Tags: nancyreagan | coldwar | firstlady | starwars

Columnist Karen Tumulty: Nancy Reagan Helped End Cold War

Columnist Karen Tumulty: Nancy Reagan Helped End Cold War
Former President Ronald Reagan dances with former First Lady Nancy Reagan. (Ronald Reagan Presidental Library/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 01 April 2021 04:12 PM

A new book to be released later this month chronicles the life and success of first lady Nancy Reagan and how she helped facilitate the end of the Cold War with Russia in the early 1980s.

Nancy Reagan was influential on her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, pushing him toward peace with the former Soviet Union, getting cozy with Soviet leaders and diplomats, and toning down rhetoric that began with President Reagan calling the Soviets the "evil empire" and starting a "Star Wars" nuclear defense program, Karen Tumulty writes in "The Triumph of Nancy Reagan."

"Of all the things that Nancy wanted to see her husband achieve as president, ending the Cold War, she believed, could stand as the accomplishment that secured his legacy as a giant among U.S. presidents," Tumulty wrote in an excerpt published by The Washington Post.

"She made no secret of her dream that a man once branded as a cowboy and a jingoist might even win the Nobel Peace Prize."

Nancy Reagan was not the historical presence the former president was, but she was effective behind the scenes in moving him, the book chronicles.

"There are those who think first ladies should be kept in attics, only to say our lines, pour our tea and then be put away again," Nancy Reagan famously said, according to Tumulty. "Although I don't get involved in policy, it's silly to suggest my opinion should not carry some weight with a man I've been married to for 35 years."

Nancy Reagan was never a fan of the famed "Star Wars" program, or the president's tough talk on the Soviet rivals she felt needed more sugar than vinegar, particularly with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, 54.

"Yes, I did push Ronnie a little, but he would never have met Gorbachev if he hadn't wanted to," Tumulty wrote, quoting Nancy Reagan's memoir.

But even former President Reagan acknowledged his wife's influence in his own memoir, Tumulty wrote:

"Frankly, I think it worked, even though some people — including Nancy — tried persuading me to lower the temperature of my rhetoric. I told Nancy I had a reason for saying those things: I wanted the Russians to know I understood their system and what it stood for."

Tumulty retells a famous story of an interaction with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko.

"Does your husband believe in peace?" Gromyko asked Nancy.

"Yes, of course."

"Then whisper 'peace' in your husband's ear every night," Gromyko told Nancy.

Then Nancy replied, "I will, and I'll also whisper it in your ear," pulling the Soviet diplomat closer and whispering, "peace."

"My father was as good a man as you'll find in politics or life, for that matter," son Ron Reagan told Tumulty. "Very easygoing, very easy with people, very trusting of people. He was almost entirely guileless. There was no cynicism in him whatsoever. He tended to assume that other people — certainly, people who were working for him and professed similar sensibilities — were like that too.

"My mother, on the other hand, understood that people had hidden agendas and that not everybody who talked a good game would back that up. She was unforgiving when she thought somebody had betrayed my father. When somebody needed to go, she was the one to know it first, and often as not, to make that happen."

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Politics
A new book to be released later this month chronicles the life and success of first lady Nancy Reagan and how she helped facilitate the end of the Cold War with Russia in the early 1980s. Nancy Reagan was influential on her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, pushing...
nancyreagan, coldwar, firstlady, starwars
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2021-12-01
Thursday, 01 April 2021 04:12 PM
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