Review

Nancy: A Portrait of My Years With Nancy Reagan

by Michael K. Deaver



This is Michael Deaver's third published memoir drawing on his
thirty-plus years as confidant, strategist and shoulder-to-cry-on
for Ronald and Nancy Reagan. There is some recycling of material
from his first two books, but the difference here is Deaver's focus
on Nancy rather than on the President himself and his
administration.

Deaver's avowed purpose this time is to counteract what he sees as
the unfair negative image of Nancy Reagan projected by those
villains of the conservative worldview: "liberals," the "elite
media" and the "eastern establishment." His assessment, bolstered
by up-close-and-personal anecdotes, is that Nancy is a devoted and
loving wife, a smart lady who knows her own mind and has a "big
heart," but who has consistently put her husband's interests ahead
of her own.

Deaver makes no secret of his deep admiration for both Reagans. He
could, in fact, hardly do otherwise, since he served them both in
public positions of official trust for so long (he was assistant to
the President and deputy chief of staff throughout Ronald Reagan's
first term).

Yet there is a curious ambivalence to his brief, one perhaps
unintended by the author yet obvious to the attentive reader.
Deaver often describes Nancy Reagan in terms that emphasize her
toughness and implacable opposition to anyone she felt was not
serving her husband well. Several times he states his own belief
that Reagan would never have made it to the Presidency without
Nancy's help. She has a "direct, no-nonsense way"; she had a
"penchant for action." The overall impression is that, for all her
fine personal qualities, she is someone you would regret having
arrayed against you in any matter, whether personal or
political.

Deaver gives his personal take on many of the crises that arose
during Ronald Reagan's first term. Understandably these are
presented in a way to put his boss --- and the First Lady --- in
the best possible light. The Bitburg cemetary speech, the
Iran-Contra affair, the assassination attempt, the serious
illnesses of both the President and Nancy, the internal conflicts
over political strategy --- all are presented from an insider's
admittedly partisan perspective. To Deaver, Ronald Reagan was the
single person most responsible for the fall of Communism. Nancy
Reagan's consultations with an astrologer were "an innocent enough
quirk" and "a comfort to Nancy during a very hard time." Those who
may disagree with such assessments will just have to realize their
author's perspective. To his credit, he makes no secret of
it.

Michael Deaver has spent his post-White House years in advertising
and public relations. It is thus a surprise to find that he is not
much of a writer. His previous book BEHIND THE SCENES was done with
a writer-collaborator, but this one bears Deaver's name alone on
the title page. There are some neat turns of phrase in it, but
there is also a veritable anthology of clich├ęs. Things are
shrugged off "like water off a duck's back," people try to "get the
ball rolling" before they end up "in the doghouse." Ronald Reagan
could be "stubborn as a mule." Past events are "water under the
bridge" --- and so on. This is a curious failing for a professional
wordsmith.

Deaver refers only in passing to his own personal difficulties
(discussed in more detail in BEHIND THE SCENES). He is
compassionate in describing Nancy Reagan's current role as
caretaker to a man she loves deeply who is lost in the cruel
confusion of advanced Alzheimer's. He has done his best in this
book to polish her public image for the long haul. This final
chapter in her life with Ronald Reagan might well turn out to be
her finest hour.

Reviewed by Robert Finn on January 22, 2011

Nancy: A Portrait of My Years With Nancy Reagan
by Michael K. Deaver

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0060087390
  • ISBN-13: 9780060087395