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John Lehman Looks Back on Life of President Ronald Reagan; A Look Back at Relationship Between President Reagan, Margaret Thatcher

Aired June 11, 2004 - 08:00   ET


A phenomenal outpouring of respect -- tens of thousands say their private goodbyes, winding to an end today in Washington, as the nation gets ready for the funeral of Ronald Reagan.

In other news this morning, police testify in the Scott Peterson murder trial. They say suspicions were there from the beginning.

And the style and the voice and the smile that never seemed to leave his face -- Ray Charles, an American original, remember this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.


RAY CHARLES: He must know something, but he don't say nothing.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: Good morning and welcome back to Washington for the final day of this week, that has been a long week of memories and ceremonies. Today's presidential state funeral for Ronald Reagan will feature all the ceremonies we've seen that Washington can muster together, as well as a collection of the world's power elite not seen for a long time, possibly never, in the history of this city.

Former President George Bush, along with his wife, Barbara, among the thousands who visited Mr. Reagan's casket in the Capitol yesterday. Mr. Bush, as well as the current president, will be among those eulogizing Mr. Reagan today. In fact, the first President Bush was asked to do that in 1981, 33 years ago. All four living former U.S. presidents are to attend. The funeral service begins at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, among the dozens of current and former world leaders who will be there today, we took time for a private visit yesterday with Nancy Reagan at the Blair House across from the White House. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be doing a reading today at Mr. Reagan's funeral. He was always proud to have put the first woman on the court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will read from the John Winthrop sermon that inspired Reagan's description of America as "a shining city upon a hill." She, too, was asked to do that reading back in 1981. Today that city on the hill is the National Cathedral and that's where you find us today, for the next several hours.

Our coverage continues here in Washington -- good morning to Soledad back in New York -- good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Bill.

Thank you very much.

Other stories that we're following this morning, as well, a pretty shocking story out of North Carolina. A former student at UNC Wilmington kills his girlfriend and himself. The question now is to what degree does the local newspaper, which mentioned her name and his name, what degree do they play into all of this? And did the university make mistakes, as well? We're going to take a look at that this morning.

Also, you might think it's fine for your kids to take aspirin or maybe some acetaminophen when they have a headache. But many parents don't realize just how often kids are taking the pills and what it could do to them. Sanjay Gupta is going to take a look at that for us this morning, as well.

Jack Cafferty joins us -- hello.

Good morning.


Coming up in the Cafferty File, a truly frightening thought. We will tell you how Howard Stern could play a key role in the race for the White House.

And we'll find out what the capital of Iraq and the capital of Colorado have in common.

Things to look forward to this morning.

O'BRIEN: All right, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wrap up the week here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.


O'BRIEN: Let's go back to Bill in Washington -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad.

The current President Bush, number 43, in what may have been a preview for his eulogy for today's funeral, called Ronald Reagan a great man, a historic leader and a national treasure.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House today, this morning, with us -- Suzanne, good morning there.


Well, President Bush is going to deliver a 15-minute eulogy at the funeral service. Aides say that he is going to be speaking from the heart. And while he's not giving his personal reflections, he will speak on behalf of the nation, giving thanks to a great leader, is what aides say. The president working on his eulogy since the beginning of the week, putting his final editions, the touches on it, aboard Air Force One, coming back from Sea Island, Georgia, the G-8 summit, yesterday.

President Bush's first stop yesterday, of course, with the first lady, at the Capitol Rotunda. That is where he paid respects to the late Ronald Reagan. Then on to Blair House. That is where he and the first lady met privately with Nancy Reagan for about 40 minutes or so to give their personal and private condolences.

We are told that according to the Reagan family representative, that it was President Bush's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, that was asked back in 1981 to speak at the funeral service. It is expected that we will hear, then, from both father and son. This current president, of course, has modeled his own administration, his own presidency and philosophy after the late Ronald Reagan. It was yesterday that he called Reagan a national treasure -- Bill.

HEMMER: Suzanne, thanks.

Suzanne Malveaux on the front lawn.

John Lehman served as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan from 1981 to 1987, currently serving on the 9/11 Commission.

Johnson Lehman, our guest here in Washington, to share some memories of the 40th president.

Good morning.


HEMMER: Nice to see you, Mr. Secretary.

Uncommonly nice is the phrase you used one time to describe Ronald Reagan.

In what way?

LEHMAN: Well, you know, being in the Pentagon during that period and having to be involved with perhaps the most difficult part of the confrontation with the cold war, it's unusual to find leaders who brought such a human touch. Because we would have meetings with President Reagan and be discussing the most horrifying potential outcomes of nuclear deterrence and so forth, and yet he would always have the human touch. When I had the unpleasant occasion to tell Admiral Rickover that he was retiring early, the president wanted to see him. So we arranged a meeting. And the admiral was very unhappy to leave. And he made quite a, I would say, tirade, mainly against me, but it was a difficult moment for the president in the Oval Office. And he was so concerned about the man, about Admiral Rickover and that he not be embarrassed, that he asked us all to leave. He said, "Admiral Rickover and I see things the same way. Could you leave us a while? We want to talk about policy."

And so he asked the rest of us to leave the room and he -- because he was -- he didn't want the man to be embarrassed. And...

HEMMER: It shows his gentleman side, too, to a degree.

LEHMAN: Yes. I mean he -- it was a unique blend. Rarely do you find a leader who was so strong and firm, never budged on the issues of deterrence, who yet never lost his really nice, human side.

HEMMER: When the Marines were killed in Beirut in 1983, you believe it was a terrible blunder, I think that was the words you used, actually, not to respond at that time. And you believe, as part of your duties now on the 9/11 Commission, that's what helped contribute to the events of September 11th.

How so?

LEHMAN: Well, because Osama bin Laden said in -- several times in an interview that the beginning of his realization that terrorism worked against the West was when Hezbollah, supported by the Iranian government, used suicide bombs to blow up 241 Marines. Now, President Reagan wanted to retaliate right away to deter any further. But our intelligence establishment was incapable of providing an assessment and kept saying no, we can't do it, because we don't know what's here and we don't know what's there. The military had a retaliation plan, but he was talked out of it.

Then the decision was made to pull the U.S. forces out of Lebanon, which is what the terrorists wanted. And, in effect, we gave the terrorists a victory -- if you kill Americans, you'll get the political outcome you want. And Osama has said that is when he realized Jihad will work against the West.

HEMMER: You'll be inside the Cathedral today.


HEMMER: Is that something you look forward to in terms of memories and recalling your own history here in Washington and what Ronald Reagan meant to you?

LEHMAN: Yes, I do, because I think one of the great things that has happened this week -- and really, you guys in the media have done a terrific job -- is having an occasion for the nation to reflect on the history of those years and draw the lessons from it. And so that's what this ceremony will really be, a formalization of that reflection on what happened in those years and what leadership can provide to this nation, bring out the best of it.

HEMMER: Thank you.

Good to see you in person here.

LEHMAN: Good to see you.

HEMMER: The next public hearings and the final public hearings for your 9/11 Commission work will conclude next week. And we'll get the final report at the end of July.

Thank you, John Lehman, here in Washington.

LEHMAN: All right.

Good to see you.

HEMMER: Our coverage continues. Again, about three hours away from the beginning of the funeral here in D.C. at the National Cathedral.

Back to Soledad again in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks.

Among the world leaders who are eulogizing President Ronald Reagan today will be former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The so-called "Iron Lady" was a close ally of the president and the two stood together in good times and in bad times.

Here's Tom Forman.


TOM FORMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He called her his political soul mate. She called him the second most important man in her life. And the political marriage of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was love at first sight.

MICHAEL DEAVER, FORMER REAGAN AIDE: Well, I think it was a genuine respect from the very first.

FORMAN: Michael Deaver, a former aide, recalled when Reagan was a governor and Thatcher a rising English conservative.

DEAVER: I remember some British guy saying to him but -- because he was going on and on about her -- really? A woman prime minister? He smiled and he said, "Well, you know, you guys didn't do too bad with Victoria."


FORMAN: When Reagan became president and Thatcher prime minister, she was the first foreign leader to come calling. REAGAN: Margaret ended our first meeting by telling me we must stand together. And that's exactly what we've done in the years since, as friends.

FORMAN: Internationally, they collaborated on ending the cold war and expanding trade. Domestically, both waged war on labor unions and reduced government intervention in business. More than just political partners, they shared ironclad beliefs.

CHARLES POWEL, FORMER THATCHER ADVISER: And really their thinking on many issues, not just the evils of communism, became very similar -- hatred of high taxes, hatred of big government, hatred of socialism in all its forms.

FORMAN: There were clashes. Reagan disapproved of England's war in the Falkland Islands. Thatcher objected to the American invasion of Grenada.

(on camera): Over all the years, however, even as critics attacked their legacy, Reagan and Thatcher remained united.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Through it all, throughout eight of the fastest moving years in memory, you were unflappable and unyielding.

FORMAN (voice-over): Reagan asked Thatcher to speak at his funeral years ago and she will be there. Strokes have so weakened her, she had to record her message, but she wrote firmly in a book of condolence: "To Ronnie, well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Tom Forman, CNN, Washington.


O'BRIEN: Margaret Thatcher was the very first person to sign Reagan's condolence book.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was a soldier under Ronald Reagan. He was also Mr. Reagan's national security adviser.

Earlier this morning on AMERICAN MORNING, I asked Secretary Powell just what it was like to work for President Reagan.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was a wonderful experience. I saw him every morning for two years and whenever you walked into the Oval Office, no matter what else might be going on in the world, there was the leader of the free world sitting in his chair in the Oval Office with that smile on his face, that grin of confidence and optimism, of whatever problem you have, we can solve it. Because he had such firm beliefs -- a belief in this country, a belief in our system, a belief that our system was something that could be transferred to the rest of the world.

He was such a believer in democracy and freedom and the dignity of men and women and human rights. And he was so anxious to show off what we have been able to accomplish in our country with those values that he wanted to share it with the world.


O'BRIEN: Secretary Powell also spoke about in his dealings with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan always invited him to see what was best about America. Secretary Powell said he knew that the president could convince Gorbachev that they needed to change the Soviet Union.

It's now 13 minutes past the hour and it's time to take a look at some of the other stories that are making headlines today with Heidi Collins -- good morning.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Thanks a lot.

And good morning, everybody.

New details emerging about the abuse in Iraqi prisons. Sources quoted by the "Washington Post" claim military dog handlers were authorized to use canines to intimidate prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison. The statements indicate military intelligence personnel may have known more about what was happening at Iraqi prisons than previously indicated.

A Colorado judge ruling against Kobe Bryant on one of the points in his sexual assault case. Bryant's lawyers had argued the state's rape shield law is unconstitutional. But a Colorado judge yesterday rejected that argument. The law prevents disclosure of an accuser's sexual history unless the defense can prove it is relevant to the trial.

Police officers testify for the first time in the double murder trial of Scott Peterson. A sergeant told jurors yesterday he was suspicious and considered the Peterson home a crime scene shortly after Laci Peterson was reported missing. Meanwhile, the defense claimed someone else abducted Laci, pointing out the robberies and homelessness in the Modesto neighborhood. Testimony is set to resume on Monday.

Well, Venus and Mars have been making the headlines lately in the solar system. But now Saturn, it's your turn. The Cassini spacecraft will execute a close fly by of one of Saturn's moons today as part of a four year tour of the planet and its moons. Cassini is a joint project of NASA and the European and Italian Space Agencies.

And the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Meryl Streep. The American Film Institute honored the two time Oscar winner with a tribute in Los Angeles. Some of Hollywood's best known in the audience. The tribute will air on USA later this month. What a gorgeous dress, huh?

O'BRIEN: I was going to say... COLLINS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... good for her. But what a fantastic outfit she had on.

COLLINS: Yes. It's almost like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

O'BRIEN: You know, it is. But that's also a nice award, too.


O'BRIEN: Heidi, thanks.


O'BRIEN: And it's time to take a look at Jack's Question of the Day -- hello.

CAFFERTY: Good morning.

There have been a lot of suggestions, Soledad, on how to permanently memorialize Ronald Reagan, including renaming the Pentagon the Ronald Reagan National Defense Building, adding Reagan's image to Mount Rushmore, putting his image on the nation's currency, including the $10 bill, the $20 bill, the dime and the 50 cent piece. But there are other ideas that have been overlooked, until we asked you folks to come up with some of your own, and you have.

Billy in Bald Knob, Arkansas says: "Instead of naming everything in sight after President Reagan, they should make his birthday a national holiday. If anybody deserves one, he does."

Michael in Toronto, Canada: "The best lasting tribute for President Reagan is the freedom that we feel today from the yoke of the cold war. He won it and we reap the benefits today and will tomorrow, as well."

Randy in Vicksburg, Mississippi: "Since Mr. Reagan was all about less government, it would seem that the overriding cost of putting his face on currency would go against everything he stood for. A stamp honoring him would be more amenable, which would not only use his likeness in a government situation, but also create revenue."

And Richard in Toronto, Canada: "One day we may have a cashless society, so perhaps remembering him with currency is not the way to go. That's why my suggestion is to rename jelly beans Ronnie beans, so he'll be remembered happily forever, much in the same way that Roosevelt, the first one, will be forever remembered via the Teddy bear."

O'BRIEN: I was going to say, I thought all these suggestions were actually excellent, considering the other ones that have come forth that I didn't think were so great, until you got to the Ronnie beans. I think that's just -- Ronnie beans? What do you think?

CAFFERTY: I have no opinion. I just read this stuff. I'm trying to get to 10 o'clock and take in the money and go home for a couple of days.

O'BRIEN: Ronnie beans? It sounds like -- would you like some Ronnie beans? No. That's not a tribute. That's just weird.

CAFFERTY: All right, Soledad, doesn't like Ronnie beans. Come up with something else.

O'BRIEN: Sorry, Richard, but the rest of them I actually, I think these are wonderful ideas.

Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right, so Michael, Randy and Billy, you guys get passing grades. Richard, you're a dismal failure in Soledad's eyes.

O'BRIEN: Sorry, Richard.

CAFFERTY: Don't ever contact this program again.

O'BRIEN: He should just go back to the drawing board and work on something else, that's how I'd put it.

CAFFERTY: Yes, and go back to the drawing board, too, Richard. And don't bother us anymore, OK, because Soledad doesn't like you.

O'BRIEN: That's not what I said.

That is so not what I said.

Thanks, Jack, though.

I appreciate that.

Well, legendary blues singer and pianist Ray Charles is being remembered this morning. He died yesterday at age 73. Back in 1985, Charles was the featured entertainer at President Reagan's second inauguration. President Reagan asked Charles to sing "America The Beautiful."


RAY CHARLES (singing): Oh beautiful for heroes' prove...


O'BRIEN: "America The Beautiful" was just one of the songs that Ray Charles became indelibly linked with, along with "Georgia On My Mind" and others. A memorial service for Ray Charles is to be held next week in Los Angeles.


CHARLES (singing): Who more than self...

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, we're going to take a look at what may have been the smartest political move that Ronald Reagan ever made. A special all Reagan edition of "Gimme A Minute," just ahead.

Also ahead this morning, the latest from Iraq, including another clash between U.S. forces and the man who's been a thorn in their sides.

Stay with us.

We're back right after this short break.


O'BRIEN: Now to a tragic story out of North Carolina that we first told you about yesterday. Residents of Wilmington are mourning the loss of a college student who police say was killed by her ex- boyfriend. The suspect, a former UNC Wilmington student, then killed himself. It all happened just days after a newspaper exposed the man's criminal record.

Here's CNN's Sarah Dorsey (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her death has devastated us. We don't know how we're going to go on.

SARAH DORSEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christen Naujoks' mother. Authorities say her daughter was attacked Friday night by ex- boyfriend John Peck, who shot her 11 times in front of witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's a white male shooting at that door over there. And the lady was beating on the door, trying to get inside.

DORSEY: The murder comes nine days after an article was published in the Wilmington "Star-News" on domestic violence, which questioned the lack of background checks on students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Naujoks' mother originally contacted the newspaper, alleging Peck was stalking her daughter. She then asked the paper to hold off on the story or delete both her daughter and Peck's name for fear of her daughter's safety. The newspaper published the article using both names, including Peck's criminal history and the fact that he lied to the university on his application.

ALLEN PARSONS, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "STAR-NEWS": We agonized a fair bit over the issue of whether to go forward with the story, but were concerned about, given the recent history at UNCW, that it was an issue that we felt was not being properly addressed. We were trying to do some good with the story.

DORSEY: The FBI was called in after a written note and audio tape were found in his apartment, that authorities say contained a hit list of people he planned to kill. Three days after Naujoks was killed, park rangers found Peck in the Smokey Mountain National Park. A shootout and car chase ensued. Authorities say his truck plummeted over the side of a ravine after he shot himself in the head.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's office says it is not blaming the newspaper for its decision to publish the students' names.

Sarah Dorsey, CNN, Atlanta.


O'BRIEN: The newspaper's executive editor has offered to resign, if necessary. But the publisher says that no resignations are likely.

And let's go out to Bill Hemmer, who is, of course, covering Ronald Reagan's funeral for us this morning -- good morning to you, Bill.

HEMMER: Hey, Soledad, good morning yet again.

I tell you, this city has really put on its best face over the past several days. The "Washington Post" writes this week that no city in America is more practiced at the art of ceremony. It continues. Washington doesn't just host events of this magnitude, it lives them, and at least today, anyway, it's going to live that in the rain, as this storm system starts to move into our nation's capital.

We are about three hours away from the beginning of the funeral of Ronald Reagan. As our coverage continues in a moment here in Washington.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

It is just about half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

We've got much more coverage ahead of Ronald Reagan's funeral. That's with Bill Hemmer in Washington, D.C. this morning.

Also this Friday, we're talking about the Reagan legacy in "Gimme A Minute." The question we're asking this morning is was there any unfinished business of his presidency? That's ahead in just a few moments, as well.

Also this morning, Sanjay Gupta joins us to tell us about a problem that many parents are actually unaware of -- kids running to the medicine cabinet every time they have the slightest little pain. We take a look at whether children are over medicating themselves. That's ahead with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

But first, Bill Hemmer in Washington, D.C. -- hi, Bill.

HEMMER: Hey, Soledad, good morning again.

This is as close as America gets to honoring royalty -- the funeral services and the procession of an American president. About three hours away from the funeral beginning here. We expect about a five mile journey from the Capitol Rotunda to here at the National Cathedral, as we sit here at the highest point in the District of Washington.

Ed Henry is live back on Capitol Hill -- Ed, good morning to you there.


Just moments ago, the public viewing of Ronald Reagan's casket ended. There were -- there was a count of about 89,000 people as of 6:00 a.m. this morning Eastern time had passed by the casket. That has now ended. And so there were thousands more today. That number is going to climb, obviously, in the next few hours, as we figure out exactly how many people passed the casket.

The next dramatic moment we're expecting is about 9:45 a.m. Eastern time. Nancy Reagan will be coming to have a quiet moment with the casket. She'll be let into the Rotunda. After she is done and she heads back downstairs to get ready for the departure ceremony, they will then prepare the casket for that ceremony at 10:30. That's the approximate time it's expected to start. This is going to be a lot less pomp and circumstance on the departure than we saw on the arrival. There is not going to be any speeches. As you know, it's going to start about 10:30. It's not going to -- the body will not be put on a caisson. It's just going to be put into a hearse.

The U.S. Army band will be playing some songs, including "Hail to the Chief." Then there will be a 21-gun salute. There will be three sets of nine men who will be leading the 700-pound mahogany casket down the steps of the West Front of the Capitol right behind me. And then it will be making that journey just a few miles uptown, as you mentioned, to Washington National Cathedral.

We're expecting the ceremony, obviously, this national funeral service, to start at about 11:30 -- Bill.

HEMMER: Ed, you were there yesterday when President Bush arrived with the first lady. Give us a sense of the environment inside of the Rotunda building when things truly came to a stop yesterday.

HENRY: The most amazing part was that the tourists who happened to be in the Rotunda had no idea the president was coming. The security sealed off the Rotunda to not let anyone else in or out.

And I spoke to a 12-year-old boy who cupped his hand when President Bush walked in. He had no idea the president was coming. I talked to that 12-year-old boy from Florida afterwards. He said he almost fainted. He couldn't believe President Bush had come in. These were people who had been waiting for hours to come see the casket.

President Bush came in with First Lady Laura Bush, hand in hand. They bowed solemnly, a quiet prayer over the casket, and they were gone in less than 60 seconds -- Bill. HEMMER: Ed Henry on Capitol Hill. Ed, thanks for that.

More in a moment from Washington.


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