WASHINGTON, June 11 (UPI) -- There were many who thought, during Reagan's administration, that former first lady Nancy Reagan was a liability rather than an asset to her husband, the president. Media accounts made her out to be a modern-day Medici, a woman possessed of expensive tastes who behind the scenes was manipulating her husband and the policies of his administration.
This is in fact the view of Nancy Reagan presented in the much-maligned "The Reagans" miniseries that CBS was forced to relegate to one of its less-significant cable channels after it was repeatedly attacked for its bias.
How wrong they were.
If there is one theme that has been repeatedly sounded during the period of national mourning for the 40th president, who died Saturday from complications related to his 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease, it is that, without Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan could not nearly have accomplished as much.
The affection and love the two had for each other was something to which each of those giving eulogies to the former president Friday at Washington's National Cathedral referred.
Former Canadian Prime Minster Brian Mulroney began his remarks by relating a story of how, in the spring of 1987, he and Reagan were in a large airplane hanger in Ottawa awaiting the arrival of their wives prior to a departure ceremony. The trip had been, as Mulroney said, "important, demanding and successful," yet "Here we were, waiting for our wives."
"When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila, looking like a million bucks. And as they headed towards us," Mulroney remembered, "President Reagan beamed. He threw his arm around my shoulder and he said with a grin, 'You know, Brian, for two Irishmen we sure married up.'"
President George W. Bush may have best explained the importance of Reagan's relationship with his wife when he said, "In a life of good fortune, he valued above all the gracious gift of his wife, Nancy.
"During his career, Ronald Reagan passed through a thousand crowded places," the president said, "but there was only one person, he said, who could make him lonely by just leaving the room" -- his wife Nancy.
This is a far cry form the Nancy Reagan we knew from the pages of The Washington Post, a woman who sang a parody of the song "Second-hand Rose," dressed in an odd, motley collection of thrift-store hand-me-downs at the 1982 Gridiron dinner just to remind people she had a sense of humor.
A strong woman, Nancy Reagan was and is devoted to her husband, as anyone who has watched her throughout the week can plainly see. Like a lioness protecting her cubs, Nancy Reagan watched over her husband who, as many this week have said of their memories of him, was a thoughtful and gentle man, not often given to anger and who always looked for the best in people, even those who meant him no good.
"If Ronald Reagan created a better world for many millions it was because of the world someone else created for him," former President George H. W. Bush said in his eulogy. "Nancy was there for him always. Her love for him provided much of his strength, and their love together transformed all of us as we've seen -- renewed seeing again here in the last few days."
Former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, in her taped eulogy that was played Friday, observed that Reagan's life was "rich, not only in public achievement, but also in private happiness."
"Indeed," she said, "his public achievements were rooted in his private happiness," which began when he met and shortly thereafter married Nancy Davis, an actress who sought his help to ensure that her career would not suffer because she had a name similar to another performer whose political leanings were suspect.
As Reagan himself said, Thatcher recalled, "Nancy came along and saved my soul." And, if the assessment of Reagan's contribution to the progress of world events is correct, she must then also be credited for the role she played in his accomplishments. Her unwavering, unyielding support for her husband, her watchful eye, her complete devotion to her -- expressed not just in the way she has touched his casket in these last days but in the way she cared for him throughout his illness, even when he could no longer recognize her or recall the love they shared, is a testament to what marriage should be. More importantly, however, is that her support of him, to resurrect a long-ago political slogan, "let Reagan be Reagan."
They were partners, Ron and Nancy, in the best sense of the word, and the world is likely better for it.
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