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The Revd Billy Graham departed this mortal coil on February 21, 2018, aged 99.

Only the good Lord knows how many people he converted or awakened to Christianity. If he spoke in person to 250 million people around the world during his ministry, imagine the hundreds of millions of people watching his televised Crusades and specials or listening to him on radio. What he accomplished over his 80 years as a preacher was so extraordinary that it might not be repeated for generations to come.

CBS News reported that Graham was (emphases mine):

the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Spokesman Mark DeMoss said Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning.

Tributes from American presidents

President Donald Trump tweeted and followed up with a formal statement later that day:

President Trump’s statement reads as follows:

Melania and I join millions of people around the world in mourning the passing of Billy Graham. Our prayers are with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all who worked closely with Reverend Graham in his lifelong ministry.

Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his seventeenth birthday not only changed his life—it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years—an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title “God’s Ambassador.”

Billy’s unshakeable belief in the power of God’s word to transform hearts gave hope to all who listened to his simple message: “God loves you.” He carried this message around the world through his crusades, bringing entire generations to faith in Jesus Christ.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, America turned to Billy Graham at the National Cathedral, who told us, “God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.”

Reverend Graham would be the first to say that he did not do it alone. Before her passing, his wife Ruth was by his side through it all—a true partner, a wonderful mother, and a fellow missionary soul. He also built an international team and institution that will continue to carry on Christ’s message.

Melania and I were privileged to get to know Reverend Graham and his extraordinary family over the last several years, and we are deeply grateful for their love and support.

Billy Graham was truly one of a kind. Christians and people of all faiths and backgrounds will miss him dearly. We are thinking of him today, finally at home in Heaven.

George H W Bush also issued a statement:

Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world,” Bush said. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.

It’s true. There was never a whiff of scandal around Billy Graham. God blessed him abundantly, and the Holy Spirit worked through him until the end.

CBS News discussed the long line of past presidents Graham met with:

from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, but always denied any role in setting policy saying, “I don’t advise them, I pray with them,” CBS News reported. Lyndon Johnson looked up to his close friend, the pastor. Richard Nixon asked for his counsel during Watergate. The elder Bush called Graham to the White House the night before he launched the first Gulf War. Younger President Bush has credited Graham with turning him away from drinking and towards embracing God.

These are the names of those 12 past presidents from at least the early 1950s through to the present day: Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M Nixon, Gerald R Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama. That’s a mighty long list.

And he met with President Trump.

That’s 13 presidents in all.

Obama was the first sitting president to visit Graham at his home in North Carolina. That was in 2010, three years after Graham’s wife Ruth went to her heavenly rest.

CBS reported that Graham also became friends with Martin Luther King Jr about a decade before the civil rights movement took root:

In 1952 he stopped segregating his crusades and began a friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“All the problems of America tonight and of the world stem from the fact that we as the human race have sinned against Almighty God,” he said in May 1997.

Such was the impact of Billy Graham’s life that flags flew at half mast in Washington DC from February 21 to March 2, the day of his funeral and burial:

Tributes from clergy

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, remembered his family’s respect for Graham’s ministry:

As anyone growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s can tell you, it was hard not to notice and be impressed by the Reverend Billy Graham,” Dolan said in a statement. “There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God. Whether it was one of his famous Crusades, radio programs, television specials, or meeting and counseling the presidents, Billy Graham seemed to be everywhere, always with the same message: Jesus is your Savior, and wants you to be happy with Him forever. As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement. May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest.

One of Graham’s grandsons, the Revd Tullian Tchividjian, noted his grandfather’s universal appeal:

My granddad wasn’t just Christian-famous, he was famous-famous, he was crossover famous.

Unfortunately, Tchividjian succumbed to temptation in his own ministry. He resigned his pastorate at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale after admitting to an extramarital affair. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed him from their South Florida Presbytery as being ‘unfit for Christian ministry‘. A subsequent pastorate and outreach ministry also failed because of more sexual impropriety. In 2015, Tchividjian divorced his first wife Kim after 21 years of marriage. He married his second wife Stacie the following year. Hmm. What a contrast to his grandfather.

Honour of lying in state in Capitol Rotunda

Billy Graham was honoured greatly prior to his funeral:

This is a good photo of the exterior of the Capitol Building from Billy’s son’s — Franklin Graham’s — Samaritan’s Purse ministry:

A memorial service took place. Pictured is one of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Bird. I remember when she and her husband married in 1967:

President Trump spoke at the service:

What follows is the text of President Trump’s address. It’s very moving — probably written by the incomparable Stephen Miller — and really expresses not only who Billy Graham was but how much he appealed to his audiences. I remember watching his Crusades when I was a child. During the first one I watched at the age of seven, I approached the television set when he made his call for people to come forward!

11:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell. And, most importantly, thank you to the entire Graham family for honoring us with your presence here today. Thank you.

In the spring of 1934, Billy Graham’s father allowed a group of Charlotte businessmen to use a portion of the family’s dairy farm to gather for a day of prayer.

On that day, the men prayed for the city. They prayed that, “Out of Charlotte, the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.”

We are here today, more than 80 years later, because that prayer was truly answered.

Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life — it changed our lives. It changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields, into a great and beautiful history.

And I remember that, because my father said to me, “Come on, son” — and, by the way, he said, “Come on, mom. Let’s go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium.” And it was something very special.

But Americans came in droves to hear that great young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg, and scores of other places all over the world, Reverend Graham shared the power of God’s word with more than 200 million people, in person, and countless others through television and radio where people loved to watch and listen.

In 1978, with the support of the Catholic Bishop who would soon become Pope John Paul II, Reverend Graham went to Poland and spoke of the meaning of the cross to a people suffering under the soulless oppression of communism.

Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America.

He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those that were neglected.

Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message. God loves you.

We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham –- the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless.

Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life. And it’s very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined.

Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer. The painting to my left is of the pilgrims as they embarked for America, holding fast to the Bible and bowing their heads in prayer.

Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.

Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much.


11:28 A.M. EST

That evening, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a dinner for the Grahams. Franklin Graham is sitting to the left of Mrs Trump (her right):

The funeral

Billy Graham’s funeral took place in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday, March 2.

His grandson Roy provided the story behind the evangelist’s simple wooden casket. Recommended video:

This was the scene under a tent at the Billy Graham Library before the funeral:

The Trumps and the Pences walked together:

The Charlotte Observer reported:

His funeral service under a massive tent at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte drew more than 2,000 guests, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, governors, senators, religious leaders, celebrities and longtime Graham family friends. It was the kind of star-studded turnout that would have made Graham blush, suggested some of the speakers, who lauded this pastor to presidents and everyday people for always trying to steer the attention away from himself and toward Jesus Christ.

Family members escorted Graham’s plain wooden casket into the 28,000-square-foot tent, which was meant to harken back to Graham’s 1949 crusade in a “canvas cathedral” in downtown Los Angeles that shot him to national attention.

The service lasted the planned 90 minutes. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — BGEA — as well as his own Samaritan’s Purse, gave the address:

My father’s greatest longing has been granted,” the younger Graham said. “He’s in the presence of God” …

Franklin Graham recalled his father’s love of his late wife, Ruth, his sense of humor and joy in his grandchildren. “The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV, and in the big stadiums, is the same Billy Graham we saw at home,” he said. “There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”

But Graham said the late evangelist also believed in heaven and hell, and in the Bible as the infallible word of God: “He didn’t understand it all, but he sure believed it all.”

In an era of political correctness, he added, some “want you to believe there are many roads to God. It’s just not true.

“Daddy, I won’t see you on this earth again,” he ended, gazing at the casket before him, “but I will see you again, and maybe soon.”

The article concludes by stating that the Graham family and the BGEA consider the funeral to be the Last Crusade. They hope it will stimulate new interest in the Gospel.

The videos of the funeral service follow:

More on Billy Graham to follow.


When President Ronald Reagan was in office, he gave sage advice to conservatives who apply the purity test to Republicans.

This image comes courtesy of AZ Quotes:

Ronald Reagan said a lot of great things during his time, but this is my favourite.

It is particularly important during 2018, which has a lot of special elections as well as the mid-terms in November.

Notice that Democrats are always united. They never break ranks.

Republicans need to keep Reagan’s advice in mind.

Save the purity test for church.

Church and state averypoliticalwomancomIn response to ‘Christian objections to President Trump’, the author of Pacific Paratrooper wrote in to ask:

Isn’t there a division of church and state?

The short answer is that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and prohibits the establishment of a national church and state churches. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote of the ‘separation between church and State’ in 1802 in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. They were concerned about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

There is more to the story, detailed below.

However, Conservapedia tells us that there was a constitution that had a division of church and state (emphases mine below):

A phrase close to “separation of church and state”, but used for malevolent purposes and expanded to name education, does appear in Article 52 of the constitution of the Soviet Union (1977): “In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.”[6]

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Conservapedia makes the argument that the First Amendment has its origins in the Bible:

The protection for free speech was largely motivated to safeguard the preaching of the Bible. Several passages in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, support a right of free speech, including Numbers 11:26-30 (Moses allowed free speech by declaring, “If only all the people of the LORD were prophets!”);[1] Mark 9:38-41 (admonition by Jesus not to stop strangers who cast out evil in his name).

George Washington’s farewell address

In his farewell address of September 19, 1796, George Washington said:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politican, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure–reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Ronald Reagan’s address to the Alabama State Legislature

Nearly 200 years later, on March 15, 1982, Ronald Reagan addressed the Alabama State Legislature:

And I know here that you will agree with me that standing up for America also means standing up for the God, who has so blessed our land. I believe this country hungers for a spiritual revival. I believe it longs to see traditional values reflected in public policy again. To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

What Jefferson said

In 1801, a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut wrote Thomas Jefferson to ask about about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

On New Year’s Day 1802, Jefferson replied, in part:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Connecticut did not change this mandate until 1818. That year, their constitution finally stated:

Article VII. Section 1. It being the duty of all men to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and their right to render that worship in the mode most consistent with the dictates or their consciences, no person shall by law be compelled to join or support, nor be classed with, or associated to, any congregation, church, or religious association; but every person now belonging to such congregation, church, or religious association, shall remain a member thereof until he shall have separated himself therefrom, in the manner hereinafter provided. And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges; and shall have power and authority support and maintain the ministers or teachers of their respective denominations, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of any such society only, to be laid by a major vote of the legal voters assembled at any society meeting, warned and held according to law, or in any other manner.”

Jefferson worshipped in Capitol building

Atheists are fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson and have adopted him as their secular hero. However, three days after Jefferson wrote his ‘separation between church and state’ letter to the Danbury Baptists (italicised emphasis in the original here, purple emphases mine):

he attended church in the largest congregation in North America at the time. This church held its weekly worship services on government property, in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol Building. The wall of separation applies everywhere in the country even on government property , without government interference. This is how it is written in the Constitution, this is how Thomas Jefferson understood it from his letter and actions, and this is how the men who wrote the Constitution practiced it.

Worship in the Capitol ended only after the Civil War. Therefore, it lasted for five decades.

Conservapedia provides more examples of Jefferson’s support of Christianity in government:

David Barton, Founder and President of WallBuilders, states that Jefferson voted that the Capitol building would also serve as a church building, praised the use of a local courthouse as a meeting place for Christian services, urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, set aside government lands for the sole use of religious groups, assured a Christian religious school that it would receive “the patronage of the government”, proposed that the Great Seal of the United States depict a story from the Bible and include the word “God” in its motto, and agreed to provide money for a church building and support of clergy. And that like support of religion by the federal government militates against the extreme separatist position.[26]

The Bible and American government

Conservapedia tells us that God is mentioned in all 50 state constitutions.

Until the 1960s, the Bible had a pre-eminent place:

in government, jurisprudence [11] and in over 300 years of American education[12][13].

Every new president has made a religious reference in his inaugural address. Dwight D Eisenhower wrote his own prayer. Dr Jerry Newcombe compiled a list of all of these references for the Christian Post just before Donald Trump’s inauguration. (He, too, mentioned God — more than once.) Here are a few:

1. George Washington said, “It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe….”

3. Thomas Jefferson prayed to “that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe.”

6. John Quincy Adams quoted Scripture: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in Vain.”

7. Andrew Jackson referred to “the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy.”

16. Abraham Lincoln stated, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”

24. William McKinley declared, ” Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers.”

25. Theodore Roosevelt thanked “the Giver of Good who has blessed us.”

32. Harry S. Truman referenced “that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.”

Dr Newcombe rightly concludes:

The atheists are the Johnny-come-latelies. Demands to ban God and the Bible from the Inauguration should be denied.


It is not surprising that many Americans and other people around the world now think that Christians in the United States are being unreasonable when they lament that the Ten Commandments have been removed from county courthouses along with Christmas crèches on government property.

I grew up with these displays. No one ever had a problem with them, other than the occasional crank.

However, all that changed in the 1960s. In addition to Madalyn Murray O’Hair‘s successful case against school prayer which effectively banned it — along with Bible readings — in state schools, the Supreme Court under Earl Warren dramatically changed the way all of us view the First Amendment (emphases in the original here):

Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the “wall”, to separate the government from interfering with religious practice. Notice that the First Amendment puts Restrictions only on the Government, not the People! The Warren Court re-interpreted the First Amendment thus putting the restrictions on the People! Today the government can stop you from Praying in school, reading the Bible in school, showing the Ten Commandments in school, or have religious displays at Christmas. This is quite different from the wall Jefferson envisioned, protecting the people from government interference with Religious practice.

Therefore, one could make the case that over the past 50 years, America has been drifting in practice towards a Soviet-style restriction on Christian displays, the Bible and prayer outside the home on government property.

If you think I am exaggerating, stories have been appearing in local newspapers and conservative websites over the past 12 years about teachers who have taken Bibles away from children silently reading them during lunch hour. There was an instance in Texas in 2003 I remember where the teacher took a child’s New Testament away at lunch hour and threw it in the wastebasket. He was not allowed to retrieve it.

In June 2016, WND published an article about a school in Palmdale, California, where a seven-year-old got his classmates interested in the Bible verses and stories his mother gave him every morning. The mother intended for her son to have religious encouragement during the day. She was not attempting to proselytise. However, the child was so thrilled by these verses that he couldn’t help but share them with others at lunchtime. It wasn’t long before his friends asked him for copies of the verses and stories. One girl who received a story showed it to the teacher, commenting on its beauty:

Then, however, C [the boy] was reprimanded by his teacher in front of the whole class, twice, and told to stop talking about religion or sharing his mother’s notes, and he went home in tears, Liberty Counsel said.

Even as the crowd of students asking for the after-school Bible notes grew, on May 9, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Zavala [the mother] and demanded that the notes only be handed out somewhere beyond school property.

With the school not satisfied with only the banishment, Liberty Counsel said, “a Los Angeles deputy sheriff knocked at the door of C’s home, demanding that C’s note-sharing cease altogether because ‘someone might be offended.’” …

The letter to the district said Liberty Counsel, “having reviewed the above facts, district policies, and applicable law, it is clear that the actions of the district staff in this instance, in prohibiting voluntary student religious expression during non-instructional time; then completely banning such student expression from school property entirely, and finally calling the police to report the same are simply unconstitutional.”

“These actions must be disavowed and reversed, to avoid liability for civil rights violations,” the letter said.

It gave the district a deadline for responding of June 1, which was ignored.

I think this will change — somewhat — over the next four years. While the Ten Commandments might not make a comeback in courthouses, Christmas crèches are likely to reappear. And teachers might start to lay off students sharing the Bible at lunchtime.

Tomorrow: Religious persecution and state churches in American colonies

Over the past few days, illuminating articles have appeared about Nancy Reagan, who died on Sunday, March 6, 2016.

Before addressing these, however, Mitt Romney’s Facebook tribute to her would have been better received by his fellow Republicans had he not given a speech in Utah a few days before to banjax Donald Trump’s candidacy. And what about the secret meeting in South Carolina which followed at the weekend whilst Nancy Reagan was dying? The airwaves in Florida during that time were bombarded with various Republican PAC-financed negative advertising, the tone of which astonished even the irrepressible Trump himself. Many of Mitt’s Facebook commenters were angry that he violated Ronald Reagan’s first principle of conservatism: don’t criticise other conservatives, even if you disagree with them. I’ve read that Mitt has lost thousands of Facebook ‘friends’ with his hypocrisy.

Two of the articles cited below — one from Real Clear Politics and the other from the New York Times — were written by Lou Cannon, a journalist that Nancy held at arm’s length at first. He soon became a close confidant of hers. They knew each other for 50 years. Their longstanding friendship shows that Nancy was willing to change her mind and adapt to circumstances — wisely.

Whatever one thinks of Nancy Reagan, one cannot fault her as First Lady or as the devoted wife to one of America’s most popular presidents in living memory.

First Lady of California

Ronald Wilson Reagan began his first term as Governor in January 1967.

This involved moving his family from Pacific Palisades in southern California to the state capital of Sacramento. The Governor’s Mansion was in a dire state. In fact, it was a firetrap. Nancy and two of the Reagan children spent much of their time there initially.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Nancy was suspicious of the press, which was not surprising, as she knew how awful reporters could be, having been part of the Hollywood set.

Years before, in 1949, as Nancy Davis, she was at risk of losing her career, having been named as one of the actors who signed a brief to have the convictions of two screenwriters deemed to be Communist overturned. Fortunately, her friend, director Mervyn LeRoy, was able to establish that another actress of the same name signed the brief. As dark as those days must have been for her at the time, that was how she met Ronald Reagan, who was president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time. LeRoy arranged a meeting between the two because Nancy wanted to clear her name in person. It was love at first sight. They began dating in earnest in 1950 and got married on March 4, 1952, at the Little Brown Church in Studio City. Actor William Holden and his wife Ardis were the couple’s witnesses.

Years later in Sacramento, Nancy was astonished at the fulsome press coverage her husband’s adversaries received.

Lou Cannon remembers that she also loathed the hypocrisy of politicians:

She wondered how they could say terrible things about her husband on the floor of the legislature during the day and then socialize with them at night as if nothing had happened.

Personally, I wonder about that, too, when I read that the Bushes and the Clintons are really close. One can imagine that Jeb and Hillary vying in this year’s election would have been a desirable outcome for both families.

Cannon writes that Nancy decided to adapt to her new circumstances by not only memorising the names of every California legislator but also learning something about them. She turned a negative situation into a positive one.

By the time Ronald Reagan began his second term as governor, contributors had financed a more comfortable house for him and his family. The contributors owned the house and leased it to him.

At a reception there for freshman legislators in 1973, Nancy introduced herself to Democrat Lou Papan and his wife. Their son was seriously ill. Nancy told them that her (adoptive) father — Loyal Davis — was a doctor. She spent some time talking with them about their son. Whilst there was nothing she could do about the Papans’ son’s illness, by knowing something about them, she was able to comfort them during a difficult time. Cannon remembers:

They later lost their son but never forgot how empathetic Mrs. Reagan had been.

During those years, Nancy learned to cope with the press and socialise with the wives of men who had insulted her husband in the course of politics.

Negative press began early and went national. In 1968, author Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne wrote a hit piece for the Saturday Evening Post, now defunct but a popular magazine of its time. My grandparents subscribed to it. Cannon recalls:

The article described Mrs. Reagan’s famous smile as a study in frozen insecurity.

However, Cannon points out that Nancy received positive press, too. A few months after the Saturday Evening Post article, the Los Angeles Times published an article, ‘Nancy Reagan: A Model First Lady’. Other media coverage praised her welcoming home recently released prisoners of war from Vietnam and her Foster Grandparents Program for mentally disabled children.

Ronald Reagan’s first attempt at presidential nomination

Watergate exploded in 1974. Ronald Reagan did not seek re-election. Jerry ‘Governor Moonbeam’ Brown, son of Reagan’s predecessor, won the gubernatorial election that year and assumed office in January 1975.

It was during this time, back home in Pacific Palisades, that Nancy began to play a greater part in influencing her husband’s political career.

In May 1974, Reagan was already planning to run as a candidate in the 1976 presidential election. The Reagans held a meeting of supporters. Among them was John P Sears, a well-established Washington lawyer who had worked on Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1960. He told the Reagans that Nixon would stand down, which he did on August 9.

Nancy never forgot Sears’s prediction, so when it came time for her husband to begin putting his bid together for the 1976 election, she urged him to hire Sears to direct the campaign. Reagan lost the Republican nomination narrowly to Gerald Ford, who then lost the election to the Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

It makes me wonder whether we will see a rerun this year of close delegate totals. Reagan was very popular in 1976 and Ford was thought to be a bit of a wimp. However, Reagan was seen to be very conservative at the time, a view which changed four years later after the Carter debacle — the Iran hostage crisis.

By 1980, Sears was back on the scene. However, Nancy had second thoughts. Deeming him ‘disruptive’, according to Cannon, she recommended that he be fired and replaced by William J Casey, who later headed the CIA in the Reagan administration. Yet, during the campaign, Nancy didn’t think Casey was the right man, either. Cannon tells us (emphases mine):

Mrs. Reagan became critical of Mr. Casey and urged her husband to bring in Mr. Spencer, who had run Mr. Reagan’s first campaign for governor. Mr. Spencer was persona non grata in the Reagan camp because he had managed Mr. Ford’s campaign in 1976. But Mr. Reagan followed his wife’s advice. Mr. Spencer joined the campaign and ran it smoothly.

She might have been correct in that matter, but Cannon points out that Nancy’s advice was not always on target:

For instance, she opposed Mr. Spencer’s proposal that her husband debate President Carter. Mr. Reagan decided to debate and did so well that he surged ahead in the polls and won convincingly a week later.

Assassination attempt 1981

Ronald Reagan had barely begun his presidency — incidentally, Iran released the American hostages on Inauguration Day — when John Hinckley Jr attempted to assassinate him on March 30, 1981.

Dan Friedman’s article for The Atlantic explains how this potentially tragic event altered Nancy’s views on guns:

The former actress and wife of GOP standard-bearer Ronald Reagan sometimes kept a pistol in her nightstand when her husband was out of town. But after a personal brush with gun violence, she began to change her mind.

Minutes after John Hinckley Jr. fired a handgun six times at her husband, a Secret Service agent incorrectly told Nancy Reagan that all the shots had missed the president. When she found out that her husband was in critical condition—a bullet fragment had entered his left lung, barely missing his heart—she was shocked.

“He was so white. I have never seen anybody so white,” she later recalled. “And he had that thing over his face to help him breathe, and there was blood.”

She never forgot that horrible day. In a 1994 interview, she said:

There is nothing that can describe your husband being shot and the emotions that you go through. It’s something that never leaves you.

Although Reagan maintained that guns were not the problem, people were, Nancy continued to persuade him that gun control was the way forward. In 1991, by which time George H W Bush was in office, Reagan gave a speech emphasising the responsibility people had in bearing firearms. He came out in support of the 1993 Brady Bill under the Clinton administration. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says today that the former president’s advocacy greatly helped the bill to be voted into law.

I have been thinking a lot recently about this assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life. Mitt made his anti-Trump address last week at the Hinckley Institute in Utah. The name started me free associating, even though there might not be any sort of family relationship there.

When it happened — and even today — it appeared to be a random act. That said, John Hinckley Jr’s Wikipedia Talk page has recurring references to the Bush family. George H W Bush was Reagan’s VP. He was also one of Reagan’s opponents in the 1980 GOP primary race.

One prays that any connection between Hinckley Jr’s crimes and Hinckley family relationships with the Bushes are entirely coincidental. has an excerpt of a longer article by Tom Flocco, which states:

Curiously, only one time was it announced on the news about the connections between the Bush and Hinckley families: An almost bewildered John Chancellor on NBC Nightly News reported “the bizarre coincidence” that Vice President Bush’s son, Neil, and Scott Hinckley had dinner plans for March 31, 1981 — now cancelled, of course.

That was to talk about oil pricing issues, by the way. Scott Hinckley is John Jr’s brother.

Incidentally, in 2016, Neil Bush has been working on Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz’s finance team.

Let us pray such a thing never happens again. I remember the shock we all felt, as we also remembered the Kennedy assassination in November 1963.

First Lady of the United States

By the time Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, Nancy Reagan understood how the political world worked.

She crossed the aisle to make friends among the Democrats.

Those who were alive at the time will recall the political sparring between Speaker of the House Thomas P ‘Tip’ O’Neill and President Reagan. Yet, as they were friends after hours, so too was Nancy with Millie O’Neill.

Nancy took her duties as First Lady seriously. Whilst she had many critics and negative stories often appeared in the press, she carried herself with grace, poise and elegance. Never once did she look anything less than well dressed. Whilst she was demanding with her husband’s staff, she adhered to White House protocol and was a perfect hostess to fellow American and foreign dignitaries alike.

The most negative thing I remember about her in the White House was redecorating part of it and buying new china during a time of recession. Lou Cannon explains that these improvements were privately funded, which many of us (myself included) did not know:

After one look at the White House living quarters, Mrs. Reagan decided to redo them. She then raised $822,000 from private contributors to accomplish this. Another contributor put up more than $200,000 to buy a set of presidential china, enough for 220 place settings; it was the first new set in the White House since the Johnson administration.

In 1987, during her husband’s second term in office, Nancy had to have a mastectomy of her left breast. She gave interviews about the experience and urged women to have regular mammograms.

Devoted wife until the end

Nancy and Ronald Reagan had a very close, loyal relationship with each other.

In 1994, the former president was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He and Nancy composed a letter to make his condition public to the American people.

Nancy then organised ongoing lunches and get-togethers with friends so that they could all reminisce together. Cannon says Nancy described the next decade as a ‘long goodbye’.

She also became a staunch advocate for research into cures for Alzheimer’s.

She was at her husband’s side throughout his ten-year illness. She loved him deeply.

Lou Cannon describes June 11, 2004, the day of the former president’s funeral:

At Mr. Reagan’s funeral, at the National Cathedral in Washington, she remained in tight control of her emotions. Then she flew west with the coffin for a burial service at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., where Mrs. Reagan will also be buried. At the conclusion of the ceremony, at sunset, soldiers and sailors handed Mrs. Reagan a folded American flag. She held it close to her heart, put it down on the coffin, and at last began to cry.


Before her burial on March 10, people travelled far and wide to line the route to pay their final respects to the wife of America’s 40th president.

Nancy and Ronald Reagan served their country proudly and responsibly.

They also served — and loved — each other in marriage, through adversity, sickness and health.

May we, in our own circumstances, do likewise.

The Air France flight I took back to the US for my father’s funeral — when I was on the cusp of my 19th birthday — showed Network, which had recently premiered at the cinema.

My father, also on the cusp of his late-50s birthday, would have loved Peter Finch’s Oscar-winning character.

Dad deeply admired Ronald Reagan, as far back as the early 1970s. He really wanted to vote for him, even though he had voted ‘D’ along with his family every election of his life. My dad typified the Reagan Democrat: well-read, modest and of the mind that the US was going to the dogs.

I’m so glad he did not live to see Carter’s dismal final years. But I do regret that he was unable to vote for his Californian, B-actor hero.

I didn’t get it at the time. I was too young. But now that I’m Dad’s age, I surely do understand it today.

Like many Americans whose mood Reagan tapped into, my dad was mad as hell. Not in a violent or destructive way, just frustrated. Not a day went by when we didn’t read or hear about street gangs, shootings, muggings, rapes, gas prices, food shortages, pollution, inflation and everyday disappointment — all made to sound as if they were normal occurrences.

Suddenly, every city was getting as bad as New York, which we used to laugh about in the 1960s, thanks to Johnny Carson (who didn’t move to ‘beautiful downtown Burbank’ until 1972). On that subject, New York revived, in important ways, thanks to a certain 2016 GOP presidential candidate. Detroit, on the other hand, seriously tanked (no pun intended with the auto industry).

I would love to have known what my father would have made of Peter Finch’s ‘I’m mad as hell’ plea to Americans on the nightly news. Here it is on YouTube. Even if you don’t turn the sound on — I’ve got his monologue below — do watch this scene, a little over four minutes long, to see how people watching the broadcast respond. You’ll see Faye Dunaway, too:

This is what Finch’s character says in his broadcast (caps in the original). Yes, he breaks the third Commandment, but, if you can, look for the broader points which have been dogging us since the 1970s. Consider all of the following highlighted:

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

In 2016, these same issues continue along with a few new ones. You know what they are. Even people half a world away know what they are.

Donald Trump is the Ronald Reagan of 2016, the galvaniser of polite, hard-working, disaffected — though not disenfranchised — Americans: Republican, Democrat or independent.

On some level(s), Trump, too, is fed up and has been for years (see old YouTube videos of testimony he gave before the Senate in 1990) and this considered 14-minute (nearly) WNET New York interview from the same time period:

He might not be ‘mad as hell’ but he is motivated enough and wealthy enough to be able to turn around a decades-old situation, in the words of Finch’s character,

as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be,

and at least go halfway towards making America great again.

No one — not even he — knows if he actually could make the Republic great again. Even eight years of Reagan couldn’t do it — in the 1980s. But, by golly, it’s worth a try.

And to those who say Trump needs policies when, frankly, no one else has framed any outside of wimpy soundbites, here’s an honest and accurate response:

If Congress thinks America has time to wait out a clearly dangerous, dishonest president, America has time to wait for Trump to sharpen “candidate” details on issues which he, like millions of grown-ups, have been informed and outraged about for years.

Like Reagan, Trump represents a Spring clean for the United States. This is why he has huge — ‘yuge’, in his and Bernie Sanders’s lingo — support.

I’ll have to watch Network again this year. It was right for America’s time then and must still ring true today.

One post to come next week on Donald Trump.

The poster below featured at ThinkScotland caught my eye:

The Giants

Ronald Reagan:

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.

Margaret Thatcher:

Socialists cry ‘Power to the people’, and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean — power over people, power to the State. 

The Pygmies

Barack Obama in 2012:

If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

David Cameron, responding to the question, ‘Why do you want to be Prime Minister?’:

Because I think I’d be rather good at it.

How far we have fallen in only three decades.

Not so long ago we had statesmen. Now we have administrators.

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