOPER: And there were a lot of problems also between the children. I read an account. I'm not sure exactly where it's from. This is an interview. Actually, it's an interview that you had with Patti Davis. She told about her thoughts as she was flying on the plane after her father had been shot.
I'm going to read, put this on the screen. It says: "As I took a seat on the plane, I thought none of us had called each other, no one had gotten through to my mother nor had she called any of us," talking about the children. "No one has spoken to Ron. What kind of family is this, I wondered. Even a bullet could not pull us together."
Why were the kids so alienated from each other?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all they lived separate lives, you know. I mean in the very beginning they -- Michael was living first with his mother and then he went to private schools, as did Maureen. They seemed to try to keep them separated as much as they could. So, it was very difficult and fraught with a lot of problems.
Patti, in fact, didn't know she had a sister or a brother until she was really something like seven or eight years of age and at that point they then came together.
COOPER: And yet today we saw all those images of Patti Davis and Mrs. Reagan and it's just heartbreaking.
EDWARDS: Anderson I was -- I was so moved. I was -- I tell you it really did my heart very good today to see Patti come close to her mother, hold her mother that there was physical contact between them like that.
And, not only that, for Michael, who has led a very, very difficult life, a very difficult road to walk really, for him to come to the realization or the point that he has in his life, I think that's going to mean a lot to Nancy. It's going to give her tremendous strength in the days and the months and hopefully the years to come.
COOPER: Well, I've said it before but it is really hard, I think, to imagine for any of us who know the Reagans or even watch them from afar to imagine one separated from the other, to imagine Nancy Reagan without Ronald Reagan. It seems impossible to believe. EDWARDS: Yes, you know Anderson, while it is peculiar, you know, you hear people say -- you never hear people say the Bushs or the Fords or the Carters, it's always just the Reagans because they are thought of as a team and, as we all know which has been said over and over again, Nancy always said that they were really like two halves of a circle that comes together.
The problem with that was, as Maureen had once told me, is that that circle enclosed her mother -- her father and her stepmother and outside the circle was the children. The children never felt, certainly in their growing years, that they were part of that -- of that circle. That was very sad but I think things are coming together now. Sometimes great tragedy does that, you know.
COOPER: Today certainly they seemed encircled with love from one another.
EDWARDS: They did.
COOPER: And from the entire country. Anne Edwards thank you very much for being with us tonight.
EDWARDS: Oh, well thank you for having me, Anderson.
COOPER (voice-over): His impact on the political and cultural landscape was staggering but what was Ronald Reagan's influence on world leaders, minorities and even his own children?
The devastating impact of Alzheimer's which the president and his family struggled with for a decade.
ANNOUNCER: A special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360 continues.
COOPER: Welcome back to 360 from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where at this moment the president lies in repose, as you see, and thousands continue to come pay their respects.
For Nancy Reagan and her children and some close friends this, of course, has been a difficult day, the first of several still to come. For the rest of us looking on, and the entire country is looking on, today has been less difficult, of course, but very moving. We'll return in a moment to the farewell we have been extending to Ronald Reagan.
First, because the world itself has not stood still, we have some other news to report tonight.
In Washington, D.C., tight security after your bags are screened. Effective today all Amtrak passengers on long distance trains out of Union Station must get their luggage x-rayed then possibly hand searched. The pilot program is being run by the Transportation Security Administration.
Throughout Iraq, new body armor for U.S. troops, a U.S. Army general says the shortage of bullet resistant vests is over after the top supplier stepped up production. Just a couple months ago, some U.S. troops heading to Iraq were actually buying their own vests.
Across America, relief at the pump tonight, gas prices have fallen for the second week in a row. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is now $2.03.
Oil prices dip so stocks soar, the Dow closed up 148 points, the NASDAQ 42. Traders also said there was a feel good factor on the floor as Wall Street recalled the economic growth it saw under former President Ronald Reagan.
Well, on Friday, the day funeral services are held for President Reagan, you won't see any campaign commercials. Both political camps will suspend their ads for that one day out of respect, of course.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have offered their condolences but candidate John Kerry, in particular, has had to tread lightly expressing regret over the loss of an admired leader without getting caught up in the raw politics of mourning.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness and won its love with his goodness.
COOPER (voice-over): For the president and for Republicans, this time of national mourning is also a chance to praise Ronald Reagan, to point out all things positive about the man who led their party to dominance in the last two decades of the 20th Century.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He did bring down the Soviet empire and he did it through strength of character and vision and history will judge him I think very highly for that.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Ronald Reagan allowed millions of people to walk in freedom today because he had the ability to challenge.
COOPER: But for Democrats, and particularly for candidate John Kerry, it's not so easy. How do you pay tribute to a man whose policies and presidency you've criticized? The answer, it appears, is both in word...
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ronald Reagan's love of our country was absolutely infectious. He was confident in his leadership and confident in America and that confidence was felt by the world.
COOPER: And indeed Kerry's cancelled all campaign appearance for the week, including two lucrative star-studded fundraising concerts, on e in LA., one in New York. Of course both political parties are painfully aware of what happens when memorializing becomes politicizing.
RICK KAHN, FRIEND OF SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE: We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone.
COOPER: In 2002, a memorial service for Senator Paul Wellstone turned into a campaign rally, which many voters say turned them off, possibly costing Democrats a Senate seat.
Following Friday's funeral, no doubt the gloves will come off and the campaigning will continue but until then respectful silence will define the raw politics of mourning.
COOPER: Earlier today I spoke about Reagan's political legacy with the guys from "CROSSFIRE," Paul Begala and Robert Novak. Take a look.
COOPER: Paul, without a President Reagan could there have been a Bill Clinton?
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Wow, I don't know, maybe not. I can tell you as somebody who worked for President Clinton, both in the campaign and then in the White House, I went to school on Ronald Reagan. You know I was in college when he was elected president. I watched him. But then as a White House aide, I took a look at Reagan's speeches and the way he conducted himself. He was a natural.
They said this about FDR. They said when you saw Roosevelt he instinctively knew how a president ought to act. And I think that certainly many of us in the Clinton White House watched Reagan. He had this larger than life persona. He had this amazing optimism and this just undimmed faith in America.
I think it's something frankly President Clinton shared. He was from a very different political place but I think that President Clinton was very comfortable in copying some of Ronald Reagan's personal charm, charisma and optimism to serve a very different political agenda.
COOPER: Robert, since then has any president really been able to match his skills as a communicator?
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": You know I don't think that what made Ronald Reagan, why we remember him so fondly, I don't think it was his communicating skills. A lot of presidents have good communicating skills.
I think what made him -- why we remember him so fondly was he was a dreamer. He had great dreams. That's what I think sets him apart from almost all the other presidents. I've said, Anderson, that he was sort of the anti-Nixon.
Nixon was all into mechanics and process and manipulation and didn't have any dreams and Reagan was not very much interested in process but he was a dreamer and that's what I think endeared him to America.
COOPER: Well, Paul, then do either of the candidates today, President Bush or John Kerry, do they appeal to that desire to dream that sense of optimism? I mean a lot of people would say, I guess, that President Bush is more optimistic of the two, though I'm not sure that's fair.
BEGALA: Yes, I think they're both trying to say that. President Bush, in fact, has a negative ad out right now attacking John Kerry saying that he's pessimistic. Well, and then the Kerry people come back and say, no, we're the ones who have an optimistic vision to change America and it's Bush, they say, who is a very status quo conservative, very different from President Reagan who was very much a change agent but I think they'll fight over that and I think that's to the good.
COOPER: Robert, is there a particular memory we'll leave with, that you have of Ronald Reagan?
NOVAK: My favorite memory, Anderson, was I was on a plane for two hours in a storm with him and we were, except for the bodyguards and the pilots, were the only people on the plane and he told -- he had a couple of drinks which was very unusual for him because he was nervous in the storm.
And he -- for two hours he told me jokes in Irish and Jewish dialect, which are hilarious and he also told me about his days as a bachelor on the town in Hollywood between marriages. And he was a lot of fun. That's something you can't say about a lot of politicians. They ain't much fun, Anderson, but he was.
COOPER: That's a good note to leave it on. Robert Novak and Paul Begala thanks.
He was a lot of fun indeed. You know history is a funny thing. Abraham Lincoln, who many feel is the greatest American president, was reviled by many during his term and not just those on the Confederate side.
Ronald Reagan was undoubtedly one of the most popular presidents of the last century but there were issues and groups of course where he didn't connect, at least not right away.
Here's CNN's Adaora Udoji.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After eight popular years, President Ronald Reagan's folksy charisma didn't penetrate far into the black community. As he left office, a Louis Harris poll found nearly 80 percent of blacks considered his administration oppressive.
JESSE JACKSON: It was a very hostile relationship. He attacked Dr. King openly referring to him as communist and that, of course, was problematic. He was not that accessible.
UDOJI: Other harsher critics accused Mr. Reagan of dramatically rolling back recent civil rights gains while acknowledging inequities.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must change the economic direction of this country to bring more blacks into the midstream and we must do it now.
UDOJI: But Reagan strongly opposed affirmative action programs that most blacks felt would even the field. His administration supported tax exemptions for racially segregated Bob Jones University. Out of 365 federal judgeships, seven went to blacks, far fewer than his predecessor and in eight years, one African American served in his cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
ROBERT DALLEK, HISTORIAN: Reagan was suspect. He was a Republican, a conservative and African Americans did not vote for him in great numbers.
UDOJI: Kiron Skinner, author of four Reagan books, says Reagan's parents taught him to reject racism but he also rejected a government solution.
KIRON SKINNER, AUTHOR, "REAGAN: A LIFE IN LETTERS": I think he thought that racism, he realized it was there but I think he thought America's values of individuality, equality and liberty would trump discrimination in the long run.
UDOJI: And supporters say he knew how to adapt, pointing out that though he did oppose the Martin Luther King national holiday, in the end President Reagan was the president who signed it into law -- Anderson.
COOPER: Adaora Udoji thanks for that.
Even those who didn't like President Reagan's policies or his politics found it hard not to like the man, his personality, his humor, his optimism all of course contributed to making Ronald Reagan the great communicator.
Republican strategist Ed Rollins was the national director of Reagan's '84 campaign. We are pleased that he joins us live from New York. Ed thanks very much for being with us.
ED ROLLINS, REAGAN'S ASST. FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Thank you, pleasure.
COOPER: We know that Reagan was, of course, adored by millions and had strong approval ratings but, as Adaora was reporting there were certainly groups who felt alienated by his policies during the time he was in office. Was Reagan aware of this? Did it concern him?
ROLLINS: It didn't -- I mean certainly Reagan was aware of what was going on in the country, probably better than anybody but at the end of the day Ronald Reagan had a deep core. He had certain convictions and he had several things that he wanted to accomplish as president first in the four years and then in the second four years.
The truth of the matter is there were periods of unpopularity. There were periods when I left -- I was the White House political director. When I left in '83 to run his reelection campaign, he was trailing Walter Mondale and his poll numbers had dipped.
The economy came back because of his prescriptions and obviously he had a tremendous reelection victory. His poll numbers dipped during the Iran Contra. By the end of his term, the American public gave him the highest approval ratings of any president in history.
COOPER: Early on, especially in the administration, there were those who sort of (unintelligible) President Reagan as a nine-to-five president who sort of said he was playing the role of president, didn't really delve into the issues, didn't really have a grasp on what was going on. History does not seem to bear that out.
As his papers are becoming open, we are seeing more and more handwritten speeches and these handwritten notes. Was it frustrating for those working in the White House and did you see that up close? I mean how much of a grasp did he have on the policies of the day?
ROLLINS: He had a tremendous grasp. Ronald Reagan was probably one of the most underestimated people and his enemies outside the White House always wanted to sort of belittle the fact that he was an actor but he was a man with a near photographic memory. He could write as well as anybody who's ever served in the Oval Office and a lot better than most of the staff.
He had his own thoughts. He thought out -- he thought on paper. I saw everything that went into them. I saw everything that came out of them. Whatever he added to that -- those papers always made it better. He knew who he was. He knew what his core convictions were.
When he came into office he had his own economic plan written out. He had his own State of the Union speech written out and, prior to becoming president when he was first running for governor, he used to write everything himself.
So, you know, he's a man who had a great appetite for reading and for intellectual discussions with people. You know, was he inquisitive? You know my sense is that Ronald Reagan dealt with the problems of the day. He didn't go beyond.
He didn't pick up "The Washington Post" and say, all right I need to go this and that but he had a deep conviction. This is my core. The defenses of the country are weak. The communists have explored lots of new territories in the four years preceding him and I'm going to go fix those things. The economy is in terrible shape because Americans are overtaxed. I'm going to fix that and he did all those things.
COOPER: Well, and I know early on a few weeks into the first administration he said that the country was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that something different needed to be done and he was going to do just that and he certainly did. Ed Rollins thanks for being with us.
ROLLINS: Thank you, my pleasure.
COOPER: In life and in death, Ronald Reagan has raised awareness of Alzheimer's disease, a heartbreaking battle millions of Americans are facing. We'll get some coping tips on that next on 360.
And later we change gears, a look at the funny side of Ronald Reagan, how the great communicator made us and American laugh.
COOPER: In 1994, in a simple handwritten note, Ronald Reagan revealed he had Alzheimer's. "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life," he wrote. "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience."
In the end, President Reagan was not able to spare his beloved wife. She stood by his side in sickness as she did in health. Four weeks ago, she announced that Mr. Reagan reached a distant place where she could no longer reach him.
Some four and a half million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer's. For them and their loved ones the long goodbye is simply excruciating. Joining us from Minneapolis is Wayne Caron, author of "Alzheimer's Disease, the Family Journey" and director of the Family Caregiving Center at the University of Minnesota. Wayne thanks for being with us tonight.
WAYNE CARON, PH.D., DIR. FAMILY CAREGIVING, U. MINN.: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: We showed the audience just a second ago that seven out of ten patients with Alzheimer's live at home like President Reagan did. For the people who are suffering with it, I mean it is -- there is fear and there is pain. But for the families, the challenge is at times overwhelming.
CARON: Yes. We think that the Alzheimer's disease and similar dementias are a family illness in that one person suffers the disease but the entire family walks the journey through this illness and so we're as concerned for the caregivers and family members as we are for the person with dementia and their wellbeing.
COOPER: And often, I mean it's children caring for their parents.
COOPER: And suddenly they find the roles are reversed. Suddenly they are the parent and the person they have always looked up to. For kids, for families what is that like?
CARON: Well, one of the things that is inevitable when you deal with Alzheimer's is you go through a period that we call the role changes time. It's the time when the person with dementia loses their ability to do the very activities that we think about as making us independent adults.
We all learn during our teenage years to drive, to manage our checkbook, et cetera. When you lose that someone has to take that over from you. And so, for family members it becomes stepping in and saying I'm not going to take over your checkbook. I'm going to tell you what you can buy at the store, where you can go during the day and this is a very difficult time for families.
What gets them through, I think is a tremendous amount of patience on both sides, the person with dementia and the family members to try to come together and to say as difficult as this is we're going to find a way through all of these tasks.
COOPER: What are the final days like for someone who has been suffering from Alzheimer's? Is there any way to sort of categorize them to generalize?
CARON: Well, because people get Alzheimer's disease and the other dementias that we look at in late life, many people die midway through what we would call the entire course of the disease.
But somebody with a strong heart and a strong constitution, as President Reagan apparently was, who can last through much of the disease, in the final days they're most likely going to be comatose, unresponsive and not really knowing what's going on around them.
Some have talked about people being curled up in a fetal position, which certainly I've seen. And so, for the person themselves, they are in another world. I think the comment by Mrs. Reagan that she could not longer reach him was very poignant.
For the family this is a time where they're still caring for a body. They're still caring for the person and yet their ability to connect to that person is gone. And so, in the end stages of the disease, it's an ongoing grieving process renewed in some ways from the grief that happens before.
COOPER: And a contradictory process of grief I suppose a sense of obviously grief and loss but also a sense of relief and I guess then a sense of guilt on top of that, all emotions that have to be dealt with. Wayne Caron, we appreciate you talking tonight. Thank you very much.
CARON: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Nancy Reagan's crusade to fund stem cell research to battle Alzheimer's is gaining some support from Capitol Hill. Here's a quick news note for you. In a bipartisan letter, 58 Senators asked President Bush to change his policy and allow the research. That letter was mailed on Friday. In response, the White House said the president believes it is fundamentally wrong to fund or encourage the destruction of human embryos.
That leads us to our "Buzz" question in the discussion of Alzheimer's. Should President Bush remove restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research? What do you think? You can log onto cnn.com/360, cast your vote. We'll have results at the end of the program.
The great communicator's gift for one-liners just ahead he had an amazing sense of humor about events around him and making fun of himself as well. We'll look at some memorable moments when he made us all laugh.
COOPER: That is the first image many get when they first come to the library, the flags at half staff. The busses with thousands of mourners continue to come in every few minutes, President Reagan lying in repose as he will through Tuesday evening here at the Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
When Ronald Reagan was in the emergency room after being shot by a would-be assassin, he told the surgeons, "I hope you're all Republicans." It seems that no matter what the occasion, Reagan knew how to make people feel at ease and he did it with one-liners that even Jay Leno would be jealous of.
Here's CNN's Jeannie Moos.
JEANNIE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His death is no laughing matter but laughing mattered a lot to Ronald Reagan.
REAGAN: You know that might be more fun pulling rabbits out of a hat than jackasses out of the way in Washington.
MOOS: Even when interrupted by a glass smashing protester, President Reagan came back with a quip, "was he a Democrat by chance?" When his doctor once asked if he needed something for his cold...
DR. JOHN HUTTON, PRES. REAGAN'S PHYSICIAN: He says, you know, I don't get colds and two days later he came by. "Well, sir" he said "I just thought I'd let you know that I caught your allergy."
MOOS: His laughter was contagious even if you'd heard the same joke 50 times, as Nancy Reagan's press secretary had.
SHEILA TATE, FMR. NANCY REAGAN PRESS SECRETARY: As Henry VIII said to Ann Boleyn, I won't keep you long. I realized after hearing it 50 times I was still laughing.
MOOS: Or how about the time he described a testy meeting with South Africa's Bishop Tutu this way.
JAMES BAKER, REAGAN CHIEF OF STAFF: Tutu, so-so.
MOOS: President Reagan liked jokes so much he kept them on hand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He even kept them in his drawer. I remember he used to pull them out.
MOOS: Remember when the president was doing a mike check and joked about bombing the Soviet Union?
REAGAN: We begin bombing in five minutes.
MOOS: After that White House technicians canned the mike checks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then he launched into this perfect Donald Duck impression.
MOOS: Comedians preferred Reagan imitations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hello little girl.
MOOS (on camera): Even another former president didn't mind when I accidentally referred to him as President Reagan.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been called worse than that.
MOOS: I understand. And when critics called President Reagan lazy he joked back.
REAGAN: I've really been burning the midday oil.
MOOS: Maybe those who are lobbying to add President Reagan to Mount Rushmore should suggest his smile be carved in stone.
Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.
COOPER: There are, of course, so many ways to remember Ronald Reagan.
Just ahead another option, we take Reagan's time capsule to the nth degree.
And tomorrow, battling melanoma, how an experimental new treatment is giving hope to some patients.
First, today's "Buzz," should President Bush remove restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research? What do you think? Log onto cnn.com/360, you still have a few moments, results when we come back.
COOPER: Time now for the "Buzz."
Earlier we asked you, "Should President Bush remove restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research?" More than 20,000 of you voted, 80 percent of you said yes, 20 percent of you said no, not a scientific poll but it is your "Buzz." Thanks for voting.
Tonight taking the time capsule to the nth degree that's what this is it seems to us this period of mourning and storytelling. It amounts to the packing of a time capsule as America decides what things large and little to remember Ronald Reagan by, what to preserve for future generations to unpack and to ponder.
If it's OK, we have a nomination for something to include. Already in the time capsule there's Ronald Reagan the ultimate cold warrior, the man who stood toe-to-toe with what he called the evil empire but we wouldn't like that memory to crowd out another.
After he was done calling the Soviets evil, he entered into a long conversation with them. He met many times with Mikhail Gorbachev, forged a friendship with him. They seemed to enjoy one another's company. Mr. Gorbachev will be at Mr. Reagan's funeral on Friday.
So, yes, Ronald Reagan was the tall American who would take no guff but he was also the tall American who held out his hand and so turned the enemy into something else. It would be nice if both those things went into the time capsule we are just now packing so very full.
I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks very much for watching us.
"PAULA ZAHN NOW" is next.
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