Reagan funeral

Book: Nancy nixed Clinton speech at Gipper’s funeral after gun control ad

DC Examiner


Former President Bill Clinton begged and badgered top Reagan aides to speak at the Gipper’s 2004 funeral service, but former first lady Nancy Reagan rejected the pleadings in part because of Clinton’s use of footage from the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan to peddle gun control, according to a new biography.

In “Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” author Craig Shirley also reveals that the Reagans and Clintons never warmed to each other and that Clinton made a “crude pass” at a young woman on Reagan’s staff when he sought Reagan’s advice before taking office.

Last-Act-book-cover-199x300“Last Act” is due out next week. A copy was provided in advance to Secrets. It is Shirley’s third biography on Reagan, this time focused on his post-presidency and fight with Alzheimer’s disease.

Through research and interviews with Reagan aides, he portrayed the Bill and Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore as annoying pests during the Reagan funeral period.

Gore, for example, fought to get a seat closer to the front of the church, instead of with senators. Wrote Shirley: “Gore did not seem to grasp that he was only a former senator and only a former vice president and thus was a creature of the legislative branch and not the executive branch. He was such a nuisance voices were raised and threats were made until Gore reluctantly promised to behave himself.”

Before the event at Washington’s National Cathedral, Shirley details efforts by Clinton to get a speaking role. However, both of the Reagans had agreed long in advance on a plan that only the former president’s friends and the current president — then George W. Bush — would speak.

As Clinton continued to press to speak, the decision was placed before Nancy Reagan who just said no. Shirley wrote that she had several good reasons to be miffed with Clinton.

Among the reasons, they weren’t friendly. When President-elect Clinton visited Reagan in California, Clinton appeared to ignore Reagan’s advice except when Reagan suggested that he salute the marines standing guard at Marine One.

Plus, he wrote, Clinton arrived late and “when he did show up, he made an unmistakable and crude pass at a young woman on Reagan’s staff.”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was described was disliking the Reagans. “It was well known that Hillary Clinton hated the Reagans. She once said if you compare ‘Reagan’s eight years with Bill’s eight years, it’s like night and day,'” Shirley wrote.

And importantly, Clinton’s campaign had labeled the Reagan era a “Decade of Greed,” and in his promotion of gun control in his 1996 reelection, Clinton had used footage of the assassination attempt in TV ads. Mrs. Reagan had asked that Clinton stop airing the ads, but he refused.

Still, as TV observers of the solemn event will recall, it didn’t stop Bill Clinton from acting as the master of ceremonies at the church.

“Before the ceremonies had begun, Clinton had positioned himself in the driveway outside of the cathedral, acting as some kind of national game show host, greeting every motorcade that arrived — and there were 32 of them,” Shirley wrote.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at [email protected].