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Mrs. Reagan: 'It's Not Been a Great Year'

December 18, 1987|SUSANNE M. SCHAFER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Nancy Reagan said Thursday she agrees with Gary Hart that a politician has a right to a private life and that the intense scrutiny of candidates will "make it awfully hard for good people to go into politics."

In a wide-ranging and sometimes tearful interview in the First Family's private quarters, Mrs. Reagan looked back at the troubles of 1987 and said, "It's not been a great year. It's been the lowest I think you can get."

Mrs. Reagan also expressed sorrow over the felony conviction of long-time friend Michael K. Deaver, and said she and the President had been advised by counsel to suspend their personal relationship with Deaver as long as appeals were pending.

The First Lady, who had a cancerous left breast removed in October and suffered the loss of her mother, Edith Lucket Davis, nine days later.

'First You Cry' Recalled

"I wish I'd had a little more time to recuperate before mother," Mrs. Reagan said, her voice cracking and wiping a tear from her cheek.

The First Lady said she had thought of the title of the book by Betty Rollin, "First You Cry," who wrote of her own experience with breast cancer.

"I never had a chance to do that," Mrs. Reagan added.

'You Play the Hand ... '

Mrs. Reagan quickly regained her composure and spoke freely of the problems that have beset her and the President during the past year, ranging from the estrangement of their daughter Patti Davis to the Iran-Contra affair.

Asked how she has dealt with it all, she said, "Well, you just do . . . You play the hand that's dealt you."

The First Lady described her husband as "very happy" about the results of the summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and said she'd told the Soviet leader that she would like to see Leningrad and the Hermitage art museum.

"I didn't get a ' Nyet '. I don't think I got a ' Da ,' either," Mrs. Reagan said with a laugh.

Mrs. Reagan was asked about Hart's surprise re-entry into the Democratic presidential campaign this week, months after he withdrew amid intense questioning of his relationship with a Miami model, and his contention that the public does not have a right to know everything about a politician's private life.

"There are things that I consider in my life to be private, that have nothing to do with the office, or Ronnie being President, that I think are private," she responded.

Does she agree with Hart? "In a way, yes," Mrs. Reagan said.

She said there are "certain things the public has a right to know."

But she said the focus on candidates' private lives has "gotten so intrusive now. I think people are going to think two or three times (about public service), and that is too bad because we need good people," she said. "I just think it's going to make it awfully hard for good people to go into politics."

Wife 'Also Running'

The First Lady, who stood side by side with Reagan throughout his more than 35 years in public life, said the candidate's wife is "running also."

The attention "takes its toll," she said. "It seems to have gotten so much worse than when we started."

Although Mrs. Reagan and her family have received more publicity in recent years, she said she had never been asked the personal questions that have been directed at Hart and his wife.

"Nobody has every asked me about anything like that--thank God for that," she said, breaking into a hearty laugh.

The First Lady said she felt "terribly sorry" for Deaver, who had been the couple's aide and confidant, and that she had written him to express her feelings.

"I can just say that I feel sorry for him and his family and the kids," Mrs. Reagan said.

Pressed for an Explanation

Asked if they would have their traditional holiday get-together with the Deavers this year, Mrs. Reagan responded, "I don't think legally that you can do that. I don't think you can have contact as long as a case is pending."

Pressed for an explanation, she said it was due to the "unique position that we hold" and that the President had been so advised by counsel.

On an array of other subjects:

--Mrs. Reagan said she "just doesn't know" how to accomplish a rapprochement with her daughter Patti, who refused to attend her grandmother's funeral in October.

"Not coming to mother's services was really hard to take," Mrs. Reagan said of her daughter. "I don't think mother deserved that. Mother was very nice to Patti and I think I was more disappointed for mother than anything else. She really didn't deserve it."

--Mrs. Reagan said she was sorry that Raisa Gorbachev and her husband "didn't get a chance to see all the country" during their three-day stay for last week's summit.

'So Foolish, So Silly'

She again dismissed reports of their frosty relationship as "so foolish, so silly."

Asked if it was important that the two first ladies get along, she said, "I think it's important for everybody to get to know each other. . . . The most important thing about the summit was the two men and what they did at the summit."

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