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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Reagan's Casket Arrives in Washington;
Aired June 9, 2004 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Judy Woodruff is up on Capitol Hill.
As we watch this plane, Judy, taxi to a halt, and it should be momentarily, give our viewers your sense of what is about to unfold.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, I think it goes without saying -- and everyone has been talking about this -- but Washington has not seen the likes of this for more than 30 years.
We are witnessing a moment in history, a moment when this city, which is hustle-bustle personified, a city where people fiercely protect their interests and lobby for the issues that matter most to them, all that is put aside, politics is put aside, while we pay respects and deep honor to this president, who literally changed a generation, if not more, of American students of politics.
I have talked to so many young people over the last few days who came up to me and said, I started paying attention to politics because of Ronald Reagan.
Just a little while ago, I was talking with Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House. He, I got into politics. He said, I ran to be chairman of the my precinct. He said, I was a businessman. I was running an insects -- he called it a bug business. It was insect removal. And he said, Ronald Reagan inspired me to get into politics. I'd been sitting around griping, and he was the one. He gave me reason to get involved and to think that we could make a difference."
So he changed, he inspired, and we now have a chance today and through this whole week to take note of him.
BLITZER: Shortly, the door will open from Air Force -- what is normally Air Force One, not Air Force One today because the sitting president is not there.
This U.S. Air Force jet, this 747 will open the front part and out will walk Mrs. Nancy Reagan and the casket will be removed and taken to this hearse that you see for the ceremony, and then the drive to Washington.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A quick point about when this is Air Force One. This is a potent political weapon. When a president flies into a small town, particularly a smaller town, and he brings Air Force One with him, the sitting congressman of his party will sometimes go 500 miles out of his way just to get on that plane so he can get off with the president.
They give tours of Air Force One when it's parked at the tarmac. And if you particularly are a political supporter of the local party official, you get to go and see Air Force One.
Every president knows how to use this plane both to magnify who he is and to win favors from congressmen, from senators, from local party officials. It's not just a transportation device.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: President Reagan traveled more miles than any other president in this nation's history. And it's interesting to note that one of the planes he traveled in often has been mothballed, and it will be on display at his presidential library.
BLITZER: He traveled more than any other previous president. He had broken the record when he was the president.
ZAHN: I should -- you're absolutely right.
BLITZER: But Bill Clinton traveled a lot more than Ronald Reagan during the eight years he was president of the United States.
You see the front door is now open. The stairs will pull up, as they always do, and out will walk Mrs. Nancy Reagan. She'll be accompanied by Major General Galen Jackman, the head of the U.S. military color guard, the special protocol officer, if you will, who has been assigned to help her, Paula, every step of the way.
The casket will be removed from the back. She and her children will walk out from the front. And we're told, Paula, that one of the most comforting things for Mrs. Reagan right now is knowing that Patti Davis and Michael Reagan and Ronald Reagan, they're all there with her during these difficult moments.
ZAHN: It has been quite a journey for this family when you think about the time of the diagnosis of Alzheimer's in President Reagan's life. It was at a time when there was what some people have described as great family dysfunction.
And Patti Davis has written in quite a poignant way about how this disease has brought their family together. It has not been an easy journey.
Maureen Reagan was among the first in the family to openly solicit more funding for the Alzheimer's Association. And at a time when she was battling cancer, she spent more time trying to raise money for Alzheimer's than she did cancer.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, her struggle with cancer ended a few years back, and she passed away. That was a very sad moment.
We see now the color guard representing all branches of the U.S. military beginning to move in, to carry the casket from the plane to the hearse. When you watch this, Professor Dallek, and you understand how this is all so carefully, carefully worked out, you have to appreciate the historic -- the historic moment.
ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes. What I think of, Wolf, is the moment when John Kennedy's body came back from Texas. The contrast to that is so striking here, because that had been such a shattering moment in the country's history.
And Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, who was the attorney general, came rushing on the plane and went to Jackie Kennedy. That was a moment of terrible tragedy.
And this is almost the moment of somehow completion, of triumph, rather than a sense of the tragic. So that's the other moment I think back to when a casket came off a presidential plane.
BLITZER: The circumstances surrounding the death of John F. Kennedy, obviously, the circumstances surrounding the death of President Reagan so very, very different.
You're watching this color guard begin to move. The hearse will pull into position near Air Force One. The honor cordon and the Army band will march into position. That's what we're seeing right now. And then the family will emerge and walk down those stairs.
ZAHN: I guess the one thing that strikes me, as we wait for Nancy Reagan to exit the plane is the enormous strain that this must be for her, even though she was intimately involved in the planning of this. This is almost a weeklong process.
BLITZER: Let's listen in and get a flavor of what's happening.
The casket is about to be lowered from this United States Air Force jet that has brought Ronald Reagan's body from California to the nation's capital for the next phase in the state funeral of the 40th president of the United States.
Once the casket is lowered, then Mrs. Reagan will emerge, together with her children and other close family friends who have made this long journey from California to pay tribute to this president of the United States, who was so beloved.
Here she is, Mrs. Reagan being escorted by Major General Galen Jackman, who has been with her literally every moment since the ordeal began Saturday right around 1 p.m. Pacific Time when word came, official word that Ronald Reagan was dead.
ZAHN: Although Mrs. Reagan has been quite open in at least the couple of weeks leading up to his death that she felt his health was failing and, in an impassioned speech before a group of scientists and folks who are actively involved in the Alzheimer's community, she made her plea for more money for stem cell research, which of course, is a highly controversial subject among some members of her party.
BLITZER: Jeff, as we look at Mrs. Reagan, and we're going to watch this. And then once the official ceremony begins, we'll just be quiet and observe it together with all of our viewers.
She's a very, very strong woman, even though she looks frail.
GREENFIELD: That's exactly what I was reminded of. This is a woman who, while not having an independent career of her own the way Hillary Clinton certainly did, this was a very important person within the White House.
She is said to have encouraged President Reagan, on his negotiations with the Soviet Union, to stress peace. She had a lot to say about personnel. People in the White House said that, you know, you cross Nancy Reagan at your peril. She -- and a fierce defender of her husband, like a lot of wives. She was more offended by the criticism than he was.
BLITZER: As she continues on this stroll across the tarmac, Frank Sesno, you got to know Mrs. Reagan, and you got to appreciate, as so many of our viewers, so many Americans began to appreciate the love affair between her and the man she called Ronnie.
FRANK SESNO, FORMER CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: It was really remarkable. There was a sixth sense between them.
Daughter Patti, whom you'll see here shortly, has said that when the two of them were together they almost sucked the air out of the room. And it wasn't a conscious thing; it just happened.
When there was the assassination attempt on the president's life, Mrs. Reagan tells a powerful story about how, even before she was told something happened -- she was in the middle of lunch, and she just had a sense, an intuition, that something was wrong.
When they told her that her husband -- about the attempt, but that he was fine, they at first urged her not to go to the hospital. And she said, "No, I'm going to the hospital if I have to run there myself."
The president said some years later, at a tribute in 1988 -- I'm reading his words -- "What do you say about someone who gives your life meaning? What do you say about someone who's always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be easier and more successful?"
BLITZER: Frank, I want our viewers to be able to listen in and to watch and to observe what is happening at Andrews Air Force Base right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready, step.
Bearers, halt. Ready. Face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order.
Ready, face. Ready, step.
ZAHN: They're going.
BLITZER: So there it is, the hearse carrying the casket of Ronald Reagan, leaving Andrews Air Force Base for the drive into the nation's capital.
You see that on the right part of your screen, Paula. On the left part, Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. This hearse will be heading over to 16th and Constitution Avenue, where the casket will be transferred to a caisson for the continuing -- the continuing movement up to Capitol Hill, all very carefully worked out with arrangements by the military district of Washington, D.C.
Major General Jackman, who's with Mrs. Reagan inside the limousine, he's the commanding general of that -- of that unit.
ZAHN: Normally, this trip would take about 15 to 20 minutes without traffic. But these processions, at least when they involve motorcades, move at about 20 miles per hour.
BLITZER: That's what they require. According to the protocol for a state funeral, this -- once the motorcade begins and once they're off the Andrews Air Force Base, they can only travel at exactly 20 miles per hour.
ZAHN: So we're estimating it could take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes for the hearse to reach that point at the Ellipse where the transfer of the casket will be made to the caisson.
The crowds have clearly filled in since the last time we saw that picture. It is a stifling, hot day out there today.
GREENFIELD: I'm just thinking, this is a kind of playing the film backward of how a president usually begins his tenure. That is, he takes the oath of office now on the west front of the Capitol and he rides or, increasingly, in tradition, walks part of the route along Pennsylvania Avenue. Winds up in front of the White House where the inaugural parade takes place.
And there is something, even in this day and age of instant access and Internet travel, there is something that really adds weight to the very traditional, literally thousand-year-old notion, thousands year old notion, of a solemn pageant of people simply walking before crowds. You can go back to ancient Greece, where some of these traditions -- or Rome, where some of these traditions were born. And there is something about it, even I think for young people who never knew a world without computers and the Internet, that this oldest of traditions still has tremendous meaning.
DALLEK: It speaks to our democratic traditions, because you remember when Jimmy Carter became president after all of the terrible events surrounding Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and Carter walked down Pennsylvania Avenue hand in hand with his wife.
And the point was to show, "I'm not afraid of anything. These are my people. I'm their president." And it expressed the fundamental democratic sentiments of the country.
And I think the fact that you go so slow, 20 miles an hour, people have lined up. You don't want to whisk by them. You want to go slowly so that people can glimpse the limousine.
BLITZER: Look at the beautiful blue skies of Washington, D.C., right now, overlooking the U.S. Capitol. Yes, it's hot. Yes, it's humid. But it's a beautiful, clear day. An appropriately beautiful, clear day.
You see, Paula, that flag flying half-staff over the U.S. Capitol. This is the west side that our viewers are seeing now that -- this is the area where that casket will be carried up those many, many stairs, eventually resulting in the rotunda.
We should also point out to our viewers that we're not going to see the motorcade make its way down the Suitland Parkway into the District of Columbia, go back into Virginia, then over the George Washington -- onto the George Washington Parkway and then onto the Memorial Bridge.
We're going to see only the tail end of that. That's at the request -- the request of the family, as well as the military and the security services. Just as was the case in California on the route from the presidential library to the naval air station.
It was considered to be undignified, Paula, to have helicopters chasing a motorcade and to see that going along the route. Mrs. Reagan apparently didn't want that.
ZAHN: I think she was smart about that. It certainly would have taken away, I think, from the meaning of what we're seeing unfold here on the screen.
I wanted to go back to, Bob, an idea, that both you and Jeff were talking about a little bit earlier about, because this is, as Nancy Reagan called it, her husband's long good night, the nation in a sense has had 10 years to prepare for his ultimate passing.
And I've really been struck by hearing people in crowds, particularly in California, young kids who waited with their parents for 14 hours in line. They had no idea what he did as a president. And it was important for them to be there, to pay them homage.
GREENFIELD: I think there's always a moment like this when people want to be part of it. They understand, even if they haven't -- don't know who Ronald Reagan was, if they're young enough, but they know that something important is going on.
I mean, on a less serious matter, it's why people want to be part of parades. It's why people want to be touched. If you ever have seen any kind of procession go by, the crowd will always want to reach out and touch a candidate or even someone who simply is marching.
And in this case, people probably get enough of a sense, even kids, that this was a big deal. This was a serious event. An important person is passing. And I think that's part of what professor Dallek was talking about, why these motorcades go slow. People have an -- as John McCain would have put it, want to be a part of something bigger then themselves.
And a presidential funeral is about as big as it can get.
BLITZER: Judy Woodruff is up on Capitol Hill. I want to bring her back.
Judy, as we await this motorcade to now make its way out from Andrews Air Force Base into the District of Columbia, you were up on Capitol Hill when we had that brief scare, that false alarm.
A small plane apparently had gone into restricted airspace over the District of Columbia and caused a chain of events to occur, evacuations, everyone got very, very nervous. From your perspective, you were there, what happened?
WOODRUFF: Well, Wolf, it may have been a false alarm, but nobody knew that to begin with. And I can tell you, I had just gotten off the air and had briefly taken a walk down the hall and was coming back when one of our crewmembers came running up to me said, "They are evacuating people from the building. We've got to get out of here."
Well, I came back out here to the balcony of the Cannon Building so that I could see for myself what was going on. And I am sitting on the south side of the capital across Independence Avenue from the Capitol, and you could see people streaming off the grounds of the Capitol.
There was a policeman who approached our location and the Cannon House Office Building up on the second floor, and he was saying, "You've got to get out. You've got to get out."
So I grabbed what little I could and went running behind everybody else, down the stairs, poured out on to New Jersey Avenue, which intersects here with Independence Avenue, and all of us joined the throngs, literally, of people running.
And I have to tell you, Wolf, you know, nobody knew what was going on. I yelled at a couple of policemen. I said, "What's going on?" And they said, "We don't know." Finally, one policeman grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Lady, take off your shoes and run as fast as you can."
And I said, "No, I'm fine."
He grabbed me and he said, "You've got to stop." He made me stop, take off my shoes and he said, "Run as fast as you can. Get away from here," which of course made all of us think, maybe something was going on. We didn't know.
It was probably two or three minutes after that. We had run maybe three blocks when the word came down that it was a scare, a false scare. We were told -- I've just been told in the last few minutes they think it was a VIP plane of some sort that did wander by mistake into this very, very secure airspace.
But, Wolf and Paula, I can tell you if you didn't know this place was on a hair trigger, you know it is now. Because they were moving, and they were moving fast to get everybody as far away and as fast as they could from the capitol.
BLITZER: Judy, everything, though, is right now, you can assure our viewers, totally back to normal?
WOODRUFF: Well, as best as we can tell. I will say that they've rung alarms again about four, five times since then. They've rung alarms -- I'm back on the balcony of the Cannon House Office Building again, right across Independence Avenue from the capitol.
They keep testing the alarms here, resetting them, we're told. They've also been testing the alarms in the Capitol building itself.
But as far as we can tell, everything is back to normal. And the reason I know that is there's now not only the security people, the press, there is a long line of people -- I don't know if you can see it from your camera vantage point -- of ordinary citizens who are already beginning to wind down Constitution -- I'm sorry -- Independence Avenue to get into the Capitol to have an opportunity to pay their respects to President Reagan.
This is extraordinary. You all have been saying it. We haven't seen the likes of this in decades in this town. And it's -- it's worth the time that we're giving it.
ZAHN: Judy Woodruff, thanks so much. We're going to check in with Bob Franken, who is down along Constitution. I'm not sure exactly what part you're observing, Bob.
Were you even aware an evacuation had taken place?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was interesting. When it was occurring, one thing I did not see was any tension on the part of police. Of course, they all have on their earpieces.
And I was able to stop a Secret Service agent who said that it did not look like there was anything, but of course, they could not take any chances up at the Capitol.
What we have seen in this location, which by the way is at Seventh and Constitution, some nine blocks down this normally heavily traveled street from where President Reagan's procession is going to begin, probably another nine blocks to the Capitol.
As you can see, the crowd, even in the heat, has been gathering throughout the day. What you are seeing over there is the steps of the National Archives building, which now is just a sea of people.
And you will also see members of the United States Navy, who are in effect forming an honor guard along the way here. As they were spreading out, they did so to applause from the people who are here.
Now, there are people from all over the country. There are people here with some very interesting stories.
Reggie, I want to ask you now to come over here so we can talk to Judy Rohl (ph) and her son, Luke.
Judy, why are you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we wanted -- we were saddened by President Reagan's loss, of him dying, and we decided that we would come out and show respect to not only him as a president but also to Nancy Reagan for all that she's done for our country.
FRANKEN: But there's something special. There's some special reason you're here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Luke just finished the fourth grade. And in their Christian school they had to do a report on a president. And it just so happens that Luke got assigned to do President Reagan. And he really wanted to do it. And he read a book on it. And we know lots of information about President Reagan.
FRANKEN: OK, Luke, I want you to really hit us with some information here. Tell me what you want to tell us about Reagan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speak up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. And he was born in 1911. He was born in an apartment in Tampico, Illinois, above a bakery in the same apartment has as his brother Neil. And, as he was growing up, he...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Worked as a...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He worked as a lifeguard. And...
FRANKEN: What kind of grade did you get for this paper?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For this paper, I got 100. And in the oral report, I got a 98. FRANKEN: Well, let me ask you this. Now that you know so much about the president, what does it mean to you to be here so you'll get a chance to see him as he goes past?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honorable.
FRANKEN: Pardon? You're sad that he's...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're glad that you got to come.
And our children were real happy to be able to come. My in-laws are here from Minnesota. They got to be here. And all of us, we're just very happy to be able to come out and show our respect to a man that did so much for not only the individual, but for our country.
FRANKEN: Witnesses to history.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
FRANKEN: And, as you can all see, there are thousands of them here to witness the pomp and ceremony that has not really been a part of Washington ever since the death of Lyndon Johnson some 30 year ago. Again, the funeral procession will be passing by us in the next hour or two. It will be going toward the Capitol, where of course it will be open for people to pay their respects before the final ceremonies here, then the return to California -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bob Franken, up on Constitution Avenue in the District of Columbia.
Jeanne Meserve is not very far away. She's at the Ellipse, where the hearse will eventually stop at 16th and Constitution, not far from the White House.
Jeanne, what are you seeing, what are you hearing over there?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, the hearse is not expected here for another half-hour.
But already some of the units are moving into place. Perhaps we can take a shot across the street. You can see that the color guard is already here waiting. And if you look a little bit further down Constitution Avenue, you might be able to make out some of the old guard Army members who are sitting atop the black horses that will pull the caisson. From the vantage point where I'm standing, I can't see the caisson, but I understand that it is hitched on back of those horses.
What will happen, the motorcade will arrive here. The first cars will pull up beyond where I am. Then the caisson will move up to this side of the roadway. After that, the hearse will come in and pull to the opposite side of the roadway and the rest of the motorcade will pull in behind. Then the casket will be moved by military pallbearers from the hearse on to the caisson, which will then move on up Constitution Avenue.
There are many military units being that are being prepositioned up beyond us on Constitution Avenue towards the Capitol. They will actually start to move before the transfer of the casket is completed. That way they will avoid any congestion and when the caisson is ready to move, it will be able to.
They had been holding the crowds back. They had been behind ropes on the sidewalk. About 45 minutes ago, they took those ropes down and people surged forward, people very anxious to get a good vantage point to see this moment of history. They are now probably 10 deep all along here. But this is one of the prime viewing areas for the ceremony, because we're here where people will actually see the casket being moved.
They will see some of the pageantry. Nancy Reagan will be stepping out of her limousine to watch the transfer take place. And, of course, this will all be happening in the shadow of the White House, where Ronald Reagan served as president for eight years. That's what it looks like here right now -- Wolf, Paula, back to you.
BLITZER: Jeanne, a quick question. The crowd that is near you, are they young? Are they old? Are they men? Are they women? Are they diverse? What does it look like?
MESERVE: It looks like a pretty mixed group. I'd say, ethnically, overwhelmingly white. But I would say I've seen children here. I've seen middle-aged people here. I've seen older people here.
I spoke to one man who said he had been a volunteer in Ronald Reagan's first campaign, another man who had come here from Richmond, Virginia. He said, you know, I believed in this man and everything he said. I swore to myself years ago, no matter where I was when he died, I would come to Washington to see his funeral. And he has come here today.
So I'd say a mixed group, but, as I say, predominantly white. I'd say the median age in the group I'm looking at, probably around 45 years of age or so -- Wolf.
BLITZER: People who grew up in effect with Ronald Reagan.
He had a tremendous impact on a lot of people, Paula, an impact that is really being felt this week.
ZAHN: And we've heard from a lot of those folks on the air this week.
What I'm thinking about when you look at the proximity of the Ellipse to the White House and the hearse ultimately being in the shadow of the White House. It's so interesting. In the late '90s, when Ronald Reagan's memory really started to fail him, we are told he never talked about the presidency. He didn't talk about his years in Hollywood. He didn't talk about his governorship. In fact, what he was focused in on were his early years in Illinois and the pride he took in saving 77 lives as a lifeguard. And I guess, when people visited him in his office in Century City, he would tell them over and over again that there was a log where he used to make a little carved notch representing each life that he had saved as a lifeguard.
GREENFIELD: This was also the place, Dixon, Illinois, where a lot of people think his ingrained optimism was born.
I mean, which seems odd. He was the son of an alcoholic shoe salesman, but a mother who kind of encouraged him to look on the bright side. And he somehow got the belief, not being raised in a bucolic, wonderful environment, if your dad is an alcoholic and comes home sometimes drunk. Yet he always had this belief that there was something better, kind of a classic American notion. There was something better over the next hill.
And that theme runs right through Ronald Reagan as a private citizen, as a writer about politics, as a governor, as a president, as an ex-president, the last speech he gave to the 1992 Republican Convention. And it is a line you can trace for literally decades, for like 60 years, from his childhood in Dixon, Illinois, right through to the most important person in the world.
BLITZER: And I just want to point out to our viewers what we're seeing. We're seeing representatives of the U.S. military. About 2,000 of them will be proceeding, will be participating in the cortege, as it's called.
That's the procession of mourners who will move up Constitution Avenue behind the caisson. They will be showing their respect for the former president of the United States.
Professor Dallek, we were talking about the roots of Ronald Reagan, going back to that childhood in Illinois. And it's probably not unusual. As people get older, they remember better what happened when they were young than what happened a few year earlier. It's probably a pretty common experience.
DALLEK: Hey, Wolf, it's even happening to me.
ZAHN: Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Bob?
DALLEK: I think I'm getting old.
Thinking about Jeff's point, I've puzzled over this, this question of, where did this optimism come from? And part of it, I'm convinced, has to do with the period in which he grew up. His model in politics, in many ways, was Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt, of course, was the consummate optimist, the man who spoke in terms of the better America, who took on the heavy burdens of the Depression and World War II.
And I think Reagan saw him -- I know he saw him as a heroic figure. And though he, of course, moved away from his New Deal liberal roots, we know that, and became a Republican conservative, still, Roosevelt was a measuring rod for him. And that's why he goes back to this radio broadcast as president. He picks up on Roosevelt's fireside chats. And he remembers the effectiveness of Roosevelt as a leader. And I think this is a great model for him as president.
GREENFIELD: This is the classic Reagan optimism. Remember when he had colon cancer. When he recovered, a reporter said, well, how do you feel now that you've had cancer?
And Reagan said, I didn't have cancer. The polyp had cancer. Now, you can say, well, that's kind of missing the point. But you can also say, if you want to know where a person gets that sense of looking on the brighter side, to me, that is like an emblematic statement.
ZAHN: And no one knows that better than Frank Sesno, who covered President Reagan while he was in office and has spent a great deal of time with Nancy Reagan since the president's retirement.
Frank, did you ever discuss with Mrs. Reagan about the constancy of President Reagan's spirit and that unbelievable sense of optimism?
SESNO: Yes, especially, and, of course, in these most recent years, when he was suffering from his Alzheimer's disease.
And she and others who were close to the family -- and there were very few, because very few people had access to the president once he fell ill, talked about how he would carry on with his routine and even with his remarkable sense of humor, making jokes about his own situation, which is rather hard to believe. But people who were close to him say and swear that was the case.
Paula, we used to ask him in the final years of his administration -- and he had a rough go there in that second term, the Iran-Contra scandal and some other things, high points, too, with negotiations with the Soviets. We would ask him and we would ask people around him, what about your legacy? What do you want your legacy to be?
He wasn't very good at answering that, because he really didn't think about his legacy in the terms of sort of a calculating comment on history. But I found these words in his 1988 (sic) inaugural, his reelection, which ironically was delivered in the Rotunda, where he will now lie in state, because we had a day in January as cold as this day in June is hot.
And he said, history is a ribbon always unfurling. It's a journey. And here's how he portrayed his sense of history, in grand, heroic, bold strokes. "A general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge. A lonely president paces the darkened halls and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union. The men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other. A settler pushes West and sings a song and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air."
That's how he saw the sweep of American history and his role in it, this sort of very grand and heroic place. And he finally said in that speech let history say of us these were the golden years when the American Revolution was reborn, his revolution, the conservative Reagan revolution.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno is watching all of this with us.
What we're seeing, various aspects of the military units that will be part of the cortege, the procession, down Constitution Avenue, from 16th Street, near the Ellipse, not far from the White House. Once the casket arrives, we anticipate that could be 10, 15, 20 minutes, not exactly sure, we will get a glimpse at some point of the motorcade bringing the hearse, bringing Mrs. Reagan, bringing the other family members and friends to Washington, D.C., for this gathering.
But there are huge crowds already on both sides, Paula, of Constitution Avenue, even though it's very hot, even though local law enforcement told people, you know, it's going to be crowded, there will be traffic jams, this is going to be a difficult time to stay in Washington, you may want to think about this. But you know what? Look at this picture. Look at how many people have decided they want to pay their respects to Ronald Reagan.
ZAHN: And this pretty much reflects what the planners found in California.
They had trouble estimating how many people would ultimately come to the presidential library to pay their respects to the president. And we have heard wildly varying estimates over the next three-day period of what we'll see here in Washington. We're told anywhere from 115,000 to 250,000 people will make their way to the Rotunda.
BLITZER: It's -- I guess it shouldn't be that surprising that, in this country, Professor Dallek, there are so many tens of thousands, let us say millions of Americans who truly loved Ronald Reagan.
DALLEK: And, you know, Wolf, when we were talking about the people who remember him, I have students, 18, 19, 20 years of age, they don't remember him as president.
But when I talk about presidents, the two presidents who seem to have captured their imagination are John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. These have the greatest hold on them. Now, Roosevelt, of course, it's too far back for them. But Kennedy and Reagan, because they come across to young people as heroic figures. And I think that's -- they're people to look up to. And young people need that.
They want somebody they can think about in American life, in American politics who makes them feel good about the country.
ZAHN: What was the magic of the connection that President Reagan had not only with his constituents in California in the beginning and later on with the nation as a whole?
GREENFIELD: It was two -- I think it was two things.
He did have a command of public language that we hadn't seen in a long time. One of the benefits of Ronald Reagan, being as old as he was and having Roosevelt as a hero, he summoned language in a way that younger politicians didn't know how to do, because I think they were too frightened by focus groups and pollsters and media consultants. Reagan was his own best speechwriter.
The second thing was, he was talking about big things. He was talking about the moral superiority of the West. He was talking about individualism and how government had grown too big. Now, you can argue with the policies. You can argue even with the results. But I don't think there's any question -- and I think historians, Professor Dallek, are coming around to this point of view -- that, in terms of political consequence, in terms of the shadow that a president casts, you've got Roosevelt and then you've got Reagan.
And I think that's one of the reasons why people who were barely born when Reagan was president still look and they say, oh, that's the guy who was around when the Cold War ended, yes. That's the guy who told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down that wall. That's also the guy, the first president, sitting president, to survive an assassination attempt, which I think added to the mystique.
DALLEK: What I'm struck by is, when you ask people what they remember about the presidency, do they remember that Lyndon Johnson put across civil rights or Medicare?
BLITZER: Hold on one second, Professor Dallek.
I want our viewers to see. This is the motorcade bringing the hearse, bringing the limousine, bringing the delegation into the nation's capital from Andrews Air Force Base. It's going at exactly 20 miles an hour. That's the requirement. This picture from the Suitland Parkway was a brief snapshot.
And I'm sorry for interrupting, Professor Dallek. Go ahead and finish your thought as we watch and await the arrival on Constitution Avenue of this motorcade.
DALLEK: I was going to echo Jeff's point, that people don't remember who passed Social Security or who passed Medicare or any particularly major bill that lies 20, 30, 50 years in the past.
What they remember is a president's rhetoric. If they had certain lines, some of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, with Roosevelt, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself, you see. John Kennedy, John Kennedy remembered for that line, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
And I think Reagan carries that quality as well. And it's really striking. I think you're quite right on that.
ZAHN: It's interesting to me, though. It seems to me that it wasn't until fairly recently that this was a president who was given any credit at all for being detail-oriented. It wasn't until these books came out which examined his writings going way back before he ran for even the governorship of California, which showed that he did have a distinct vision, that he was issue-oriented.
GREENFIELD: A lot of his critics thought he was basically -- and partly because he was an actor, that somebody put the words in his mouth and he spoke them.
And then a book came out a couple of years ago called "A Life in Letters," in which this editor, this author, went back and found the originals of Reagan's radio commentaries and newspaper articles from the '70s, after he left the governorship, which he wrote himself. And they were detailed. And they were complex. And it's true I think that, as Reagan got on, particularly in his second term, he lost a step. That's the man.
BLITZER: And you know, Jeff and, Professor Dallek, Paula, we're going to get a lot more of this in the coming years.
Over the weekend, when I was in Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Doug Brinkley, Professor Doug Brinkley of the University of New Orleans, was there with me. He was recently at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. And they let him take a look at the diaries, the daily handwritten diaries that Ronald Reagan kept during his eight years as president.
And he was so disciplined. Every single day, he would sit down and write in his own words, not dictate, not make up or whatever. But in his own words, he would write what happened on that day, how he felt about certain issues, certain people. Once these diaries are made available to historians like Doug Brinkley or Robert Dallek, this will be a mine field of new information.
DALLEK: The same with Dwight Eisenhower.
People saw him in the '50s as someone who was run around the track by John Foster Dulles. In the '70s, we began to get documents, materials. and there's a famous book called "The Hidden-Hand Presidency," in which we find out that Eisenhower was so on top of things and attentive and was the real leader in that administration.
But picking up on this point, it often takes 30, 40 years before we find out, in any substantial way, what a presidential administration was truly like, because the documentary record is closed. I'm working now on a study of Nixon and Kissinger. And it's amazing, the material that's coming to hand.
ZAHN: We will wait around for it. Keep on working.
ZAHN: Let's check in with Anderson Cooper who, the last time we checked in with him, had just weathered a bit of a scare when there was an evacuation on Capitol Hill.
He's standing at the point where we are beginning to see people lined up who will, I'm told, I guess starting at 9:30 tonight perhaps get their first glimpse of the casket.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Paula.
It is obviously a lot calmer than the last time I saw you here, though we did have a little bit of a security scare about 45 minutes to an hour ago. Police suddenly came, evacuated everybody from here. And the line stretches -- now, there are about 400 or 500 or so -- that's a rough estimate -- people waiting on line.
Many of them have been waiting for 12 hours or so. You can see, it stretches all the way down here. There are a number of media crews as well. The sun has gone down here somewhat, so it's a little bit cooler. But, at the height of today, it was around 91, 92 degrees, incredibly hot here. And yet there were people dressed in their suits. I saw one man in a three-piece wool suit who had been here since early this morning.
I want to introduce you to the woman who is the lucky woman to be No. 1 in line, Carol Williams (ph).
She -- you came last night. You left your home at 11:00 in Chesterfield, Virginia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COOPER: Why? Why did you come here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I wanted to be able to pay my respects to a man who gave so much to America and taught us once again what our founding fathers thought America was about and wanted to re- instill into the population those values.
COOPER: Now, you were the first person on line. You got here at, what, 5:00 a.m.?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At 5:00 a.m.
COOPER: Did you ever -- did you think you were going to be first on line?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I came thinking, wow, I'm going to be late. I'm going to end up like all the way back. I will be lucky if I make it through in the first eight hours. And I got here and I was pleasantly surprised and thought we would be pleasantly surprised to be taking a nap.
COOPER: You brought your daughter, too, and your niece. Why them? They didn't even grow up when Reagan was president. They were probably born, what, after Reagan. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I didn't grow up when Lincoln was around or Washington was around. But these were men who changed the course of history, and the sense of history that they are now being able to experience and be part of. One thing is to read it in a book or see it on TV at home watching it. Another thing is to be here and be part of history.
COOPER: And as you go through, as you file past that flag-draped casket, what is going to go through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the first thing that is going to go through my mind is, congratulations, President Reagan. You are with Jesus.
The second is going to be, hey, could you lean over and say hi to Jeff (ph) for me. And I think the second thought that is going to go through my mind is what I've thought about all day, is, wow, Mrs. Reagan has held up so beautifully, and not just right now. But for 10 years, she has never let us see her (UNINTELLIGIBLE), never shown anything but concern and care and love for her husband.
And, you know, like her husband, we didn't have to wonder what they had to say about their values or what they thought. Their actions spoke so loudly.
BLITZER: All right, Anderson Cooper is there. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost his microphone, but we were wrapping up with that. And, Anderson, we will be getting back to you.
Once again, we are looking at these live pictures, these military troops there, part of the bands, the color guards, the honor guards. They are standing by for the arrival of the motorcade, the motorcade bringing the casket of Ronald Reagan to the nation's capital from Andrews Air Force Base. That was the last leg of this cross-country journey that began this morning at the presidential library in Simi Valley, California.
Momentarily, we expect, Paula, to see some of that motorcade make its way down from the Suitland Parkway over across into Virginia, actually, and then the George Washington Parkway, where it will then come back across the Memorial Bridge. It's that spectacular shot where the Lincoln Memorial is, and you see Arlington National Cemetery behind the Memorial Bridge. It's one of the most beautiful shots in Washington, D.C.
That's appropriate for this kind of motorcade coming into Washington.
ZAHN: Which reminds me about a story I read over the weekend, when it talked about how -- and I think it was actually something penned by Nancy Reagan, when she talked about the utter joy that the president took in living in Washington.
And she described how he never took off from Washington without saying a silent prayer to himself. And then he would look out and see the Washington monument and the Jefferson Memorial. And it moved him. BLITZER: Everything about this city, if you have lived here long enough, winds up moving so many people.
Jeff, you don't live in Washington, D.C., but you understand, you understand why this is so important.
GREENFIELD: Well, in fact, it's so much so that there's a kind of feeling.
When people write novels or make movies about Washington, there's always a scene where the protagonist walks to the Lincoln Memorial. Go back to "Mister Smith Goes to Washington," the great Jimmy Stewart movie, which Ronald Reagan was a huge fan of. And they bathe in the reflective glory of Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. And it's gotten almost to the point where it's a cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true.
And that bridge you're talking about that we'll see in a few minutes, the Memorial Bridge...
BLITZER: And here -- Hold on one second.
This is the Southwest Freeway that is going from the District of Columbia and will take the motorcade -- this is the motorcade we are now seeing -- across into Virginia over the 14th Street Bridge, if our viewers are familiar with that, not far from Reagan National Airport. It will go within literally the shadow of the Pentagon and then over to -- on the George Washington Parkway over the Memorial Bridge.
This motorcade traveling, we are told, at 20 miles per hour. Normally, this motorcade would have been over at Constitution Avenue, Paula, some time ago, but, obviously, according to the protocol, according to the tradition, the motorcade must travel at precisely 20 miles per hour.
Let's watch it go through this location. There's the hearse, followed by the limousine carrying Mrs. Reagan.
ZAHN: I, the other night, tried to go through the 138-page document that governs how these state funerals are conducted. And it is as dense as it can be. It's not only setting out guidelines for the speed at which the motorcade moves, but so many other details, Bob, I know that you've studied over the years as well.
BLITZER: People don't realize, Professor Dallek, how intricate and how detailed a state funeral is planned out.
DALLEK: Oh, yes.
This is something that people tend to in the most thoughtful and self-conscious way, one might say. But I wanted to pick up on your point about the beauty of the city, Wolf. One of the things I'm always struck by is the fact that it's not a city which is cluttered with presidential monuments. We have only four, Washington, then Lincoln, then Jefferson. And I put them in that order because that's the way they were constructed and opened, and now finally, only in recent years, Franklin Roosevelt. Only four presidents -- four presidential monuments. But it's not a city which is cluttered with all these monuments, so that people feel as if the space has been gobbled up by past presidents.
The World War II Memorial had created such tension over the question of whether it would break the view on the Mall. But it seems to have worked rather well.
ZAHN: Yes, after almost two decades.
DALLEK: After two -- yes, but, look how long -- it took 50 years to built the Roosevelt Memorial. Jefferson didn't get his until 1943. Lincoln didn't open until 1926.
GREENFIELD: I think there's a rule now. There's people pressing for a Reagan Memorial. And I think the rule is...
GREENFIELD: ... that you have to have been dead for 25 years before it can be even considered.
DALLEK: Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: There's a lot of urging for all sorts of things involving Ronald Reagan right now, from a 10-cent coin to a $10 bill, a $20 bill, renaming the Pentagon the Reagan Pentagon.
I want to point out to our viewers that there already is a Reagan National Airport here in Washington, D.C. There is already a huge office being, a government office building, called the Reagan Building. It's a big building. And with the exception of the Pentagon, it's the largest government building in Washington.
ZAHN: And one of the most expensive, right?
GREENFIELD: There's an irony. The man who vowed to cut the size and scope of the federal government has more bureaucrats working in the office with his name than any other president.
ZAHN: Coming back to the $10 debate, I understand that the compromise that is being offered now, the Republicans pushing for Ronald Reagan to be on the $10 bill are being told by Democrats that they would rather take the money that it would cost to go through that process and earmark it for Alzheimer's Research Fund.
BLITZER: Well, that might be appropriate as well. And that's a nice gesture.
I want to also point out to our viewers, Paula, that this motorcade started off in Maryland, has entered the District of Columbia, is now about to cross into Virginia, and then will come back into the District of Columbia, which underscores the nature of our nation's capital, Professor Dallek.
BLITZER: In between -- Washington is between Virginia and Maryland, but it's all so close, it becomes one area.
But, of course, when we began with this, the idea was to have a capital which, in a sense, would be neutral, between North and South, positioned in a way that it wasn't going to be a separate state or a separate -- and, of course, there's been a great fight and battle and argument over the years, do you make Washington, D.C., a state?
Now, it's probably never going to happen because there is this continuing impulse to keep it as a kind of an island in the middle of the 50 states we now have.
BLITZER: It's depressing, though, to the residents of Washington, D.C., Jeff, who have taxation without representation.
GREENFIELD: Yes. And this is where great moments of ceremony blend in with grubby politics. There is no way in the world that the Republican Party is going to give two more senators, certain Democratic senators, to the District of Columbia.
BLITZER: I think what we're seeing now is the motorcade beginning to approach Constitution -- actually, I'm told it's not. It's another series of vehicles on Constitution Avenue. It looks -- I'm not exactly sure what that is. It looks like some law enforcement vehicles.
Here's the motorcade, actually, on the George Washington Parkway out in Virginia, the parkway that goes between Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon, continuing up all the way into Maryland from Virginia, across the -- along the Potomac River.
This is a live picture, Paula, of the motorcade weaving its way from Maryland into the District of Columbia, into Virginia, and eventually back into Maryland. This is an area, by the way, not far away from Arlington National Cemetery, where President John F. Kennedy, of course, is buried.
ZAHN: And if this motorcade continues to go at the same speed we think it's going at now, which is about 20 miles per hour, it should reach that Ellipse point at 16th and Constitution, where the casket will come out of the hearse and be transferred to a caisson. And then, at that point, Mrs. Reagan's car will follow immediately behind the caisson up to the Capitol steps.
BLITZER: And this is Constitution Avenue, where that motorcade eventually will arrive. It's not all that far way. The drive from the George Washington Parkway over the Memorial Bridge into the District of Columbia is not very far. This is the Memorial Bridge now and this is a live picture of the motorcade, the hearse carrying the casket of Ronald Reagan. You see the troops saluting on horseback. Let's just watch it move its way over the bridge into Washington.
And I want to welcome our international viewers from CNN International from around the world. People all over the world are now watching history unfold in the United States.
It's been more than 30 years since there's been a state funeral in the United States, the last time for the late President Johnson, now for the late President Ronald Reagan.
And to our viewers in the United States and around the world, you're looking at these live pictures of Constitution Avenue, where the motorcade carrying the casket is about to arrive, and it will stop on Constitution Avenue, Paula, and the casket will be removed and placed on a caisson for the final procession up to Capitol Hill.
ZAHN: This is a process that presidents are supposed to take a great deal of involvement in. In particular, the last year of office, there's this group called the military district of Washington which asks for very specific plans, and we know that Nancy Reagan has reviewed the plans on an annual basis since President Reagan signed off on them the last year.
BLITZER: This is the motorcade that our viewers are seeing on Constitution Avenue. It has crossed the Memorial Bridge. It is now approaching 16th Street, the Ellipse not far from the White House, where it will stop. The casket will be removed from the hearse and begin the next leg of this journey to Capitol Hill. It's going to be momentarily before this happens.
GREENFIELD: And when that happens, I know that for a generation or two of us that will bring back memories of the Kennedy funeral because one of the most iconic memories that we all have of that is the casket on the caisson being drawn by the horses. It was black and white because that's the kind of television we had, which fitted the mood, those muffled drums and that whole feeling of grieving.
It's a completely different kind of day. It's a completely different ceremony. But some events that stick in your mind are just naturally going to come back when you see anything resembling that.
BLITZER: A caisson, for our viewers who are not necessarily familiar with the history, is French for a chest packed with explosives that was, in the olden days, laid in the way of an enemy and exploded supposedly upon the enemy's approach.
Historically, it was used to carry a 75-millimeter cannon, but it's now being used, Professor Dallek, in a traditional way to carry a casket on the final journey to Capitol Hill.
DALLEK: Yes, this is a strong tradition. It goes with the whole business of a state funeral, and Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson had this and certainly John Kennedy. Your memories of this, Jeff, are, I think, right on the mark, and the horse that we will see and...
ZAHN: The riderless horse.
DALLEK: ... the riderless horse with the boots in the stirrups facing backward as if the president is sitting in that saddle and looking back towards the troops he's leading, and so it's really a poignant image that we carry of all these funerals.
BLITZER: And there it is. There's the caisson. There are the horses moving, bringing this caisson up on Constitution Avenue.
Jeanne Meserve is right there.
Jeanne, share with us what you're seeing.
MESERVE: Well, I'm seeing what you're seeing, largely that caisson. A 1918 construction, originally built to haul howitzers around, has been re-outfitted in order to carry the very heavy coffins and caskets that it carries at Arlington National Cemetery. Now we're seeing the honor guard, the color guard move into place.
Also, they've moved up the horse, the riderless horse. Sergeant York is his name. He's a standard bred horse, once raced, but he was not very successful at that. He is all black, which is a rarity in these horses. So they moved him to this duty.
We can see now the boots in his stirrups. These, we're told, are boots that Ronald Reagan used. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, horse cavalry, and, after he retired, he still favored wearing these military style boots with nickel spurs. They were among his favorites to use at the ranch and also at Camp David. This is a pair that has been used at the Reagan library.
BLITZER: That's a beautiful horse with the boots in reverse, I guess, underscoring, Paula, that no longer will the commander in chief be a warrior, if you will. It's sort of symbolic that the boots have been put in reverse and no longer able to ride this horse.
We're going to watch all of this unfold, all this very, very dramatic history unfold. It's been very, very carefully planned out. One thing we should point out to our viewers, that once the casket is put upon that caisson, it will move methodically, slowly up in the procession to Capitol Hill followed by the honor guard, the color guard, the marching bands, all of the procession very, very carefully designed to underscore the dignity of this very solemn event.
GREENFIELD: This also reminds us that the military traditions that underlie these kinds of events -- it's not just the caisson which was used to take artillery out in the field, Sergeant York. That was a great World War I American hero. We still...
And there's Nancy Reagan right now.
BLITZER: Nancy Reagan. And she's with Major General Galen Jackman who's the commander of the military unit in charge of this entire protocol.
Let's listen in as she's applauded by the thousands who have gathered.
ZAHN: On occasion, you can hear out of the cacophony "We love you Mrs. Reagan."
One of her assistants, Joanne Drake, has said what has been so comforting to the first lady over the last several days has been the amount of support her family has gotten, the overt show of love for her husband.
BLITZER: And so there it is, the caisson carrying the casket of Ronald Reagan literally in the shadow of the South Lawn of the White House across from the ellipse. The caisson now on Pennsylvania Avenue surrounded by representatives of all branches of the United States military. There are six forces that are saddled which will take this caisson, Paula, up Constitution Avenue, but only riders on three sides, three of the horses on the left side of this procession. This is a tradition that began in the horse-drawn artillery days, in the olden days, when riders would only mount one side along the lines of this kind of caisson which in older days would carry a howitzer or artillery, but now carrying a casket.
ZAHN: These horses have come from various caisson units in Illinois, Virginia, Texas and Maryland. Once the caisson starts moving towards the Capitol, it will be about a mile and a half route.
And, already, as Anderson Cooper reported a little bit earlier this evening, there are thousands of people already waiting in line to view the president's casket once the public viewing starts around 9:30 this evening.
The one shot that has struck me so far was the shot of the riderless horse, and Nancy Reagan asked that the president's boots be inserted into those stirrups, and it reminded me of a story that I heard just two nights ago from one of President Reagan's Secret Service agents, a man who served him for 17 years, most of that time, obviously, after he was out of office.
He talked about how they spent a lot of time riding on the ranch together, and there was a day where he didn't think the president mounted the horse very well, and he was shaken by that, and he went back to Mrs. Reagan at the ranch and said, "Mrs. Reagan, I think that should be the president's last ride," and she said to him, "i can't tell him that. You have to tell him that."
So he tried to figure out how to break the news to the president. At this time, the president was already suffering from Alzheimer's. He found a time when the president was relaxing and reading by a fire at the ranch, and he approached him and he said, "Mr. President, you're such a supreme equestrian, and you had some problems out there today," and he said, "I think it would be a good idea if you stopped riding," and he said the president looked at him with this look of wisdom in his eyes, and he said, "I know. You're right," and he said from that point on they never had another discussion about riding.
BLITZER: This horse is saddled with the reverse boots, as we've been pointing out, in the stirrups to symbolize that the warrior will never ride again, and, by the way, the boots are Ronald Reagan's own riding boots, and that was the request of Nancy.
Here is the procession beginning, actually, on Pennsylvania Avenue, and this process will continue for some time until it reaches Capitol Hill.
GREENFIELD: Ronald Reagan loved horseback riding. It's one of the most frequently seen moments. He used to say the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse, and it was one of his favorite activities. So there is a particularly appropriate symbol of this horse carrying the president's boots as they go down Pennsylvania Avenue.
BLITZER: And there's Mrs. Reagan. She's in the limousine. She's not walking. She's following this procession, clearly encouraged. She's waving, as we can all see, to the crowd out there. She must be so, so moved by the huge, huge crowds that have gathered along this procession.
ZAHN: It's been interesting to me to see how the perceptions of Nancy Reagan have changed since she left the White House with her husband, and I think there's such a great deal of compassion in this country for the amount of devotion she has shown her husband during this very long journey of his.
GREENFIELD: She was, as first lady, a controversial figure. There were stories that she used to make fun of the notion that she spent money on China for the White House.
Once Ronald Reagan became afflicted with Alzheimer's and she struggled with that, she gave a very moving speech at, I think, the '96 Republican convention where she talked about Ronald Reagan's -- Ronnie's very long good-bye, and I think no matter how you felt about the Reagans as political figures, no one can look at what she went through without seeing that devotion and that concern.
BLITZER: Let's listen in now, to the sights and sounds of these dramatic moments as this procession moves down Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill.
This procession moving down Constitution Avenue, towards Capitol Hill. Representatives of all branches of the United States military participating on this extremely hot and very humid day in the nation's capital. We've already been receiving some reports that some of those troops, some of those military personnel already overcome by the heat, having to drop out themselves, getting some minor medical attention, Paula, but it is a hot Washington summer day.
ZAHN: Nine-two degrees late this afternoon, although the temperature's dropped just a couple of degrees. It is still so humid that it's just stifling out there.
Let's go back to Jeanne Meserve who was at the transfer point when the casket was taken out of the hearse and then put on the caisson.
You, Jeanne, have had a opportunity to talk with a lot of the folks who gathered there. What was their reaction to seeing this piece of history made?
MESERVE: Well, well, what was amazing to me, Paula, was to be in the middle of this throng of people. There were thousands around this location, and they were so silent. There was occasional shouts to Nancy Reagan of "We love you," "God bless you," but, apart from that, the only thing you heard was the clicking of camera shutters. People were absolutely silent.
You saw in the crowd a few American flags. You saw a few portraits of the president. There's one California flag was suspended across the roadway, a few children being hoisted in the air to get a better view, but an incredible feeling of solemnity and respect.
As you mentioned, as the procession drove off, Nancy Reagan waved at the crowd. I have to tell you that the members of the crowd were waving silently back at her -- Paula.
ZAHN: And, Jeanne, how are people bearing up in this heat? We've talked about some of the folks involved in the actual formal part of the procession have already been overcome by heat.
MESERVE: I have not seen any evidence of that here. It has been very hot, but there were a few shade trees. For a while, people were trying to cluster under them. I have not seen anybody overcome. They've tried to be very careful, I think, to provide water to many of the military and law-enforcement personnel Along the route here, protectively.
I will say that, you know, they just recently had the World War II memorial dedication. That was a very elderly population, and a lot of planning went in there to the medical side of the event. They tried to take that into account here. They've tried to have some water prepositioned at medical teams on the prowl so they could give assistance to people who might be overcome. But I haven't seen it right where I am right here.
ZAHN: All right. Jeanne, we'll come back to you later on -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Judy Woodruff, Paula, is on Capitol Hill awaiting the arrival of this procession.
Judy, as we all know, there will be a very dramatic moment as this procession winds up on Capitol Hill when there will be a flyover to symbolize, once again, the support, the honor, the dignity that this president deserves. Give our viewers a little flavor of what we can expect as it makes its way up to the Rotunda where you are on Capitol Hill. WOODRUFF: Wolf, you're absolutely right. There will be -- in fact, there will be a number of dramatic moments. One will be the flyover. This is a ceremony that has been worked literally minute by minute by minute, down to the seconds, no doubt. They are planning for the arrival of Mrs. Reagan in the limousine.
Already, we have members of the Cabinet, Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, arriving here at the Capitol. Former presidents are arriving here in the Rotunda. The chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, other members of the Supreme Court. This will be a collection of the most powerful people in this country in the Rotunda there for this ceremony that will take place at 7:00 Eastern.
It is, again, carefully orchestrated. There will only be remarks from three people, from the president pro tem of the Senate, Ted Stevens.
You're looking now at an overhead picture of the Rotunda of the Capitol. This is where the president's -- President Ronald Reagan's casket will lie in state from this evening until Friday morning, when it will be taken to the National Cathedral here in Washington for funeral services.
But we will hear from Ted Stevens, the president pro tem of the Senate, we will hear from the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, and we will hear from Vice President Dick Cheney. We will not hear from President Bush. As all of us know, he is in Sea Island, Georgia, for the meeting of the Group of 8, the summit that has been taking place the last few days on the Georgia coast.
After we hear from each of those three, they will place a wreath at the casket. There will be a musical selection and a benediction, and then the service will be over. This will be a very brief service.
The funeral on Friday will be longer. It will run, I believe, about an hour and a half. This service, again, bringing together the diplomatic corps, members of the Bush Cabinet, the Cabinet of this president, again, governors of the United States, Supreme Court justices, again, the most powerful people in the country coming together, Republicans and Democrats.
Partisan politics is pushed aside for this week in order for everyone to pay respect and to honor the 40th president.
BLITZER: And as we look at this split picture, the picture of the procession bringing the casket of Ronald Reagan, Judy, up to Capitol Hill where you are, I want to bring back Frank Sesno who's watching all of this together with all of our viewers. Frank covered the Reagan administration. He's our former CNN Washington bureau chief.
Frank, this is so vintage, not only the pomp and circumstance, the dignity of the U.S. government, the history of what's unfolding, but specifically what Nancy Reagan herself wanted.
SESNO: Very much so. Both Mrs. Reagan and former late president met with planners, and they signed off on all the details of this.
And Mrs. Reagan has said that she and the president felt that this was fitting, that this was an important way to acknowledge the grandeur of the office and the passing of the president, and they were comfortable with these arrangements. This was not something that they felt was inappropriate or somehow ghoulish.
As difficult as this long goodbye with Alzheimer's has been, this day has been one that has been long planned. I wouldn't diminish at all the difficulty that Mrs. Reagan faces, but every step of this is something the family was a part of.
BLITZER: And I'm sure, Frank, as you well know, this must bring so much comfort to Nancy Reagan and to her children and their family and friends, how the nation is pouring out their expressions of love for this president.
SESNO: Well, yes, and you see her in the back of the car waving. That to me is a haunting picture, because knowing how much this president was a part of her life, and especially when they were here in Washington, how must she feel now, how alone must she feel, that's really very powerful.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, to our viewers not only in the United States, but around the world who are watching right now, explain what's happening, in an American perspective, to people who may not necessarily appreciate the significance of this event.
GREENFIELD: This actually might make more sense than some other American political traditions to international viewers, because they are going back to Washington for a final farewell. There have been presidents who have not wanted to go back to Washington for -- in Richard Nixon's case I think the reason was fairly obvious, it was a place he left under mixed or muddled or disgraceful circumstances, but Harry Truman didn't go back to Washington. He decided he'd be buried in Independence.
I think what this is about is, if you think about the Reagan presidency, they laid pretty great store on restoring a certain sense of grandeur, particularly after the informal presidency of Jimmy Carter, the man who carried his own garment bags and was a very, kind of, blue jeans kind of guy.
It was often said by Reagan's aides, he wouldn't take his suit jacket off in the Oval Office, because he felt it hurt the dignity. And so the fact that Mrs. Reagan wanted this kind of farewell with all of the pomp and majesty -- for remember, a Washington outsider, a guy who often made fun of Washington, says something, I think, about -- that as a president, Reagan was committed to say, no, the grandeur and the gravitas of a president is something I'm going to embrace, even if my political position came from outside the nation's capital.
ZAHN: And yet he was also the first to admit that that experience felt imprisoning at certain points of his presidency. And we met a young man that had developed a relationship with him during the presidency, when the White House adopted a local school from the district.
And he had this pen pal relationship with this young man. And this young man described the president coming to his house for dinner one night in a very rough part of the district, and eating on television trays and eating a television dinner with his family and how at home he was.
BLITZER: And I want our viewers to take a look to the right part of the screen, that's the Capitol Rotunda. And here's a word that many of us are only today beginning to understand what it means, it's a catafalque, which is a platform. What you're seeing is the platform where President Reagan's casket will rest while lying in state in the rotunda.
The catafalque is made of rough pine boards and is covered with black cloth designed by Benjamin French. It was originally constructed in 1865 to support the casket of Abraham Lincoln. The catafalque has been used for all of those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, professor Dallek, since that time.
We're watching the motorcade, Nancy Reagan's hand waving to the crowds as it moves up Constitution Avenue. But talk a little bit about this Capitol Rotunda catafalque.
DALLEK: Yes, it goes back to Abraham Lincoln. There have been 27 people who have lain in state in that rotunda. The first one was Henry Clay in 1852, the great compromiser, the speaker of the House, the senator. Of course, this was before the Lincoln catafalque was constructed.
But what it gets back to is this whole issue of how Europeans, we were talking about that before, may view this. See, they see this as our exercise in American majesty, royalty. We have no kings, no queens, no, nobility, but our presidents, in a sense, fill that role. And this kind of ceremonial is familiar, I think, to Europeans. They don't find it so alien. They don't find it so exclusively American, though it does have particular American stamps to it, you see.
Also what I found interesting is Nancy Reagan, the crowd applauds her, she responds. The institution of first lady is an important part of our history now, too. And this goes back to Eleanor Roosevelt, who really began the modern institution of first lady.
We know that famous story when she was told by Harry Truman, FDR's successor, that her husband had died, the president has died, he told her. And he said, is there anything, Mrs. Roosevelt, I can do for you? And she replied, Harry, is there anything I can do for you, you're the one in trouble now.
She was a large person, she created this. And Nancy Reagan fills that bill now, fills that role. And people applaud her the way they might applaud a president.
BLITZER: You know, let's listen in, briefly, as we see this honor guard moving up these steps, the west side of Capitol Hill. These are the steps where the casket will be carried. It will be a very, very beautiful ceremony as it's carried up these many, many stairs leading up to the rotunda. But as we watch this, let's listen into the music a little bit, as these marching bands proceed up Constitution Avenue.
This procession moving down Constitution Avenue towards Capitol Hill. The procession bringing the casket of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, to the rotunda on Capitol Hill where his body will lie in state tomorrow until Friday morning when the formal state funeral will take place at the National Cathedral. In the coming moments, Paula, we will see a very, very dramatic flyover over the nation's capital. Normally planes cannot enter this restricted air space, but 21 U.S. military aircraft, F-15s, will fly over to underscore their support, their honoring of this president of the United States. It is about to happen.
ZAHN: And the Air Force describes it will look like a giant V. A single plane will fly in the lead position followed by five waves of four plane formations at 10-second intervals. And then, what you'll see at the very end as the last part of the formation is one of the F- 16s performing the missing man maneuver where that aircraft will shoot straight up and leave the others behind.
BLITZER: A symbol, a symbolic moment that someone is missing, in this particular case, the commander-in-chief of the United States. During this flyover, all of the local area airports, Reagan National Airport, which is not all that far away, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Dulles Airport out in suburban Virginia, all of these airports will have a hold on flights as these aircraft from the Fourth Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in South Carolina will participate. And one additional note. They will fly, Paula, at a very low altitude. It will have a chilling effect, perhaps 3,000 to 5,000 feet, as they fly over the nation's capital.
ZAHN: That's enough to make you tremble on the street.
GREENFIELD: When I got off the shuttle today coming down to Washington, the pilot came after me and said, "I want you to know something," he said, "all of us, maybe it was our military background, but we loved Ronald Reagan." He was at pains to communicate that to me. It's certainly true, Reagan built up the military, he was a passionate advocate of a muscular foreign policy, so it may be even more symbolic for Reagan than even for some other presidents that a flyover by the members of the military would honor a president who was so committed to building up America's defense.
The military had a long tradition in this country of being nonpartisan. George Marshall who was principal aide to Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, he would never laugh at Roosevelt's jokes. Wouldn't respond to Roosevelt's jokes. He didn't want to be taken in by Roosevelt's politics and become partisan in any way. But Reagan, after the Vietnam war, after the painful experience of Vietnam, the military found Reagan a friend, a supporter and they really became, I think, much more Republican since the end of that Vietnam war with the advent of Reagan.
ZAHN: Based on the solemnity of this crowd, I think about the only other thing we're going to hear other than the jets flying over at 3,000 feet will be a 21-gun salute which will clearly pierce the noise barrier. I'm sure, Professor Dallek knows the answer to this question but -- how they arrived at the magic number 21? I've got it right here in my trivial pursuit facts. It's a pretty complicated formula. Ships typically had seven cannons and so as the ship would fire each cannon...
BLITZER: Here it comes. Here's the first wave. Let's watch this flyover over the nation's capital pay tribute to Ronald Reagan.
BLITZER: Including the final aircraft, that missing man formation. Judy Woodruff, you were there, you were underneath that flyover. Tell our viewers what you saw.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, I can tell you, as someone who is sitting on the balcony of the Cannon House office building just directly across from the Capitol, you could see how low those jets were and how closely they came. They were directly over the Capitol of the United States. There was one plane in the front and then they were in groups of four and then finally, as you all have just said, the final group of four, one plane missing in the middle, that plane shot straight up just as it approached the Capitol.
The sound was deafening. And everyone, there are a lot of people gathered here on the ground, not as many as on Constitution Avenue, we are on the other side of the Capitol but everyone was looking up into the sky, holding their hand up to their eyes because the sun, of course, is pretty high up still at this point, it's almost 7:00 here in Washington, but it's early June and the sun is up there and people were looking.
BLITZER: You know, Judy, it was a 21-aircraft flyover, 21 being the number of honor, like a 21-gun salute. One historic footnote that I want professor Dallek and our Jeff Greenfield to respond to, during the state funeral for President John F. Kennedy, he had a 50-jet flyover, one to represent each state. It underscores that individual families can change the rules whenever they want.
DALLEK: Yes. There's no question. And Mrs. Reagan has had, I think, a very substantial impact on the way in which this funeral has been shaped and the music that they choose, how they want to bury the president, the Reagan burial is going to be back in California. They're doing it at sunset. They're doing it at dusk. They purposely committed themselves to that.
GREENFIELD: The -- John Kennedy, apparently, at one point, was thinking that, you know, and he was 43 years old, I don't think he thought he would die in office, but the family, after he died, was thinking of perhaps taking his body by sea and bury him in Boston because he was a man who loved the seaside but they ultimately decided, no, he belongs in Arlington. So it is...
DALLEK: That was Jackie Kennedy who insisted he be -- and she wanted the eternal flame, she had aides find out about that eternal flame in Paris in order to have the same thing at the gravesite in Arlington for Kennedy.
ZAHN: What we're seeing unfold on the right part of our screen now are the number of dignitaries that are showing up. Senator John Warner there, in advance of first lady Nancy Reagan's arrival. The security, as you can imagine, intense. I'm picking Senator Trent Lott out of the crowd. Who else do you see there?
BLITZER: Rick Santorum is standing next to -- the senator from Pennsylvania, standing next to Senator John Warner. There are senators, there are members of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court justices are there as is the diplomatic corps, the president's cabinet and other invited guests. This motorcade getting very, very close to the west front, the west front of the U.S. Capitol. Jeff Greenfield -- before we get to Jeff Greenfield, Judy Woodruff is up there. Judy, tell our viewers why they've decided to move the casket up these many stairs of the west front, because normally it would be the east front that's considered the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, I'm going to have to take a guess here because I don't know the answer, perhaps someone else does. My instinct tells me it has something to do with the fact that the sun is on that part of the Capitol and that, you know, Mrs. Reagan has been very conscious this week of the setting sun, her husband will be laid to rest as the sun sets over California, the state that he loved so much. And I'm -- I, again, I'm guessing here that perhaps that was part of the reason.
BLITZER: I'm going to let Professor Dallek answer. There are two reasons why they've decided on the west front but go ahead, Professor.
DALLEK: One is because the east front is under construction and they can't do it at this time. The other is that the west front is where Reagan was inaugurated and he did that on purpose because he wanted to face west looking out toward California so it's appropriate that...
ZAHN: Even then the west part of the Capitol accommodated bigger crowds.
DALLEK: Yes. Exactly.
BLITZER: The downside of that, Jeff, is that there are hundreds and hundreds of stairs that these honor guard will have to carry what is probably a 600 or 700-pound casket up these stairs under very hot and difficult conditions.
GREENFIELD: One of the things that makes the military what it is is that when they are told this is what is going to happen, they say, OK, we will make it happen. And in this case, Professor Dallek's exactly right, 1981 he was, I believe, the first president to be inaugurated on the west front. He wanted to face his native -- his home of California. He wanted to face America, not Europe. This is a very important symbol. And it also symbolized a break from the past. He wanted to say this is a new kind of administration. I think even if the east front had not been under construction they would have chosen this much more arduous path because it was exactly what Ronald Reagan did when he was president.
ZAHN: One of our producers was out during a rehearsal for this procession and he talked about the number of times the military escorts will have to stop on the stairs because, as you were saying, Wolf, the sheer weight of the casket. There are supposed to be three pauses.
BLITZER: Not only will they stop. Right. Not only will they stop, but there will be a new team, a new crew that in effect will come in and continue carrying that casket up those stairs. Frank, I don't know if you were there on January 20, 1981, on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the 40th president of the United States, but if you weren't, I'll just share with you, one of the reasons he wanted to be inaugurated there and he was the first president to be inaugurated on the west front, is because it could accommodate so many more people than on the east front.
SESNO: And one thing should be said about Ronald Reagan, this notion of his sense of timing and choreography. He has managed his good-byes very carefully and very consciously. Quick story, when he and Mrs. Reagan left the White House for the last time they climbed aboard Marine One and they had the pilots circle over the White House, famous story, President Reagan turned to Mrs. Reagan and said, "there's our little bungalow down there," and then off they went. Without much sentiment, without more emotion than that, to move into the next phase of their life.
DALLEK: The extent to which Reagan took his impulse from Franklin Roosevelt because FDR gets the nomination, he's governor of New York, he's in Albany, he's the first president, or nominee, to get on a plane to fly to the convention in Chicago where he gives a speech in which he talks about a new deal. So you'll see the way Reagan understood Roosevelt was breaking precedent, moving in a new direction. Reagan does this also in 1981.
ZAHN: We talked about his inauguration. We should probably point out that the flag that is used to cover the casket is the same flag that flew over the Capitol on January 20th, 1981, the day of that inauguration we've been talking about.
GREENFIELD: That was also the day, and this was no accident, on the part of the Iranian government that as Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office, at that moment they waited until he was president and the hostages were being released as Reagan took office, which a lot people -- I think people unconsciously, maybe consciously saw that as quite a happy auger, quite a good omen. New president, Americans released. And it was a day that not just the west front setting showed a real break from the past. I mean, Ronald Reagan had a very good first day as president.
BLITZER: Four hundred and 44 days that those Americans were held hostage in Tehran, coming to an end on January 20, 1981, the day that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. This procession about to wind up on Constitution Avenue. Once it stops, the casket will be carried by the honor guard up the stairs, into the Capitol Rotunda where dignitaries, of course, have already gathered. And that catafalque, as it's called, the platform, once again, in the center of that rotunda, is where the casket will be placed and 10s of thousands of Americans and people from all over the world, if they happen to be in Washington, Paula, will be allowed to go up and pay their respects over the next 24 hours plus to this president.
ZAHN: And what they will see, once they get there, is the American flag placed to the northeast of the casket, the presidential flag to the southeast of the casket, and the stars of the flag will lie over the president's heart.
DALLEK: Part of the tradition is to keep track of the numbers of people who go there or by the casket. One and antidote, Lyndon Johnson, who when died and his body lay in repose in the LBJ library, the director of the library, Harry Middleton asked an aide to keep track of the numbers of people who went by the casket with a clicker and the aide said to him, Harry, why are you doing that? And Middleton replied I know somewhere, sometime Lyndon's going to ask me. Speaks volumes about LBJ's personality, I guess.
ZAHN: Certainly does.
BLITZER: Judy Woodruff is up on Capitol Hill. She's watching all of this, she's got a very good vantage point. She's at the Cannon House Office building right next to the main part of the Capitol. Set the scene for us a little bit, Judy.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, we believe we saw the car carrying Mrs. Reagan separated from the caisson and drive up Independence Avenue and pull in to this side of the Capitol just a few moments ago. We know that, Mrs. Reagan, the plan is for her to be, I believe, standing at the head of the stairs to watch as her husband is carried up those stairs on the west front of the Capitol.
But Wolf, this is, again, we can't emphasize enough how carefully planned every aspect of this is. I heard you all discussing what is going to happen once the ceremony begins inside. It is being called a state funeral. But this will be a shorter service than the service there will be on Friday. Even so, 800 people will be inside the rotunda, in just a few minutes, they are if not already that many in there. Every one of them a VIP. Sixty-five or 70 of them people who are part of Mrs. Reagan's entourage.
And we know that, again, the three speakers are the president pro tem of the Senate, Ted Stevens, the senator from Alaska, Republican senator from Alaska, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, and, finally, Vice President Dick Cheney, who will be speaking. Each of the three, Stevens, Hastert, and the vice president, will place a wreath at the casket when they finish, when they finish speaking. The stars on the American flag over the casket are going to be lying toward the east side, we are told. His feet, the president's feet toward the west. The stars on the flag will be lying over the president's heart.
BLITZER: This caisson getting very close to the bottom of the stairs on the west front of the U.S. Capitol where the casket will be removed and carried up those stairs. I just want our viewers to also know that once the coffin is placed on that platform right in the middle of the rotunda, the coffin will be guarded around the clock by members of the U.S. Military Honor Guard. There will be five officers at any given time, one from each service, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard and they will rotate, they will change every half-hour, every 30 minutes, a new honor guard will come in to guard this casket as it lies in state in the rotunda.
ZAHN: It's still fascinating to me the level of detail that we're going to be looking at here. Even in the climbing of the stairs. We're going to see a team shift three times to accommodate the heavy weight of this casket and this horrible heat, but they're going to climb 83 stairs, stop for a while, then the procession will climb an additional 33 stairs to the rotunda, enter the rotunda through the west door, 116 total stairs in all.
GREENFIELD: This, I have to admit you this brings back a particular memory when Robert Kennedy was killed. I was a young, very junior aide on his staff and the body day in repose at St. Patrick's Cathedral and we did half-hour honor guardsmen, not military. And, again, this is a very different kind of occasion. I still -- I keep coming back to the point that this is much more a commemoration and celebration of a life fully lived. No one will ever ask, gee, imagine what would have happened if Ronald Reagan had been able to fulfill his full term. He did, for good or ill. And we have an arc to judge. It's in such sharp contrast to some other ceremonies here, particularly of President Kennedy. This is a day when for all the mourning that we talk about, you can actually say, all right, you know, Ronald Reagan had his full run.
BLITZER: And there is the casket, it's about to go off the caisson. To the left of your screen you see a riderless horse, once again, to our viewers who may just be tuning in that symbolizes the commander in chief no longer, no longer there, the boots strapped backwards into the stirrups of that riderless horse. This is the scene from atop the west side of the U.S. Capitol. The casket about to about to be removed from the caisson, made it's way up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. And it will shortly be carried by hand, by the honor guard up these stairs and then placed inside the Capitol Rotunda.
ZAHN: And it hasn't been confirmed yet whether the Reagan children will follow the casket into the rotunda. We are told that Nancy Reagan will be entering from a side door around the back side of the capitol. We'll be watching for that.
BLITZER: Nancy Reagan is already there. Her limousine has arrived. She's making her way though from the east side to the west side. She'll be there to receive the casket and so many other dignitaries.
The Diplomatic Corps by the way is already in place. Representatives of about 170 countries have been invited to participate. Those would be the countries that have formal diplomatic relations, Professor Dallek, with the United States. The ambassadors or chargees are here now, but on Friday heads of state, heads of government from all over the world will arrive in Washington for the National Cathedral ceremony, the funeral service. This may be, may turn out to be the largest gathering of world leaders in Washington, D.C. ever.
ZAHN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about the only thing we need to listen to before you start with this answer. The casket will not come off the caisson until we hear the 21-gun salute and then we'll hear a military band play.
DALLEK: Well, you know, what I'm struck by is the fact that we were offshoots of Great Britain and though it's well over 200 years in a sense what one can talk about is the ceremonial that the British are so adept at.
A personal memory, if I may, I taught at Oxford one year. I had to give an inaugural address. The amount of detail that I was instructed as to how I would wear my academic garb, how I would be escorted by a vice chancellor with a medieval mace would come to the stop of the staircase where I was going to go down to lecture and how they banged the mace three times on the floor. I'd get down there to give my lecture. Nobody introduced me, you see.
The English tradition is well you're so well known you don't need an introduction, I guess. But I think of the English because this is where I think in part, Paula, your point about you marvel at the detail, but I think it kind of English tradition that we in a sense (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BLITZER: All right, let's listen in as this service begins.
ZAHN: Inside the rotunda now where you can see that members of the Reagan family have already arrived. It wasn't clear whether Patti Davis and her brother Ron Reagan would follow the casket into the rotunda. They obviously arrived with Nancy Reagan.
BLITZER: And in the front of the screen our viewers are seeing the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. They're all gathered inside awaiting the casket to be carried up those stairs into the U.S. Capitol, Ron Reagan, Patti Davis.
Mrs. Reagan will be inside shortly. When she is, we're told, there will be the 21-gun salute, which will result eventually in the casket being removed from the caisson and carried up those stairs, the 21-gun salute an honor for the president of the United States who has passed away.
It goes back, by the way, Paula, to the 17th Century when cannons would be fired by a defeated enemy to show they had expended their ammunition.
Let's listen in again as we await this 21-gun salute. As we await this casket to arrive here in the rotunda where there are members of the House and the Senate, the leadership of Washington, awaiting the arrival and this ceremony about to begin, I want to bring in our Senior White House Correspondent John King.
The vice president is here. He will speak, John. The president is at the G-8 Summit where you are in Sea Island, Georgia. It was a difficult decision I assume for him to decide not to come back to Washington in advance in order to participate in this event.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was a difficult decision White House officials tell us, Wolf, but they also say that the senior White House staff was in touch with the Reagan family and that Nancy Reagan relayed word that she fully understood that it was important for the president to stay at this critical international summit.
Mr. Bush, though, as soon as he gets back to Washington tomorrow night, he and the first lady will go to the rotunda tomorrow night. They will visit the casket there. They also will participant in memorial reflections there.
And they, after the leaving the Capitol tomorrow night, Wolf, when they get back to Washington, they will go to Blair House where Nancy Reagan is staying right across the street from the White House while she is in town. We are told the president and the first lady will spend some private time with Nancy Reagan.
We also know from the president's staff today that he, even while here at this summit, has been working on the eulogy he will deliver Friday at the National Cathedral. Aides tell us to look for it to run about 10 to 12 minutes, not so much this president's personal reflections on Ronald Reagan. Aides say this President Bush wants to deliver a eulogy on what he believes Ronald Reagan meant to the country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John King explaining why the president is not here. The vice president will be speaking, together with the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, the President Pro Tem of the Senate Senator Ted Stevens, the ranking Republican member the majority leader in the -- the majority member of the U.S. Senate, not the majority leader but the Senator with the longest continuing service in the U.S. Senate.
We're looking at these live pictures of representatives of the Senate and the House who have come to pay tribute to this president of the United States.
Paula, that casket will be coming in, go ahead.
ZAHN: I just saw a face I had not seen in a while that of Dan Quayle standing next to Trent Lott.
BLITZER: And here it comes, the color guard, the honor guard moving in. This next phase of this service, this funeral, this memorial service to the 40th President of the United States is about to begin, so let's listen once again.
REV. DANIEL COUGHLIN, HOUSE CHAPLAIN: Let us pray.
The Poet T.S. Eliot wrote, "neither does the actor suffer nor the patient act, but both are fixed in an eternal patience, an eternal act. And the wheel turns, the wheel turns and is forever still."
Ronald Wilson Reagan had many roles to play in life: husband, father, governor, but the most notable role on the world stage was that of the 40th president of the United States of America. With his style and grace, he made it seem easy. With his compassion and sense of timing, he brought strength of character to the nation and enkindled hope in a darkened world.
As the patient, he brought humility to greatness and presided over embracing life to its natural end and dying with dignity surrounded by love.
To you, oh Lord, ever patient with all of us, ever active in all of us, be praise and thanks for the life and impact Ronald Reagan has had upon us all.
Support with your grace the Reagan family, and especially Mrs. Nancy Reagan, who stood by him in memorable moments of history and never left him in the long moments of difficult performance when the wheel turn turned, ah so slowly.
Inspired by President Reagan, empower all of us, Lord, to employ our part in crumbling the walls of separation and in opening the gates to a globalized world. May our stillness here help us to remain faithful and patient with those suffering and to make decisions that will renew faith in the future.
All powerful God, fix America in your eternal patience, in your eternal act, as the wheel turns now and forever. Amen.
SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK), PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: Mrs. Reagan, Patti, Ron, Michael, distinguished guests, members of the Reagan family and friends of Ronald Reagan and America and throughout the world, tonight President Ronald Reagan has returned to the people's house to be honored by millions of Americans who loved him.
Since 1824, under this Rotunda, our nation has paid final tribute to many dedicated public servants. President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to lie in state under this Capitol dome.
In the coming days, thousands will come to these hallowed halls to say goodbye to another son of Illinois' who, like Lincoln, appealed to our best hopes, not our worst fears.
In the life of any nation, few men forever alter the course of history. Ronald Reagan was one of those men. He rose from a young boy who didn't have much to a man who had it all, including the love of a faithful partner and friend he found in his wife Nancy.
The true measure of any man is what he does with the opportunities life offers. By that standard, Ronald Reagan was one of America's greatest. He first proved that as governor of California and later as president of the United States.
When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our 40th president, this nation was gripped by a powerful malaise. Inflation and unemployment were soaring, and the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War.
By the time President Reagan left office, he had reversed the trend of ever-increasing government control over our lives, restored our defense capabilities, guided us through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and set in motion policies which ultimately led to the collapse of the evil empire.
His integrity, vision and commitment were respected by all.
But history's final judgment, I believe, will remember most his ability to inspire us.
President Reagan put it best when he said, "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."
This president inspired Americans by reaching out far beyond what he could attain. Like a good coach, he understood the value of a goal isn't always in achieving it; sometimes it's enough to simply look out into the future and remind people what is possible.
And often, President Reagan achieved the impossible.
He reminded us that government is not the solution. The solution lies in each of us.
True American heroes are ordinary people who live their lives with extraordinary character and strength.
President Reagan showed us freedom was not just a slogan. He actually brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of people around this globe by opposing oppressive regimes.
Those of us from the World War II generation looked up to him for his moral courage. In him we saw leadership of great men like Eisenhower, who led the way and moved us to follow.
On a wintry day in 1981, Ronald Reagan stood on the steps that lie just behind these doors to deliver his first inaugural address. He spoke of a journal written by a young American who went to France in 1917 and died for the cause of freedom.
From that journal he read these words: "I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure. I will fight cheerfully. And I will do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle depended upon me alone."
Throughout his life, Ronald Reagan bore our burdens as if the end (ph) did depend on him alone. We will all remember him as an unparalleled leader and an exceptional man who lifted our nation and set the world on a new path. President Reagan achieved greatness in his life. Some might even argue he transcended it.
He could not have accomplished this without Nancy. Nancy is one of the finest first ladies these United States have ever known. And the love Ronald and Nancy Reagan shared touched the hearts of people everywhere.
In 1989, President Reagan delivered his farewell address from the Oval Office. In that speech, the president spoke of the shining city on a hill that, after 200 years, two centuries, still stands strong and true on the granite ridge. Now it is our turn to thank Ronald Reagan for making us believe in that shining city.
And as we say farewell, his last words as president echo across this nation. If we listen -- if we listen -- we will hear him whisper the humble words he used to sum up his revolution: "All in all, not bad. Not bad at all."
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Mrs. Reagan, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress and distinguished guests, Ronald Reagan's long journey has finally drawn to a close. It is altogether fitting and proper and he is returned to this Capitol Rotunda, like another great son of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, so the nation can say goodbye.
This Capitol building is, for many, the greatest symbol of democracy and freedom in the world. It brings to mind the shining city on the hill of which President Reagan so often spoke. It is the right place to honor a man who so faithfully defended our freedom and so successfully helped extend the blessings of liberty to millions of people around the world.
Mrs. Reagan, thank you for sharing your husband with us, for your steadfast love and for your great faith. We pray for and for your family in this time of great mourning.
But as we mourn, we must also celebrate the life and the vision of one of America's greatest presidents. His story and values are quintessentially American. Born in Tampico, Illinois, and then raised in Dixon, Illinois, he moved West to follow his dreams. He brought with him a Midwest optimism and he blended it with a Western can-do spirit.
In 1980, the year of the Reagan revolution, his vision of hope, of growth, of opportunity was exactly what the American people needed and wanted. His message touched the fundamental core that is deeply embedded in the American experience.
President Reagan dared to dream that America had a special mission. He believed in the essential goodness of the American people and that we had a special duty to promote peace and freedom for the rest of the world. Against the advise of the timid, he sent a chilling message to authoritarian governments everywhere that the civilized world would not rest until freedom reigned in every corner of the globe. While others worried, President Reagan persevered. When others weakened, President Reagan stood tall. When others stepped back, President Reagan stepped forward. And he did it all with great humility, with great charm and with great humor.
Tonight, we will open these door and let the men and women who Ronald Reagan served so faithfully file past and say goodbye to a man who meant so much to so many.
It is their being here that I think would mean more to him than any words that we may say.
Because it was from America's great and good people that Ronald Reagan drew his strength. In the years ahead, we will tell our grandchildren about this night when we gathered here to honor the man from Illinois who became the son of California and then the son of all America.
And then our grandchildren will tell their grandchildren, and President Reagan's spirit and eternal faith in America will carry on.
Ronald Reagan helped make our country and this world a better place to live. But he always believed that our best days were ahead of us, not behind us.
I can still hear him saying with that twinkle in his eye, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
President Reagan once said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life, by what we give."
Twenty years ago, President Reagan stood on the beaches of Normandy to honor those who made a life by what they gave. Recalling the men who scaled the cliffs and crossed the beaches in a merciless hail of bullets, he asked: Who were these men, these ordinary men doing extraordinary things?
His answer was simple and direct: They were Americans.
So I can think of no higher tribute or honor or title to confer upon Ronald Reagan than just to simply say, he was an American.
God's speed, Mr. President.
God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mrs. Reagan, members of the president's family, colleagues, distinguished guests, members of the diplomatic corps, fellow citizens, knowing that this moment would come has not made it any easier, to see the honor guard and flag draped before us and to begin America's farewell to President Ronald Reagan.
He said goodbye to us in a letter that showed his great courage and love for America. Yet for his friends and his country, the parting comes only now. And in this national vigil of mourning, we show how much America loved this good man and how greatly we will miss him.
A harsh winter morning in 1985 brought the inaugural ceremony inside of this Rotunda. And standing in this place for the 50th presidential inauguration, Ronald Reagan spoke of a nation that was hopeful, big hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair.
That was how he saw America, and that was how America came to know him.
There was a kindness, simplicity and goodness of character that marked all of the years of his life.
When you mourn a man of 93, no one is left who remembers him as a child in his mother's arm. Ronald Wilson Reagan's life began in a time and a place so different from our own in a quiet town on the prairie on the 6th of February, 1911.
Nell and Jack Reagan would live long enough to see the kind of man they had raised, but they could never know all of that destiny had in store for the boy they called "Dutch."
And if they could witness this funeral in 2004, their son, taken to his rest with the full honors of the United States, they would be so proud of all he had done with the life they gave him and the things they taught him.
President Reagan once said, "I learned from my father the value of hard work and ambition and maybe a little something about telling a story."
That was the Ronald Reagan who confidently set out on his own from Dixon, Illinois during the Great Depression, a man who would one day speak before families and crowds with such ease and self-command.
"From my mother," said President Reagan, "I learned the value of prayer. My mother told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God's plan, even the most disheartening setbacks. And, in the end, everything worked out for the best."
This was the Ronald Reagan who had faith, not just in his own gifts and his own future, but in the possibilities of every life. The cheerful spirit that carried him forward was more than a disposition; it was the optimism of a faithful soul who trusted in God's purposes and knew those purposes to be right and true.
He once said "There's no question, I am an idealist," which is another way of saying, "I am an American."
We usually associate that quality with youth, and yet one of the most idealistic men ever to become president was also the oldest. He excelled in professions that have left many others jaded and self- satisfied, and yet somehow remained untouched by the worst influences of fame or power.
If Ronald Reagan ever uttered a cynical or a cruel or a selfish word, the moment went unrecorded. Those who knew him in his youth and those who knew him a lifetime later all remember his largeness of spirit, his gentle instincts and a quiet rectitude that drew others to him.
Seen now at a distance, his strengths as a man and as a leader are only more impressive. It's the nature of the city of Washington that men and women arrive, leave their mark and go their way. Some figures who seemed quite large and important in their day are sometimes forgotten or remembered with ambivalence.
Yet nearly a generation after the often impatient debates of the Reagan years what lingers from that time is almost all good. And this is because of the calm and kind man who stood at the center of events.
We think back with appreciation for the decency of our 40th president and respect for all that he achieved. After so much turmoil in the '60s and '70s, our nation had begun to lose confidence. And some were heard to say that the presidency might even be too big for one man. That phrase did not survive the 1980s.
For decades, American had waged a Cold War and few believed it could possibly end in our own lifetimes. The president was one of those few. And it was the vision and the will of Ronald Reagan that gave hope to the oppressed, shamed the oppressors and ended an evil empire.
More tan any other influence, the Cold War was ended by the perseverance and courage of one man who answered falsehood with truth and overcame evil with good.
Ronald Reagan was more than a historic figure. He was a providential man who came along just when our nation and the world most needed him.
And believing as he did that there is a plan at work in each life, he accepted not only the great duties that came to him, but also the great trials that came near the end.
When he learned of his illness, his first thoughts were of Nancy.
And who else but Ronald Reagan could face his own decline and death with a final message of hope to his country, telling us that for America, there is always a bright dawn ahead?
Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful and a gallant man.
Nancy, none of us can take away the sadness you are feeling. I hope it is a comfort to know how much he means to us and how much you mean to us as well.
We honor your grace, your own courage and, above all, the great love that you gave to your husband.
When these days of ceremony are completed, the nation returns him to you for the final journey to the West. And when he is laid to rest under the Pacific sky, we will be thinking of you as we commend to the Almighty the soul of his faithful servant, Ronald Wilson Reagan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us bow for the benediction.
Oh, giver of every good and perfect gift, accept our gratitude for the life of your servant, President Ronald Reagan, whose love for freedom summoned our nation to embrace our best hopes and not our worst fears. Thank you for his ability to plant seeds of confidence and not doubt and to lift liberty's lamp until totalitarian towers tumbled.
In the days to come, remind us of America's opportunity to remain a shining city on a hill. Continue to comfort those who mourn. In a special way, be near to Mrs. Nancy Reagan and the family. May the death of this beloved leader prompt us to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, and to follow you more nearly day by day.
Now fill us with your peace, as we trust you, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of your spirit. Amen.
BLITZER: The Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol. Now the casket of Ronald Wilson Reagan lying in state, it will lie here tonight and tomorrow. Tens of thousands of people will come by to pay their respects to the 40th president of the United States.
Paula, we saw his wife, Nancy Reagan, walk up to that casket and touch that American flag. Clearly, it was a very, very difficult moment for her.
ZAHN: She ran her hand almost along the full length of the casket several times. Then it appeared as though she was looking back at the vice president, as though she could almost not take it anymore.
And then, shortly after that, Michael Reagan, a young man adopted by President Reagan during his marriage to Jane Wyman, came up to the casket, kissed the casket and said a short prayer.
BLITZER: And he gave us a little salute as well to his father, the late president of the United States.
Jeff Greenfield, this has been a very emotional moment.
GREENFIELD: It has been an emotional moment, but I think it's been an emotional moment less for any sense of grief -- we're talking about a 93-year-old man -- then for a sense that this is a mark in history.
I was thinking back to the fact that, in the 1930s, there was a huge march in Washington of the surviving members of the Grand Army of the Republic, that people who had fought the Civil War on the Union side. And people turned out because they knew that this was the last that we would see.
We're saying goodbye today to a man who cast his first vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 as a 21-year-old man. There is almost nobody left around who can say that. And so it's not only marking the death of a president and a figure who was indeed much loved by millions of people, but to a guy who literally comes to us from a time that has now clearly receded into history. And that alone makes it a pretty remarkable moment.
ZAHN: The vice president, using the strongest language of any of the speakers we heard from this evening, when he basically gave President Reagan credit for ending the Cold War. He said, the Cold War was ended by the perseverance of one man. He was more than an historic figure. He was a providential man.
DALLEK: Well, first I was going to say, in response to Jeff's point, I think what Reagan, his passing marks perhaps is the end of the 20th century, that we've now moved into the 21st century in a more defined way.
But this business that Reagan won the Cold War, I guess this is not a moment to debate these things, but, you know, historians will see that, I think, as terribly reductionist. After all, you have to go back to Harry Truman, containment, George Kennan. Kennan predicted that the Soviet Union would eventually collapse of its own accord. This is not to say Reagan didn't have an impact. He did.
BLITZER: He clearly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War. There's no doubt about that.
As we see these guests beginning to leave the Rotunda, the diplomatic corps, members of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, members of the House and the Senate, our Judy Woodruff is up there on Capitol Hill right now.
Judy, I think it's fair to say, especially those of us who have covered Washington for so long, this is a rare moment that we all witnessed.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, I felt that there was a real moment of dignity.
This was a moment -- there was a quiet elegance to this ceremony, very much like the Reagan presidency. It had the mark of Nancy Reagan all over it. It was simple. It was dignified. And I think the remarks that -- it is so hard to come up with something that's worth listening to at a moment like this. And yet each one of the speakers, the House chaplain, Daniel Coughlin, quoting T.S. Elliott. Neither does the actor suffer, nor the patient act, but the wheels turn.
And then you had Senator Ted Stevens saying, he reminded us heroes are among us. You had House Speaker Dennis Hastert saying there -- we grant him no greater title than he was an American. And, finally, the vice president, Dick Cheney, saying he was a calm and a good man, a graceful and a gallant man. These were simple words, a simple ceremony, but it carried all the power that this president deserved. ZAHN: Thank you, Judy.
Right now, we're going to check in with Frank Sesno, who covered the Reagan White House, and after the president left office, spent a great deal of time with the Reagan family once the president was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Frank, as we all try to read a lot into Mrs. Reagan's expressions, it was quite clear that it was very difficult for her. As the casket was being carried up the Capitol stairs, we at one point saw her lurch forward to touch the casket.
And that scene we just saw in the Rotunda, where she took her hand and ran it across the casket several times and then looked back as though she couldn't take it anymore. What did you read into what you saw?
SESNO: Oh, just remarkable dignity and strength and an incredible connection to this man, Paula. She stayed by his side throughout the illness. She barely traveled. She barely left him.
She tried as hard as she could to keep his routine normal as long as she could. And some people close to the family said they felt that, in his own way, the president was not ready to leave the Earth because he always sensed his wife there. That's what she was going through, it was quite clear today, a very difficult experience, but one, too, that I'm told anyway, that, at least in the abstract, she was ready for, that she understood that this was a moment that had to come.
And, as her chief of staff and the president's chief of staff said a couple of days ago, that this death brought a certain relief as well. But, nonetheless, as you mentioned, when she stood at that casket and ran her hand along it and didn't quite want to say goodbye, I think you could just feel her emotion.
BLITZER: And, Frank, that flag, which our viewers are now seeing, the flag that covers this casket, this is an important note and it underscores the precision, the detail that has gone into this funeral service.
This is the same flag that flew over the United States Capitol on January 20, 1981, when President Reagan was inaugurated the 40th president of the United States.
Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is with the current president, the 43rd president of the United States, in Sea Island, Georgia, where they're participating in the G-8 Summit.
John, I understand you're getting new information about some of the dignitaries who will pay their respects to the former president.
KING: Well, Wolf, of course, everyday Americans by the tens of thousands lining up outside the Capitol to pay their respects.
But we also do know that some of the men whose political careers were defined by Ronald Reagan or were defining figures in his political career will also stop by to pay their respects, including this president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, who of course for eight years was Ronald Reagan's vice president, then went on to serve four years as president.
George H.W. Bush, we are told, will go to the Capitol Rotunda tomorrow sometime during the day, both administration and congressional sources telling that. And our congressional producer, Ted Barrett, also learning on Capitol Hill that Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet premier who, of course, was engaged in such dramatic negotiations with Mr. Reagan on arms control issues, who Mr. Reagan defiantly challenged to tear down the Berlin Wall, he also, we are told, will stop by during the day tomorrow to pay his respects, perhaps a fitting irony.
Mikhail Gorbachev, once the Soviet premier, will be one of the representatives of the Russian Federation at the funeral on Friday. The Soviet Union is no more, of course -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Any indication when the current president will drop by the Rotunda to pay his respects once he returns to Washington from the G-8 Summit?
KING: It will be, Wolf, in the evening tomorrow night, in the 7:00 hour, we believe.
When Mr. Bush gets back to Washington, he will go directly from Andrews Air Force Base with the first lady to the Capitol Rotunda. And after paying his respects at the Capitol Rotunda, he also will spend some private time with Nancy Reagan at the Blair House.
A quick footnote, if I can add in, every politician in that Rotunda's career was shaped by Ronald Reagan, whether they served in the '80s or not, because he so shaped the debate about taxes and spending and defense spending. The vice president is a unique figure, in some ways. In 1976, he was Gerald Ford's chief of staff. The Ford staff, of course, thought it was treason that a Republican would challenge an incumbent president.
Dick Cheney is one of the few Republicans or Democrats who can say they were on a campaign team that defeated Ronald Reagan. Yet, he holds no grudges. And I think that is part of Mr. Reagan's legacy. Even those who fought with him, even those who thought at times he might have been unfair to them don't hold grudges. As a member of the House leadership in the 1980s, when Republicans were in the minority, Dick Cheney one of the critical figures in pushing the Reagan agenda through Congress.
BLITZER: John King reporting for us.
Jeff Greenfield, when you think about it, Mikhail Gorbachev coming to Washington to pay respects to Ronald Reagan. And he will join the first President Bush tomorrow and go up to the Rotunda. A very dramatic moment, that will be. GREENFIELD: And Mikhail Gorbachev -- John King didn't mention him -- owes his political success, historians now believe, to Ronald Reagan.
The Soviet Union, confronted by Ronald Reagan's massive defense increases and a much more aggressive foreign policy, began looking for a different kind of leader than Leonid Brezhnev. They picked a couple who died very young, Andropov and Chernenko. They found a young, vigorous Mikhail Gorbachev, who was not cut from the traditional Kremlin mold.
And Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of Great Britain, equally tough anti-communist, looked at Gorbachev and said, you know, this guy may be somebody, in her words, we can do business with. And in his second term, Reagan used Gorbachev as a partner and actually moved toward a very aggressive kind of negotiation after a very tough first term.
So Gorbachev may not have served in the U.S. Congress, may not have run on the Republican Party ticket, but actually is a key player who owes a lot of what he did to the fact that Ronald Reagan was president.
ZAHN: And Mikhail Gorbachev, I guess after hearing the news of President Reagan's death, had this to say: "He was a great president with whom the Soviet leadership was able to launch a very difficult, but important dialogue."
I want to give you an idea what you're going to be seeing over the next 10, 15 minutes or so. We're at the part of the ceremony where there is a pause here. There will be what they call an administrative break to allow most of the rest of the guests, outside of the immediate family, to leave the Rotunda. And then they'll set the stage for the public viewing, which will get under way at 9:30.
And people who have been lined up outside the Capitol for many hours will start coming in at, we're told, if they line up the way they're supposed to, 3,000 to 4,000 will get through here on an hourly basis, up until Friday morning. Each person who comes to pay respect to the president will get a commemorative card, 250,000 of those printed.
There will be guest books for visitors to sign with blank pages, where they can write long messages to the families. And Ken Duberstein, who was the White House chief of staff during the Reagan administration, when these plans were finalized said this is the way he would have wanted it. He wanted the public to have access to these ceremonies.
BLITZER: And there's no doubt that the public will have access.
Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House of Representatives, paying his respects, spending a moment looking at that casket, as so many tens of thousands of others are about to do. They're lined up already outside the U.S. Capitol, getting ready to begin in about one hour or so from now, this tribute that they will pay to the 40th president of the United States.
Our special coverage will continue right after this.
ZAHN: We're looking at pictures of Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Great Britain, paying her respects to President Reagan, a man she considers a friend.
She suffered a stroke a while ago. And one of the wishes of the president was for her to eulogize him. And what we will see unfold on Friday is a pretaped, prerecorded eulogy to the president.
Jeff, this was a friendship that a lot of people never thought would develop the way it did.
GREENFIELD: It was quite remarkable, because she was to Great Britain what Reagan was to the United States, in that she posed rhetorically a full-scale frontal challenge to the dominant political cultural, which was liberal left in Great Britain.
And she won the Conservative Party nomination away from a more centrist figure, just the way Ronald Reagan took the nomination. And they partnered up. Along with Pope John Paul II, they're often considered the triumvirate that really put the Soviet empire on the defensive by asserting strongly the moral superiority of the West.
BLITZER: That was, Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, among so many of the dignitaries, world leaders who have come. Brian Mulroney had worked together with President Reagan during the Reagan administration -- others now beginning to emerge.
What was interesting also is when Margaret Thatcher went up to the casket. She was escorted by Senator Bill Frist. The Senate majority leader brought her up there. She has come to pay her respects. And now so many others are beginning this long process to do exactly the same thing.
And look at this, Paula. You mentioned earlier Dan Quayle coming up and Mrs. Quayle. There they are.
ZAHN: We have not seen much of the former vice president in public lately. He had moved back to Arizona to teach for a while.
DALLEK: What's interesting, I think, also...
ZAHN: Marilyn Quayle still practicing law.
DALLEK: Yes. But what's interesting, the points you've been making about Reagan in his second term becoming a foreign policy president. There was so much feeling at the start of his term that he would be a domestic leader but not a foreign policy leader. And events...
BLITZER: And speaking about foreign policy, President George P. Schulz (sic), his secretary of state, has come back to Washington to pay his respects, and Mrs. Schulz, as well, the former secretary of state saluting his commander-in-chief, lying in state now. And here's another former secretary of state, Ronald -- Alexander Haig, who is coming by with Mrs. Haig, as well. We're going to see a lot of these leaders, people close to Ronald Reagan, Paula, begin to come by, spend a few seconds there and move on. It's only the beginning of this process.
ZAHN: And Al Haig has been fiercely protective of the president's legacy. In an interview he did a couple days ago that I watched in TV, when someone challenged what they thought was the overwrought analysis of what he gave to the country, Al Haig said, Look, this is not time to be debating that.
BLITZER: This is Peggy Noonan, who was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, wrote some of the more memorable speeches, Jeff, that we all remember.
GREENFIELD: She wrote the Pointe du Hoc speech, commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day. She wrote the Challenger speech and wrote a book called "When Character Is King," celebrating Ronald Reagan's life.
That I believe is Ken Duberstein.
BLITZER: That's Ken Duberstein and his wife. Ken Duberstein was the chief of staff during the final year of the Reagan administration. He has remained very, very close to Mrs. Reagan, and he has come, of course, to pay his respects, as well. And we're going to see this continuing stream of people who were close to the Reagans.
ZAHN: They will need at least a half hour, once all of these mourners leave this part of the service, to enable the public to also pay their respects.
BLITZER: There's Ed Meese, the former attorney general of the United States, who worked with Ronald Reagan closely in California for so many years before coming to Washington. Ed Meese stayed here in Washington since President Reagan moved back to California. We're going to see a lot of memories of people coming by to remember and to reflect. This is the two daughters of the vice president, Dick Cheney, who have come by to also pay their respects. We had seen Lynn Cheney, their mother, with the vice president, and now we see the two daughters of Lynn and Dick Cheney paying their respects.
DALLEK: Well, Wolf, you were saying before that there may be more foreign dignitaries at this funeral than of any other president in the country's history. And it is ironic because, as I was saying before, Reagan was thought to be a domestic president, not terribly interested in foreign affairs, but his whole second term was really dominated by foreign policy and by a shift, a dramatic shift, because at the start of its first term, he speaks of the "evil empire." He leaves that rhetoric behind and seizes upon the opportunity that Jeff was mentioning to negotiate with Gorbachev and to, in a sense, repair America's world image because you have to recall we came out of the '70s, in a sense, a defeated nation, the frustrations over Vietnam, the loss in that war. And in that sense, Reagan recreates a kind of upbeat mood about American foreign policy.
GREENFIELD: And Reagan always said that his critics misunderstood him, that he was looking to build the defenses, so that the Soviet Union, once they realized they couldn't compete, would move toward disarmament. Reagan, in fact, opposed a nuclear freeze because he said he wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons. And at Reykjavik, he and Gorbachev came so close to that that Reagan's own staff was panicked.
DALLEK: And of course, they did -- he and Gorbachev eliminated a whole category of nuclear weapons, the intermediate nuclear missiles.
GREENFIELD: I have to say one quick story. When Reagan used the phrase "evil empire," and there was a great hullabaloo, a fellow I know who was no conservative turned to his fellow liberals and said, What part of that sentence -- what part of that phrase do you disagree with?
ZAHN: The evil or the empire!
GREENFIELD: Yes. Do you think it wasn't an empire? Do you think it wasn't evil? I mean, that was a case in which people who saw Reagan as a bellicose figure -- you know, in -- you know, after several years, people looked back on it, said, Maybe this guy wasn't quite who we thought he was.
The other great story is he always said, If I could get a Soviet leader, I'd take him in a helicopter and fly him over a typical middle-income neighborhood. And if he saw the swimming pools and the back yards and realized how well we lived, he'd want to change the Soviet Union. And I actually think he did that with Gorbachev.
ZAHN: One of the things that struck me, though, this evening and hearing Mr. Hastert speak and Senator Stevens and then the vice president, was they hit the obvious themes about his sense of eternal optimism, but there wasn't anything too personal in the remarks. Do you expect that to come on Friday? Because the one thing you hear over and over again from people who worked in the White House with Ronald Reagan, what a kind man he was, what a decent man. And Jeff, you were talking about how he was one of the few presidents who found that grace note, no matter how uncomfortable a situation was.
GREENFIELD: When he ran -- first got into politics and ran for governor, his rhetoric was tough on student protesters at Berkeley, on people who were rioting. It was a very steely rhetoric. I think he had an instinctive sense that in running for president, you had to speak differently. And I remember a story -- and as I told you, many years ago, I worked for Robert Kennedy. One of the first things he did when he became president was he gave Robert Kennedy -- Posthumously, obviously -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom because -- you know, it was a little grace note. Clearly, there was no political symmetry.
DALLEK: But Jeff, what it spoke volumes about was his pragmatism. You know, Herbert Hoover said of Franklin Roosevelt he was a chameleon on plaid. And Roosevelt wore that badge proudly. Reagan was the same way. There were so many shifts and changes in the way he went about doing business, not just in domestic politics, but particularly in foreign affairs. And this is what I think allowed him to succeed.
BLITZER: And we're now looking at members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, their spouses, some of their children also beginning to move through this rotunda to pay their respects to this president of the United States.
Judy Woodruff is up on Capitol Hill. So many faces from another decade, Judy, that are beginning to emerge in Washington, have returned to join in the tributes to Ronald Reagan.
WOODRUFF: Wolf, they have. In fact, one of the faces that we have not seen in a very long time is one of the daughters of former president Richard Nixon. Tricia Nixon walked by with her husband, Ed Cox, one of the first couples to walk up to touch the casket, the flag over the casket of President Reagan.
This is quite an extraordinary collection of Americans we are watching. They all have different connections with Ronald Reagan. Some of them worked for him. Some, no doubt, came into politics because of him. I saw Bill Frist's wife, Karen (ph), and their older son walk up alone a few minutes after Senator Frist had escorted former prime minister Thatcher away from -- or out of the rotunda. But all of these people have been waiting. We were told there were over 800 people there. And they are now waiting their turn to come and touch the flag or simply pause and pay their respects before the American people can walk by. It is an extraordinary -- an extraordinary collection.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Judy. Let's go back to Frank Sesno now to hear more of his thoughts about how this all played out this evening. What else struck you tonight, Frank?
SESNO: Well, Paula, the House chaplain said at one point in his prayer, Ronald Wilson Reagan played many roles, so many of them, and he made it seem easy. And you know, that's an interesting and very accurate observation. I've watched and attended probably hundreds -- I don't know, maybe thousands of his speeches, and for the most part, I have to say, not only did he make it seem easy, he had a great time. This was a job and a role he loved.
There were a few notable, very low moments in his presidency -- the Beirut barracks bombing, which his aides say was his most lasting policy regret and sadness, of course, the Iran-Contra affair. And when Mrs. Reagan fell victim to breast cancer, that one was very hard for him. But for the most part, this was an office that he simply relished and loved.
And another point. Dick Cheney talked about the length of this man's life, born in 1911. He literally spanned and shaped a century. And as we see some of these elected representatives go through, just keep this in mind. When Ronald Reagan was running for president in 1980, Democrats held a majority in the Congress, the governorships around the country and in state legislatures. Now the Republicans are dominant in all of those areas, some very closely, but nonetheless dominant.
BLITZER: And we're seeing now, Frank, a changing of the guard around the casket, right in the middle of the rotunda on Capitol Hill. This will be happening, we're told, every 30 minutes. A new team will come in. They will be guarding this casket until this casket eventually leaves here for the Washington National Cathedral. That would be Friday morning for the full funeral service, the state funeral that is already, of course, being intimately and closely planned out every step of the way. Let's watch this changing of the guard because this will happen every 30 minutes as these crowds continue to go by. And as we watch, I want Professor Robert Dallek, the eminent presidential historian, to reflect on the detail for dignity.
DALLEK: Yes, there's so much concern with assuring that the nation sees this ceremonial as something they can remember, something that is burned into their memories as a landmark historical event. And I think that's what's being carried off here today and will be carried off again Friday in the service at the National Cathedral. It's also interesting that the service at the National Cathedral, the other president who, of course, in a sense, will be there, deceased president, is Woodrow Wilson because he's buried at that National Cathedral. And you know, Reagan's middle name is Wilson. Not that he was named after that Woodrow Wilson was Reagan was born in 1911, Wilson didn't become president until 1913.
GREENFIELD: But the restoration -- the phrases that Vice President Cheney is using I think is a key part to the people who argue for Reagan's greatness. I mean, we all know the history. But you come through the assassination of president Kennedy, the Vietnam war escalates in the '60s, race begins to fall apart in this country, the generations split, Nixon comes in promising to restore a certain sense of order, and we wind up with Watergate, and Carter comes in promising to restore a sense of government as good as the American people, and we wind up with inflation and recession and hostages. And Reagan comes in, and you can argue whether it was luck or skill or the celestial movement of the stars, but the '80s were, by contrast, a better time for this country. And that's, I believe, one big reason why he is looked upon with such fondness.
BLITZER: And we're showing our viewers both what's happening inside the rotunda, as the casket now lies in state, and what's happening outside, as the lines have formed, thousands of people already getting ready to spend the next several hours trying to get through these lines and go and pay their respects.
Our Anderson Cooper is outside the Capitol, outside the rotunda. He's with the people out there. Anderson, what's happening?
COOPER: Wolf, as you said, thousands of people have lined up. The line has really grown in the last hour or so, since the procession finished. It seemed like a lot of people who were there watching the caisson, the casket go by, they have now come to join the line. It is very somber. It is very peaceful, very respectful here. What is fascinating is how many young people there are on the line, people really of all ages, but an awful lot of young people. I want to introduce to you a couple. This is Brian Ware (ph). He's 32 years old. You flew all the way from Illinois just to be here this morning. Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To say good-bye. He was my president. And you know, I started watching him when I was 8 years old, when he won the election in '80. And from then on, he's been my president, he's been my leader.
COOPER: It's fascinating because when he got into office, he was the oldest president to serve, 69 when he was first elected. You were 8 years old. What was it at 8 years old that so captured your interest or your affection?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made me feel good to be an American, the way he -- the way his optimism rang through in everything he did and the way he was able to -- he truly was the great communicator, and he spoke to me and he made me proud to be an American.
COOPER: As you go by the casket tonight, what's going to go through your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been thinking about that all day. I thought about it as I watched the casket roll by this afternoon. I don't really know. You know, I've been to the presidential library. I'm from Rock Island, Illinois. I've been to the boyhood home. This is -- this is going to be my good-bye to my president.
COOPER: It's going to be hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very, very much so. Very much so.
COOPER: Brian, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Nice to talk to you.
I also just want to introduce to you two other young people. John and Tyler Cummin (ph), you guys are from Utah. You're 18 years old. You were here basically on sort of a class trip. You just graduated high school. You really didn't know much about Ronald Reagan. Why are you here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we had a chance to come see history, so we -- we wanted to learn more about him from our teachers, and we decided to come and see it.
COOPER: And that's what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) feel like you're witnessing history tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, big part of history. It's huge.
COOPER: What you have -- you were saying before you got on the line, you sort of didn't really know -- you sort of knew about the "evil empire." That's about it. On the line, what are people saying? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're talking about how -- Tyler, what are they talking about? You know more than I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking how great of a president he was. Our teachers were here with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying how America's just barely feeling the impact of his great presidency and the things he did for us that people didn't realize, like, a couple years ago.
COOPER: Is it going to be strange going by the casket tonight? I mean, is it -- is it...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit. We feel like we don't know him. But I think going by lets us, you know, get to know him a little bit better, I think.
COOPER: John and Tyler, thanks very much for being with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.
COOPER: So there you see it, people really of all ages. It is fascinating with these young kids who didn't really even know much about Ronald Reagan. They wanted to see history. They wanted to be part of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, when you see the crowds that they've gathered over there, and they're beginning to start walking, snaking their way through these lines to come up the steps up to the rotunda on Capitol Hill, does it look like most of these people are from the Washington area, are they -- a lot of them have come in from all parts of country?
COOPER: No, a lot of them have come in from all parts of the country. Brian, who you just met, he came in -- flew -- literally flew in from Illinois this morning. I've talked to people who have come from Nebraska, who come from California. There's one man I heard of who actually flew to California, but the line was too long in Simi Valley, so he actually came here. There are a lot of people from the Washington area, a lot of young people who are working on the Hill. But there are people, really, from -- literally, I think it's fair to say, from every state of union, young and old. They just want to be here.
BLITZER: All right. Anderson Cooper's going to stay out there for the time being. Anderson, thanks very much.
Paula, I guess we shouldn't be that surprised that so many people, who weren't even born when Ronald Reagan was president, want to come by and maybe touch history right now.
ZAHN: That's when I think it becomes so clear how he has shaped this century. Both those guys weren't around when he was born. The other guy that Anderson talked to was 8 years old when Ronald Reagan was elected. But it's clear they are responding to those themes of optimism and the pride in being American.
GREENFIELD: When Reagan...
BLITZER: That resonated.
GREENFIELD: When Reagan was running, and he ran -- when he won the nomination, he was 69 years old -- he did very well with younger voters partly because they did not have a New Deal/Fair Deal history, they were not imbued with the Roosevelt/Truman thing, and also because America was going through a pretty rough time. And it was one of his great satisfactions.
BLITZER: All right, these lines are obviously forming. They're going to continue to grow and grow and grow in the coming hours as Ronald Reagan's body lies in state in the rotunda. We'll have much more coverage. Stay with us. We'll take a quick break.
ZAHN: We're looking -- we're looking at a live picture of some the crowds that have gathered in this area in and around the Capitol. Police are saying they could expect as many as some 250,000 people to try to pay their homage to President Reagan's legacy here at the Capitol between now and Friday morning. The public will not get their chance to see the president lying in state until maybe a half hour, 45 minutes from now. But the stories we've heard today, if they're any indication, what we're going to see in the days to come, people have sometime spent as much as 17 hours in a line to have that opportunity.
BLITZER: And this is the view from the Capitol, overlooking the Washington Mall to the Washington Monument -- such a spectacular sight and sound, such a spectacular moment.
Jeff Greenfield, you've been trying to better understand some of the historic perspective of what we're all experiencing right now.
GREENFIELD: Yes, I think it's true that a lot of what we've seen today, as we've talked about, is steeped in tradition going back hundreds, even thousands of years. But in a fundamental sense, this funeral of President Reagan is really different from the three most memorable state funerals because all of them commemorated the shocking death of a sitting president.
(voice-over): Abe Lincoln was the first president murdered in office, and his death came just days after the Civil War ended. The new medium of the telegraph flashed that news across the country and set the stage for a two-week train journey bearing Lincoln's coffin from Washington to Springfield, Illinois. At every stop, thousands -- hundreds of thousands in New York City -- turned out to say good-bye. Millions of Americans glimpsed Lincoln's coffin on the journey home, and poet Walt Whitman wrote two classic poems about that death.
Eighty years later, just as another war, the Second World War, was ending, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke at his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia. The shock came from the simple fact that he'd been president for 12 years, longer than any other. For many, he was the only president they'd known. His body, too, was borne by train, from Warm Springs to Washington, and then to his family home in Hyde Park, New York. Millions followed his funeral on the radio.
WALTER CRONKITE, CBS NEWS: President Kennedy died at 1:00 PM Central Standard Time.
GREENFIELD: The news of President Kennedy's murder in 1963 took literally seconds to reach almost every American. And for four days, the country mourned in front of its television sets. The contrast between the youth and public energy of the president and the sudden violent murder put grief on the faces not just of his family but of millions. The moments from those ceremonies -- the riderless horse, the muffled drums, the son's salute -- are almost as vivid 41 years later.
But today's funeral marks the death of the oldest ex-president ever, one who presided for eight full years as his war, a cold war, was beginning to end without bloodshed. If there is grief today, it comes from the fact that Reagan's last decade was lived in the twilight zone of Alzheimer's. But unlike those earlier funerals, this ceremony is more a celebration of life than a confrontation with sudden death.
BLITZER: A long life, indeed, a life that was productive and meaningful not only for him and family but for millions of people in the United States and around the world. Paula, I think there's no doubt that people all over the world remember his contribution, contribution in helping to end the cold war, and bringing down the old Soviet Union.
ZAHN: And that's one of the things the vice president brought up earlier this evening when he spoke in the rotunda, basically giving the president credit for doing that. As Professor Dallek says, you can debate the fine points of that, but I don't think you're going to find any disagreement that he certainly contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union through his actions.
BLITZER: Judy Woodruff is up on Capitol Hill. As these crowds have gathered, incredible crowds, Judy, I don't know if, from your vantage point, you can see what's going on, but they're lining up by the thousands to spend all night, if necessary, to get a glimpse of this casket. Reflect a little bit for our viewers what you're seeing.
WOODRUFF: Well, actually, Wolf, I'm on another part of the Capitol, across Independence Avenue, and I think most of the crowds are gathering on the north -- or rather, on the west side of the Capitol to make their way in.
I just know, though, from talking to people that I've run into in this city the last couple of days, and then on a very quick trip I made to California on Sunday night and Monday -- people coming up to me, volunteering the fact -- several of them said, I'm a Democrat, but I really liked Ronald Reagan. One even said, I loved Ronald Reagan. This was a man who transcended partisan politics. Sure, he had his political enemies. There were people who disagreed with him, who didn't like the cutbacks in domestic spending programs, who didn't like the idea he was putting so much money into the Pentagon when they weren't sure what kind of dividends it would pay.
But he was a man -- and it's been said all day long, and we'll say it again, I'm sure, before Friday and the funeral and he goes back to California -- but he was a man with an infectious optimism, a sunny disposition. And Americans, before anything else, want that in their president. We've learned that from Ronald Reagan. Above all, they want optimism from their president. And Ronald Reagan gave that to them.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno is also watching this together with all of us. Frank, do you think that bipartisan, nonpartisan spirit, if we can talk about that along these lines right now, is going to last for more than a few days here in Washington?
SESNO: Probably not. I think that era is gone, and to some extent, that was a byproduct of the Reagan years. You know, you don't have a revolution without shedding some blood. And there are winners and losers. And that, too, happened to the Reagan revolution, and there were some very, very bitter and partisan moments, such as when his Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork, was sent down to defeat. But it still was a different age then, and there was a handshake at the end of the day, with the greats like Tip O'Neill and the rest, and they'd pop a beer or whatever they were going to do and laugh about it.
That's been lost, and it's going to be hard to recover that. But maybe, in some of the reflection about what lasts from the Reagan legacy and what might be worth preserving, that sense of making Washington a little bit more congenial would be something that folks want to stop and pause and think about.
BLITZER: Frank Sesno. Paula, let's remind our viewers what's in store, first of all, over the next few hours here on CNN. Coming up right after this, in a few minutes, Larry King has a very special program with the first President Bush and Mrs. Bush.
ZAHN: That will be followed by "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown, and then Anderson Cooper will be doing a special version of his show...
BLITZER: At 11:00 -- 11:00 PM...
ZAHN: ... at 11:00 PM.
BLITZER: ... Eastern.
ZAHN: And then tomorrow, throughout the day here on CNN, you will see coverage of the public making its -- paying homage to the president in the rotunda. Friday morning, our special events coverage will get under way at 10:00 AM. That's in advance of the 10:30 AM Eastern Standard (SIC) Time start of the eulogies at the National Cathedral.
BLITZER: Friday will be quite a day, when the casket is moved from the rotunda, goes over to the Washington National Cathedral for that memorial service, where so many world leaders will gather. The president will be delivering one of those eulogies, as well, before the casket eventually goes back to Andrews Air Force Base for that flight once again cross-country and that sunset internment, the burial service, at the presidential library.
ZAHN: And today was certainly a fitting beginning of a good-bye from a town that was often divided by this president, but today came together in a harmonious way to celebrate an American icon, a man who so loved his country and his people.
BLITZER: And that's going to conclude our special coverage over these past several hours. It's been a privilege to report all of this for our viewers. For Paula and for Jeff Greenfield, for Professor Robert Dallek, for Judy Woodruff for Frank Sesno, for Anderson Cooper, all of our reporters who helped make this coverage so special, thanks so much for joining us.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Take a look at this, the sights and sounds of this dramatic day.
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