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Ronald Reagan Remembered

Aired June 7, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Today, Nancy Reagan and her children mourn Ronald Reagan. His flag-draped casket now at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California where hundreds and hundreds of people have already filed past to pay their respects. Tonight we remember America's 40th president with Ted Olson, solicitor general of the United States who represented Reagan as a private attorney in connection with the Iran-Contra investigation. Dan Rather, the veteran CBS news anchor and Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author. Remembering Ronald Reagan, the leader and the man, next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening. A couple of program notes. We will be taking phone calls tonight and what you're looking at is a scene now at the main lobby of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. The public is allowed to, of course, pay their respects and they've been filing through all day. The body will continue to lie in repose with the public paying respects through 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 p.m. pacific tomorrow night. Wednesday it flies to California. There's a funeral procession. Thursday, it lies in state in the rotunda. Friday morning is the funeral at the National Cathedral and late Friday afternoon at sunset California time is the private interment service at the Reagan Library that begins at 9:15 Eastern, 6:15 Pacific. That should conclude everything by 10:30 Eastern time on Friday night. Let's start with Ted Olson. What was your connection with President Reagan?

TED OLSON, SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Larry, I represented President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan in my private capacity as a lawyer in the '70s. When I -- when President Reagan was elected president, I was appointed by him to be assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel in the justice department, which is the office that renders legal advice to the executive branch. And in that connection, had many, many contacts with President Reagan. After he left office, as president, you'll recall and your audience will recall that the Iran-Contra controversy was raging. There was an independent counsel investigation. And I was asked to, and honored to, represent President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan in connection with the Iran-Contra investigation. I also did a few other things for the Reagans from time to time. But, those were the main things.

KING: What was he like as a client? OLSON: Ronald Reagan was probably the easiest client that any lawyer could ever represent. He was someone who listened to the advice that you gave him. And he understood what we were talking about. He understood the issues. He didn't want, as some clients like to do, to pretend to be a lawyer or to give their lawyer advice. He asked very probing questions. And Mrs. Reagan also. It was a pleasure to work with them. When we -- when it was time to make a decision, the president would say, "well, what do you think we should do?" I would give my advice and he would say, "I think we should do that."

KING: Dan Rather interviewed the president on a number of occasions, including this little clip from 1982, right after the president's State of the Union message. Watch.


DAN RATHER, CBS EVENING NEWS ANCHOR: Your estimate of where inflation is going to be come the fall. Let's talk about September, October, November. Is the inflation rate going to be higher or lower than it is now, in your judgment?


RATHER: Unemployment? Higher or lower?

R. REAGAN: Lower.

RATHER: What would be unacceptable unemployment to you? Would 10 percent unemployment be unacceptable?

R. REAGAN: I think as long as there are any workers who want to work and are not able to find a job, that's unacceptable.


KING: Dan, what was he like? I know, I've interviewed him a few times, as an interview subject?

RATHER: Well, I think of Ronald Reagan as the big easy. New Orleans calls itself the "Big Easy." He was a big man. He moved like a big man. He had the body language of an athlete. It's easy to forget that Ronald Reagan was a good athlete. Football player, captain of the swimming team. He moved that way. I remember very well, and I think it was that interview, Larry, that we were changing videotape, you know, a few minutes while the crew changed the videotape, and this impressed me.

I didn't know Ronald Reagan particularly well. I never knew him especially well. But during this interview, I could see he and Michael Deaver, very important person, of course, around President Reagan, very key in building the Reagan legend. They were talking about something and then, not suddenly, but over came the president himself.

No. 1, he didn't send Mike Deaver. He came himself. He came over, that athletic walk, kind of came up to me in an "aw, shucks" way, and said, "Dan, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to censor anything, but I have misspoke myself, and if you'd give me an opportunity, just give me an opportunity to come back to that. You do the editing, I really would appreciate it but I'd understand if you couldn't do it."

It told me, in that capsule, a lot about Ronald Reagan and I think in there is the kernel of why and how he got along so well with the press. Not that everything was always perfect but I appreciate he came over himself, he didn't send Deaver. He couldn't have been more gracious which is one key to his personality. He had a wonderful sense about the press in that he knew the press loves a good story. And also he was dedicated to the idea and the ideal that humility and humor will get you a long way and that includes a long way with the press.

KING: Bob Woodward, you never, I don't think, interviewed President Reagan, but wrote about him in that bestseller "Shadow." What were your reminiscences?

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": What I did, I looked at the Iran-Contra scandal which was the blemish on the Reagan presidency. And what I found interesting in going back years later, looking exactly how he dodged that bullet. What he did secretly, he brought in, it was open that he brought in Howard Baker, the former senator as his chief of staff, and then Baker hired a bunch of lawyers to do a self-investigation in the White House to see if the president had done anything illegal.

He hired two very good lawyers. They interrogated Reagan 13 times. Looked through 200,000 pages of documents and found they could not prove that he hadn't done anything illegal but they found nothing that would implicate him in any crime and that was, for all practical purposes, the end of the Iran-Contra scandal. Very different kind of a comfortable response. Come on in, investigate me, ask any question. I didn't do anything wrong. And that's what the lawyers found out. And, in fact, that's what history's going to show, at least, based on the record we have now.

KING: Ted, was that very typical, what Bob just described? Come on in, look at anything?

OLSON: Absolutely. President Reagan believed, I believe correctly, that he had not done anything illegal. This is a man of absolute rock-hard integrity. A man of impeccable character and honesty. He once said when someone suggested, I think it happened in connection with the Iran-Contra thing, that he ought to explain something in a different way, or express something differently. And he said, "I'm not that good an actor." He was a very honest person. At the end of the Iran-Contra thing, we dealt with several judges in connection with that experience, and each of them complimented President Reagan on the extraordinary degree of cooperation that he offered to the investigators, to the independent counsel, to the congressional committees that looked into this, and then Lawrence Walsh did, also, complimented President Reagan on his openness in cooperating with the investigation. KING: We'll take a break and come right back. Tomorrow night President Gerald and Betty Ford will be with us. And Wednesday night, President George and his wife Barbara Bush. Fords tomorrow night, the Bushes on Wednesday night. And we'll be back with Ted Olson, Dan Rather, and Bob Woodward. We will be including your phone calls. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our God is in our midst and as we were in the procession I couldn't help but think of the love and the outpouring that has begun in the nation for a great president, great world leader, and a faithful servant of Almighty God.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And finally just a few verses from the last book of the Bible, which I share with you for your comfort as you begin this journey of remembrance. "Then I saw new Heaven and a new Earth for the first Heaven and the first Earth that passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, see, the dwelling of God is with people. He will dwell with them, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore. For the fall of things have passed away. And may God bless his rich word to your hearts this day and every day."



KING: Dan Rather, as a journalist, what did Ronald Reagan's coming to office mean?

RATHER: It meant a new dawn for America, to use one of Ronald Reagan's phrase. One needs to have context here, that we, the people of the United States, had been through and were going through a pretty bad period. Tremendous inflation during the 1970s. The end of the Vietnam War, which did not end well. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan, Christmas of 1979. Everybody thought seeking their historical search for a warm-water port. The Iranians had our hostages. And whether one liked him or not Ronald Reagan from the first second he came to the presidency brought that sunny, smiling, optimism and hope. I think that was his biggest contribution. With it, he brought a new -- a sense -- a new sense of patriotism. Of course he also brought a determination to rebuild the U.S. Military, to cut taxes, to shrink the size of government and he went right to work to do all these things.

But at the absolute fundamental base, it was he changed the political center of gravity in the country to one of worry and to use a Carter word, President Carter whom I respect greatly, "malaise." He changed it almost overnight to one of hope and optimism in saying in effect, listen, believe in yourselves, believe in us, believe in the United States of America. We can do it.

KING: Bob Woodward, did he surprise Washington?

WOODWARD: He did. But there was a lot of resistance to him. And there was a struggle, as there always is, in Washington. What I found, to stick to something I've tried to do some reporting on, on Iran/Contra, when it looked like he had put the issue aside, he gave the speech, a nationally televised speech and very cleverly couched it as kind of a civics lesson. Well, we've learned from lessons here. And one of them is that we have to cooperate between the executive and the legislative branch. After he gave that speech, I found a letter that Nixon wrote Reagan. Now this is 1987, and it was dear Ron, your speech last night was one of the best you ever gave. But more important than what you said, you sounded and looked strong. And in a way, that's the essence of Reagan. He sounded and he looked strong, and what Dan was saying is, people want a strong, confident, optimistic president. And Reagan just did that naturally.

KING: And was that, Ted Olson, natural?

OLSON: It couldn't have been more natural. And one of the things that we're seeing now when people do retrospectives and look at his speeches and look at the handwritten words that he put in to those speeches, the man had convictions. He believed in this country. He believed in God. He believed in the principles that motivated this country. And the principles that he knew made this country strong. And those were unshakable convictions. And along with that, he was strong. He had great character.

He had great courage. And he had the ability to communicate those convictions with courage and character, and that optimism, and that belief in this country, and that faith in the people of this country was a magnetic thing. And it was not something that could be contrived. It came from his heart, and we call it leadership. We just unfortunately don't see it as often as we need to in this country or anywhere else in the world. But Ronald Reagan, no matter how many people tried to talk him out of his position with respect to taxes, his position with respect to the Soviet Union, he believed what he believed, and he was unshakable in those beliefs, and that transferred confidence to the American people.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. We will be including phone calls. The president's body will remain in repose in the main lobby of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. It will remain there through tomorrow evening before it heads to Washington, D.C. And there you see mourners passing by. They've been doing it all day long. Hundreds and hundreds that will approach. Thousands by the end of the day tomorrow in California, which will be eventually his final resting place.

We'll be right back.


QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) telling us exactly what happened, sir. R. REAGAN: Because, it has to happen again, and again, and again until we have them all back. And anything that we tell about all the things that have been going on and trying to affect the rescue endangers the possibility of further rescues.

Even some who support our secret initiative believe it was a mistake to send any weapons to Iran. I understand and I respect those views. But I deeply believe in the correctness of my decision. I was convinced then, and I am convinced now that while the risks were great, so, too was the potential reward.

SAM DONALDSON, ABC NEWS: The polls show that a lot of American people just simply don't believe you. That the one thing you've had going for you more than anything else in your presidency, your credibility has been severely damaged.

Can you repair it?

What does it mean for the rest of your presidency?

REAGAN: Well, I imagine I'm the only one around who wants to repair it. And I didn't have anything to do with damaging it.



KING: You're kind of inseparable, the two of you.


KING: Can you explain that? I mean, we all know about love affairs. But yours is different. Is this just fate? You and him.

N. REAGAN: I don't know. I don't know. I've had letters -- I found a letter that was written to me from a girl who was getting married, and she wanted to know the secret of a happy marriage. I said -- and I wrote back, and said something to the effect that I couldn't -- I had no magic formula, that I never sat down and thought about it. But everything just fell into place with Ronnie and me. We completed each other.


KING: This Saturday, we'll repeat an hour of various interviews with Nancy Reagan on this program. And Sunday night, we'll repeat the complete hour with the former -- the late President Ronald Reagan. That's Sunday night, Ronald Reagan; Saturday night, Nancy Reagan.

How special, Dan Rather, is she to this story?

RATHER: Well, she's absolutely central to the story. And I think it was the poet John Donne, who said "it's easier to catch a falling star than to find a beautiful woman whose heart is true."

I'm not sure I agree with that. But Ronald Reagan caught the star. He had a beautiful woman who was true for 52 years was. Make no mistake, Nancy Reagan was and is patent leather on the outside. But when necessary, she's rawhide underneath. And when you saw that, the only time you saw it in public life was when she thought her -- her husband, her man, was threatened. And I think in the very last year and a half or so of the Reagan presidency, maybe a little before that -- I've never agreed with the idea that she was running things, as Mrs. Wilson did when President Wilson got ill. But, you know, she guided things by helping him with his approach, his outlook. That's the way that she had influence.

But -- but, make no mistake, if it's true, and I think it is, that she felt that he was under siege, and that certain people were not doing what they should be doing around him, I think she got more assertive in the last year and a half or two years that she'd been before.

KING: Bob Woodward, did Washington misread her? Or did she change? It was a rocky start, was it not?

WOODWARD: Yes. But Dan Rather's right. Particularly in the last couple of years. I mean, Don Regan, who was the chief of staff who got fired in Iran/Contra, it was very much -- she played, to put it mildly, a significant role in that decision on the necessity to get rid of him.

And he didn't like it. And as you may recall, and this came out in Don Regan's book, she had an astrologer that she would consult, and then tell Don Regan, well, there are good days and bad days, and then in between days. And major speeches or events could not be given on the bad days.

And Don Regan resented that profoundly. But he was not able to get around Nancy Reagan on that or other things. And they had some conversations which they both recounted where the only issue was who got to slam down the phone first.

KING: Ted Olson, we asked about the president. What kind of client was she?

OLSON: She was a terrific client. It's lovely to talk about Mrs. Reagan. One of the things that she recognized is about President Reagan is that he genuinely liked everybody, virtually everybody. He was a very trusting person. His first nature was to accept people. He didn't harbor grudges. He was very trusting with people, both the people that were his political opponents and people around him.

And Mrs. Reagan was very sensitive to the fact that it was potential for people to try to misuse their position of trust with President Reagan, to use it for their own agendas, to try to take advantage of him.

Now, he wasn't too concerned about that, because he had a lot of confidence in himself. But she was very, very alert to people that were not loyal, sufficiently loyal to her husband, or weren't sufficiently loyal to the things that he stood for. And so she was very alert to things like that. And she would not hesitate to speak out.

And the president, of course, would listen to her. And then sometimes he did what he thought she -- what she thought he ought to do, and sometimes he just went ahead and did it the way he thought.

Once I spoke with her at one point, and she said -- we were talking about something, and she said oh, I wish you would tell your husband -- my husband, because he won't listen to me. And I thought that was quite an interesting comment. Because, if there was anybody in the world he would listen to, it's Mrs. Reagan.

KING: We'll take a break, and when we come back we'll include your phone calls and I'll reintroduce the panel.

Tomorrow night, Gerald Ford and Betty Ford. Don't go away.


REAGAN: The presidency wouldn't have been the joy it's been for me without her there beside me, and that second floor living quarters in the White House would have seemed a big and lonely spot without her waiting for me every day at the end of the day.

You know, she once said that a president has all kinds of advisers and experts who look after his interests when it comes to foreign policy, or the economy, or whatever. But no one who looks after his needs as a human being.

Well, Nancy has done that, for me, through recuperations and crises. Every president should be so lucky. I think...


I think it's all too common in marriages that no matter how much partners love each other, they don't thank each other enough. And I suppose I don't thank Nancy enough for all that she does for me. So, Nancy, in front of all your friends here today, let me say thank you for all you do. Thank you for your love. And thank you for just being you.




KING: We will be taking your phone calls as we view Ronald Reagan's body. The president lies in repose in the main lobby the of the Reagan Presidential Library. Beginning at noon local time today, the public is allowed to pay their respects. And they started at noon local time and that will continue right through till tomorrow at 6:00 P.M., Pacific time. I've been to that library on a few occasions. Spoken at that library. It's a very impressive library, Dan.

RATHER: It is. I've been there once. It is very impressive.

KING: Let's go to some phone calls for our panel. They are Ted Olson, solicitor general for the United States. Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor of CBS "Evening News," and Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," whose latest book "Plan of Attack" is a major best- seller.

Middletown, Connecticut, hello. Middletown, Connecticut, hello.

Are you there? OK. I will try another one.

Panama City, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes, are you there?

Go ahead.

CALLER: This is Ellijay, Larry. Thank you very much. I just want to say that Ronald Reagan is my hero. And I like to ask Ted Olson, do you think Ronald Reagan's great tax cutting agenda will impact the economy for many more years into the future?

OLSON: Well, I'm not a tax person. But I think that the fact that tax -- personal income taxes went from 70 percent I think it was when President Reagan took office to something like 28 percent, the marginal rate, that that set off a recovery, and economic recovery in this country that was, I think the longest in our history. I think our other guests might correct me if I'm wrong about that.

But the fact that Ronald Reagan believed that individuals would be more creative, and more productive in this country if allowed to make their own decisions, and would have that incentive to make their own decisions about the wealth that they were capable of earning, was a force of energy into the American economy that was reflected today and will be reflected far into the future.

KING: Let's try Panama City, Florida, now. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, thank you, Larry.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: I'd like to ask your panel, what do they think individually President Reagan will be remembered mostly for?

KING: Let's start this one with bob Woodward -- Bob.

WOODWARD: I think most definitely rearranging the relationship with the Soviet Union. During his first term he was tough on the Soviet Union. Gorbachev came along, and Reagan decided this is somebody I can deal with. The military had been built up, Reagan had this instinct that the Soviet union Was rotten at the core. And he pressured the Soviet Union, and made agreements and really, if you look at what happened in his eight years as president, there was what colleague of mine at the "Post" called the turn, from a very aggressive relationship or relationship where we were on the verge of a holocaust a number of times, unfortunately, to rapprochement, and really dealing with this, what Reagan called the "Evil Empire," which, of course, collapsed a couple of years after he left the presidency. But, the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of the Cold War is probably the most significant thing that has happened in our lifetimes. And Reagan played -- he didn't cause it, but he played a very significant role in that.

KING: Dan.

RATHER: I don't disagree with Bob Woodward. But I think President Reagan himself said that what he wanted to be most remembered for, and I believe it will be what he's most remembered for, is he made Americans believe in themselves again. We begin to believe in ourselves again. And that was part and parcel of what made President Reagan able to do what he did with the Soviet Union. I think those two things, I think he'll also be remembered for what he and those around him like to call the Reagan Revolution. As we had the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Revolution in one direction of American politics. And I think that President Reagan, those who like him will give him credit, others will be critical of it, will be remembered for in that period, two successive terms. Two full terms as president. He'll also be remembered for carrying 49 states in the 1984 election. He almost carried all 50 states. Walter Mondale finally managed to carry Minnesota. For all that and a lot more I think he'll be remembered.

KING: Ted.

OLSON: I can't improve on that. The fact that President Reagan stood up to the bully, made ourselves strong enough that he could negotiate with the Soviet Union. Recognized before practically anybody else did that the Soviet Union's economy could not keep up with America. Anybody who lived in those times when we hid under desks as school children to prepare for nuclear war cannot forget what Ronald Reagan did without a shot being fired to cause -- to help to cause the disintegration of the Soviet Union. No one did it all by themselves. But Ronald Reagan, causing people to believe in themselves as Dan Rather says, and then standing up to the incredible force of the Soviet Union and helping to bring that down will never, never be able to thank him enough for that.

KING: Now is this Bristol, Virginia? Hello? OK. I'm totally out of whack with the calls.

Do we have another call straight, I'm trying to figure out our phone system.

OK, we're in a new building, Dan. Let's try this.


KING: Let me get this call. Yes, you can. Let me get this call. Cleveland, Ohio. Hello.



CALLER: I was wondering if the panel could tell me if they think there is any politicians out there now that has the potential that Ronald Reagan had.

RATHER: I have no question that somewhere in this great country there's more than one young person who has the potential to be what Ronald Reagan became. Let's remember that Ronald Reagan showed early signs of leadership. I never quite understood why people said listen, you know, he came out of nowhere as a Hollywood actor. This guy was president of his high school class, I think president of his college class, president of the student body. He was a champion swimmer. A good football player. He was an all-around guy.


RATHER: If he had been at a bigger school, he might have been a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. I can hear people scoffing at that, but you look at the record. And in this country the answer is yes, I think there are young people out there that have the potential to develop into a Ronald Reagan. In no small part because they see what Ronald Reagan was able to do. He came from nothing, out of nowhere.

KING: Just as Kennedy inspired so many.

RATHER: Exactly. And you know, I think Bill Clinton inspired some people. A lot of people don't want to hear that, as well. But when someone makes it to the pinnacle in American politics, and Bob Woodward's a walking authority on this, you can bet that they spent a long time preparing themselves for that leadership. It doesn't happen by accident.

KING: Bob Woodward, what did you want to ask?

WOODWARD: Oh, what I wanted to ask Ted Olson, there is -- this is one of the last moments anybody saw Ronald Reagan, it was 1992, and in the Iran/Contra investigation Lawrence Walsh who was the independent counsel, called Reagan to take a sworn deposition, and Ted Olson was the attorney for Reagan at this moment. And went on for hours, and I have a transcript of it. It's one of the most remarkable moments. It's a sad moment, because some of President Reagan's memories -- he just can't remember things, and he was quite up front about that. But, my reading of it was, that even with impaired memory, he told stories, and he charmed his audience. He charmed Lawrence Walsh, who is this person who many thought was going to conduct an investigation that would lead to Reagan's impeachment. Ted Olson was there. And I'd be interested, what was your reaction to that very long, grueling deposition?

OLSON: Well, it's not been covered anywhere better than in Bob's book, "Shadow" and we didn't plan this exchange before the program tonight, Larry. But, it was -- many people will recall the deposition in the Los Angeles court that was on camera, recorded and made available to the American people. This occurred after that. It was when Lawrence Walsh was about to finish his investigation, while we didn't know that at the time, but he wanted a private, under oath, interview with a deposition with President Reagan in President Reagan's office in Los Angeles.

I was very concerned about it at that time, because President Reagan was starting to lose his memory. He wasn't -- he wasn't focused on things as well as I knew that he might have been at some other part in his history. It's very difficult for a lawyer when a lawyer is asking questions, and Ronald Reagan wanted to please people, he wanted to cooperate, and I was afraid that he might take a question and give an answer that he thought might please the -- Lawrence Walsh who was asking the questions, and yet not have the facts correct.

And so we spent a lot of time preparing for that. Fortunately Lawrence Walsh was very gracious. A lot of negative things have been said about that entire investigation, and on either side, I guess, but he was very gracious, and he accepted the fact that Ronald Reagan was in a position where he tried to answer the questions, he wasn't able to answer many of the questions that he really wanted to answer. It was a very critical point in the entire process. And I think that -- there's no question that at the end of the day, Lawrence Walsh agreed, as Bob Woodward did, after looking into all of this, that Ronald Reagan had been honestly truthful in everything that he said.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. On Wednesday night, President Bush number 41, and wife Barbara will be our special guests. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still maintain that you made a mistake, Mr. President?

R. REAGAN: Hold it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you make a mistake in sending arms to Tehran, sir?

REAGAN: No. And I'm not taking any more questions and in just a second, I'm going to ask Attorney General Meese to brief you on what we presently know of what he has found out.

My fellow Americans, I thought long and often about how to explain to you what I intended to accomplish. But I respect you too much to make excuses. The fact of the matter is that there's nothing I can say that would make the situation right. I was stubborn in my pursuit of a policy that went astray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?


R. REAGAN: Let me put this in capital letters. I did not know about the diversion of funds. Indeed, I didn't know there were excess funds. If the buck does not stop with Admiral Poindexter as he stated in his testimony, it stops with me. I am the one who is ultimately accountable to the American people.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Eight years in Sacramento taught him the value of restraint even if it meant turning the other cheek with the press.

R. REAGAN: You got the camera running?


R. REAGAN: All right. I hate to waste this good material on a dead camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running for president, he reverted to type, Mr. Nice Guy. And instead of downplaying his Hollywood background, he capitalized on it often campaigning with legends like Jimmy Stewart, movie star and war hero.

R. REAGAN: The master of ceremonies said Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart. And so when I got up, I said, "you'll forgive me for correcting you, it's Major General Jimmy Stewart. And that night we got back to the hotel, and Jimmy said, "Ron," he said, "that fellow was right tonight." He said, "it is brigadier." He said, "I just never corrected you before because it sounded so good."


KING: That was from an early "60 Minutes" special on Ronald Reagan running for office. Good memory.

RATHER: Good mimicry.

KING: Great. Dan, before we take the next call, do you think that this turn of events might lead to more pressure on the administration to change its policy on stem cell research, having Nancy come out for it, but a month ago?

RATHER: Well, Larry, you've asked me for an opinion. As Ed Murray once said, "my opinion is not worth any more than the guy at the end of the bar." I hope I'm a pretty good reporter but...


RATHER: But I will say it seems inevitable, if Nancy Reagan, as is widely expected, if she holds to this course of saying we need more stem cell research, then, President George W. Bush is in a bit of a box because a large of part of his constituency does not want that. And on the one hand, he doesn't want to -- I mean, who can say no to Nancy Reagan. On the other hand, who can say no to a large part of his most important constituency. He's going to be a firewalker between now and election day if Nancy Reagan says much more about this.

KING: Ottawa, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I just wonder, the news coverage over the past couple of days has focused so much on the extraordinary love story between the Reagans and it's a great story but it appears that the relationship with their children has come second. I just wondered what was Mr. Reagan's relationship with his kids towards the end? And where are his other two children that he had with his first wife?

KING: Ted, I don't think there were two -- Maureen died. I don't think there were any other children with Jane Wyman and Michael Reagan was adopted and Patti and Ron were very visible today. Michael was also there earlier. But I saw Patti and Ron. Ted, do you know more about President Reagan and the family?

Oh, I think that the relationships were -- the differences and sensitivities were probably exaggerated a great deal. But every president and his children -- it's a difficult thing for children of presidents to be thrust in the limelight, their individuality in a large degree gets taken away from them. They can't go where they want to go without Secret Service following them. If they have an opinion that's different than their parents' position, then that's pulled out of context, and, of course, we all know that raising children is not always the easiest thing in the world. I think the relationship was much better than it was portrayed and it's certainly close now with the children that are still living.

KING: As we go to break, I'm going to give a little-known fact about Ronald Reagan. For a long time, he would not fly. And when he decided to run for governor he knew he had to fly again. So he and Nancy made a commercial flight to Dallas, Texas and back, and he got used to flying again. But for a long period of time in his life, he would not fly.

And there is his body lying in state, in repose in the main lobby of the Reagan Presidential Library. It will lie in state in the nation's Capitol starting Wednesday.

Back with our remaining moments with Ted Olson, Dan Rather and Bob Woodward right after this.


KING: There we see Nancy Reagan with the minister who presided today, as she bends down on the casket of her late husband, the 93- year-old President Ronald Reagan.

Take another call. Bristol, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. It's a pleasure speaking with you. My condolences to the Reagan family. I would like to ask Dan Rather what do you think was President Reagan's key to reaching out to the average American? RATHER: I think the key was that he believed himself to be a, quote, "average American." I think the whole key to his political success, was keep in mind he was two-time elected governor, full governorship in California. It was that he saw himself as every man and woman. And I think people recognized that.

I think that was the key.

Also, let's face it, he was a very good communicator. But and also, as mentioned earlier, I think by Solicitor General Olson, that he knew what he believed, and there's power in that. And I think hearts can inspire other hearts with their fire. And I think that's what Ronald Reagan did. He did it with the nation as a whole. Even people who didn't like him. People who really were adamantly opposed to some of the policies saw in him that everyman quality, and he had the ability to inspire.

KING: Bob Woodward, in your investigative studies did you come across anyone who didn't like him? I'm not talking about agree with him, didn't like him?

WOODWARD: Not really. I think some, like Don Regan, his chief of staff who got fired, came to not like him after being fired. But one of the things we also need to remember in this is how tough Reagan was. When he came in as president, he made Caspar Weinberger the defense secretary. Now, Weinberger never met a weapons system or a defense budget increase that he didn't love and embrace. Ronald Reagan turned Bill Casey, he had been his campaign manager, loose as CIA director, and Casey launched one of the most aggressive intelligence wars against the Soviet Union. We had covert operations going on not just in Nicaragua and Afghanistan but in Angola, Cambodia. If there was any way to slip it and stick it to the Soviets covertly, Bill Casey would find a way to do it. And that was all blessed and supported by Ronald Reagan.

KING: Ted Olson, it goes without saying you will miss him.

OLSON: Oh, enormously. The entire nation will miss him. In a way, because he's been so ill, and so far away from us for so long, I think it has to be said, it's a blessing for him. He is in a better place. It is a blessing for Mrs. Reagan. And it is an opportunity for us now to remember the good things about President Reagan. The good things about President Reagan as a human being.

I couldn't say it better than Dan Rather did. But part of it is that people liked him in part because Ronald Reagan liked people. I read every word in his diary that he wrote as a president, and when people see that entire document, they will be astounded. And Ronald Reagan never expressed anger, bitterness, hostility towards any of his political opponents.

KING: Ted, we're out of time.

OLSON: He didn't have that. He didn't have that at all.

KING: You said it eloquently. And I thank our entire panel, Ted Olson, Dan Rather, Bob Woodward. I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night, Gerald and Betty Ford, former president. Wednesday night, George and Barbara Bush, former president and former first ladies. Thursday night, Tim Russert. And Friday night, the sunrise special service and the burial of Ronald Reagan. All ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

All ahead now on CNN, continuing the remarkable week of coverage. "NEWSNIGHT" and Aaron Brown.


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