Nancy Reagan, Former First Lady, dies at 94

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave while attending a gala celebrating his 83rd birthday in Washington in this  February 3, 1994 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/Files

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy wave while attending a gala celebrating his 83rd birthday in Washington in this February 3, 1994 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Theiler/Files

Nancy Reagan, the former actress who was fiercely protective of husband Ronald Reagan through a Hollywood career, eight years in the White House, an assassination attempt and her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease, died on Sunday at age 94.

The cause of death was congestive heart failure, said a spokeswoman for the Reagan presidential library. She died at her Los Angeles home.

“She is once again with the man she loved,” her stepson Michael Reagan wrote on Twitter.

Reagan became one of the most influential first ladies in U.S. history during her Republican husband’s presidency from 1981 to 1989.

Her husband, who affectionately called her “Mommy” while she called him “Ronnie,” died in 2004 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, the progressive brain disorder that destroys memory.

As news of Nancy Reagan’s death spread, tributes poured in from Washington to Hollywood.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and first lady Michelle Obama said Nancy Reagan redefined the role of first lady.

“Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House,” the Obamas wrote in a joint statement on Sunday. “She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.”

Former first lady Barbara Bush said she and her husband, former President George H. W. Bush, who was vice president under Reagan, took comfort in knowing Nancy Reagan would be reunited with her husband, the late president.

The Hollywood glitterati weighed in on social media, many of them grieving the passing of an icon they remembered having grown up in the Reagan era.

“I sat near #Nancy Reagan once and felt like a teenager seeing one of my idols. She was a BOSS,” wrote actress Elizabeth Banks of “The Hunger Games” fame.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who like Ronald Reagan rode his Hollywood fame to the governor’s office in California, said on Twitter that Nancy Reagan was “one of my heroes.”


Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination, from businessman Donald Trump to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, also conveyed their sympathies. The ghost of Ronald Reagan, who remains deeply popular among Republican voters, has hovered over the campaign as in previous years, with party candidates vying to claim the mantle of Reagan’s legacy.

A Republican debate in September took place at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California, with an Air Force One jet providing a memorable backdrop.

Nancy Reagan will be buried next to her husband at that library. The public would have a chance to pay their respects prior to the funeral service, with details to come shortly.

Nancy Davis was a Hollywood actress during the 1940s and 1950s and married Reagan, a prominent film actor, in 1952. She then served as first lady of California during her husband’s stint as California governor from 1967 to 1975 before moving into the White House after his decisive victory over incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Her most publicized project as first lady was the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. After her husband developed Alzheimer’s disease, she became an advocate for discovering a cure.

She was diminutive and publicly soft-spoken, but Nancy Reagan’s strong will, high-tone tastes and clout with her husband made her a controversial figure during his presidency.
As Reagan’s wife, political partner and adviser, she became one of America’s most potent first ladies, alongside the likes of Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Edith, and Bill Clinton’s wife, Hillary.

“I see the first lady as another means to keep a president from becoming isolated,” she said in 1985. “I talk to people. They tell me things. And if something is about to become a problem, I’m not above calling a staff person and asking about it. I’m a woman who loves her husband and I make no apologies for looking out for his personal and political welfare.”

Tiny and frail in her later years, Reagan devoted her time to caring for her ailing husband at their home in Los Angeles’ exclusive Bel Air enclave. She was always a stickler for protocol and detail and stoically presided over the former president’s weeklong funeral and celebration of his life in June 2004.


One of her most trying times as first lady came when John Hinckley stepped out of a crowd outside a Washington hotel on March 30, 1981, and fired six shots toward the president, striking him in the chest. A .22-caliber bullet punctured his lung and nearly entered his heart.

“Honey, I forgot to duck,” he told her at the hospital.

Some critics lambasted Nancy Reagan as a meddlesome “dragon lady,” derided her anti-drug campaign and ridiculed her for consulting an astrologer to schedule presidential events.

President Reagan called this view of his wife “despicable fiction,” saying in 1987: “The idea that she is involved in governmental decisions and so forth and all of this, and being a kind of dragon lady – there is nothing to that.”

The reputation was established during her husband’s time as California governor and followed her to Washington. She was first accused of being a vacuous spendthrift interested chiefly in renovating and buying new china for the White House, lavish entertaining, her designer wardrobe and the like, then portrayed as a cunning manipulator of policy and people.

Advocates of the latter view saw her influence as virtually unlimited in such matters as the dumping of presidential advisers, efforts to get a nuclear arms accord with the Soviet Union and her husband’s decision to seek a second term in 1984.

Some Reagan-watchers said reports of Mrs. Reagan’s influence were exaggerated and that it was merely the protective concern of a loving wife.

She frequently clashed with President Reagan’s chief of staff, Donald Regan, who lambasted her in a 1988 “tell-all” book after he was ousted from the White House during the chaos of the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987. Regan disclosed that she had used astrology to decide the timing of presidential speeches and trips, and even her husband’s 1985 cancer surgery.

“Virtually every move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance by a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise,” Regan wrote.

James Baker, who served as White House chief of staff during Reagan’s first term, took a different view, telling PBS in 2011: “If there was one person who was indispensable to Ronald Reagan’s political success, it was Nancy Reagan.”

In a statement in Sunday, Baker said Nancy Reagan was “her husband’s closest adviser, his constant protector, and most importantly the love of his life.”

Nancy Reagan acknowledged she had the ear of her husband.

“In most good marriages that I know of, the woman is her husband’s closest friend and adviser,” she wrote in her 1989 memoir, “My Turn.” “… But however the first lady fits in, she has a unique and important role to play in looking after her husband. And it’s only natural that she’ll let him know what she thinks. I always did that for Ronnie and I always will.”

Ronald Reagan was known for penning innumerable letters to his wife. In one, he stated: “I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.”


The former president’s Alzheimer’s struggle made Mrs. Reagan a campaigner for broader human embryonic stem cell research, a stand that put her at odds with many Republicans.

“Ronnie’s long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this, I’m determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain,” she said before his death in 2004.

Some critics dismissed her “Just Say No” efforts as simplistic but she became America’s most visible anti-drug crusader at a time when the crack cocaine epidemic was raging.

In 1988, she addressed the U.N. General Assembly, saying the United States must do more with tougher law enforcement and anti-drug education efforts and should stop blaming the poor nations that produce most of the narcotics used by Americans.

“We will not get anywhere if we place a heavier burden of action on foreign governments than on America’s own mayors, judges and legislators. You see, the cocaine cartel does not begin in Medellin, Colombia. It begins in the streets of New York, Miami, Los Angeles and every American city where crack is bought and sold,” she told the General Assembly.

After leaving the White House, she created the Nancy Reagan Foundation to continue her anti-drug campaign. The organization helped develop the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program in 1994 aimed at drug prevention and life skills for youth.

Mrs. Reagan had her left breast surgically removed in October 1987 after a cancerous tumor was discovered.

She was born Anne Frances Robbins into a crumbling marriage in New York on July 6, 1921. Her car-salesman father deserted the family soon after, and her mother, actress Edith Luckett Robbins, resumed her show business career two years later.

In 1929, her mother married Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon. Nancy came to adore him, even taking his name, and the doctor was believed to have had considerable influence on his eventual son-in-law’s shift from Democrat to Republican years later.

After graduation from elite Smith College, she worked as a nurse’s aide, then began a stage career in New York. Starting in 1949, she had an eight-year career in films including one – “Hellcats of the Navy” (1957) – co-starring with Ronald Reagan.

She often took supporting roles but had starring roles like one in the 1953 B-movie “Donovan’s Brain” about a scientist who kept the brain of a dead millionaire alive in a tank.

Ronald Reagan divorced another actress, Jane Wyman, in 1948. They had a daughter, Maureen, and adopted a son, Michael.

At the time, Ronald Reagan headed the Screen Actors Guild. Davis was stunned when an industry newspaper published a list of communist sympathizers and her name was included (it turned out to be a reference to another actress of the same name). She sought out her future husband for assistance.

During the early years of the Cold War, Hollywood blacklisted – refused to employ – numerous people accused of holding communist views, ruining many careers and lives.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan got married in 1952 and had two children together – Patti Davis, an actress, and Ron Jr., who pursued careers in ballet and television.

She is also survived by her brother, Richard, according to the Reagan presidential library.

(Reporting and writing by Will Dunham in Washington; Additional reporting by Joseph Ax, Karen Brooks, Megan Cassella; Editing by Bill Trott, Diane Craft, Jeffrey Benkoe and Howard Goller)

Who showed up at Scalia’s funeral — and who didn’t

Remembering Justice Scalia

February 20 Washington Post
The farewell to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took place in the resplendent Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the United States. Hundreds of friends and admirers, many from the top echelons of Washington’s legal and political worlds, gathered for a send-off that was supposed to be, as Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl joked, in his opening remarks, “a simple parish family Mass.” A knowing laugh rippled through the pews.

Funerals in Washington are rarely simple when it comes to such larger-than-life figures as Scalia. For many in the crowd, it was a day to mourn a man they knew and loved. For others, showing up was an affirmation of conservative bona fides and membership in this city’s power elite.

Wuerl name-checked a few VIPs in attendance: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; Vice President Biden; former vice president Richard B. Cheney; former House speaker Newt Gingrich (whose wife, Callista, sang in the choir); and Catholic University President John Garvey.

Others created a frisson when they arrived, included Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; Sen. Ted Cruz (a former Supreme Court clerk who stepped away from the campaign trail to attend the service); and Ted Olson, the renowned Washington lawyer who argued the 2000 Bush v. Gore case before the Supreme Court and, in 2013, the test of California’s same-sex marriage ban. There was also a section of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — including three rumored to be in the running for Scalia’s seat: Merrick Garland, Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett.

But it was an absence that created a firestorm. Conservatives loudly criticized President Obama for snubbing the longest-sitting justice when the White House announced he would not attend. Rejecting the notion that the decision was political, press secretary Josh Earnest defended sending Biden as “somebody that had his own personal relationship with Justice Scalia and his family.” What’s more, he said, Biden’s security footprint would be less disruptive. “We believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement,” he said.

The president and first lady paid their respects Friday, when Scalia’s body lay in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.

It’s rare for a justice to die in office, so there’s little precedent for presidential attendance. In 2005, President George W. Bush spoke at the funeral of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. President Dwight Eisenhower came to the service for Chief Justice Fred Vinson in 1953 but did not attend the funeral of Associate Justice Robert Jackson a year later. All the other justices of the past six decades died after leaving the bench, and presidents attended some of their funerals but skipped others.

Politics aside, the presence of a president is still considered a big deal, the ultimate posthumous tribute in this most status-conscious of cities. There is always the discreet rubbernecking as mourners look to see who’s seated in front.

Scalia’s son, the Rev. Paul Scalia, officiated, offering a heartfelt homily to the man he and his eight siblings called “Dad.” Bible verses were delivered by Leonard Leo, vice president of the conservative Federalist Society and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia’s extended family sat in a large section at the front, with his former court colleagues and miscellaneous politicians at the section to their left.

Because the service was a traditional Mass, there was less of the posturing that has characterized other notable farewells. The 2001 service for Katharine Graham was a bipartisan gathering filled with her A-list friends: Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Warren Buffett, Yo-Yo Ma and a busload of senators. More than 4,000 people attended that ceremony at the National Cathedral, guided to their appointed seats by ushers.

Diplomat Richard Holbrooke may never have gotten the secretary of state title he coveted, but two U.S. presidents — Obama and Clinton — attended his 2011 invitation-only memorial at the Kennedy Center. VIPs had reserved seats; B-listers were relegated to general-admission tickets.

Presidents Bush and Obama attended the 2008 private funeral for “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert, with 1,500 others showing up for a memorial that included Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, John F. Kerry, Alan Greenspan and Mario Cuomo. The event, complete with a surprise performance by Bruce Springsteen, was televised live on MSNBC. The Russert memorial was famously mocked by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, who used the gathering to open “This Town,” his withering 2013 look at D.C.’s political and media culture. “You had the Democrats, the Republicans, the Clintons, the newscasters, Barbara Walters. I mean everyone was there,” he told NPR. “And I remember sitting there, and I was struck by how this memorial service for a beloved newsman could so quickly degenerate into a networking opportunity. People were throwing business cards around, people were trying to get booked on various shows. The funeral as cocktail party.”

Scalia’s Mass, in contrast, was a dignified affair, with soaring organ music, incense and more than 100 priests following his casket out the door. Tweeting was banned, glad-handing kept to a respectful minimum, and reporters were prohibited from approaching anyone.

Very non-Washington, as these things go. Scalia would have loved it.

Scalia on Abortion

Since Framers didn’t allow abortion, the issue is settled

Edwin Meese, Reagan’s attorney general, provided a framework for conservative critique when he called for a “jurisprudence of original intention.” The words of the Constitution, he said, meant only what the authors of the document thought they meant; the meaning of the words did not evolve over time. This was an unprecedented view. Most justices thought that the words of the Constitution were to be interpreted in light of a variety of factors, beyond just the intentions of the framers.

The debate over original intent amounted to a proxy for the legal struggle over legalized abortion. No one argued that the authors of the Constitution intended for their words to prohibit states from regulating a woman’s reproductive choices; to Scalia, that ended the debate over whether the Supreme Court should protect a woman’s right to choose. If the framers did not believe that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion, then the Supreme Court should never recognize any such right either.

Justice Scalia believed if a ‘right’ was not specifically called out in the Constitution, the Supreme Court had no business deciding an issue. The Supreme Court does not make law and any SCOTUS decision should not be used as a basis for future legislation. Rather, Scalia believed legislatures should show  some backbone in the controversial issue of abortion and legislate . 

Scalia on Government Reform

Corporate political spending is free speech.

Justice Scalia wrote the concurrence on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Jan 21, 2010:

Prior to the 2008 primary elections, Citizens United, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating the American public about their rights and the government, produced a politically conservative 90-minute documentary entitled Hillary: The Movie. This documentary covers Hillary Clinton’s record while in the Senate & the White House. However, The Movie falls within the definition of “electioneering communications” under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“BCRA”)–a federal enactment designed to prevent “big money” from unfairly influencing federal elections–which, among other things, prohibits corporate financing of electioneering communications. The FEC [enforced the provision] of BCRA prohibiting corporations from broadcasting electioneering communications within 60 days of a general election. [The Supreme Court rules that this] violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Justice Kennedy , Opinion of the Court (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas concurring):

Some members of the public might consider “Hillary: The Movie” to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation’s course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.

Justice Stevens (dissent joined by Ginsburg , Breyer, and Sotomayor)

Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned.” All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment [allows that] is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Although I concur in the Court’s decision to sustain BCRA’s disclosure provisions, I emphatically dissent from its principal holding.

Scalia on Civil Rights

Flag-burning is anathema, but protected as free speech

Justice Scalia [made a] statement to law students in Illinois. “I never slept better than the night I voted in the flag-burning case,” he told the students in the Land of Lincoln. Justice Scalia was telling the students he knew deep down that he had voted honestly. He had faithfully interpreted the Constitution as he conscientiously saw it, as opposed to reading his personal or political views of what was right and just into the Constitution. Flag-burning was anathema to Justice Scalia the person. But his oath was to the law, including the higher law of the Constitution. In Justice Scalia’s view, the First Amendment’s free-speech provision protects unpopular expressions of opinion. Communications of popular views obviously require little if any protection from the law. It was the unpopular voice, the radical expression of viewpoint, that needed protection against the will of society.

Scalia on Environment

EPA’s Clean Air Act can regulate pollutants but not CO2

Justice Scalia wrote the dissent on MASSACHUSETTS v. EPA on Apr 2, 2007:

Numerous entities, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, asked the EPA to judge that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a pollutant causing global warming and, acting under the Clean Air Act (CAA), to make rules restricting its release by newly manufactured automobiles. The EPA declined to do so.

HELD: Delivered by Stevens; joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg & Breyer

The plaintiffs have standing for a federal case. Massachusetts, in particular could make a showing of injury (rising coastal water levels), causation (an incremental lowering of CO2 would be helpful), and remedy (the EPA could effect an incremental lowering). The EPA believed that Congress did not intend the EPA to regulate substances that cause climate change. The EPA, however, should find CO2 (among other gases) falls within the definition of a pollutant because it is a “substance” that is “emitted into the ambient air.”

DISSENT #1: Roberts dissents; joined by Scalia, Thomas & Alito

The plaintiffs do not have standing because they can show no concrete injury, the evidence of causation by greenhouse gases of rising coastal water in Massachusetts was minimal (and undercut by its own expert’s affidavit), and there was no showing that a rule issued by the EPA could provide measurable relief to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ claim cannot truly be resolved by decision of a federal court.

DISSENT #2: Scalia dissents; joined by Roberts, Thomas, & Alito

It was a reasonable interpretation by the EPA of the CAA that Congress intended the EPA to regulate air pollution in the “ambient air,” that is, air at or near the surface of the earth, not the upper reaches of the atmosphere where greenhouse gases are said to have their detrimental effects. Further, nothing in the CAA, not even a petition for regulations, requires the EPA to make a “judgment” that a pollutant should be regulated, and the Court is not free to order the EPA to do so.

Scalia on Immigration

AZ feels besieged by immigrants & feds unwilling to fix it

The common perception that the federal government neither effectively polices the border nor aggressively enforces immigration laws evokes a strong popular backlash, reflected in laws enacted by several states seeking to control illegal immigration. Justice Antonin Scalia eloquently voiced that sentiment in his dissenting opinion to the US Supreme Court that struck down several portions of SB 1070. “Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration,” Scalia wrote. “Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so.”


Scalia and the 2nd Amendment

Second-Amendment--270x156Right to gun ownership is individual, not collective.

Justice Scalia wrote the Court’s decision on District of Columbia v. Heller on Jun 26, 2008:

Overturning DC’s handgun ban, the court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to own a gun for private use–not only in connection with service in a militia. The 5-to-4 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, left unanswered questions, but also much room for continued gun regulation, short of an absolute ban.

HELD: Delivered by Scalia; joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable the citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms.

Antonin Scalia, Justice on the Supreme Court, Dies at 79


Justice Antonin Scalia, whose transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court, was found dead on Saturday at a resort in West Texas. He was 79.

“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement confirming Justice Scalia’s death. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

The cause of death was not immediately released. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service, which sent personnel to the scene, said there was nothing to indicate the death was the result of anything other than natural causes.

He was, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in The New Republic in 2011, “the most influential justice of the last quarter century.” Justice Scalia was a champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. In Justice Scalia’s hands, originalism generally led to outcomes that pleased political conservatives, but not always. His approach was helpful to criminal defendants in cases involving sentencing and the cross-examination of witnesses.

Justice Scalia also disdained the use of legislative history — statements from members of Congress about the meaning and purposes of laws — in the judicial interpretation of statutes. He railed against vague laws that did not give potential defendants fair warning of what conduct was criminal. He preferred bright-line rules to legal balancing tests, and he was sharply critical of Supreme Court opinions that did not provide lower courts and litigants with clear guidance.

All of these views took shape in dissents. Over time, they came to influence and in many cases dominate the debate at the Supreme Court, in lower courts, among lawyers and in the legal academy.

By the time he wrote his most important majority opinion, finding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, even the dissenters were engaged in trying to determine the original meaning of the Constitution, the approach he had championed.

That 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, also illustrated a second point: Justice Scalia in his later years was willing to bend a little to attract votes from his colleagues. In Heller, the price of commanding a majority appeared to be including a passage limiting the practical impact of the decision.

With the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in 2010, Justice Scalia became the longest serving member of the current court. By then, Justice Scalia was routinely writing for the majority in the major cases, including ones on the First Amendment, class actions and arbitration.

He was an exceptional stylist who labored over his opinions and took pleasure in finding precisely the right word or phrase. In dissent, he took no prisoners. The author of a majority opinion could be confident that a Scalia dissent would not overlook any shortcomings.

Justice Scalia wrote for a broader audience than most of his colleagues. His opinions were read by lawyers and civilians for pleasure and instruction.

The tenure of the conservative justice spans almost three decades, and includes a legacy of sharply written opinions.

At oral argument, Justice Scalia took professorial delight in sparring with the advocates before him. He seemed to play to the crowd in the courtroom, which rewarded his jokes with generous laughter.

Justice Scalia’s sometimes withering questioning helped transform what had been a sleepy bench when he arrived into one that Chief Justice Roberts has said has become too active, with the justices interrupting the lawyers and each other.

Some of Justice Scalia’s recent comments from the bench were raw and provocative. In an affirmative action case in December, he said that some minority students may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” he said, describing — some said distorting — an argument in a supporting brief about the harm that can be caused to students with inferior academic credentials by admitting them to colleges where they do not thrive.

Justice Scalia was a man of varied tastes, with a fondness for poker, opera and hunting. His friends called him Nino, and they said he enjoyed nothing more than a good joke at his own expense.