Miller Center

Interview with Kathleen Osborne

Introduction

Kathleen Osborne looks back on her years as the personal assistant of Ronald Reagan during his gubernatorial years and his eight years as President. Osborne played no policy or advisory role to Reagan, so the interview takes a more conversational tone as she recounts her memories of Reagan. She begins with the California years, discussing the key events of his governorship, major policy issues, staff, and Reagan's relationship with the California legislature. During her White House years, she came into frequent contact with top members of the administration, including James Baker, George Bush, Michael Deaver, and with the First Lady. She also discusses some of the trips she traveled with the President on (China, Moscow), and her observations on the major events of the presidency (Grenada, Lebanon, Challenger disaster, Iran-Contra). Osborne reveals a personal side of Reagan experienced by few others, and the image presented is one of a friendly and compassionate man with an infectious sense of humor and an undying love of country.

Copyright 2005 The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Publicly released transcripts of the Ronald Reagan Oral History Project are freely available for non-commercial use according to the Fair Use provisions of the United States Copyright Code and International Copyright Law. Advance written permission is required for reproduction, redistribution, and extensive quotation or excerpting. Permission requests should be made to the Miller Center, P.O. Box 400406, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4406

Transcript

Osborne

[showing miscellaneous photos] I also brought you some examples. Again, I can’t let you keep them, of course, but this is a telephone log. When I would come in in the morning, this would be on my desk from the previous day’s calls. It showed who called the President, whether the call to the President went through, if we placed a call, exactly what the number was, who he talked to, how long the call lasted. So there was an exact log of who he had contact with.

Young

This was incorporated in the daily diary that came out of all this, wasn’t it?

Osborne

Yes.

Young

President places a call, President received a call, so this and that went into Alex’s [Nagy]—

Osborne

That’s correct. There were actually two of those. You know there are two switchboards at the White House, the regular admin board and then the signal switchboard, which is run by the military in case of sabotage. That travels with us.

Knott

You brought some photos.

Osborne

Well, just a few. This is what I was talking about. This used to be Mike Deaver’s office, and we made it into the dining room. This was fun. That was my birthday, so he invited me to lunch. And this is outside what used to be Mike Deaver’s office. This is the patio, and this is why the President and Vice President liked to try to eat here. They could get fresh air, but the shrubbery gave them some privacy, whereas if he went out on the colonnade, everybody looking through the White House gates with their binoculars could see them.

Knott

So the material in the picture—that’s completed—

Osborne

Well, actually this is probably a bill that he has just signed because there’s a pen, and he usually gave the signing pen to the author of the bill. You can see the gold from the presidential seal behind it, but otherwise, we had started making those for all of his paperwork, for different types of activities, for phone calls—

Young

So this was the side for the incoming, or is it the other way around?

Osborne

I would put it here, but it would be up on his desk. When he was finished, it was right in this corner. So I could look through the little peephole in the Oval Office—if he was in a meeting or something—to see if he had completed something that I needed to retrieve. I could just walk in and pick it up and know it had been done.

These are just part of his staff. It seems like we had a lot of birthdays there, doesn’t it?

Knott

Is that [Max] Friedersdorf?

Osborne

No, that’s the Vice President’s Chief of Staff.

Young

Was it Craig Fuller?

Osborne

No, not Craig Fuller. He was a military man, Admiral Dan Murphy.

Young

Oh, the first one.

Osborne

Yes, the first one. Then Jim Baker, of course, and Ed Meese and the Vice President.

Knott

That’s Dorothy [Dellinger]?

Osborne

Yes, Dottie, we call her Dottie. Mike Deaver.

Young

For the record, we’re looking at photographs.

Osborne

That’s one of his birthdays. Somebody gave him a golf club that was like a fishing rod. He could reel the ball back in. He wouldn’t have to go and retrieve the ball. We had a lot of fun with that. This was the elephant that you couldn’t see in the other photo. This is just to show you what an affectionate man he was, especially with children. This is my daughter. She grew up with him. She was, I think, six when we arrived. This was an Easter egg roll day when he gave her a bunny.

Knott

That’s a great shot.

Osborne

That’s actually her grandmother.

Young

That was your mother?

Osborne

That was my mother. That’s my son and my daughter. This was a day she had off from school, so she came and worked with me. In fact, we surprised him. He usually walks down the colonnade with Jim or with David, and I’m usually sitting there. And he knocks on the window as he goes by to let me know he’s there, which is kind of funny, since I already know he’s coming because I’ve already heard on the locator box that he’s moving. But I hid behind the panel over here and had my daughter sitting in the desk as if she were me. So he comes back out of the Oval Office and talks to us. But he got a kick out of that. He was so much fun to play jokes with like that. He was so easygoing and so good-natured. He was great about that.

Knott

He would knock every time?

Osborne

Well, if I was on the phone or something, just to make sure I knew.

Young

Where was this taken?

Osborne

This is at a ranch in—I’m looking to see if it’s Fess Parker’s ranch in Santa Barbara. Every summer when he was out there for a good part of August, he would hold a barbeque for the press who were also out there. So they would come in from the ranch, and Fess Parker used to let us use his property, and then there was a gentleman, Mr. [Barney] Klinger, who also had a beautiful home and piece of property, and he would host the press party. When I was out there for that period of time, I would have her (Shelley) flown out commercially, and then she’d stay with me, and I’d work in the staff office, and she’d be down in front of us below the staff office windows, in the swimming pool.

This is what I was trying to explain about birthdays on Air Force One. We were coming back from Costa Rica, and he surprised me with a—

Knott

This is yours.

Osborne

This is my birthday, yes. This is Mike Deaver playing serious hearts. Obviously we were coming home from a trip when all of our work was pretty much behind us.

Knott

Boy, you’re really trying to hide your cards from him.

Osborne

It was tough playing hearts with him because he was very good. And even though I reported directly to the President, Mike was my boss, in a sense. So I didn’t want to give in and let him win. I had to play strong, but it was really a tough line there. I didn’t know quite what to do.

This is a special guest we had in the Oval Office. The President was at the residence for a luncheon, and Anne Higgins, who was our Director of Correspondence, would call me every once in a while when she had a heart-rending story or situation. And she called and said one of her staff people had a relative there who had brought her granddaughter to the White House, and the granddaughter brought jellybeans for the President. The granddaughter was a very special little lady, and Anne asked if there was any chance that she could see the offices. I said, Sure, he’s not due back for another half hour. So her grandmother brought her over. She had a very rare disease where her body was no longer growing, but her organs were. She’s the size of a two-year-old, but she was nine years old here, and her life expectancy was not very good, just a few more years.

We had Ambassador [Selwa] Roosevelt in the Roosevelt Room with some ambassadors from other countries waiting to present their credentials to the President. Normally he likes to be on time. He was adamant about being prompt and not keeping people waiting. He surprised us and came back early. I thought, Well, we’ll just go with the flow. She was so excited she just was jabbering, fifty words a minute. She was so excited to see him because she had no idea that she’d ever have that opportunity. She was telling him about the card, how she spelled his name three times, and how she couldn’t decide what kind of jellybeans to get him, and on and on.

He got the biggest kick out of her. He got down on his knees and sat there and talked to her for about ten or fifteen minutes.

Knott

Really.

Osborne

I know Dave Fischer poked his head in the door saying, We have ambassadors. And the President said, That’s okay, we’ve got a special guest here. We’ll all be out in a minute. But that’s part of his personality. He was just so considerate, so kind to everybody. He enjoyed doing things like that. This is actually, here in the hotel, this is the presidential suite. Of course, we would work when we were out here (Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles).

Before we left the administration, he had his thumb operated on, and this is Dr. John Hutton, whom you’ll probably want to talk to. This is just typical of a staff room. If we’re off somewhere where he’s giving a speech, there’s a staff room where he’s checking his notes, and then we’ve got tables and all of our signal phones to get back to the White House.

Young

Were you with him when he was shot?

Osborne

No, I was not. This is at his ranch giving his Saturday morning radio talk. And this is just taking him back to the residence at the end of the day, walking down the colonnade, and that’s the Secret Service. That’s Tim, of course, McCarthy. This is on Air Force One. I don’t know where we were coming back from. I guess I could try to figure out from the date. This is Jane Erkenbeck, Mrs. Reagan’s personal secretary. I hand-wrote her name on the bottom of that list. She’s somebody that you would probably want to talk to, because it’s a whole different outlook of viewing them. She’s more involved with the residence side of Mrs. Reagan’s activities, of course. She and Mrs. Reagan are still very, very close, and Jane’s a very dear friend of mine. That’s Ken Duberstein.

Knott

That’s what I thought.

Osborne

Obviously we’re coming back from someplace casual because of the way he’s dressed. Normally we wouldn’t be dressed that way on Air Force One. Maybe we can get into this later when we talk about his correspondence. This is at Camp David, and this is a binder of correspondence. It’s the way we kept him—or tried to keep him—informed of what the American people were concerned about. He was anxious to know what was coming in, but I’m sure you know that this President has received more correspondence than any other President, as far as I know—literally thousands and thousands and thousands every week. So there’s no way he could really get a look at all of it. So what Anne Higgins and I worked out was to give him a binder about once a month of about thirty letters, and she’d have an index and talk about the issues that people were concerned about. Then she’d put a sample letter in there. They weren’t all nice and complimentary—some of them were really giving him a bad time, and he would respond to all of them.

But it gave him a really good view of people’s concerns, and it was the best way we could find for him to get back to them directly.

Young

This was the correspondence unit?

Osborne

Yes, Anne Higgins was in charge of that. She’s still back in Virginia. This—I was telling you how they have fun in the morning, sometimes. I mean, if they had something pressing going on, if something really terrible—

Knott

What—

Osborne

I think he just won a bet. The Vice President is grinning the widest, so I think he must have been the winner, and he’s getting paid. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. He came out in a hat just for fun. I was just trying to give you the tone of what our staff was like and what our office was like. Yes, we had a lot of serious work to do, and there were a lot of unfortunate, horrible incidents that happened during his Presidency.

Young

But it was happy.

Osborne

It was a very happy atmosphere. It was a happy atmosphere to work in.

Young

This is one of the things that has struck me, at least, in talking with so many of the Reagan people, is that it was actually fun.

Osborne

It was fun.

Young

There was a sense in which it was fun, much more so then we get from other staffs.

Osborne

That’s what I understand. We hear that when we have gone back after the administration was over and talked to the people who have been around for years, whether it’s the staff in the residence, or even the presidential operators. You know, when I used to call in, they’d say, We miss all of you so much. We all had so much fun with you.

Knott

So it started at the very top.

Osborne

I think it started at the very top, and it just trickled down. We were all privileged and delighted to be there, and excited to have that opportunity to work for somebody who is such a genuinely nice man. We admired him so much. It was wonderful.

Young

That tells you something, not only about the people he selected but about the President himself.

Osborne

Well, you know, he did bring a handful of us from the Governor’s office, which I think is wise for any President to do, to have people around him who are working closely with him, people he’s familiar with, that he’s comfortable being around. I think that makes a big difference.

Knott

Could we ask you to step back into the days when you were in Sacramento and working for the Governor, and if you could tell us how you first—You worked for both Governor Reagan and Nancy Reagan, I think you told us yesterday.

Osborne

Yes, first for the Governor and then—

Knott

How did this come about?

Osborne

Actually, I was in downtown Sacramento for a job interview. My son was 18 months old, and I was looking for a part-time job because he had been ill for the past year, although at that time he was getting better. I had gone downtown for a job interview, and it was late afternoon on a Friday. As I was driving home, I was driving by the State Department of Employment. And I thought, Gee, I’m already down here. Why don’t I just stop in here and fill out an application and see if there’s something here.

Of course, they were shutting down for the week, and I had an interview in this little cubicle with a woman, and told her what I was looking for, some sort of a secretarial position. And she said, Well, we really don’t have any part-time jobs at the state. And I said, Well, that’s okay. I thought I’d stop in because I was just down the street. And as I got up to leave, a woman poked her head over the other side of the cubicle from her little office area saying, Excuse me, I overheard you talking, and I just had a phone call from the Governor’s office. It’s not part-time, but they’re looking for somebody to be a secretary to one of the Governor’s assistants. Would you consider going over for an interview?

I thought, Well, that might be fun. I’ve never been in the capitol. It was three or four o’clock in the afternoon, and I knew I didn’t have to be home for a while. So I said, Okay. She said, Can you type? I said, Oh, yes. She said, How fast? I said, A hundred words a minute. I had no idea how fast I could type. I just sort of threw that out there. Actually, after all these years, I found out I can do that. So I went over to have an interview with Chuck Tyson, who was an assistant to Mike Deaver, who was basically the deputy Chief of Staff, although we didn’t call them Chief of Staff at that time. They were executive secretary or Cabinet secretary, and then assistant to the Cabinet secretary, which, of course, was Ed Meese and Mike Deaver.

So I interviewed with Chuck Tyson and then talked to Mike Deaver and Ed Meese after that. And they said, Well, we’d like to have you start Monday. And I thought, Well, okay. I haven’t even talked to my husband about this, but I guess this is okay. I came in Monday morning, and my boss was not there. They forgot to tell me he was getting married over the weekend, so he was on a three- or four-week honeymoon in Europe. And in his office, his outer office, there were two desks. One was occupied by Helene von Damm, who had been with Governor Reagan during the campaign. She was taking on some overflow paperwork from the President’s personal secretary’s office. Because my boss was gone, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to do for him, so I started working with Helene taking care of the President’s personal correspondence—

Young

Governor’s—

Osborne

Excuse me. That’s right, he was Governor then—

Young

President-to-be.

Osborne

Yes, President-to-be. So I was helping her. She would type some drafts, and I would type the letters. Then after a couple of weeks—He had a certain way of phrasing things and responding to a lot of the correspondence, and it’s easy to pick up on his style. So she became busy on a couple of projects, and just one day said, Can you just do some drafts yourself and take on some of this load for me? I said, Okay.

I started doing that, and it was pretty easy to do because it was so similar to what she had done and what he had done. And after a while she just started giving me some of this work. I’m not sure of the time frame—it seemed like I was maybe there three or four months in that position. My boss had returned, and I was also doing work for him. Mike Deaver came in the office one morning and said, We’re making some changes in the Governor’s personal office. Helene, I want you to go over and work in the Governor’s personal office, and you need to have a second person in there working with you. We need a number one and a number two secretary over there for the Governor. She said, Well, Kathy’s been working with me all this time, and she’s picked up on what I’ve done for the Governor, so I think this would be a natural. So we moved over. It was just a fluke of being in the right place at the right time.

So I was there for about two years, and during the time I was there, Mrs. Reagan’s activities were often tied in with the Governor’s activities. She had a very small office in one of the rooms at the Governor’s residence, and she did have a secretary there. But when her secretary took vacation or was sick, Mike Deaver had asked if I would go out and support Mrs. Reagan in her secretary’s absence, which I did. So I got to know Mrs. Reagan pretty well that way. Then, when her secretary was moving out of town with her husband, Mrs. Reagan called and asked if I would come out and work for her. I was torn, because I loved what I was doing for the Governor, but, in essence, it was a promotion for me, to be her secretary, which I did. So then I was with her for less than two years and left that position to have my daughter.

Then, once my daughter was a small child, I opened up a dress shop. And during the presidential campaign, I took time off from my dress shop and worked in the campaign. He was elected President, and I thought, Well, that’s great. Because when he was Governor, we always said, This man should be President. We all felt that—

Young

It was in the air.

Osborne

Well, not because there was any hint that he might be thinking of running or that he might want it, but just that this man is presidential material. He’s all American, apple pie, loves the military, loves his country, and wants to do things right. We saw that from the beginning.

Young

When the changes were made that Mike Deaver spoke to you about, was that after about a year, or was it early in the governorship?

Knott

You started in ’68, did I hear you say that?

Osborne

I think it was ’68. I should check my records. I do have a record of when I started there. The Governor started out with Cathy Davis as his personal secretary. Cathy had an assistant, a young woman. I believe after about a year Cathy moved out of town with her husband, but for some reason, instead of bringing in a second person there, they had this young woman take over Cathy’s job. And she had no assistance at all. I think that’s where the problem was, they needed more help there. It was just too busy.

Young

There were at some point some changes in the Governor’s staff arrangements.

Osborne

Oh, I know what you mean.

Young

The Director of Finance left. [Caspar] Cap Weinberger was brought in, was he not?

Osborne

Right, he was brought in. Vern Orr was brought in.

Young

Vern Orr was brought in. Was this part of those changes?

Osborne

No.

Young

It was separate.

Osborne

It was just the Governor’s personal office where there were changes. Some changes had happened before I arrived with Mr. [Phillip] Battaglia, who was the Chief of Staff.

Young

Yes, yes.

Osborne

I didn’t know him at all. When I arrived, Ed Meese was in charge, and Mike Deaver was his assistant.

Young

Battaglia, and I think maybe some of the people who worked with him, had left.

Osborne

Maybe they moved on. Right. You might see that from some of those lists, or you may not see his name on there at all. I don’t know whether I copied it from the beginning of the governorship, or from when I started.

Young

This is April ’73—

Osborne

They’re not in order. I don’t even remember why I did that. I guess I was not going to save the books, but I thought, This might be important, so I’ll just save these.

Knott

Could you give us some sense of the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Ed Meese?

Young

And what each of these people really did.

Knott

Yes. As best you can.

Osborne

Well, Ed oversaw everything. As you know, he’s an extremely capable man. We used to tease him, constantly, because he’s a micromanager. We would give him some paperwork, and we’d have to keep track of what we gave him, because sometimes we would never see it again. So we’d have to go hunting for it.

Young

That’s what some of his associates called the bottomless briefcase.

Osborne

Exactly, and it’s because Ed just wanted everything to be right. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think maybe he was not able to delegate as easily as Ronald Reagan was, and say, Okay, you take care of this.

Young

Was he, in effect, operating as a kind of Chief of Staff?

Osborne

Oh yes, absolutely, he was absolutely the Chief of Staff. Then Mike Deaver assisted him, of course, pretty much in overseeing the daily routine, the schedule, the events the Governor was involved in. I’m trying to picture our layout of the Governor’s office. Actually, it’s very similar to the West Wing of the White House, with a main reception area, and then there’s like a horseshoe all the way around with offices. We had two legislative aides—or liaisons, I guess I should say—Vern Sturgeon and George Steffes. I don’t know where Vern is, but George is still in Sacramento, and he could tell you the legislative end. He was so sharp, and he was so involved. He could really fill you in.

Young

Had he been there from the beginning?

Osborne

I believe so. As far as I know, he was there through the entire term. But he’s remained in Sacramento. He knew all the legislators well, so on that end of the governorship, I think he could be very valuable to you if you talked to him.

Young

Was Mike Deaver doing essentially what he did in the White House?

Osborne

He was.

Young

How was it different?

Osborne

Actually, I think it was very similar in many respects. He had a unique relationship with the Reagans. He was like family to them, from the days of the governorship. He would not just get involved in the Governor’s events as such, but, you know, mostly what Governor Reagan would be comfortable doing. He also would look out for the staff. He oversaw the staff in most respects, and Ed Meese didn’t need to get involved with that. He had a pretty full plate.

The schedule itself, of course, Ed Meese and Mike Deaver oversaw. Mike worked very closely with Pat Gayman, who was our scheduling director, as far as what events we were going to get involved in.

Young

The public events in which the Governor was involved, was that more or less under Mike Deaver’s—

Osborne

No, actually it was under— I think there was some sort of a—not a committee, but a group—that would oversee the requests, and Mike and Ed, and the director of scheduling were part of it. I’m sure in some respects the legislative people got involved, or the legal people, Herb Ellingwood—

Young

But I’m talking about—you know, the work he did in the White House—he was a very important person in setting up how the President would be presented, and managing that.

Osborne

I know what you mean.

Young

I don’t mean he was scripting Reagan, but I mean he worked to present—

Osborne

I did not see that as much in the Governor’s office. I did see it in the White House, which is fine. I think it’s important. I don’t want to jump into the Presidency area if you want to stay with the Governor’s office. But I did not see it that much.

Young

But he was close to the scheduling.

Osborne

Yes, very much so.

Young

And also, since he was a member of the family, he was also working with Mrs. Reagan.

Osborne

Yes, he stayed in close touch with Mrs. Reagan, that’s right.

Knott

What was Mrs. Reagan’s—in these early days, are there any strong memories that you have of her role or her influence on the Governor?

Osborne

Yes, as I said, at that time, there was just one secretary, or just me, so we were advance and scheduling and personal secretary and everything. She was very involved with the foster grandparent program, which she just loved. She loved being involved, and that was very important to her. She also spent time visiting veterans’ hospitals. That was extremely important to her. As I said, sometimes she would be involved in some of the Governor’s events. She seemed to have a pretty busy schedule. We were on the phone constantly. She wrote a column. I don’t recall the name of it right now. I must have some paperwork in one of those boxes at home. People would ask her questions, and she would answer them in the paper. She enjoyed that. She felt she was staying in touch with the people that way.

I think that some people might get the wrong impression of Mrs. Reagan when they first meet her, depending on the circumstances. I know that when I was working in the Governor’s office and she would call in and ask what the schedule was like for the Governor, and did he bring his cough syrup, or can we get him some soup for lunch, or something like that. I would think, Why is she calling so much? We’re busy here.

Then I would go out there—maybe within a couple of days, because her secretary would be sick or something, I’d be filling in for her—and I would get to the residence before the Governor would leave. I would be inside the front door—I wouldn’t go up to my office because it was upstairs—all the bedrooms and the office were upstairs. So I would wait until I knew he was gone. He’d be coming down the stairs with a box of Kleenex in his hand, and his nose looked like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and you could tell he had a fever. And Mrs. Reagan is saying, Ronnie, please don’t go in the office. You’re sick, and it’s going to take you longer to get better. Please stay home and take care of yourself.

And he’s saying, Nancy, I’ve got 400 kids coming up here in a bus from Bakersfield. I can’t disappoint them. Then it just sort of clicked, when he went to work. And I thought, You know, he’s so lucky that he has somebody who’s so devoted to him, who’s worried about him. The state will get along just fine without him for a day if he has to stay home and take care of his cold. That was my first clue that she is a very strong woman, she’s very devoted, and she’s looking out for her husband. And he was an extremely happy man because of that.

As I said, I think maybe some people get the wrong impression because she might say or do something and people might not realize she’s doing it to take care of her husband.

Young

We don’t need any convincing on that point, because even academics, or serious students of the Presidency, recognize that—

Osborne

It’s unique. It’s a unique relationship, and I don’t think I’ve seen in any couple like that before.

Young

In fact, one of the key questions that scholars ask among themselves now, some of them, is, Who is President X’s Nancy? Who is taking care? The recognition that she’s one of the few among all the Cabinet and everybody who has only the President’s interest in mind.

Osborne

Yes, she had a very personal agenda. And you’re right, into the Presidency, because of changes and stuff, people did have their own agendas because they didn’t know where they were going to go when their Chief of Staff or boss was going to be moving on.

Young

So it clicked with you.

Osborne

Oh yes. I hadn’t known her yet. But my first impression was, all these phone calls this day, thinking, My gosh, what’s going on here? And then a couple of days later. I’m at the house and I’m thinking, You shouldn’t be going to work, you should be home in bed taking care of yourself. But he was not going to disappoint these kids. So he went to the office.

Knott

So he serves his two terms in the governorship, and then he runs for President in 1976 against President [Gerald] Ford. But you were not—

Osborne

I was not involved in that. I had left, as I said, to have my daughter, and when my daughter was just under a year old, I opened up a dress shop. Then, once he did run for President, the ’80 campaign—

Young

You weren’t traveling with him, though, when he was Governor.

Osborne

No, no.

Young

The way you came to do when he was President.

Osborne

No, it just wasn’t necessary.

Young

Were you in a position to observe how Ronald Reagan would deal with the legislature, for example, or with the members? I think that was an interesting education for anybody in California at that time.

Osborne

Well, I know, and I do recall at the time it just seemed like—I wrote down some names here, the names that seemed to be around our office constantly, which were Bob Moretti and [George] Moscone, and then Bob Monagan, who was a nice guy. Not that the other ones weren’t nice guys, but it just seems, I think, they were a couple of thorns, so to speak—

Young

To put it mildly.

Osborne

That’s why I put George Steffes’ name, I know he can fill you in on that a lot better.

But Governor Reagan hadn’t changed through all of the years I knew him in the sense that he knew these people had a right to their political party and to their opinions. And even though he didn’t agree with them, they could still be okay guys. But for some reason, we didn’t see it in some of them, in the Governor’s office. Later on, in the Presidency, it was more true to form, especially with [Thomas] Tip O’Neill, people like that. A couple of Irishmen having a cup of coffee at the end of the day together, it was a whole different ballgame than at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when they were butting heads. But I didn’t get that involved in the legislature.

Knott

Was there an aspect of the Governor’s job that he seemed to particularly enjoy and other aspects that he didn’t enjoy at all, anything that stands out?

Osborne

Let me think. He hated the People’s Park time. Remember People’s Park in Berkeley?

Knott

Yes, in Berkeley.

Osborne

That really, really weighed on him.

Young

Was that Mario Savio?

Osborne

No it was—

Knott

It was a little later, right?

Osborne

This was in ’69, when the students—The land had been sitting there for some time. It was supposed to be another building for the campus, and students decided to plant—And then they sent in the police to put a fence around it, and the Governor had to call in the National Guard, which he hated to do. It really bothered him because they were students, and he just didn’t want to cause any harm to young people. I’m trying to remember all the issues, but it was so long ago.

I do recall, the USS Pueblo was seized, I believe, when he was Governor. That really bothered him. This is the type of human being he is, thinking, Well, if they’re over there, why can’t we just go and get them and bring them back? That was how we all felt. When you’re President, you see that there’s this whole different playing field. It’s not just this ship out here that somebody took, and they weren’t supposed to. There are a lot of other things that you have to put into the whole picture before you can make those kinds of decisions.

Things like that would bother him. He had tremendous capacity, though, to compartmentalize things. I saw that, more so in the Presidency than in the Governor’s days because we had so many terrorist activities and things going on, especially the first administration. We had to tell him that President [Anwar] Sadat was assassinated, and then he had to go into a Cabinet meeting. And I knew—I saw the look on his face when he was told—how this weighed on him. Yet a half hour later he had to be in the Cabinet room in a meeting and had to conduct business. And I’m thinking, I don’t know how he does it. Somehow he managed, but I think people might see that and think things don’t affect him, because they didn’t see him before.

Young

But that was something he learned to do, more as President—

Osborne

I suppose so. I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t notice it when he was Governor. But as President, in essence, he didn’t have any choice.

Young

Right.

Osborne

So much was going on, and so much of it bothered him. You couldn’t just cancel the day. You had to move on. The world moves on, and he had to participate. I’m sure it was difficult. I shouldn’t talk about this now because I’m talking Presidency and you want to talk about the governorship. I’m sorry.

Knott

As long as we don’t forget it.

Young

We are looking for ways of thinking, ways of working, and how they developed, if they did, over time. How he started out, and how he had to adapt or—as the case may be—when the nature of the job changes in very important respects. One is fighting for control over even your own agenda, which becomes difficult because of all the other things that you have no control over that come up to you. I guess there was some of that in the governorship.

Osborne

Oh, I’m sure there was.

Young

And the legislature in California is pretty powerful, too.

Osborne

It is. That’s right.

Young

So the governorship is not quite the Presidency in that respect.

Osborne

I have to tell you something—you can cut this out. When I was in Sacramento some years ago—and I’ve been around, obviously, Presidents and many heads of state—and I know pretty much the proper protocol, what to do when a state or country leader walks in a room and all that. I was in Frank Fat’s restaurant for lunch with a friend some years ago, just having a quiet lunch, when all of a sudden I heard a lot of ruckus, and everybody was standing up and clapping. I thought, Oh my gosh. It must be the Governor. I looked over, and it was Willie Brown. And I thought, But he’s not the Governor, he’s the Speaker. But you knew who was in charge. It was just interesting. I thought, Wow. Things have changed since I was in Sacramento.

Young

The other Governor.

Osborne

It was just interesting, I was in shock.

Knott

Did you know William Clark at this time? Is this when you first would meet him?

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

Could you talk a bit—

Osborne

Actually, I knew Bill Clark a lot more in the White House, because at the time I was there, I think, he was just departing and was becoming a judge. So I knew him because he would be in to see the President, or there would be correspondence or phone calls. He was close to the Reagans.

Knott

Do you have any more questions about the Governor’s years, or should we—

Young

Sure, I have an endless supply. Is Stu Spencer around at all?

Osborne

I didn’t see Stu around that much.

Young

Very involved in the campaign?

Osborne

Right, more so in the campaign.

Young

Anything about Weinberger—that is, how the President found him, I mean, he wasn’t one of the—

Osborne

I don’t know where he came from initially.

Young

He was at Bechtel, wasn’t he?

Osborne

Yes, that’s right

Young

At that time.

Osborne

That’s right.

Young

And he’d had a lot of experience in Washington.

Osborne

What I vaguely remember about Cap Weinberger back then—of course, we knew him more in the Presidency—was when he told the Governor that we had a surplus, and the Governor said, Well, what are we going to do with it? And Cap said, Well, we need to let the legislature know or something. And the President said, But it belongs to the people if it’s left over. Why don’t we give it back to them?

I’m sure Ed Meese has told you this, too. So I think they did that. They let the people know that we had the surplus before the legislature knew, so then, if the legislature said, We need it for this, and this, and this, they’d have to answer to their constituents why they weren’t going to get their money back. But he had a terrific reputation. Everybody thought Cap Weinberger was great.

Young

There was a tax increase. Were you there at that time in California?

Osborne

I don’t recall that.

Young

There’s a famous quotation of Ronald Reagan’s, that’s made everything. He had committed himself to no tax increase, and there had to be one, so he decided on one. And what was it Reagan said?

Knott

First I thought he said his feet were firmly planted in concrete—

Young

—on this issue—

Knott

—no tax.

Young

And then after it was done, Reagan said, What you hear is the concrete crumbling around my feet. Such a different response from George Bush’s.

Osborne

I was just going to say, that was part of George Bush’s undoing, unfortunately. When I was working for him, when he was Governor, just as when he was President, so much is going on around you that you need to focus on what your responsibilities are and just try to do that. You start going off in different directions and stuff. It wasn’t my bailiwick to get involved in a lot of these things, so I thought, Okay, I’m just going to concentrate on keeping the schedule running and doing what I need to do for the Governor. And the same thing in the Presidency, because I’m not knowledgeable enough to take it all in and have opinions—

Young

You’re only one person.

Osborne

—and have opinions on all of it.

Young

Did Governor Reagan do a lot of public speaking? Was that a major part of his time, speaking to groups?

Osborne

I wouldn’t call it a lot. I didn’t think it was much.

Young

More than the Presidency or less?

Osborne

Oh a lot less, and I don’t think he traveled that much. He had a comfortable relationship with President [Richard] Nixon. They were in touch.

Young

I was going to ask you about that. Comfortable, not close? Probably not.

Osborne

I wouldn’t call it close, but they were in touch with each other on a regular basis. And that followed through, actually, until the very end, even when the Governor became President. I had some correspondence from President Nixon that I kept locked in my drawer, some of the things that never made it to the files for a while. He was just giving the President advice on picking his Cabinet, on what you should keep in mind when you do this—trying to tell him some of the mistakes he made, that, This is what you might want to consider doing.Then, actually, after President Nixon passed away, I contacted Mrs. Reagan and told her that I had these still locked in my desk, next door in Fox Plaza in the President’s office. They were marked Personal and Confidential, but after President Nixon died, she might want to use them in the library. I thought it was very poignant that they had that kind of a relationship.

Knott

Governor Reagan, President Reagan, has the reputation for being a very genial person, easy to get along with. Were there ever instances where he lost his cool? Were there certain things that might irritate him?

Osborne

Yes, the legislature. That’s when you’d see the glasses flying. But I don’t know the specifics. I know Mike Deaver does, and Ed Meese probably does. But that was usually when he just couldn’t understand why they didn’t understand what he was trying to do. It was very frustrating for him, but he—

Knott

But never with the staff, never with—

Osborne

No, I’ve never seen him get upset with anybody on the staff. He was just an all-around nice guy.

Knott

That’s what we keep hearing.

Young

Could you tell beforehand when the glasses were going to come off?

Osborne

You know, I have to say, more so in the Presidency because I was in the office ten, fifteen, twenty times a day, every single day. I knew him well. I knew his demeanor. I knew his moods. It was easy for me, towards the end of the day, to pick up the phone and call Mrs. Reagan and say, Just thought I’d let you know your roomie might need a little extra TLC [tender loving care] today. It’s really been a tough day. We lost some servicemen on the USS Stark, or we did this or whatever, and he’s really kind of feeling it. That’s all I’d have to tell her. Not that she doesn’t pamper him and take care of him anyway. It’s just that I would kind of give her a heads up. Because I could tell that something was weighing on his mind.

Knott

She appreciated you doing this?

Osborne

We had a very good relationship. Obviously I had direct access to her, and I could call her about things like that, or if I saw the staff was putting something together for the President to do and I didn’t think it was very presidential. He’s such a good guy, he might think, Well, they do what’s best for me, and he’ll do something— I might pick up the phone and say, We’re going to add something to the schedule, and everyone is thinking about doing such and such. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it doesn’t really sound like something he’d be comfortable doing. She might say, I don’t think so either. That’s all right, I’ll take care of it. Then it’s done. So she might be conceived as the bad guy occasionally, and sometimes I probably brought it on her because I could see something that was happening, and I knew that she could put an end to it.

Young

Well, part of your job was to—

Osborne

I had one agenda.

Young

Yes, you had one agenda—

Osborne

To make sure that his day worked comfortably for him and that we didn’t bring him any problems that he didn’t need to be bothered with. I was very fortunate. So was Dave Fischer, and so was Jim Kuhn, because we knew our boss wasn’t going anywhere. We were going to be there for four years or eight years, whereas as I said, it was difficult with some of the other staff members—especially if they worked directly for the Chief of Staff—because we had four separate Chiefs of Staff, and when they changed, a handful of their staff changed. So people had to look for other positions. But that was nice for Dave and Jim and me. We never had to worry about where we were going next. We were always going to be with the President.

Young

Did you have more or less charge of the President’s calendar?

Osborne

Well, charge of keeping it running during the day. Jim and Dave and I did, all day long.

Young

What about gate-keeping?

Osborne

Absolutely. In fact, after about two or three months that I was in my position— I’m sorry, we’re going into the Presidency again now, right?

Knott

Why don’t you tell us how you came to this position in October ’81?

Osborne

Okay. As I’d mentioned, after I left the Governor’s office, I had had a baby, and then I opened up a dress shop. I’d had a partner in the dress shop, and I bought out my partner—actually it was in January of ’81. I’d divorced my husband a few months before that, bought a new house, just settling into a nice new life. And I would get calls from Helene saying, When are you going to come back and visit us? I told you earlier that I had worked part time on the presidential campaign.

I said, Oh, I’m just so busy getting resettled here, and so on. So I’d get these phone calls, and she’d say, Mike and Ed are asking when you’re going to come back and visit us. So I finally made plans to go back in July. This was never in my mind to go back and work for the President, because I’d gone through all this, had a business of my own, and now I was a single mother with two children, and I thought Well, maybe I’ll just go back and visit.

Of course, during the assassination attempt I was in touch with Helene constantly to find out how things were going and what was happening. Then I took my twelve-year-old son on a trip in July of ’81, the first time he and I had gone somewhere alone together. I thought, This is fun. I’m going to teach my young son to be a gentleman—a lot of nice things that he has remembered to this day—and he is a perfect gentleman. So we went on a buying trip to New York and then spent a few days there and then went over to D.C.

I had no idea what was in the works for me there. But they picked us up in a White House car and brought us over to the White House and showed us around, took us on a VIP tour with one park ranger and one car, around Washington, D.C., all the monuments, all the touristy things, which was a lot of fun. We went to the family theater to watch a movie with the Reagans. We went to the Kennedy Center one night in the President’s box. We were really feeling pretty important. This was kind of fun.

I thought we were just there for a visit, and they were just being really nice. I thought they were just trying to show us a nice time back there. We were there for about three days. The last day that I was there, I was sitting with Mike Deaver, just to say goodbye to him, and he said, Kathy, here’s the deal. This is what we’d like to do. I’m trying to remember if Ed Meese was with him at the time. I don’t recall. But he said, The President wants to move Helene into presidential personnel. We’ve got to make a lot of the presidential appointments.

Of course I had known Helene very well for quite a while, and she’d been with the President so long she knew all the people who had been involved in the campaigns and what their strengths and weaknesses were, and people who were loyal to Ronald Reagan and shared the same views, things like that that would be important in that position. And Mike said that they wanted to move Helene into presidential personnel, but the problem was she was reluctant. She wanted to do that, and she should, she was over-qualified to be the personal secretary. But she was reluctant to do so because of who would be taking care of the President. So she and the President said that if I would come out to replace her, then they could make this happen.

So it was kind of like a guilt trip: If you don’t come out here, we can’t do this. It was a very big surprise to me, and I surprised myself by saying, Well, I think that might be kind of fun. And yet I knew that I had things I would have to tie up on the west coast. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do all that. But I said, I’ll talk it over with my father—because of my business and my house, and I wasn’t sure what to do with all that. I wanted to talk it over with my son. But they told me I couldn’t tell anybody else, and they weren’t allowed to discuss it because it wasn’t going to happen until October.

So I talked to my son on the plane on the way home. He thought it would be kind of cool to have his mom be the President’s secretary. I don’t know why he thought that, but we were due for a change anyway. The divorce was a bit of a problem, and the idea of being 3,000 miles away was intriguing at that point in my life. I mean, that’s not why I did it. I thought this might be a wonderful opportunity, and the rest was taken care of. My parents moved into my house, and I hired a manager to take care of my store, and we were back there October 1. So that’s how it happened.

Young

You were in the campaign, you were working—

Osborne

All I did was work in the Sacramento campaign office. I took time off from my store and spent three days a week in the campaign office volunteering. So then, of course, I saw the staff and the Reagans when they were in the Sacramento area.

Knott

You started October 1, you said?

Osborne

October 1 of 1981.

Knott

About five or six days later is the Sadat assassination.

Osborne

Yes, I think it was October 6.

Knott

Anything in particular stand out about that event, the arrival of Presidents Ford, and [Jimmy] Carter and Nixon at the White House?

Osborne

I guess what I remember about that is first of all, the President’s reaction of grief. He was very fond of President Sadat. When it happened—I mean, I was brand new so I didn’t know how things worked. I had the gist of a lot of things. I knew that we had to send a letter to Mrs. Sadat, but I didn’t realize, thinking back now, that something probably would be done out of the National Security Office because it involved another country. I had somebody make up a draft of the letter and gave it to the President, and he worked around it and then did a nice letter to her. I recall when the other former Presidents were invited to the White House to attend the funeral, everybody was surprised because Mrs. [Rosalynn] Carter showed up.

I don’t know if it was just understood or it was made clear that it was just the former Presidents, but she showed up, and they didn’t know what to do. I guess she decided to go, which is fine, but it would have been nice if somebody had told us.

Young

Yes.

Osborne

I didn’t bring a copy of the picture of the four Presidents. It just seemed like in some of the pictures of the four Presidents, in each picture, it was almost like President Carter took a step back so that he would be in the group but separate. I guess I’m having a tough time explaining. I don’t know what the reasoning was. I mean, the other ones were Republicans, but you’re all former Presidents, and you all have dealt with this country. But it was kind of unusual.

I recall that when they took the plane, a lot of jelly beans were being removed from the plane. I don’t understand the reasoning that a former President didn’t want jelly beans on the plane when he was on it. I don’t know whether they put peanuts in its place.

Young

That was Carter’s doing?

Osborne

That was my understanding, yes. That’s what I was told. I wasn’t there, obviously.

Young

I wonder who got the jellybeans.

Osborne

I think they were just sort of hidden somewhere, put away. But you know, the stewards are great anyway. I’m sure they had what every President’s favorites were on the plane. It’s interesting. We always—I shouldn’t say we, as the President and Mrs. Reagan—the staff just recognized the fact that it took a long time for the Carters to get over the fact that they weren’t re-elected. It was tough. I know when President Carter asked President Reagan to come to his library opening, he had just kind of trashed President Reagan in the paper the week before. I don’t remember what the subject matter was, but the staff was just livid, saying, Mr. President, you can’t go there. You don’t need to do that.

The President was adamant. He’s a former President. It has nothing to do with the fact that we disagree on some issues. This is his presidential library, and I should be there. There were a lot of discussions for days about that.

Young

I happened to attend it, sitting up on the grass there, and I was very struck by President Reagan’s talk. It was extremely well done, very gracious. I’ve always wondered who wrote that speech.

Osborne

You know how the speeches come together. I’m sure others have told you the process. My recollection is, because it was a controversial situation, whether he should go or not, even though, as I said, the President depends on his staff and delegates things, he had an awful lot of input with that. I know, initially, they were trying to be careful with what he was going to say. But I think the President changed it to be more complimentary and recognizing things that President Carter accomplished rather than as vague as it may have started out to be. I guess that’s the only way I can phrase it. That’s an example of Ronald Reagan taking control and saying, I’m the President, and this is the way I feel, and this is what I’m going to do. Not in the sense of an ego, because he’s never had an ego, but—

Young

The parts I remember were his statements about the personal qualities, Jimmy Carter, his devotion to his family, and that really went over big with the crowd.

Osborne

Well, I guess. I’m not in the Carter shoes, so I don’t know how I’d feel if I wasn’t re-elected, but it was obvious. It showed quite a bit.

Knott

When you arrived in October of ’81, the White House staff—There’s a Chief of Staff, who is James Baker. And then there’s Michael Deaver, who is the deputy Chief of Staff. And then there’s Ed Meese, who has kind of a policy—

Osborne

He was the counsellor—

Knott

The counsel to the President. Could you talk about how that troika worked?

Osborne

Actually, it worked quite well. I know it was an unusual arrangement, but it was what Ronald Reagan wanted, and of course the counsellor to the President was a position that was created in order to accommodate that. Often all three of them were with the President first thing in the morning, with the beginning of the day, with the initial staff meetings. I think it was a good set up, because instead of having one person or two people make a decision, you had different points of view. I think it gave the President more options, or more insight than just one or two opinions. I can’t think of anything specific where it was really a problem with the three of them, two were against one or anything like that.

Knott

You had known Meese and Deaver, but you had not known James Baker until you went to the White House, is that correct?

Osborne

That’s right.

Knott

What was your impression of James Baker as Chief of Staff?

Osborne

He was fine. I thought he was a good Chief of Staff, and he had a good relationship with Congress, so that was very helpful. I think the President recognized that. I think it worked very well. He was involved with George Bush, and it seemed to work well.

Young

He also knew Washington pretty well, and neither Mike nor Ed had that kind of experience.

Osborne

That’s right. We all were very fond of Jim Baker. He did a good job. He was a nice man, easygoing man.

Young

In terms of your work, who did you have the most dealings with? I asked you a moment ago about the gate-keeping, but specifically about the scheduling of the President’s time, on his advance. Was the Chief of Staff very much involved in that?

Osborne

Yes and no. We had long-range scheduling meetings. It usually involved the deputy Chief of Staff and the director of scheduling, maybe someone from National Security, maybe someone from Press, and we would talk about a lot of requests and things. The President would get some idea from the Chief of Staff, the deputy Chief would go back to him and indicate things they’re thinking about doing, if he had any objections to some of them. He pretty much went along with all of it. There really wasn’t any problem there. But what I found, initially, when we had the troika, Mike Deaver was the key. Because of the long-time personal relationship there, he also was looking out for the President personally. Was this something he’d really like to do, or something to be turned down that he knew he might be excited to get involved in that nobody else would even think of?

He was very helpful in that respect, and even though I reported directly to the President, as did Jim and Dave Fischer, if I had some concerns, which I did now and then, I would either put it in a memo, or I’d go down to Mike’s office. Mike was the key. I knew I could get something turned around. Jim Baker trusted Mike to know what was best for the President in that respect, so he would go along with what Mike said—We’re going to make a change here, we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that.

So Mike was my key and he remained—

Young

So Jim Baker was not trying to control that.

Osborne

No, not to my knowledge.

Young

Probably spending a lot of his time on the politics of—

Osborne

Well the politics—

Young

—of Washington.

Osborne

Exactly.

Young

How did that factor into the President’s use of his time? People would want to see him from Congress, or there might be an important call the President would have to make.

Osborne

Two things then, and if I get off-track, just stop me. I felt like things weren’t really established or coordinated on who has access, who is available to do what. It was very vague, and it made me nervous because I didn’t want to put the wrong call through. I wanted to make sure I checked with the correct person first, but what I did, eventually, was I made a procedure manual for my desk. I hardly ever left when the President was there, so it wasn’t necessary. But then there were a couple of occasions when I had a back-up before I had Dottie on a regular basis. And it was so difficult to explain, all the things you can and can’t do, sitting here, as far as people coming in and out of the office, who he would want or need to talk to on the phone, that type of thing.

So I made a procedure manual. I put it together and then went over it with Mike Deaver. Then we had Jim Baker sign off on it, and had the President sign off on it, too. I’ll show you when we have time. Basically it’s an access list, and we updated it constantly. This list was for phone calls and for people walking in to see the President. The phone calls—we had an exact list of who could pick up the phone and call the President and get right through to him. If they were on that list, the President was probably going to talk to them. But if you needed to go through Jim Kuhn or Kathy or the Chief of Staff first before you put that call through, that was another separate list. This was all to protect the President from being railroaded by somebody telling him something. Maybe it’s a friend, and it’s somebody he knows and trusts—but the President doesn’t really have the whole story there. It was all just a protective measure, and he knew we were doing it. We weren’t trying to control anything. We were just trying to take care of him.

So basically, if a Senator or Congressman called, with the exception of Paul Laxalt, we generally said the President was in a meeting. I think a lot of the Presidents have done this. They don’t expect to get right through to them. Initially Ken Duberstein was our legislative aide. I would call Ken, and I’d say, Senator [Bob] Dole is calling. Does the President know why he’d be calling? Ken would always know what the issue was, and within ten minutes I’d have a one-page memo, and I’d put it on the President’s desk and tell him that Senator Dole called and we’re going to call him right back. It might be a brand-new issue, and we just didn’t want to be caught off guard. It was just to keep him informed. Sometimes I would get a phone call, or Ken Duberstein would come in and say, The President is going to get a call from so-and-so, somebody in Congress, and he’s expecting the call, so put it through. So that’s what I would do.

You know, so much goes on, and it’s absolutely impossible even for the President to know everything all the time. Things change constantly every day. We just want to put something in front of him to show him why somebody is calling if it’s something we’re not expecting, just so he’s not caught off guard.

Young

Would the occasion arise where the President would say, No, I don’t want to take this call now?

Osborne

No, not really. I don’t really recall that. There were many times when he was trying to persuade Congress on some particular bills or something, we had wonderful White House operators, and I would be given a list from our legislative office saying, He’s going to talk to 18 people today. I’d say, Look at the schedule. When is he going to do it? We’d find an hour, take away from my personal staff time, and I’d make a copy of the people on the list and give it to the President’s operator. And then when we were ready to make the calls, I would say, We need to get as many of these calls through as we can. She’d get one on the line—they’re so good, because they knew where these guys would hide out at the Capitol. So she’d call the cloakroom, or she’d call these other rooms.

Once they pick up the phone and they hear, The President’s calling, it’s kind of hard to say, I’m in a meeting. So they’d have to take the call. A lot of them, of course, would dodge the President’s calls because I think they were afraid—they didn’t want to say no to him, and they were afraid that he’d persuade them. But the President’s operators were great, because they’d almost always have somebody else hanging in the line, waiting. A lot of them were quick calls, five-minute calls. It was amazing. We could just zip right through those in a short period of time. He was pretty good about that, too. He had no problem feeling the pressure, trying to get through to all these people because we had a time crunch.

Young

And as far as people wanting to see the President, coming in to see the President, that was—

Osborne

Well, you can’t just drop in at the White House, you know.

Young

No, that was arranged—

Osborne

Most of it was on the schedule. But we also had—and this is what is good about the fact that Ronald Reagan trusted his staff. Our supervisors, I guess, in a sense—if you would call the Chief of Staff and deputy Chief of Staff—trusted us, Dave and Jimmy and me. So if we added something to the schedule, it was something that had nothing to do with politics or running of the country or whatever. It was basically—this is somebody who used to work on his ranch who’s just in town today, and we have a 15-minute window, so we’re going to bring him in for five minutes and take a photo. We never had to ask permission. They never questioned it.

If we had somebody down in the diplomatic room when the President was getting off the helicopter, somebody like this—the President loved to see old friends and people like that. So we would do a two- or three-minute handshake and a photo or something. But we never had to ask permission, never were criticized about it or anything. We knew it was what the President wanted to do, and they did too.

But as far as adding things to the schedule, the schedule was pretty full. It was hard to change it around. Sometimes we had circumstances where we did. We’d move things, like when hostages were coming home, things like that. Of course we were going to move the schedule around to bring them in. Nobody can just walk into the Oval Office. They have to come through our office first. Unless they have an appointment with the President, they’re probably not going to get in there.

If somebody comes down, like the National Security Advisor walks in and says, We just had a phone call about such-and-such, and I need to let the President know, if he’s in there alone, obviously we’re going to let him in the Oval Office. But we would immediately call the Chief of Staff to let him know we had an unplanned appointment going on. Normally our national security person would stop by the Chief of Staff and tell him and bring him down with him. But if he wasn’t available, I’d call the office and talk to his assistant and say, Chief of Staff needs to get down to the Oval Office.

Young

Some National Security Advisors in some Presidencies insist upon direct access to the President without going through the staff.

Osborne

Well, I can see when that would be necessary, but then again, the Chief of Staff needs to know everything that’s going on.

Young

I’m just asking how that worked in your experience there, because the fact is, there are a lot of political complaints about that in some White Houses. I’m not talking about the Reagan White House. But the President has certain people who have, on occasion, demanded to have direct access to the President as part of their acceptance of the job. I don’t have any idea how this stood in the Reagan Administration.

Osborne

I don’t remember hearing of any of those kinds of demands. I mean, it’s not a problem if the National Security Advisor is in there alone with the President. It was just the way it was set up that—

Young

You would inform the Chief of Staff’s office.

Osborne

Yes, but normally they would. We really didn’t have that kind of a problem where anyone—

Young

What about the paper coming from the staff secretary? Would it go through the staff secretary or go directly to you?

Osborne

It would go directly to me, and then I would give it to the President. But if there was something questionable or something political or controversial, he would run it by the Chief of Staff to keep the Chief of Staff informed before we would be doing something with it—or maybe our legislative aide, if it had to do with Congress or something. That’s a really tough position being the staff secretary, overseeing the paperwork. I mean, that’s a very knowledgeable person, because they know everything that’s going on, other than the national security stuff, of course.

I think it’s a necessary position. That way you’re keeping control of the paper flow, and you’re not letting somebody walk in and, as I said, tell the President a different view of something even though he has seen all the options and has determined this. Somebody else might bring up something else that shouldn’t have that much of a bearing on it. I think it just kept things more on an even keel by going through the staff secretary, and that was most of the paperwork. Obviously, with a lot of personal correspondence and things like that, it wasn’t necessary.

Knott

Who was the staff secretary?

Osborne

Dick Darman initially, and then it was Craig Fuller. Then it was David Chu, when Don Regan came in.

Knott

Could you sort of—you’ve already started to do this, in a sense. Could you walk us through a typical day?

Osborne

Okay, I’ll try.

Knott

It’s a lot to ask.

Osborne

A typical day for the President would start early at the residence. He would receive the schedule for the day, and it usually had several back-up pieces of paper on it for each appointment, including who was going to be in the meeting, the purpose of the meeting. And if there were some decisions that had to be made in that meeting, he would get pros and cons from the staff. He’d also get his national security briefing book from the night before, all the little wars and troubles going on in the world overnight.

Then at 9 o’clock, usually Jim or Dave would walk over to the residence. I know it sounds strange, because Dave was there the first four years and then Jim was there the second four years. They were kind of like the shadow to the President. So they would walk over and meet him at the elevator and walk down the colonnade with him into the office. Then usually when he arrived in the office, the Chief of Staff would be waiting for him. Early on it would usually be Ed Meese and Jim Baker and Mike Deaver. Then later on it would basically be the Chief of Staff and the Vice President. They would meet for about 15 minutes or a half an hour just depending on what’s going on at that time—

Young

How good the joke was—I’m not being flippant—

Osborne

I know you’re not.

Young

—but you mentioned that this is part of the spirit of the place.

Osborne

It was. Everybody was fairly happy-go-lucky, except during times of stress, of course. It was really refreshing to be sitting at my desk and hearing a lot of laughter coming out of the Oval Office. They would then be joined by the National Security Advisor. Sometimes if there was some kind of a problem going on, they would bring a specialist in to talk to him about that particular area. Then after that we would start going into the daily schedule of different meetings, sometimes the Cabinet room, Cabinet meetings, or a lot of meetings would be held in the Roosevelt Room.

It’s nice because the West Wing is so nice and compact. It was all right there in front of us. The President was always punctual. It was really important to him to stay on time because he was such a considerate man, he didn’t want to keep anybody waiting. Now, of course, there were exceptions, when we had unexpected things come up or something like that sweet little girl I showed you. We didn’t want him to watch his clock and be concerned about it, so we tried to handle ending the meetings. If he had a meeting going on in the Oval Office, almost without exception, a staff person accompanied somebody in the meeting, depending on what the issue or the area was. And that staff person was told, You have twenty minutes, and then you have to end the meeting because he has a full schedule for the rest of the day.

Fortunately, Ronald Reagan allowed us to put the peephole back in the door to the Oval Office from my office, so we could see what was going on. At the time when the meeting was supposed to be ending, if it hadn’t ended, we’d be looking through there. And if they were all still sitting down, the President would not be rude and interrupt anybody, but Jim or Dave or I would go in, and we would just take maybe an empty folder and walk over to the desk—it doesn’t bother the President, he’s used to us being around him all the time. So he didn’t even notice, of course, but hopefully that would disrupt the meeting just a little bit, like okay, something else is going on.

Then, if that didn’t work, we would go and stand next to the President—just stand there and look at the staff person nicely like, It’s time. But sometimes people are so excited, and it’s hard for them to find a break in their talk. And our staff person who’s accompanying them doesn’t want to be rude. So we had this little game we would do. If that didn’t work, we would wait until someone finished their sentence and we’d whisper, so everybody could hear, Mr. President, I’m sorry, but your next appointment is waiting. Then he would be able to say, It has been so nice that you’ve come to visit me, and I really appreciate— He would stand up, and everybody would stand up, and the meeting would be over. Generally, the staff person could control it, and they knew how important it was to him to keep things moving, so it would work. That was our little system of breaking up a meeting when it was necessary.

Then he would go through the day. Sometimes we’d have outside appointments where he’d give a speech. Sometimes he’d give a speech in the Roosevelt Room, or go over to the OEB [Old Executive Office Building]—the Indian Treaty Room—and give a speech to a large group. His speeches would come, obviously, from our speechwriting office, and he had a speech typist there whom he depended on. We took her on overseas trips with us because she was so great. If we had a last minute change in the speech, because things happen throughout the day that he’s going to have to respond to—especially if he’s giving remarks where the press is going to be, because he knows he’s going to get a press question on something—I would just make the changes right at my desk with our little memory typewriters, because we didn’t have computers then.

He would usually have lunch in his office. Early on, he would have a little table set up in front of the fireplace, and he would eat there. Later on, when Mike Deaver moved on, we took back his office as part of the presidential offices and made that into a back-up to the Oval Office. We put supplies and everything in there that he would normally have in the Oval Office. He could have lunch in there. If we had something going on in the Oval Office, like a television address, they tore up our offices—my office and the Oval Office—all day long, to set all this equipment up. Of course you couldn’t work there, because there’s no privacy, and it was too disruptive. So this was great. We’d have him back in this new back-up office, which also had a nice patio where he could have lunch. And every Thursday the Vice President would come in for lunch with the President, just the two of them alone.

Then he’d get back to work in the afternoon and go through the day. Usually between five and six, the appointments would end. There were often evening events. At the end of the day, the Chief of Staff would usually be in with the President for a few minutes, covering things that went on during the day, maybe talking about things that were coming up in the next day or the next few days. Then Jim or Dave would walk the President home. Usually he would go home with an armful of folders, paperwork, maybe correspondence and things to sign or to read and things to look over, incoming correspondence that we just didn’t have enough time for during the day. His routine was to go home and work out, if he didn’t have any more meetings at home or didn’t have an evening event. He would work out, and then they would have dinner in front of the TV and watch the news. And then he’d do his paperwork. Then the routine just started all over again the next day.

When we traveled, he had a small traveling staff. Of course, we used the old Air Force One, the 707. It didn’t carry as many people as the new one. We would travel with him wherever he went. So he always had his personal staff—his secretary and staff assistant—with him, whether it was another state or another country. Whenever we traveled and we were going to be somewhere for a period of time, there would always be a staff room that was set up for us ahead of time by our advance office. We all had signal phones that would get us directly back to the White House, or get them to us if they needed to reach us. We would basically work out of the staff office. When he stayed here, in Los Angeles, we’d just be in the staff office all day as if we were in the White House.

Young

Were the communications good, or not so good?

Osborne

They were fine.

Young

With Washington?

Osborne

Oh yes, not a problem, that was easy. As I mentioned, we have the two switchboards for the White House, the admin board with the operators who have been there for many, many years. They’re wonderful. They can find anybody, anytime. And the signal switchboard, which is run by the military—it’s overseen by the military office itself, and it travels with us. It’s portable, so that at our homes we all had a signal phone. By all, I should say about a dozen of us. And there was always a signal phone in our hotel rooms. Then we had a little card that said, for instance, KO, and I was number 28, or MKD for Mike Deaver—his was 29—or Jim Baker and RR, so that people could just punch a number and be directly connected to each other. We don’t have to go through the hotel switchboard in case there was any kind of a sabotage problem.

Knott

You told us yesterday that at first you didn’t travel with the President, but then that changed over time.

Osborne

Right.

Knott

When did you start traveling with him?

Osborne

I started working there in October of ’81, and I believe my first big trip with him was in June of ’82. I was told that I could pick and choose when I wanted to travel, but I was still finding my way around in the White House at that time. He’s adaptable to change. That’s not a problem. I didn’t see any problem in not traveling initially with him. And then I recall one trip he came back from, some of the staff said that there were some changes made on board the plane on a speech he was giving, and what looked like a couple of paragraphs were left out. It was confusing for him, and it was confusing for the audience. He always brought his speech cards back to me. I could see what had happened, that somebody—they even typed them—This is the size of his speech card, 5 x 8. He would do it this way, and the cards were typed this way, and then something had been left out.

I thought, That must have been difficult for him. I started thinking that I had a very good live-in babysitter at home with my children, and I looked at the manifest of who was on the plane, and all of his senior staff had their assistants with them. I started thinking, This is the President’s plane. Why doesn’t he have his own support system? It’s because other people could fill in for me when he needed something.

It took me a few days to get my nerve up to go down to Mike Deaver’s office. I was all ready to give him this big spiel about why the President should have his own support staff. I got about three words out of my mouth, and he said, That’s fine, Kathy, if you want to travel. That’s fine. We just thought you’d want to stay home because of your kids. I said, No, my kids are fine, and I’d to continue assisting him when he’s traveling.

So that’s when we started doing it. It worked well for all of us. I don’t know if it was right at that point or a little later that we decided I needed a regular back-up person to cover my desk when we were traveling. Because, of course, the phone calls would still come in, the paperwork would still come in and needed to be dealt with. Somebody needed to notify us if something came in while we were abroad that we needed to deal with.

I talked to Mike Deaver about who that person should be, and he had suggested Dottie Dellinger, whom I had not known well at that time. She was working in the visitors’ office, and she was one of the few people who worked with Ronald Reagan when he was with Deaver and Hannaford between the governorship and the Presidency. The President was very comfortable with Dottie, so when I mentioned to him that that’s what I was thinking about doing, he thought that was great. So whenever I traveled, or if I needed to stay home for the day with a sick daughter, Dottie could sit at my desk. I had created the procedure manual, and she had the list of the direct access. After a while, of course, we never even looked at the book because it was so automatic. We knew what the system was.

I kept a daily log. It was just a folder that had the schedule, paperwork, and then a daily log dated on each page, indicating little things that went on during the day that weren’t on the schedule—whether we received a phone call about somebody passing away, or just something that the President needed to be told about. I would write it down, and then I would talk to the President about how he wanted me to handle it. For instance, when Frank Sinatra’s mother died, I checked with him to see if he wanted me to send flowers to the funeral, if he wanted to call Mr. Sinatra, if Mrs. Reagan knew, if she was doing something. I also kept in close contact with her personal staff so we didn’t duplicate things. We always kept each other informed.

So if I had to leave suddenly or something, Dottie could just see in black and white in front of her that this had happened, and this is the way we took care of it. Flowers were sent, or Mrs. Reagan was going to call, or whatever—And it’s not just the personal things, but a lot of little things like that. We always had a record of all the little things that transpired during the day.

Young

You met alone with the President.

Osborne

Um-hum.

Young

What, at the beginning of the day? At the end? Both?

Osborne

That varied. In between meetings I was in and out constantly, and then there were times—first of all, they would have gaps. If they had a 10 o’clock meeting that was scheduled for 45 minutes, they wouldn’t schedule another one until 11 o’clock. I think initially they thought, Well, this will give him time if he needs to freshen up and if I needed to get some paperwork in. But then, if the meeting ran just a couple of minutes late—because they knew the next appointment wasn’t until 11 o’clock—people would take advantage of the system.

And then I’d have to take my little walk down to Mike Deaver and say, I need to put it on the schedule. That’s the only way we’re going to get the paperwork accomplished. Otherwise, he’s going to go home with this armful of paperwork every night. Then they started putting into the schedule an hour of personal staff time in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, which we knew was more than I was ever going to be able to get, but they did that knowing that they were going to cheat and take some of my time away. I knew that, too, but it was really the only way I could sit down and go over things not in a rushed manner, between meetings. So we pretty much, in the morning and the afternoon, had that kind of time to go over a lot of things—and then just the paperwork in between meetings.

Knott

These would be the instances where you would give him some of this sample correspondence that you were talking about earlier?

Osborne

Normally, what I would do, on Fridays, if they didn’t have events scheduled for Friday night or the weekend, where they had to be at the White House, they would plan to go to Camp David. We would usually plan that around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. He went quite often, which was great, because, as you know, there’s no privacy on the White House grounds. You can’t even get out and take a walk without people looking at you through binoculars. Plus the Secret Service would not be too thrilled about that anyway, for security reasons. So at least there they could get out and walk the grounds and all that. But he was constantly on the phone and constantly going through paperwork. We’d get faxes and mail coming in for him.

So what we would do is about once or month or so, Anne Higgins, the head of correspondence, would put together a binder full of letters. They were sample letters of the issues that seemed to be of concern to the American people at that time. She’d give us an index on what the issue was, and then she would include one sample letter from each of those issues. I would usually give it to him on Friday, before he’d get on the helicopter. He would have some of these letters written before the helicopter even landed at Camp David. He would hand-write some of these letters back. He enjoyed it, he looked forward to it. He was frustrated because he wasn’t very involved—or felt that he wasn’t very involved—in what people were concerned about, what they were thinking. So this was the solution we came up with that seemed to work for him.

Knott

Let’s take a short break.

[BREAK]
Osborne

During the time of Vietnam, almost everybody in the Governor’s office wore a bracelet—in fact, I had two—of POWs [Prisoners of War]. And I know the Reagans met with the wives of the POWs, a lot of their groups. And, if I recall, I think, Carol McCain, John McCain’s first wife, was head of the wives’ group—they met with her. Then they had dinners for the POWs when they came home. I remember the Governor was constantly concerned about them. He has such a love for the military, and such a respect for that, and was always concerned when any of them were in harm’s way. So it was a constant on his mind—when were they coming home?—that type of thing. So they had these lovely dinners for all of them.

I’m trying to recall if that’s when John McCain gave him the spoon that he had when he was in Vietnam. I’m assuming they have it in the library. Little did we know that later on Ronald Reagan was going to be President, and John McCain was going to be a Senator. He and Carol eventually were divorced, and Carol ended up working in the White House. She was there, I think, for the entire eight years.

Knott

What was the spoon?

Osborne

This little metal spoon he had to eat his food when he was a POW. He brought it back. I just thought, How ironic that they both end up in Washington after all of that. What was I starting to tell you before?

Knott

We were going to start talking about some of the trips, I think. We’ll hold off on D-day, Normandy. Your first trip was to England? It was in June—

Osborne

It was Versailles. Every year there was, I think they call it the G7 now, but we called it the economic summit.

Knott

Right.

Osborne

In fact—in one of those pictures I showed you where you saw Bill Brock and Don Regan, who was Treasury Secretary then, and George Shultz on the plane—we were coming back, I believe, from the economic summit. I think that was the first one. We were in Europe for a few days. That was my first taste, and I thought, Boy, this is kind of fun. Except it’s different when you travel with the President. You don’t see the front of many hotels. You see a lot of garages and laundry rooms and kitchens. You don’t really have time to sightsee as such. This particular trip, actually, we did have an hour to go to the town of Windsor and to go to Buckingham Palace, I think. But basically, we’re in the staff room in the hotel the entire time. Whatever the President’s events are—the meetings and such—if there are speeches, we’d be working on speeches, handling that part of the trip, the speeches and the events. Basically, we just moved the office with him wherever he went.

Knott

He spoke to both Houses of Parliament on that trip, which I think was a first for a U.S. President.

Osborne

That’s right. I had forgotten that.

Knott

It was a fairly strong statement, predicting that the Soviet Union would eventually collapse, and it caused quite a bit of controversy. Were you at that speech?

Osborne

Yes, I have some pictures of the staff at Parliament.

Young

So you could at least see something outside the staff room.

Osborne

Oh, yes, on some of those events, yes. I didn’t mean to give that impression. We did, on all of those major events and speeches. We were always included, even state visits. We went to the state dinner in Portugal and in Spain—they included the traveling staff, which was very nice. There were a lot of fun aspects to it. But we worked, and we just tried to keep things going, because things don’t shut down just because we’re not at the White House. Things continue, and we were always in direct contact with the White House.

Knott

Then you were starting to tell us about the trip to Normandy, the fortieth anniversary of D-day and an event recently that had—

Osborne

Right, when I saw the news recently of two of our ships that came home from the Middle East, one of them had this huge sign that said, We Shall Never Forget. It was very emotional for me, because I vividly remember—before we went to Normandy for the D-day celebration or anniversary—I had received a letter from Ed Hickey, who was director of military office. Anything that has to do with the military would be re-routed to him. He handed it to me and said, I want you to read this letter. I read it. It was from a young woman, Lisa Zanatta Henn. She talked about her father, who was in Normandy, and who was one of the men who climbed the cliffs.

Her father had just recently died of cancer. He was always planning to go back and had told his family the story of what they all went through. When she heard the President was going there, she wrote to him and was telling him this story and how happy she was to hear that the President was going over there.

But as I read it, I was sitting in my office, and I was getting tears in my eyes. And I said, You want me to show this to him, right? He said yes. I said, We have to wait ’til the end of the day because he’s going to choke up, because that’s Ronald Reagan. He’s so kind and compassionate that way. I started to give it to him, but I thought, Well, I’ll run it by Dick Darman first—even though with the personal mail, we don’t really have to. It wasn’t really a personal letter, so I ran it by Dick, and I said, Dick, I think this is something the President would enjoy reading with the upcoming trip, any problem? He said, No, if he has time. I don’t know if it’s that important. So I gave it to the President.

Actually, I left it on his desk, and then I walked out and came to my office. He came in a couple of minutes later to my office, and his eyes were watery. He said, Did you read this? I said, Yes, I did. He said, That is just amazing. You know what? She said someday she’s going to go back. We’re going to make sure she’s there. I get emotional. I’m sorry. She was an airline stewardess. We made arrangements to get her and her family there. In that speech, she repeats something that her father had said—we shall never forget what they all went through. And the President repeated it in his speech. And I saw that on a sign on a ship returning from the Middle East war, and I thought, Did they pick that up from Ronald Reagan? Because that’s what he said. That was one of the few times, I think, you saw Ronald Reagan break up and have tears in his eyes when he was giving a speech.

Young

Tell us how that trip came about.

Osborne

I don’t recall how it got started, as far as the planning stages.

Young

The decision to go to Normandy on the 40th anniversary.

Osborne

Right, I think the whole scheduling staff and the senior staff thought it might be something he’d want to do, and of course he jumped at the chance.

Knott

He was on his way to a G7 summit—

Osborne

So he stopped there. To have these military men—there weren’t that many of them, these older gentlemen—sitting there in front of him. These were the men who did climb the cliffs. It was amazing to see them sitting there, holding hands, crying, when the President was speaking. It was just amazing. It was a very nice trip.

Knott

It was that same trip that he went to Ireland. You said you were of Irish descent. That must have been a special day for you, a special visit for you.

Osborne

I think Ireland is such a beautiful country. Of course it was June, so everything was green and lovely. We stayed at Ashford Castle because it was secured for us. This is the type of staff we had: I remember one evening, going downstairs and Bud McFarlane, I think he was playing the guitar, singing Danny Boy, all these Irish tunes. It was nice. It was beautiful. I mean, we’re busy and stuff, but then at night, when we put the President to bed for the night—meaning okay, no more events for him, now we can just relax for a few minutes—then we can get a little more informal and visit. That was very nice.

Knott

There was a trip to China that was made, I think, in 1984. Were you on that trip as well?

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

Any particular recollections from that event? It was quite a sight to see Ronald Reagan in Beijing.

Osborne

It was, and we stayed in their state quarters—which wouldn’t be quite like our Blair House, because their state quarters are like a compound. Of course, we’re briefed before all these trips. We had this huge binder of who the President was going to be meeting with, and what to expect when we got there, what we should and shouldn’t do, and a lot of protocol, advice, things like that. When we went to China, we were told that there were young men who were stewards or porters who would be in and out of the rooms. They don’t close doors in China, they don’t lock doors, and you just have to get used to it. We also knew that it was under Communist rule and we had to be careful with paperwork and things we said and things we did. The thing I vividly remember is when we were there, everybody was still in the Mao dark jackets. There was no color, no colorful clothes in China.

I’d go for a walk in the morning with Jim Baker’s assistant, Margaret Tutwiler, and we both wore these vivid velour warm-up suits in bright red and lavender and so on. We’d be walking around, and we knew we had some of their people following us. We’d walk the streets—I mean just no color, all the same clothes, and thousands of bikes parked in front of a building, and they all were identical. How do they tell them apart? It was amazing. We would walk, and we’d turn a corner, and she’d say, Okay, Kathy, now I want you to stop and turn around and look. I’d stop and turn around, and all these people would be watching us because we stood out because of what we were wearing, and we’re both blonds. I guess we were an unusual sight for them.

Knott

Right.

Osborne

But it was an interesting country. We loved being on the Great Wall. It’s amazing to see what they accomplished there. Then we went to Shih Huang, and that was also amazing, to see all the terra cotta statues, all so individual. In fact, I don’t know if somebody else has told you this, when we went to Shih Huang—I’m trying to think of the reporter’s name. We had certain areas we could go to, little terrace levels where we could stand to watch the Reagans down among the terra cotta statues. The press was over in one section, and this one little white-haired lady, who traveled with the press—she didn’t really do a whole lot, she had a nickname— the bag lady—because she always had shopping bags in both hands. She was part of the press. I don’t know who supported her on these trips. She had curly white hair.

The Chinese had the security people standing there to prevent anybody from going down where the Reagans were. So she walked up to one of the security people. She wanted to get over by the press. But of course she didn’t look like a press person, so this little Chinese guy didn’t know what to do with her. Gary Schuster, one of the outside press people then, pulled out his wallet, pulled out a one-dollar bill with George Washington and said, Oh no, she’s on our money. She needs to go over there. The Chinese security guard said, Oh, okay. She looked like George Washington, so they let her through. That was the funniest story we all couldn’t wait to tell when we got on Air Force One coming home.

When we left there, it kind of made us appreciate what we have in the United States. So many of them live in their communes or compounds, where they grow all their own food and so on. It seemed like a difficult life. We were happy to get on that plane and come home. We were involved with all the state dinners, too, and that was interesting—I’m trying to remember if it was that trip. I remember on one of our trips asking Mrs. [Obie] Shultz, What about the food? We were told about this unusual food we’d have to eat. I said, I just cannot fathom eating these things that I don’t recognize. She said, Well, just push it around your plate a little bit, and if you’re lucky, it’ll be a six-course meal. They’re only going to give you two minutes to eat each one, so if you can try to carry on a conversation with somebody who doesn’t understand English, do it. You can probably get by. She was absolutely right. I didn’t have to eat any of this stuff that I didn’t recognize.

They assigned one Chinese person to each of us to be our host. The gentleman I was with had grandchildren, and with all these hand motions we were trying to talk and describe. So I would get him so engaged in conversation they kept taking my plate away. We all took crackers and the little spray-on cheese and peanut butter in our suitcases, so we’d go back and eat at the hotel. But she was right, it worked. I just played with my food, and then they took the plate away, and I didn’t have to eat that stuff. She said, You just have to do what you have to do.

Knott

Did you travel with the President a lot while he campaigned for re-election in 1984?

Osborne

Yes, constantly.

Knott

Any particular memories from that fall campaign? Were you with him at the two debates against Walter Mondale?

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

One of which did not go all that well.

Osborne

Right, I know. Afterwards we were crushed. We didn’t think it was going to affect whether he was going to be re-elected, but we could all see it coming. You know, they have all these practice sessions before the debate, and they just tried to drum too many figures and numbers—

Young

Was that Darman?

Osborne

No, it was the staff that—I can’t remember who was there at the time, but they all played different parts, so to speak. Once they just let him be himself for the next one, it was fine.

Knott

Was he down after that? Was he visibly disturbed after that?

Osborne

I think just slightly. I think he realized that it could have gone better. But, as I said, he can compartmentalize things and move on with the task at hand. Then after the next one it was fine. His famous line about not letting his opponent’s age and inexperience affect him.

Knott

Right. I think the victory celebration was here.

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

You were here for that event?

Osborne

Yes, that was nice.

Knott

Must have been. There was a trip that occurred at the beginning of the second administration to Germany and to Bitburg and the cemetery there. Were you there as well?

Osborne

I was there. It was very strange, because it was a very gloomy day, or days, when we were there, which was almost apropos. You’re not really prepared for what you see just from reading things in your books in school. When we saw where Anne Frank was buried, and saw the gravesites that are maybe ten feet tall and a block long, and it says, Here lie three thousand Jews, it hits you hard. It’s right there in front of you. It’s unbelievable. I know it affected the President.

I was looking through my papers trying to get the names of the two generals we brought.

Knott

One of them was Matthew Ridgeway—

Osborne

That’s right. We didn’t tell the press we were doing that. One of the President’s military aides who had left the White House and was a professor at West Point, I believe—they quietly got him to go and pick up General Ridgeway, wherever he was living, and bring him out to Andrews and get him on the plane with us. I don’t remember if we just left from Andrews or if he was somewhere in Europe, but we didn’t tell the press. They had no idea any of this was going on. Then when the President was giving his speech, he was having them carry the wreath, the two generals together. They were sitting there, again, holding hands, while the President was giving his speech, and it was a very, very touching moment. It was hard to put something over on the press, too, but that time we did. That was amazing.

Young

The President got a lot of advice not to go, when it was discovered.

Osborne

I know, and I do recall the picture that was in one of the major magazines, I don’t know if it was U.S. News or Newsweek. It showed the cemetery, and it showed an SS officer and flowers there, like this was why we were going, to honor them. That was really dirty pool because we found out later that the photographer actually moved the flowers from someplace else and put them there to make it look worse for us. They did a retraction on something like page six a month later, which nobody even noticed, saying that that wasn’t the way they found the gravesite.

When the advance team had gone there, there was so much snow on the ground, they couldn’t really see all this, and nobody told them that there were some SS soldiers in there.

Young

Shouldn’t the Germans have?

Osborne

It would have been nice. But then again, when the President was given all the information, especially the fact that many of these young men were 16 and 17 years old, he knew that they didn’t really have a choice. I don’t know that he ever even contemplated not going. I know the staff kept trying to talk him out of it, and then he talked to the German chancellor on the phone—who was in tears on the other end—and the President assured him he was coming, nothing was going to stop him. He wasn’t going to let him down. So we went.

Young

I think it was said that Mrs. Reagan thought it was a bad idea. Certainly some of his Cabinet did. But the President stuck to it. He’d made a commitment, and he stuck to it, going against the grain of almost all of his top advisors, I think.

Osborne

Right. He could be a very stubborn person.

Young

He said that of himself once.

Osborne

When he feels he’s right, it’s awfully hard to budge him. It’s awfully hard to turn him around, which I think is a great quality. If you really are that confident, and you feel this is what you need to do, then do it.

Knott

Would you ever offer advice to him? Would this ever be an issue between the two of you over some particular matter, about a letter, or any sort of—

Osborne

Oh sure, on little things like that, nothing on any major issues.

Knott

I was wondering if you might be willing to give us some assessments or recollections of some of the other personalities, some of the other folks who worked within the White House or in the Cabinet. To start with, Vice President Bush. What you saw, what you—

Osborne

What I saw was another very nice, happy-go-lucky man. He was always very cordial, very friendly. He and the President had, I think, a very good relationship. For some reason, I feel some people want to paint the picture as if they didn’t get along or there were problems. But I never saw that, never. Not from the President, not from the Vice President. I was close to the Vice President’s assistant. I would have known if there was something going on. We were very candid with each other.

In fact, when Edmund Morris’ book came out, and he was on his book tour, I remember hearing him say something like, This is the time when President Reagan stopped depending on the Vice President, or, This is an example why the President didn’t like Vice President Bush, and I thought, What are you talking about? None of that is true. In fact, I called President Bush’s assistant in Houston and asked her if she’d been seeing all this stuff that had come out in the book, and she said yes. I said, I hope he realizes that I don’t know where he’s getting this stuff from, but it’s not accurate. She said, Oh, I think he knows that. Then ironically, I got a call from President Bush later that day, and we talked about it. He said, Oh, Kathy, I don’t let that stuff bother me. I know the relationship we had.

I said, Well, as far as I’m concerned, he depended on you so much. I remember any time we had a crisis or something, one of the first things he asked me was, Does George know? And he didn’t mean George Shultz, he meant George Bush. He wanted to make sure that he was in the loop. I think even more so after the President was shot, because he realized that the Vice President really needs to be totally informed, in a position like that.

Knott

They had lunch together each week?

Osborne

Every Thursday. They had a good time. They could joke, and they could talk seriously. It was one of the most convenient and probably the few times that a Vice President could say to his President on such-and-such an issue, Did you ever think about this option? or whatever. Whereas obviously they would be reluctant to do that in a Cabinet meeting, something like that, because you always want to be supportive of what your President is doing. At least he was able to give him his own personal opinion on things. I know the President appreciated that. They got along great. I never saw a problem there.

Young

Did you see it at the staff level? Particularly at the end of the Reagan administration, people on both sides have talked about some friction—at the staff level, not between Bush and Reagan, but among the staff people?

Osborne

I wasn’t aware of that. When President Bush became President and then ran for re-election, not being in the campaign, it’s hard for me to understand. I mean the initial campaign—that there would be resentment that Ronald Reagan became President and not George Bush. After all, these people helped George Bush try to become President. Even though he did become the Vice President, and it was a natural that he probably would be President some day. But evidently—I’ve never seen this, but I’ve been told this—there was resentment through the whole eight years that their boss wasn’t in the Oval Office. When they started staffing their offices, I don’t know if there were any Reaganites in the office.

And then when he was running for re-election, so many people had offered to help, some of the people who helped Ronald Reagan become President. And the attitude, from what I’ve been told, was, No, no. We can do it on our own. We don’t need any Reaganites. I don’t know if that had a bearing on the difficulty of trying to be re-elected. I don’t know if it’s a combination of that and Read my lips, no new taxes—that didn’t exactly work—or what.

It seemed also that the campaign offices got off to a very late, slow start. I used to get phone calls from people who were good Republicans and met through Ronald Reagan, but maybe had always been involved in Republican politics—saying, We’d like to volunteer—in major towns throughout the country. When are the offices going to open? Nobody knew. They said, Well, we don’t need any more help. So it was unfortunate.

Young

Very late.

Osborne

Unfortunate that he wasn’t re-elected. It seems like he should have been.

Young

Yes, he did start his campaign very late, and it was not well run.

Osborne

And then trying to blame Jim Baker for not leaving his position and coming over and taking care of the campaign. Well, if he’s not available, you find somebody else to do it who’s capable. You don’t just wait and wait and wait for months. It’s just unfortunate.

Knott

Did you have much contact with Bill Casey at all? Do you have any recollections of Casey? I know he was over at Langley throughout most of this time, but he was—

Osborne

I never had very much personal contact with him. He would have meetings with the President, of course. A woman I wrote down on the list here, Barbara Hayward, used to work for Bill Casey in the campaign and then remained on in the Chief of Staff’s office. She knows him quite well. She might be somebody to talk to about him. But I’ve just been around him at meetings or when he’d come in to see the President for a few minutes, so I don’t really have any memory of spending any length of time with him.

Knott

On some of these trips overseas, Secretary [George] Shultz would be part of them. Any observations on Secretary Shultz?

Osborne

Yes, I really like Secretary Shultz. As Secretary of State—which I see now more so than at that time, because I’m working for a former Secretary of State—they are carrying a big load around in their head, constantly, of everything that’s going on. They do so much traveling overseas. It’s a major, major job. Some people thought that Secretary Shultz was very aloof because if he had a meeting with the President, he would come in and spend time in the national security office first and then come on down to the meeting with the President. If he was walking down the hall, sometimes he’d walk by people and maybe he wouldn’t acknowledge them or say anything.

Sometime after I started in my office, there had been two desks—I’m sidetracking here, but I’ll get back to George Shultz—my office had two desks in it, and I had taken the second desk out and had a couple of nice chairs set across from me. When people like Secretary Shultz or even the Vice President or somebody would come in, sometimes they would think of something they forgot to do, and they’d ask to use my phone, which is fine, except our phones were ringing off the hook all day long, and then I had no phone to answer the President’s calls. So I had a phone set put in next to the chairs across from me, with a lot of the direct lines to key people on the staff. Then the Vice President and Secretary Shultz or Weinberger could just go sit over there and use that phone. It got to be kind of a cute pattern that Secretary Shultz would come in maybe fifteen minutes, twenty minutes before his meeting, and if I was on the phone, he wouldn’t bother me, he would just sit down and open up his book and start doing his paperwork—just trying, I think, to get prepared for his meeting with the President. Sometimes he would use the phone.

I obviously saw him come in, and when I was off the phone, I’d wait until he took a break from what he was doing, and then we would exchange pleasantries and such. I respected the fact that he was a busy man, had a lot going on. I wasn’t going to disturb him. There have been times when we have traveled with him—when we went to Reykjavik and spent one night in Iceland, I think—in Finland, excuse me. He’s a very considerate gentleman and just adored his wife, Obie. He would invite a handful of us out to dinner, some of his staff, and just a few from our staff. We’d have a nice dinner with them, and if there was music he would dance with his wife, then dance with any of the ladies who were at the table, then dance with his wife again. Then he’d say, You all enjoy your evening. It’s on me. It’s all been taken care of. Stay as late as you want. They’d go home early and leave us there.

I recall a trip to China. We were on the 707, and, as I said, we just had the little memory typewriter. About an hour before we landed in China—they were going into some meetings as soon as we got there—I’m trying to remember what city. I guess it was Beijing that we were staying in that first time. He came up to me. Because it was such a big trip, not everybody could have their assistants, so his were on back-up planes. He said, Kathy, I have to go into a meeting with the President—and he named a few other people, six people—and I need to cover a couple of different points. I wanted to give them a copy of it, but all I’ve got are my notes here. I said, Do you want me to type it for you and make some copies? He said sure.

So I did it on my typewriter. It was just a couple of pages long. Our Xerox machine also doubled as a table to put lunches on when the stewards were getting ready to serve people. They were out serving snacks or something, so I couldn’t use the Xerox machine. So I typed his talking points and then started to use the Xerox machine, which I couldn’t, so I went back to my typewriter. I knew that they were going to start the meeting in five minutes, so I kept hitting my memory typewriter, repeat, repeat, repeat. It just kept pumping out this text, so I made six copies and got them stapled. Secretary Schultz came back to me, and I handed them to him, and he walked into the meeting. They had their meeting, we landed. I didn’t think anything of it.

Then we were at the hotel, and that evening he was meeting with some Chinese delegates, and I was waiting out on the front steps of the hotel. I was meeting another staff person. We were going to go down the street for dinner. I could see him walking with this Chinese entourage around the building. They were just casually walking around, getting acquainted before the meeting. I could see him coming from one direction, and he passed in front of me and walked down to the other end of the building. I noticed that the group stopped, and he was going like this, like just wait a minute. He turned around and walked back, walked to the front of the building at the hotel, and said, Kathy, I never had a chance to tell you. I don’t know how you did that. I could see that the Xerox machine was blocked, but you got them to me just in the nick of time. They were really very helpful. I said, You’re welcome, no problem. And he went back to his group. I thought, He didn’t have to do that. I mean, I was doing what I’m supposed to do, I was doing my job.

I think people have the wrong impression of him sometimes, because he’s a quiet man, he’s serious, and when he’s got something on his mind, maybe he’s not acknowledging everybody he sees when he’s heading to the Oval Office. But I know that the Reagans are extremely fond of him. Nice man. Unfortunately, his wife Obie passed away. He’s happily remarried now.

Young

Of course he, in his own book—what’s the name of it?

Knott

Turmoil and Triumph.

Young

There’s a very interesting way that he describes his personal relationship with Ronald Reagan on issues of policy. This is basically having to do with an approach to the Soviet Union, and getting out of a confrontational into a negotiating mode with them—an approach with which a number of people in the administration were not in sympathy. At least this is the way he portrays it. One of them was Cap Weinberger, and the others were the national security staff, basically.

Osborne

Um-hum.

Young

I think he even tendered his resignation at one point.

Osborne

I’m not aware of that. I knew about Al Haig’s, of course, but—

Young

The reason I’m mentioning this—and we talked with him also about this—is his portrayal of Reagan, and himself as doing Reagan’s will. That they were, despite press accounts saying Reagan was being pushed in the wrong direction and so forth, he felt always that Reagan himself was encouraging opening up a line of dialogue. He didn’t really get much of a chance to do that until [Mikhail] Gorbachev came in.

Osborne

Right.

Young

This suggests a lot of policy conflict—I don’t know how much personal, but a lot of policy conflict—between the Secretary of State’s position, the national security staff, and Cap Weinberger. Were you aware of this? He often met with the President personally, didn’t he?

Osborne

Right.

Young

Quite often, quite regularly.

Osborne

Right, he did. It’s interesting, because my current boss and I have talked about this. I don’t know how long it’s gone back to this, but there’s always been conflict, in a sense, between the national security advisor and the Secretary of State. And I think it’s natural because the national security advisor has the proximity to the Oval Office—thirty seconds he’s in the door—and he can go in and out, basically, whenever he wants.

The Secretary of State is in a higher position and is supposed to know as much, if not more than him, and yet it’s a twenty-minute car ride, and you almost have to make an appointment to get in and see the President. So it’s kind of difficult. I don’t know that that will ever change. I was aware at one time that there was some tension between the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. But I knew, of course, that George Shultz was in agreement with what Ronald Reagan felt about turning around the Soviet Union.

I always thought that this was a goal that Ronald Reagan had, and he was going to go and do it. I never really considered who was pushing him in what direction to get there.

Young

Well, one reason it was interesting to us is that what you see in the press is that Ronald Reagan couldn’t make up his mind as between the Weinberger—or the war hawks, so to speak—and the diplomatic approach. So there was the Evil Empire on the one hand, but then there was on the other—

Osborne

I think after he met Gorbachev the first time, he knew that he was going to have some sort of a bond with this man, and they were going to be able to have a better relationship between the two countries. They just clicked.

Young

That was the opportunity.

Osborne

Right.

Young

We asked Shultz about this, and Shultz makes absolutely no bones about it in his own book, though not in a petty fashion. There was a significant difference on how you get to where you want to be.

Osborne

Right.

Young

Whether you do it this way or that way, by putting their backs to the wall or doing what George Shultz called gardening, to keep the weeds from growing up.

Osborne

Right.

Young

But I believe what Shultz conveys in his book—and this was my impression from the interview—is that both served Reagan’s purposes, and that it was not a question of his inability to decide between them, being pushed one way and then the other, but it served his purposes as President to have both options, both approaches available and represented in his administration. Is that the kind of Reagan you saw?

Osborne

Yes, because, as I said, a lot of people say, Well, didn’t he just look at memos and things that people suggested he do? I said, No. They would present an issue to him, and he would have pros and cons. He ultimately would make the decision. Sometimes he would do it in the Cabinet Room in a meeting. Sometimes he’d say, I want to give this some thought, and he’d get back to them with his decision. Sometimes maybe he felt he didn’t have enough information on one side and wanted to get some more before he make his decision. But I never saw that he really had a problem making a decision. He just wanted all the valid information first.

Young

He also knew where he wanted to go, didn’t he?

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

Were you at the Geneva Summit in ’85?

Osborne

Yes.

Knott

Anything in particular, anything stand out from that?

Osborne

Let’s see, the fire in the boathouse before they got there.

Knott

That one I hadn’t heard of.

Osborne

Really?

Young

No.

Osborne

This was the President’s idea— I’m trying to think of our trips back then. I think it was the Geneva trip— I wonder if I’m confusing our trips back there.

Knott

Geneva was November ’85, and Reykjavik was October ’86, if that helps.

Osborne

Okay, so it was Reykjavik where, if I remember correctly—as I said, I tried not to get involved in these issues—where they thought they were getting into agreement on some things, and then Gorbachev wanted us not to take SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative] out of the lab or something.

Young

Yes.

Osborne

So in Geneva, the President wanted to have the opportunity, if it presented itself, to have some time alone with Gorbachev. He felt that he could get more accomplished that way rather than at these big group meetings. So when they took a break—we’d already had the boathouse set up, and the advance people had gone out and started a fire a few hours before they got to the meeting. They were going to keep the fire going for them. It had a wooden fireplace mantel, and it was such a roaring fire that it caught the mantel on fire. They had to hurry up and get that all taken care of before they walked down there for the meeting.

Knott

I’ve never heard that before.

Osborne

Oh, yes.

Knott

I’ve heard about the fire sort of symbolizing the warming relations between the U.S. and the Soviets, but I never knew it almost burned the building down.

Osborne

I don’t think anybody ever knew. We traveled so much, it got to the point where if it’s Wednesday we must be in Ohio—but they stayed at the home of—who’s the movie star who has Alzheimer’s, and her daughter is Yasmin—

Knott

Rita Hayworth Kahn, right?

Osborne

Yes, anyway, they stayed in one of their homes. The Princess and her family were traveling, so the Reagans stayed in their little villa. They had two sons, and one of the boys left a note for the President asking him to please take care of his fish, to feed his fish while he was gone. Of course, there’s a steward who stays in the house with the Reagans, and of course Secret Service are all around, and everybody fed the fish. So the day of the meeting—I don’t know if I have the timing correct, one of our advance people could tell you better than this—the day that he was supposed to meet with Gorbachev, the fish was belly-up—

Knott

Overate.

Osborne

Yes. Somebody told me that the President wanted to have the advance people go out and find some fish like this fish. So they put it in a box, an empty box of matches. I don’t know whether he had it in his pocket when he was talking to Gorbachev when he had the meeting, or if he’d already given it to the advance man, walking around for the rest of the day with this dead fish in this matchbox in their pocket to try to replace the fish. But he wasn’t going to do it to try to fool the young boy. He replaced the fish afterward. But I can just see him sitting there. How is he concentrating on talking to Mikhail Gorbachev with this dead fish in his pocket?

Knott

That’s another aspect of the summit we’ve never heard before.

Osborne

Maybe I shouldn’t even repeat it because I don’t know all the details. I’d have to ask one of our advance people. I should have gotten it straight before I came here. But actually, the story doesn’t end there. He did replace the fish. He wrote a little note to the young man, letting him know what happened, how sorry he was. Then we get back to the White House, and about a week later, the President had been in the office during the day. He went home, and he called me about 5 o’clock. He said, Do you think my little buddy would like some fish, some pet fish? (He called my daughter his little buddy.) I said sure. He said, Okay, I just got some. The Aga Khan—is that his name?

Knott

Yes.

Osborne

He said, Remember we lost the fish when we were over in Geneva? I said yes. Well, they sent us some tropical fish. But I don’t want to try to take care of them over here because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally kill them again. If you’re going to be there for a while, I’ll bring it down. I thought, Okay, what do you mean, you’ll bring it down? This fish bowl was this big [gesturing], and it was very, very expensive crystal, and it was very thin. He was going to lift this thing and walk over to the Oval Office to give it to me. I guess he decided it was a little too heavy, so he took it into his bathroom, which has a tiled sink. He was going to pour some of the water out. Well, as soon as it hit the tile, the fishbowl cracked, and everything went all over the place. He was on his knees picking up this fish, trying to get them in a glass of water to get it to me.

I didn’t know about all this until later. I got a call about fifteen minutes later saying, I’ve got a little bit of a problem, but I’ll get it to you in just a few minutes. So I said okay. A steward came over with a typical fishbowl you buy in the dime store with the tropical fish in it, and a little motor, and a little village in the bottom, and the fish floating around. I said, Gee, that’s really nice. He said, Well, it’s not as nice as what we had originally planned. And he told me the whole story. Of course, the President got wet, and he had to change his clothes. So he just let the steward bring it down.

Knott

He needs to stay away from fish.

Osborne

Yes he does. He meant well.

Young

Let’s see, the first Geneva Summit was with [Leonid] Brezhnev?

Knott

Gorbachev. Both were with Gorbachev.

Young

He didn’t go to an earlier one?

Knott

No, he didn’t meet any of the—Gorbachev was his first.

Osborne

Remember, he said they kept dying on him.

Young

I know, but I thought he had had one meeting with Brezhnev.

Knott

He met Brezhnev when Brezhnev came to Nixon’s San Clemente White House in the ’60s.

Young

Okay. Then I guess it must have been the first meeting with Gorbachev. There was commentary in the press—I think I’m right about this particular trip—from Mrs. Reagan, that she was displeased because the President had not been given enough time to rest. Do you remember? Was that the first Geneva meeting, or was it—

Osborne

I don’t remember when that started. But it wasn’t just the President, it was the entire staff. We would be on the plane for several hours, and then were expected to go into a state arrival ceremony, then go into heavy meetings, then go to a state dinner that night, and we’ve got the time difference. So we learned after a while that, for everybody’s sake, it made more sense, if we were taking lengthy trips—and I think more so the trips to the Orient than anything—we needed to have a stopover in Guam, or Hawaii, or something, one night, just to regroup. Because it serves no purpose to show up at a three-day meeting exhausted. He’s a normal human being, besides being President, so why shouldn’t he have the right to be prepared too? So we tried to do that.

Young

You couldn’t do the extra time when you arrived, because it was a state arrival.

Osborne

Exactly. That’s why we would all normally change into our warm-ups on board the plane, because they would go directly into state arrival ceremonies and meetings and had to look their best. And you didn’t look that spiffy after you’d been sitting in your seat on an airplane for six hours.

Knott

Did you detect some of this frosty relationship that supposedly existed between Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev? Did you see any of that?

Osborne

No I didn’t.

Knott

Is that accurate?

Osborne

I think, actually, you probably would learn more about that from her secretary, Jane Erkenbeck, because she went to Leningrad with her. I think that’s when you saw, on the news, Mrs. Reagan correcting Raisa on some of the things she was trying to describe in the museum that she was in. I think it wasn’t a close relationship like their husbands’—maybe close is not the word to describe that relationship, but I think compared to any previous U.S. Presidents and Russian leaders, I think it was a unique relationship—

Young

Very different.

Osborne

But I think after a while everybody softened a little bit.

Knott

Can I bring you back to two events from the first term? They were probably the biggest, perhaps, foreign policy crises of the first term, and they occurred within days of each other. One was the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, and then two days later was the invasion of Grenada. Do you have any particular memories from that weekend, that fairly long and somewhat painful weekend?

Osborne

Yes, probably not the memories you’re looking for, though. That was also the weekend that the President went to Augusta to play golf. And as you know, the golf course there does not allow females, which was quite a problem because we have female Secret Service agents who were not allowed to go on the course. And because females were not allowed, I didn’t go on that trip. He took just a small staff down there for the weekend.

But I remember talking to the deputy press secretary about this, a couple of days after the fact. First of all, it was the deputy press secretary’s birthday, and there was a cake on board Air Force One. So when they came back from Augusta, the President was going to surprise him on board with a birthday cake. He was in Augusta with the President. He had gotten word from some of the news people that—of course, I couldn’t remember the timing. I thought it all happened within the same day, practically. Maybe I’m wrong—

Knott

Two days apart.

Osborne

I know that on the Grenada rescue mission—not invasion, but rescue mission—I remember George Shultz—and I want to say Bud McFarlane was at Augusta, too. I can’t remember. But I remember this particular deputy press secretary had to go out to the golf course and talk to them and say, The press have heard some rumors about troops heading to Grenada. They had to basically lie to the deputy press secretary, because you can never let a deputy press secretary lie. He’ll never have credibility. He would have to leave the White House if the press thought he lied to them. So they had to act like they didn’t know what he was talking about. Somebody in the press had heard about troops moving toward Grenada.

So that had happened, and he went back, denying this to the press. While all that was happening, he was going to go in the pro shop and pick up a souvenir. And Secret Service was surrounding the pro shop. There was a hostage taking of the White House staff in the pro shop at that time. I don’t know if you realize all this went on during the same weekend. David Fischer was involved, in fact. He was one of the hostages.

Knott

That I didn’t realize, really.

Osborne

Yes, and our advance man, Lanny Wiles.

Young

Who was—?

Osborne

Just some deranged man who wanted to see the President.

Young

Oh yes.

Osborne

He somehow found out that Lanny and David were part of the White House staff, probably saw the special pins they were wearing. So there was a fellow in the pro shop who, when he saw what was going on, actually hid in one of the back rooms. Nobody ever knew he was there until it was all over. So it was David and Lanny. And then David finally convinced the guy of what his position was, that he worked with the President, and he could go get the President and bring him back. So he let David go. David went out there and got hold of this deputy press secretary and told him what was going on. They went out and talked to the President and tried to decide what to do.

Then Lanny Wiles, you have to know him to appreciate him. It was a warm day, and he was talking to this guy, just trying to be friendly with him. He said, Boy, wouldn’t a cold six pack go good right now? And the guy said, Yes, that would be good. He said, Well, there’s a little store right next door. I’ll go get us some. Okay. So the guy lets Lanny walk out.

Lanny goes outside and says, Well, I guess we’re okay. He’s in there all by himself. Of course, they didn’t know some other guy was still hiding in the pro shop back there. So that was going on. It was one of those weekends. And, of course, the Beirut barracks bombing also happened in that time frame. I think they very quickly started heading home after that. There was a lot going on. They got back to the White House right away, and then we did, of course, go into Grenada. One of those things, as they said, when you see you on TV— I don’t know if you ever watch West Wing?

Knott

Um-hum.

Osborne

It’s very entertaining, and I enjoy it, but it’s not real. Those particular players, of course, do not run the White House with the President every day, especially the press secretary. If the press secretary is involved in everything, that puts him in a very tough position of having to dodge. And if you dodge, then they know something is happening.

Young

You’re covering up.

Osborne

Exactly. It was just one of those weekends where it seemed like everything happened. And down the road, when we started getting the lists of names of the military people killed, people wanted to contact all the families. And—this is awful to say—it seems like we had so many unfortunate, horrible incidents like that that I’ve lost track of which was which in the sense of how we handled it, with his own personal response. Because very often he picked up the phone and called the families. There were so many we lost in this one. I believe we did letters, and he insisted on personally signing all the letters. And it wasn’t just to a spouse, it was also to the parents. At least 50 percent of them had divorced parents, so it was to two sets of parents. With any incident we had like that, he either picked up the phone or personally got involved in contacting these parents.

Those were tough days. When I gave him a list of people he wanted to call on the phone and describe how we lost a military man, and the parents he was going to be talking to—or he had a wife and two babies, something like that—it was very, very tough. But that was important to him, the military was so important to him.

Young

During the run-up to Grenada, this would be one of those situations, I take it, when the ordinary routine in the White House wouldn’t proceed. Or was it?

Osborne

I’m sorry, what do you mean?

Young

The ordinary routine of the day—

Osborne

Well no, when something like that is happening, we see the national security advisor a lot more. We see the Secretary of State a lot more, they’re in and out of the office. Because the President is so personally involved in it, he wants constant updates, just like when our hostages were taken. He wanted to know what’s the status, where are they, when are we going to get them home—that type of thing. So yes, it wasn’t a routine day. We had to adjust.

Young

Some things would be bumped.

Osborne

Yes, we would bump some things. And sometimes, because the office of the director of scheduling was in the EOB, he might not know all that’s going on over here. It was just a little core group that was involved in everything, and we would have to say, What can we postpone? We need a few hours today, so what can we postpone for another week or so? They would take care of it for us.

Young

Did you ever give any interviews to the press?

Osborne

Not really—

Young

How did your relationship with the press, if any, work?

Osborne

I did a few little interviews when I first arrived at the White House. I didn’t really want to do it, mostly hometown-type stuff. I told you we would play some silly games sometimes, and one was that I would get a call from our press office. For instance, I’d get a call, and they’d say, Chris Wallace is sitting here, and he said he just heard a rumor that the President had a heart attack. This was a rumor that somebody started because they wanted to affect the stock market that day. We knew what was going on. So rather than saying No, and just sort of leaving it out there, you can see from my pictures, the proximity. I mean, the door to the Oval is right here. So I’d lay my phone on the desk, prop open the door, if the President was in there alone, and I’d say, Mr. President, have you had a heart attack today? And he’d say no. I’d say, Okay, thank you.

I’d go back to the phone, and of course they had him on speakerphone in the press office, so they heard the President’s voice, they knew. Every time I’d get that call—even if we were having something like a staff meeting—I could open the door and say, Anybody have a heart attack in here today? They all knew why I was asking.

Knott

Did it happen fairly frequently?

Osborne

Well, it happened a few times.

Knott

Enough.

Osborne

Yes, but we knew exactly what was happening, somebody just wanted to make some money in the stock market. I would run into the press on different occasions, and I would always be cordial. They would sometimes call me directly in my office. Actually, people like them could not call me directly, because the operators wouldn’t give them my direct line. The operator would say, Andrea Mitchell would like to speak with you. I’d say, Would you please let her know I’m in a meeting? And I’d call the press office and say, Why does Andrea Mitchell want to speak with me? Well, because I wouldn’t give her the answer she’s looking for, so now she’s coming to you. I’ll take care of it.

Knott

So they would try to get at you, knowing that you had—

Osborne

Oh yes, but I would just call the press office, and they would say, Hey, that’s what we’re here for.

Knott

Did they ever try to get at you outside of the White House, at your residence?

Osborne

No, I would do a few things, like some social events. I went to a dinner for Jim Brady once, and I sat next to Sam Donaldson. He was trying to give me a bad time about the President taking naps in the afternoon. I said, Sam, I’ve never seen him take a nap. I wish you’d get that out of your mind. But he was a teaser anyway. He knew that was not the case. They really didn’t try to get me off on my own to corner me or pump me for information. You learn to be careful, too, after a while, even when you’re out socially. We all referred to the President, if we were out at a social dinner or something, as the boss. Everybody looks around if you say, The President said this, or The President did that. So we just called him the boss, and we could talk a little bit easier.

Knott

What about your own attitude toward the press? I mean, you worked very closely with this man that you admire. Did you follow his coverage in the press at all? Did it bother you what you’d see there?

Osborne

I followed his coverage only because when I got up in the morning I would turn the news on, and very often I could tell just by listening to the news how our schedule was going to be disrupted that day, or that we were going to have to take a quick trip somewhere we hadn’t planned on, depending on what was going on. But one of the most frustrating things was that I would try to keep my children informed of world events and things, whether it was a trip we returned from or something that happened. I would come home and explain, because I did have the news on, and they would be seeing some of it, too. I would say, Now, this is what happened today, and this was David Jacobson, and this is where he was, and he was a hostage, just sort of how we handled it at the White House.

My daughter, who’s now 29—she was very rambunctious as a child—would go into class, and when their teachers were teaching about current events and things, my daughter would be back there saying, No, no, no, no. My mother said that the President did this and the President said that. I had to convince her that the teacher wasn’t working in the White House, so she really wasn’t privy to all the information we had. It really became a problem, and I had to convince her that she had to sit back and think to herself, Well, I probably know a little bit more than the teacher on this subject, but it’s not her fault, and this is going to go away, so just leave it alone.

Knott

Did you ever get the sense that President Reagan would be disturbed by press accounts of himself or his administration?

Osborne

More disturbed about press accounts of his wife. He was very protective of her. That would really, really anger him. But he’d let it roll off his shoulders. He had good rapport with them, I think. And a lot of them, you might think he wouldn’t like them, because they were obnoxious at times, like Sam Donaldson. Sam Donaldson made a lot of money yelling, Mr. President. He did. And the President knew that that was his job, that’s what he was doing. But I think he thought he could be very objective, and I think he respected him as a newsperson.

Knott

On the day of a press conference, would the typical schedule be disrupted quite a bit in terms of preparing?

Osborne

Not really. If it was a planned press conference, it wasn’t a problem. We would have a little bit of time in the afternoon, and they’d go over in the family theater, and some of the staff would throw questions at him and make sure he was comfortable, felt like he was well informed on the issues. But he probably could have gone down to the press room every day, it wouldn’t have bothered him. I think the staff was just afraid the press was always looking for something to make a story out of, so why give them the ammunition? But the President wasn’t afraid of them. Ronald Reagan was himself.

Knott

Well, it’s noontime. Do you want to stop and get some lunch?

[BREAK]
Knott

Maybe a good place to start right now would be the switch that occurred at the Chief of Staff’s position, I believe in early ’85, when Jim Baker left to go over to Treasury and Don Regan came in to be the White House Chief of Staff. If you could just give us some sense of what it was like to work under the new Regan regime. Were there any changes that occurred in the way the White House staff operated?

Osborne

I think, when the change occurred, most of us didn’t see it coming. I think it was something that Jim Baker and Don Regan had discussed and then took it to the President, and the President agreed that that could work. A lot of us found out after the fact. Some people were just surprised. I think Mike Deaver, for one. It’s possible that many people would have assumed that if Jim Baker ever left, Mike Deaver would be in that position. But Mike was very valuable where he was also. He really oversaw the staff and had the President’s personal agenda in mind constantly, and I felt that was very important. Each Chief of Staff did things differently.

I don’t know that Don Regan had the expertise with the legislators that Jim Baker did. I think they all bring a little something different to that position. As each Chief of Staff leaves, they have a handful of staff who usually leave with them who are personal aides and assistants. This was the case, and Don Regan brought in some new people with him. Things changed a little bit shortly after that. Mike Deaver departed. Things were a little bit different because I was so used to depending on Mike, or I could certainly go to Jim Baker, too. I had no problem taking him any problem that I could see going on in the office, and having him resolve it. But it was different, because Don was brand new. I didn’t know him that well. He had a deputy—I don’t know how to explain this. Of course, we didn’t know him, but he could not make decisions the way Mike Deaver could. If anyone went to him with something, it was more or less, Well, I’ll get back to you on that, which made it difficult sometimes. It took some getting used to. It took Don—and his staff, really—getting used to the fact that the Chief of Staff position was a lot different from being Secretary of the Treasury, that there was another boss in the West Wing, and that this man reported to that particular boss in the Oval Office.

I think this view they had of putting their boss on a pedestal caused some tension. I don’t think it was necessary. They could have handled it a little bit differently. But it worked out. Don was very cordial to everybody. We had no problems with him in our personal offices of the President. We all got along just fine.

Young

Did you have a feeling that he had a different idea about how the staff ought to be run?

Osborne

Well, it was different. He was so much more serious than Jim Baker and Mike Deaver. The atmosphere was a little bit different. I felt that I was very secluded and protected where I sat, because I hardly ever left my office. So, often, I didn’t know what was being said and what was going on outside my office, and I didn’t know what was going on with the morale until I actually came out and started asking some people. Then I was very surprised.

Young

Regan is quoted in the paper making an analogy to the White House and his role in it that was a corporate model. I don’t know how that went over with the White House staff, but it struck a lot of people on the outside that he was sort of CEO, and the President was what? Chairman of the Board, something like that.

Osborne

Right, exactly.

Young

Now, he may have been misquoted, I don’t know. Or maybe he was saying it tongue in cheek. But it was quite an extraordinary—it made quite an impression, and perhaps fed the notion, which was always around somewhere, that Reagan really needed to be scripted and didn’t— You know what I mean, this is the top position in status, but actually falls on somebody else. Do you remember that statement?

Osborne

I don’t remember that statement, no. But we just assumed—

Young

But was that the feeling that was sort of communicated?

Osborne

Yes, yes it was.

Young

I see.

Osborne

People had to remind his personal staff that he wasn’t the head of a corporation there. He was working for the head of a very big company, and we were all there to contribute toward that cause. That was apparent. But I don’t know whether to relate it to him or to his staff. Sometimes staff can put a different reflection on a situation than the person himself, and I don’t know that it was him.

Knott

Would you care to repeat the story you told us yesterday about the bathroom—

Young

You can take it out—

Osborne

Okay, I’ll put it in and then think about whether I want to take it out. The way the West Wing is set up, there are nice public bathrooms all around, but there’s a nice small ladies’ room down the hall in one direction out of our offices, and then a men’s room down at the other end of it. It’s probably ten or twelve giant steps from the Chief of Staff’s office. His staff had decided it would be a good idea for the Chief of Staff to have his own private bathroom, just as the President does. The only place to put that would be to go into part of the Vice President’s office, into his secretarial staff office—which was very tiny as it was, you couldn’t get more than one desk in there.

So they were making plans to do this. The Chief of Staff’s executive assistant had this wonderful British accent, and she heard what they were talking about, and basically came in and said, Are you guys bloody well crazy? Do you know what the press will do with this? The Chief of Staff can’t walk twelve steps down the hall to use the men’s room? I don’t think you want to do that. I think you want to re-think this whole idea. They did squash it eventually. But that was some of the problem, the thinking was. A few instances like that, and it’s easy to see where people would assume that the staff think they’re still at the corporation, running it. It just took some talking to convince them things were a little bit different there.

Young

You said that it took you and some others by surprise that the change was made in the first place. There was no indication around that Jim Baker was tired, or burned out, or just really wanted to go into something else?

Osborne

We had heard that he would eventually want to go into a Cabinet position. Of course, Secretary of State is the key position that most of them would like to move into. I don’t know why the switch was made to go into Treasury. I really don’t know.

Young

It’s hard to understand.

Osborne

It is hard. I don’t know if Mike Deaver had any input in that. I don’t know why. As I said, when we were told it was going to happen I thought, Wow, I didn’t see any talks going on in the Oval Office or see any paperwork on this. I didn’t know it was even in the works, so I’m not sure.

Young

Ed Meese then moved out, or was moving out—

Osborne

Right.

Young

The troika was no longer there. I’m trying to find out what kind of a difference all that made. You mentioned part—

Osborne

Well, it was a totally different atmosphere. We had people who had been around Ronald Reagan for years, helping him do things the way he wanted them done, and all of a sudden it’s like strangers are brought in. Not strangers to Ronald Reagan, because I know he had respect for Don Regan as the Treasury Secretary. But all of the staff who all of a sudden were kind of running the show around the West Wing. It must have been difficult—

Young

New faces—

Osborne

—for them, too, because they were new, new faces, right.

Young

New ways of thinking.

Osborne

Exactly.

Young

They hadn’t the background.

Osborne

Right.

Young

Were some of them insecure?

Osborne

I suppose so. I think it was a problem for some of the staff to see three or four young men standing outside the Chief of Staff’s office all day long, just waiting for their orders, so to speak. That was the impression. Like, you must have something else over there that you need to be doing. When the President was in the hospital for his colon cancer surgery, and we’d have scheduled meetings, the Vice President would be over there. We’d have our meetings in the morning. There’s a conference room, a special wing at the hospital for VIPs, and the presidential suite, and they have a little conference room.

So we would have people come over in the morning and have a little staff meeting with the President. Of course, he could do things like that. But Mrs. Reagan, being the daughter of a doctor, and being so devoted to her husband, would ask the doctors, Okay, tell me what the recuperative period is. Tell me what we need to do. And they would lay it all out. In fact, it was on paper. John Hutton probably still has the instructions of what he should be doing. Then you’d have somebody come in and say, Well, we have to let the American public know that he’s strong and he’s okay, so we need to do this and we need to that.

And she’d say, No, he doesn’t need to work full time. He can work out of the residence. We can have all the meetings in the residence. The nice things that you do on a regular basis when you have somebody in the Oval Office, we’ll have to put that kind of stuff off. But the meetings that he has to have, we’ll just have them in the residence. There were some confrontational problems with that.

Young

Sure.

Osborne

The Chief of Staff felt that he should be more visible and show that he’s in charge and working. There’s no reason why he can’t be in charge at the residence. He’s still reachable. He’s still on the phone. He’s still going through all of his paperwork. But that was a problem. Even at that point, another mistake I think that the Regan staff made was that they thought that if the Chief of Staff had to go up to the hospital, to Bethesda, every morning, they would just have the helicopter come in and land on the south lawn and take him over there. Once again, somebody said, Only the President departs from the south lawn. Nobody else departs from the south lawn in the helicopter. But they weren’t thinking of that.

Knott

Who would have said that to him? Who was that somebody who would say, Look, this is not—

Osborne

Somebody who had been in the White House before the Regan staff came in and would tell them—

Young

We won’t ask the gender—

Osborne

And innocently, maybe they didn’t know. They were just thinking it would get him up there quicker—but, you know what, when you’re in a situation like that, we all adjust and make the best of it. I don’t know whether that was his suggestion or his staff. I can only assume his staff thought that would be a good idea. This would make it convenient. They were just looking out for their boss, not realizing the ramifications or the protocol.

Young

What about Ed Meese’s change?

Osborne

Well, Ed Meese’s change—it took a while for him to be confirmed—

Young

Right, it did.

Osborne

I think the President was comfortable having Ed around, but when you’re an attorney, being the Attorney General has to be the top job. So I’m sure he was delighted that Ed was going to be able to do that.

Young

But you were not involved with the policy side of things so much.

Osborne

No.

Young

So you’re not in a position to say what kind of difference that made. Because Ed had a pretty significant policy brief in the Cabinet councils and all that. Of course, he kept one of those positions at least.

Osborne

We stayed in touch with him, of course, but it was a whole new ballgame for him with the work that he took on. The former Attorney General, [William French] Bill Smith, was very close to the Reagans for many years. Of course, he was involved with the library board, and unfortunately passed away some years ago. You know, there were changes off and on, so you just needed to adjust to those changes, and we seemed to. I’m not really sure why the atmosphere and things changed that much when Don Regan and his staff came in, because he’s a very likable man, a very personable man. But things were just not the same.

Then it became apparent that there were problems—and I think hanging up on the First Lady probably was not the wisest thing to do. That’s not the reason he was gone. I think it was a whole batch of things that all came together at that point. It was one of the few times that the President asked me, What’s the talk around the West Wing in the White House? How do people feel about how things are being run? What’s the atmosphere like? What’s the morale like? Frankly, I hadn’t really realized it was as severe as it was, because, as I said, I was so secluded in my own little world right outside the Oval Office that I didn’t leave the office that much or have contact with a lot of people other than those in the West Wing.

Knott

Do you recall approximately when it was that he asked you that?

Osborne

I would say it was within a week before Don Regan’s resignation.

Knott

In the midst of the Iran-Contra—

Osborne

Yes, yes. And I recall getting back to him and telling him conversations I’d had with a few people, and letting him know that Jim and I had never had any problems with Don. If we had a concern or need and we went to him, he took care of it. That was fine, it was not a problem. I was honest with the President and told him that I had no idea that the morale was so bad.

Anyway, from what I understand, he and Don discussed the situation and together agreed that it was time for Don to move on. He was going to do it in his own time frame, which I believe was going to be in the next week or two. I believe that somewhere in that time frame, the President talked to Howard Baker. And somehow it leaked out that he had talked to Howard Baker, and we had a phone call one evening. I know it was a Friday evening because we had a presidential radio talk the next morning. I had a call from Frank Carlucci, who said he had just seen on the news that it was leaked that the President had talked to Howard Baker about replacing the Chief of Staff. I had him call the President at the residence to tell him exactly what he heard on television, and then in the meantime, obviously other people heard it. And very shortly I had a one-sentence resignation on my desk from the Chief of Staff—asking me to get it to the President—saying, I hereby resign as Chief of Staff.

So I sent it up to the President, and the President called and asked if I could stay a little later because he wanted to do a response. He did a lovely response to Don Regan. I don’t know if you have a copy of that.

Young

I don’t.

Osborne

We can get that for you from the library. It was done very nicely. I typed it up for him, and we had it delivered out at Don’s house, and that was the end of it. It all happened very quickly. It’s unfortunate it happened that way, because it’s not the way the President wanted it to happen. I think most people don’t really realize that the President and Don Regan had discussed this, and he was going to depart. But to have it look like he was ousted probably wasn’t the best way to handle it. It was just unfortunate.

Young

Do you think the leak came from the Capitol?

Osborne

I have no idea where it came from. I don’t know.

Knott

How was the President’s own morale at this time? Did you notice any difference during this Iran-Contra period?

Osborne

Yes, actually, I think I mentioned that when you’re around somebody that much, you know their moods and their demeanor and all that. There were a lot of times when he was distracted for a period of time when something terrible had happened that we had to tell him about. But two times that I knew he was more than just a little distracted: One was when Mrs. Reagan lost her mother, and during her breast cancer surgery—and also during the Iran-Contra time. I think he was just so shocked at what had transpired that he felt he didn’t know about. What he thought was this little tiny acorn over here ended up being this big bombshell over here. It was hard, especially when everybody came to him with the paperwork showing what had transpired with Oliver North.

In his mind, Oliver North was a hero because he was trying to help these people who were trying to have their freedom. It was difficult for him to separate that from the fact that this was somebody who possibly went off and told everybody, We’re going to do this and this and this, and it comes from the highest office. So where can these people question this? He’s telling them he has the top authority to do things. People had to point out to the President that this could have cost him the Presidency. Somebody wasn’t thinking about these ramifications when they decided, Oh, this will be a good idea because I know the President wants us to protect these people and save them from Communism, or whatever. But it involved a whole lot more than that. I think it bothered him that he was perceived as doing something that was illegal. In his mind, it didn’t play out the way it actually played out in the press. That was difficult for him to handle.

Young

Do you think the fact that some military folks were involved—Bud McFarlane was a Marine, and so was Colonel North—.

Knott

Admiral [John] Poindexter.

Young

Admiral Poindexter. Did Reagan’s respect for the military and his assumption of their integrity make him trust them more?

Osborne

If you could ask him today, he would not put blame on any of those military people. That’s just him. And, as he said, he ultimately had to take the blame because he sits at the top.

Young

That’s true. I don’t mean blame them. I’m just saying maybe he wasn’t as critical.

Osborne

That’s possible.

Young

He gave them all the benefit of the doubt when it was going on, and he suddenly found out after the fact, the paper trail, as far as what was being said, that he really didn’t—

Osborne

If you see all that goes on in that office, all the paperwork he handles—I forget what the paper is called, some sort of an order or directive that he signs off on. Something that could look perfectly innocent to him—that this is a way we’re going to get somebody home or something, and then it just blows up. It’s easy that something like that could happen. There’s no way he can read every single line of every single thing that comes in. It’s just overwhelming.

I think people took advantage of a situation and increased it to something much bigger, thinking that the President would want them to do it. I’m assuming that. Maybe that was not the case and got people to think that the President did know about it, when in fact he didn’t.

Young

It’s very hard to tell from the outside to what extent this was the staff there taking advantage of a general presidential approval for getting hostages out, supporting the Contras—and turned it into something that was basically their own project.

Osborne

Right. I couldn’t have said it better.

Young

Under cover of the White House.

Osborne

I know when we went through all this, one of the first things that we had to do was start taking a look at our records. Fortunately, we had all of our records of meetings and schedules and phone calls—and phone calls at Camp David, phone calls at the ranch, phone calls on Air Force One. That’s what I’m saying. Ronald Reagan had no secrets. It was all logged somewhere. So when some of the people involved in this said, Well, I met with the President privately and nobody knew. There’s no way anybody meets with the President privately. Somebody knows, and we had records. When it came down to it, when we produced all of our records, it was obvious there was no way this person, or these people, ever met alone with the President and got this covert approval or whatever. But these were also people who had no idea of the way we ran the offices and how the system was put together, that there were these records.

Young

How come President Reagan had so many different national security advisors—he had what, four, five?

Knott

Six, I think.

Osborne

Let’s see, Bill Clark—

Young

First it was Richard Allen.

Osborne

In the beginning, before I got there, I don’t remember his time frame, but Richard Allen may have just left. Joe Canzeri was also there. He was involved in the campaign. But what we learned over the years is when there’s something controversial happening in the life of a key staff person to the President, he or she needs to remove himself from the situation to make it go away so it won’t reflect on the President any more. With Joe Canzeri, the situation was somebody found out he just purchased a condo and had had a loan from [John D.] Rockefeller. The press decided that was a conflict of interest. Joe was packed and out of the office in 48 hours. The story went away.

With Richard Allen, I don’t remember what trip it was, but somewhere, somebody from Japan had given him a watch or something, or a check, or money, and he put it in a safe because they were involved in doing something else. I guess he forgot about it. Then he opened the safe, and then somebody found out about it. Again, it was one of those things. It became a story, so the best way to make the story go away was for him to remove himself from the situation.

Bill Clark was in that position and became Secretary of the Interior.

Young

He was deputy at State, wasn’t he? With Al Haig?

Knott

Yes. Then Bud McFarlane.

Osborne

Then Bud came in—

Young

Clark was—

Osborne

Clark was from Sacramento—

Young

I know. Clark was also a trusted person by Reagan.

Osborne

Yes, exactly.

Young

That tells you something.

Osborne

So there was Bud, and then—

Knott

John Poindexter—

Osborne

Then Poindexter, then Colin [Powell]—

Knott

[Frank] Carlucci.

Osborne

Carlucci, that’s right.

Young

How come Bill Clark left and was replaced by McFarlane?

Osborne

Bill wanted to be Cabinet secretary. That’s a big deal. Even though you’ve got the proximity to the President in that position, he wanted to be a Cabinet secretary, and a job was open.

Young

Then he went to Interior.

Knott

Took James Watt’s place.

Young

So now McFarlane comes in. Where did he come from?

Osborne

I don’t know where Bud came from.

Knott

He was Clark’s deputy. I don’t know how that came about.

Osborne

I’m not sure how that started—

Young

He was military—

Knott

I think he’d done something with [Henry] Kissinger—he went back to the Kissinger years, not in a very important post, but—

Young

That’s right.

Knott

When the Iran-Contra story broke—and you said this was one of the instances where it affected the President—you could sense that it bothered him. How long would you say that lasted, this bit of a funk?

Osborne

I don’t mean to say that it bothered him, that he was distracted from doing the work of the Presidency, but it was obvious that it got him down.

Young

And they had the [John] Tower Commission. It was part of that episode also.

Osborne

That’s right.

Knott

Did this persist for weeks, did you sense?

Osborne

Oh yes, I think it bothered everybody.

Young

It went on for quite a while.

Knott

He’s often portrayed as somebody who is very optimistic, very buoyant, and that seems to have been the case.

Osborne

He was. He was. And I kept thinking, People are going to realize he didn’t know about this. This is going to go away. But it didn’t go away. It just went on and on and on. I know it was difficult for him. It’s always difficult for him to place the blame on somebody else, too. I don’t know if blame is the correct word. But I think finally, when he saw the whole picture and realized what was really going on that he was not totally aware of, he had to talk to the American public and put it on his shoulders. Ultimately, it comes down to him.

Young

During this period of time, his schedule for outside appearances was reduced, wasn’t it?

Osborne

I don’t recall, but I can imagine they probably would have, just to prevent all the press questions. Because at any public appearance, the press questions until they get more information on what had transpired.

Young

Well, one of the items at issue apparently between Donald Regan and Mrs. Reagan was over the President’s schedule. This is where the whole astrologer business came in. It was reported that Mrs. Reagan had a much more conservative approach at that time about putting the President through a lot of outside work.

Osborne

I was never aware of that, and again, with the astrologer, I have to say we were all taken by surprise with that. As close as Jim and Dave and I were working with the President, we really never saw anything referencing planning a trip around a particular time frame because Mrs. Reagan said her friend suggested this or whatever. I had seen some stories about it. I’m not saying that maybe she didn’t talk to somebody, but there are some things you cannot plan timing around, that somebody who has nothing to do with what the White House decides on. It has a lot to do with the Air Force One pilot, and the weather, and the people on the other end.

I remember reading that somebody said they told Mrs. Reagan what time they should take off and land in Russia and all that. I think that’s hogwash. That couldn’t have happened because there are too many other factors that would determine things like that—or when to give a press conference. Nobody could be in our offices to realize what was going on, even though we had a quickie press briefing at a particular time in the press briefing room. We’d say we were going to do it at 11 o’clock, well, maybe we’d get some more information at ten minutes to 11, and somebody wanted to verify some things first before we went in. Maybe they wouldn’t wander down until 11:10 or 11:15. So for somebody to say, Yes, he had to give this statement at this time, I never, never, never saw it happen. It was never apparent. If it was going on between her and Don Regan or whoever, it was never apparent to any of us.

We just planned the schedule when it made sense to plan it, and I don’t recall— If somebody said, Hey, why don’t we do it next Thursday or Tuesday? if we could do it, it was no big deal. But nobody really questioned it.

Young

I just read this from the outside as the kind of issue that might arise between Nancy Reagan, who was very protective of the President, concerned with his welfare, and a CEO Chief of Staff who thought he was the one who should do all this, and who may have been pushing the President too hard, or in a way she felt was not good.

Osborne

Well, that certainly could have happened. My memory is not as good as I’d like it to be, but I vaguely recall in a conversation with Maureen Reagan—I’m assuming it was during this time frame—that the Chief of Staff had a conversation with Mrs. Reagan, and when they couldn’t come to an agreement, he hung up on her. She never told the President. She mentioned it to Maureen in conversation. Maureen told her father, and I think that’s how he became aware that there was a little problem there, a little friction.

Young

Connected with this or not, the assassination attempt and the aftermath surely must have had some effect on the First Lady and her fear—

Osborne

I would think so. I would be scared to death of my husband going out in public.

Young

Was that evident in any way earlier, quite apart from the Regan thing?

Osborne

No, I don’t think so.

Knott

When Don Regan leaves, you have Howard Baker come in as the new Chief of Staff.

Osborne

Right.

Knott

Was there another change of atmosphere at that point?

Osborne

Yes. I think for a couple of reasons. One, Howard Baker is somebody who had been around the White House and had been so well respected for so many years. The Reagans knew him. He brought in with him as his Deputy Chief of Staff, Ken Duberstein, who had been with us early on. He was head of the legislative area. We knew that the two of them, with their knowledge of Congress and all the people, all the players, would be very helpful. They’re both extremely nice people, very congenial. No reputations for having hot tempers or anything like that—always treated their staff well. So I think everybody was happy with the choice when the change was made and that they were coming in. And it did change. Things were a lot mellower, a little more low-key. The atmosphere changed quite a bit.

Young

For the better.

Osborne

Yes, for the better, yes.

Young

It’s also kind of interesting that Don Regan was not particularly strong in the field of congressional relations.

Osborne

Right.

Young

And at a time when you’ve got some problems developing, that becomes very important. Jim Baker was knowledgeable in Washington politics.

Osborne

Yes, exactly.

Young

He was succeeded by a Chief of Staff who’d had three or four years’ experience, but not an old hand. And then comes back in, sort of old Washington.

Osborne

Sure, that was a big help.

Young

Bound to make a difference.

Knott

Shift gears here a little bit. Edmund Morris makes a big deal about this wall that President Reagan had between himself and almost everyone else, with the possible exception of Nancy Reagan. We’ve heard some testimony to this effect as well. Did you see this or feel this wall?

Osborne

I don’t know that I would call it a wall. The President and Mrs. Reagan have a very unusual relationship. They’re totally devoted to each other. They miss each other when one of them goes out of town, can’t wait to get home to be with the other one. They’re each other’s best friends. They could spend every evening alone in the White House and not feel like they’re missing anything, whereas other Presidents will have a crowd in for dinner every single night. They really needed each other and depended on each other.

The President is a very affectionate man, mostly with long-time friends of his and Mrs. Reagan’s, and some of his staff whom he’s known for years, of course. But otherwise, he’s just very respectful. I don’t know what the word is—he doesn’t pry into people’s private lives. He loved our children, and we’d have them in all the time and bring cookies and things for him. But other than talking about the children, he wouldn’t pry into our private lives. I don’t think it was because he wasn’t concerned. He just felt it wasn’t any of his business.

I don’t think there’s a wall there. You always know what Ronald Reagan is thinking because he’s not afraid to say it. I think some people were looking for something else that isn’t there. When you meet with Ronald Reagan, what you see is what you get. He’s a genuinely nice man. He was brought up in the Midwest, had a delightful mother who took care of people in need, and her religion was important to her, and she passed that onto her children. I think maybe his upbringing has something to do with it. I don’t think he’s a complicated man at all. He’s genuinely nice all the time, usually happy-go-lucky, very happy man being President, very happy man being married to Nancy Reagan, one of the happiest men I’ve ever seen.

Knott

Was he a shy person in some ways? Is he a shy person?

Osborne

I don’t think so. And I say that knowing how he approaches people in the White House whom he’s never met before, or just walking from the residence to the Oval Office. He’ll walk out to the Rose Garden and shake hands with the gardener, or ask him questions about the tulips. He’s genuinely interested in everybody he meets. He’s not afraid to approach them and talk to them if he doesn’t know them. So I’ve never thought of him as being a shy person.

Young

Was he a born politician?

Osborne

I don’t think so. I think this happened when he was involved with the Screen Actors’ Guild, possibly. Then, of course, the ’64 Goldwater speech, that’s when people started thinking he could be a future politician. All the time I’ve known him, I’ve never seen an ego. I think it’s one of those rare forms that he honestly felt that he could change things for the better for people. He would be worried about the underdog and how we could make things better. He really felt that he had a chance to do that, and that’s what he wanted to do. But, as I said, I’ve never seen an ego in this man.

Young

Just talking about observing politicians working a room: They go into a room, they’re all over the room, Hi, I’m— and so forth. This is before he was President. People have told us that wasn’t the kind of politician Reagan was.

Osborne

I don’t think it was.

Young

He wouldn’t do that.

Osborne

I don’t think it was. I mean, he’d be friendly, he would approach people he knew, but—

Young

People would come to him and he’d be very friendly, but he wouldn’t go pushing himself on others. Is that an accurate—?

Osborne

Yes.

Young

So in that sense, he wasn’t your standard politician.

Osborne

No, not at all. I don’t think he thought of himself as a politician. I think he thought of himself as—I’m trying to think of the phrase he used to say—just a citizen wanting to make some changes, but not a politician.

Young

Tip O’Neill I think of as a born politician.

Osborne

Right, that’s true.

Young

By contrast. Even though they might have something in common. They didn’t have that in common, I think.

Osborne

He’s such a friendly person. I think his acting career probably helped him in his way of presenting a speech, things like that. It came very easily for him. It seemed so natural, whether he was talking from some notes in front of him or a TelePrompTer or something. It was very easy for him.

Young

Also we’ve heard that when he was in films, he was often the best prepared actor arriving on the stage. He had studied it and almost never had to do a retake, whereas almost everybody else would have to do it. Was that a quality he showed in the Presidency?

Osborne

Well, I know he always liked to be prepared. He would not memorize a speech, of course. There was really no need to. We would try to plan the schedule so he’d have time to be fully briefed on something before he had to go out and give a speech. But, you know, I never saw him really slip very much. I always thought he was well prepared.

There have been times—I think at the UN once—he was giving a speech. I remember Bud McFarlane was with us, so we must have been coming back from a trip or something, and the TelePrompTer broke down. Besides the TelePrompTer, we would also have the speech in front of the President so he would be turning the pages as he was reading the TelePrompTer. It was always just in case the TelePrompTer broke down, which it did. So it took him about fifteen seconds to find his place.

During that time, it seemed like it took three minutes, and Bud McFarlane went ballistic, looking for the people involved in all the electronic stuff. What happened? Get it plugged back in. But the President just hesitated for fifteen seconds—of course, everybody’s thinking, What’s happening? Is he having a stroke? Because he’s always so perfect. Then he picked it up and started reading from his cards. Then the TelePrompTer started working, and he started picking it up from the TelePrompTer. It’s difficult for people to keep going back and forth like that, but he was very comfortable doing it.

Knott

I’ve asked you earlier about the Sacramento years. Were there aspects of the job that he particularly liked or particularly disliked? I’m wondering if you could address that question regarding the Presidency. Was it the meetings with the sick children and so forth that he really seemed to—not enjoy, but take some energy from?

Osborne

He enjoyed meeting with the average citizen and finding out what their concerns were. He’s a people person. He did enjoy meeting with people, as far back as the Governor’s days up through the Presidency. We’d talk to people after they’d come out of the Oval Office, if they met him for the first time. It was kind of cute. We’d say, How did you like the rug? or How did you like such-and-such that was on his desk? They’d say, I didn’t see anything but him. I couldn’t even tell you anything that’s in that office. He made them feel like they were the most important person in the world. And that’s the way he felt. He gave them his undivided attention and made them feel special, which was great. It was a great privilege for a lot of people. That was his personality.

Knott

Did you ever get the sense that there was something that he particularly didn’t like to do as President, but would have to do? Go to a Cabinet meeting or something along those lines?

Osborne

Maybe make phone calls to the legislators to try to talk them onto his side on a bill. That was difficult sometimes.

Young

Not the high point of the day?

Osborne

Not the high point. Some of them could be very pleasant, and some of them would take some doing for the operators to track down. There were times where, after a phone call, I’d go in and he’d be beet red. I won’t tell you who he talked to, but it was some of the legislators. It’s not so much that he couldn’t convince them that this is the way something should be. It was more, I think, that they were so disrespectful in talking to the President. It wasn’t like you’re sitting in a bar talking to somebody and using foul language. You’re a Senator or Congressman. Show a little respect, say, No, that’s not the way I’m going to do it, sir. But that’s not what he got. So I could always tell when he had one of those kinds of responses. It was obvious that it was not a pleasant call. When I would see that, I would go to Mike Deaver saying, Don’t ever ask him to call this man again. He doesn’t need to go through that. You guys talk to him. He’s not going to talk to this Congressman anymore.

Young

That’s an experience that all Presidents have had. It’s amazing what some people will say. It’s just incredible.

Osborne

And yet, if the roles were reversed, he would never speak to anybody that way. Again, it goes back to the way he was brought up, to respect other people’s views and opinions, even if they don’t agree with the way you feel about something.

Young

A lot of Presidents—well, not a lot, some Presidents—take great joy in getting out of there and going out to press the flesh with, talk to people, to communicate. For others that’s a real ordeal. It’s hard for them to do that until they get into a certain mode. Some Presidents just ball themselves up when they get in trouble, like Richard Nixon did, and stop appearing in public. Where does Reagan fit in on all this? Of course, he’s the great communicator, but there’s some kind of chemistry, apparently, with him and the public.

Osborne

He enjoyed being out among the public. He enjoyed giving a speech. It was not a burden for him. It was easy for him to do. He enjoyed it mostly when we traveled during the day and would get him home so he could sleep in his own bed at night. He did not enjoy sleeping in hotel rooms. I’m trying to think of some specific instances. Whenever we traveled, if he had a specific group to speak with, we would go ahead and take care of that. But there were always little separate groups, somewhere along the line, that we’d have in a holding room where he could spend a few minutes on a more personal basis with somebody. He enjoyed that. Again, it was his need to find out what’s going on out there. He knew he was leading a sheltered life. He couldn’t go out—even though he had read several newspapers and magazines. He couldn’t go out and just stand at the newsstand like he used to, and flip through the magazines.I think the trips and the speeches that he enjoyed the most were when he was speaking with the military. He loved giving the commencement exercises at one of the military academies each year. That was very important to him. We had some tough trips with the military. There are so many accidents and things that happened. We went to Fort Campbell and Camp Lejeune, and I remember standing in hangars, watching him and Mrs. Reagan walk through aisles and aisles of everybody crying, for hours. Two or three hours this would go on because an entire plane went down coming back from Newfoundland, or because the USS Stark was hit. He did it because he knew he needed to do it. I think he honestly grieved with these families. He knew he was the Commander-in-Chief. He sent these military people to protect us.

Knott

The Challenger disaster, do you remember that day?

Osborne

I remember it vividly. I remember leading up to that point, when they had the teacher candidates coming in. They were going through the process of determining the teacher and all that. That particular day we had some people in the Roosevelt Room waiting to see the President. One was a high school student, and one of his science projects was on board the Challenger. The President was in a staff meeting, just strictly staff, and I had a call from somebody in the Roosevelt Room saying the Challenger just took off a couple of minutes ago, and it just exploded, midair. I said, What do you mean? It didn’t immediately register what he said.

In Jim Kuhn’s office we had a little television, so I immediately went in and turned it on. Once I saw what was going on, I could tell the Challenger had disintegrated. Jim wasn’t there, so I walked into the Oval Office and opened the door. Larry Speakes was in there, and I motioned Larry to come out. I didn’t want to totally disrupt it, but I needed to tell Larry to interrupt his meeting and tell the President because the press would be going crazy, and it obviously was going to affect everybody there. He got up and started walking towards me, and Pat Buchanan almost trampled me trying to get through the Oval Office door—which, I think I told you, staff doesn’t do. You don’t just walk into that office, no matter what the circumstances are. But he almost trampled me, and the Vice President was right behind him.

Before I even had a chance to say anything to anybody, Pat blurted out, The Challenger just blew up! We moved everybody back to the President’s study to turn the television on so they could see what was going on. The first thing the President said after Pat said that was, Oh my gosh. Isn’t that the one our teacher’s on? He had remembered that. So they went back to the President’s dining room and watched it being replayed on television.

I called Mrs. Reagan’s secretary—I had a direct line to her. I said, Whatever Mrs. Reagan is doing, tell her to go and turn the television on right away. I knew whatever was going on, she was going to be involved with us. So, after all this happened and things were settling down, they were trying to figure out what caused it and what was happening. They had staff meetings about where to go from here, and somebody said, I think we should invite all the families to come here to the White House. The President said, No, I mean, they can come to the White House whenever they want, but with what they’re going through, we won’t ask them to get on a plane and come here. No, we’ll go to them.

I think it was just a matter of a couple of days. We went down to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and they met privately with the families.

Young

Mrs. Reagan—

Osborne

Yes, the President and Mrs. Reagan. There was a very nice memorial service. Then we got on the plane and came home. The President showed me a card that Jane Smith, the wife of Commander Mike Smith, had given to the President. If I remember, I’ll make you a copy of it. Just a nice thing he took out of H. G. Wells’ books, that he had written that morning and left it on his dresser. She had given it to the President saying, I think that Mike would want you to have this. He was really touched, but then, as he thought about it on the plane coming back, he thought, This is the last thing he wrote. I shouldn’t have it. His wife should have it. He said, What do you think I should do with it? I don’t want her to be offended if I send it back.

So we had our calligraphers in the social office write it out very nicely and frame it. Then we made copies of the card itself. He wrote her a nice personal note sending it back to her with the framed copy and then her note, saying that we had copies of it, and he was going to keep a copy in his desk in the Oval Office. But he felt that since it was the last thing that he wrote, the family should have it, which was nice.

Then, I recall, some time after that, one of the photographers from the White House photo office said the Smithsonian was doing an exhibit on the Challenger incident. I told them about the card. I said, You should get a copy of that. It might be interesting. I think it’s something that should be included. He had me look at some photos, basically of the group looking at the television right after it happened. They wanted to use one of the photos. There was one photo of the President, and his face was showing the pain and the strain and how much anguish he was in, watching this on television. It was not a very becoming photo of the President. I said, I think you should use that. He said, Oh no, it makes him look terrible. I said, You know what? It shows what he was feeling. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? He doesn’t have to be a handsome-looking President when he’s watching a tragedy on television. I hope I convinced him. I never got to go over and see the exhibit myself. But that showed what was going on in the President’s mind at that time. Just an unfortunate accident. Hard to believe it’s happened again.

Knott

I know.

Young

Nobody thinks about those things, I guess, when they’re thinking about being President.

Osborne

No, no, that is difficult. I don’t know who said it, but there were some rumors that the weather wasn’t the best for them to fly, but somebody tried to pressure them into taking off anyway because they thought the President was coming down to watch it. I can’t believe NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] would do that anyway, but that was never the case.

Knott

Late in the administration, after significant progress regarding relations with the Soviet Union and, I think, the Gorbachevs came to the White House in late 1987. And there was a treaty signing. Do you have any recollections of the visit of the Gorbachevs to the White House? I’ve got the dates here, December 8-10, 1987.

Osborne

I’m trying to put it in perspective with Mrs. Reagan’s mother dying and her breast cancer. Wasn’t that all within the same—?

Knott

Mrs. Reagan’s breast cancer was in October. The surgery was October 16, and the summit was early December.

Osborne

I do recall. First of all, she had her surgery, and I think I told you that was the second time in the whole time frame that I could see the President was distracted because he was so worried about her. On days where we had a lighter than usual schedule in the afternoon, very often I would just call the Chief of Staff, or call the scheduling director saying, Can I send the President home early? because I could tell he was getting distracted because of his concern for Mrs. Reagan. Obviously I wouldn’t do that if we had a major meeting going on, but if it was just appointments that he needed to take care of that I thought could be postponed, I tried to send him home early.

Shortly after Mrs. Reagan’s surgery—this is getting off on a little bit of a tangent—before the Gorbachev visit, the President was doing a European live television interview, and I had a phone call from Mrs. Reagan’s press secretary. She had a phone call from a family friend in Arizona indicating that her mother had just died and asked me to let the President know. I said, I’ll do that, but I have a little bit of a problem here because if I open the door of the Oval Office, it’s going to be on television. If I whisper to him what’s going on, that’s going to be on television. I feel a little bit in a bind here, so I think we have to hold this news for a few minutes. There was fifteen minutes to go in this interview. So she said okay.

I called the White House operator because Jim Kuhn wasn’t there, and I asked them to try to start tracking him down. I called Mrs. Reagan’s secretary and told her what was happening, and asked her not to put any phone calls through to Mrs. Reagan. Then I called the White House operator and said, Please don’t put any calls through to Mrs. Reagan until the President or I say it’s okay. I was afraid somebody else would tell her, and knowing him the way I thought I did, I thought he’d want to tell her.

I called Dick Darman and said—I don’t know if it was Dick or whoever was in his position—and told him what papers I had on my desk. I said, The President is going to have to leave suddenly this afternoon. Is there anything that has to be signed, a bill or something that’s mandatory, or can we put it off? I called the director of scheduling and told him to cancel the rest of the day. Then I called the Chief of Staff and told him what was going on, and I was going to send the President home as soon as I could get him out of this interview. I called the President’s doctor, told him what had happened, and asked him if he could wait for the President at the elevator and go upstairs with him when he talked to Mrs. Reagan.

So it was a strange reaction, because I felt so trapped that I couldn’t do what I needed to do. I couldn’t get to the President, for obvious reasons. So I just started making these phone calls. I don’t know if it was to keep me busy or what, but I just made all these phone calls. And then, when the interview was over, I had Dottie come in from the West Wing and stay at my desk.

The President is always so nice and friendly to everybody, and after the interview he usually stands around and talks to people, or if they want to have something signed, he’s happy to do it. This time when it was over, I walked in and had to interrupt and say, Excuse me, Mr. President, I need to talk to you back in the study. So I took him back there, and just as I put some papers on the desk and sat down, just as he was starting to sit down, I said, I’m sorry to tell you, but Mrs. Reagan’s mother has just passed away. He almost fell off his chair. I mean, we knew she was getting older and had some problems, but he just adored his mother in law, got the biggest kick out of her. That really, really hit him hard. Of course, he had questions about how it happened, whether Nancy knew, and what these papers were. I said, Nothing needs to be signed. Your schedule is canceled, and Dr. Hutton is waiting for you. Mrs. Reagan has not been told. He said, Good, because I want to tell her.

So within five minutes he was walking over to the residence and met up with Dr. Hutton, went up and told Mrs. Reagan. Ironically, she was on the phone with her son Ron, because she picked up the phone and called him. When she saw the doctor and the President, she told her son she’d have to call him back. Then the President told her. I had also told our scheduling director, We’re probably going to take a trip to Arizona tomorrow, so alert the advance office.

The President called me about an hour later and said, We need to take Nancy to Arizona tomorrow. Then she’s going to stay a couple of days, but we’ll come back. She needs to take care of things down there. We’ll come back and go through the service with her and pick her up. So she went out there with two of her secretaries, her press secretary and Jane Erkenbeck, her personal secretary, and they took the time with Mrs. Reagan to go through all of her mother’s things. Anyway, that was a very, very tough time.

Young

She wasn’t fully recovered—

Osborne

No, she had just— I remember being on the plane with her. The surgery was so fresh, and she was still having some problems with it. I remember sitting in the stateroom talking to her, asking her about—this sounds horrible—talking to her about an urn. I knew where the urn had come from for her father, and I was asking her if she wanted me to make any similar arrangements for her mother. I’m sitting there, looking at this woman, thinking, She just had a mastectomy ten days ago, and here she is on an airplane, going to Arizona to bury her mother. Anyway, we took her there and came back to the White House and then went back a couple of days later and went to the memorial service and then brought her home. Then within two weeks, it was the state dinner for Gorbachev.

Probably, they put more into this state dinner than any we’d ever had. It was so important. It was done very well and very nicely. But here she had to be the perfect First Lady of the United States when she just buried her mother and just went through some very serious surgery. Having gone through a similar situation myself with breast cancer, I was thinking, This woman has never had a moment to grieve for her mother or for her illness, and here she is being the absolute perfect First Lady for the Russian state dinner. It was just amazing. But it’s just such an example, I think, of what a strong woman she is.

Young

She mentions in her book, My Turn, I think it was about this dinner—I remember it, because I happen to know this man, Paul Marx, he’s a very prominent physician and was head of the Sloan-Kettering Center in New York. She mentions that Marx told her at this dinner that she should not continue doing what she was doing, that it would be very bad for her. He said, I don’t know what they’re telling you, but you take it from me, you have to give yourself time to recover.

Osborne

Right.

Young

I was quite struck that she put that in the book. Paul comes on pretty strong sometimes, so I can imagine.

Osborne

Well, during those periods of her losing her mother and then her cancer surgery, as I said, that was another time it was obvious to me that the President was distracted, or his demeanor was. I knew he wanted to get home, so if we could cancel anything that wasn’t that important, we would do that.

It’s interesting that a lot of people think that the title of her book, My Turn, meant now it’s my turn to get back at Don Regan. I’d always taken it to mean that the President has gone through so many health situations and that she was saying, Okay, now it’s my turn to have one of these problems. I guess we’ll never really know. I don’t know that she’s ever stated why she picked that title.

Young

The title predisposed, I think, some people to think that this is a gotcha get back. Actually, we got the book to read in preparation for this project, and it’s not at all that kind of book.

Osborne

When she sees Don Regan she’s very cordial.

Knott

Is that right?

Osborne

I think the last time I saw him was a year ago in Newport News, when we had the christening of the USS Ronald Reagan. He was there with Ann, who unfortunately was in a wheelchair then. He was in a great frame of mind. Actually, he was saying he had just returned from a ten-day cruise with his entire family, all 23 of them. They went first class, which he paid for, on this cruise to somewhere, and he was waiting for a reaction from me. I said, So what? You’re rich. What are you saving it for? Spend it on your family. He just roared. Because of course, he’s got the money, why not? Might as well enjoy it. Let them enjoy it while you’re alive so they can thank you. After you’re gone, you’re never going to know whether they really enjoy it. But he was there, and I think Mrs. Reagan and he greeted each other nicely.

Knott

Excuse me, there was a follow-up in June of ’88 where you went to Moscow, and there were some famous photographs taken of President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Red Square. He addressed some students at Moscow State University. Were you on this trip?

Osborne

It was a fascinating trip.

Knott

Could you tell us about that?

Osborne

Well, I wasn’t in on the meetings, as far as the heavy issues, but it was interesting. We—the traveling party—always have a briefing book before we go to a foreign country, letting us know what to expect. This one was exceptionally thick, and we met in a room—I’m trying to remember if I have this right. Because there were problems with the U.S. embassy being bugged, we met in a room that was like a meat locker. It had these fans that were so loud you could hardly hear each other talk. But that was the only way we could be certain we had the security, so that’s where we would have our meetings with the President. I guess, in Red Square, it’s the first time ever that they left the lights on all night in Red Square, because we were there.

It was so interesting, because driving from the airport to the hotel area, we stayed at the Hotel Mezhdunarodnaya, but we nicknamed it the Mez. I think it was the Armand Hammer hotel. On our way there we saw all these high-rise apartment houses. They all looked identical. We were joking about the fact that if somebody had too much vodka and came home one night, how would they know what building to go into. No grass or anything around it, just these buildings. Later on, years later, when we heard there was an earthquake there and most of these came down, it seemed obvious that the quality wasn’t there in the structure and all that. They had a man-made lake that looked like a canal. And people who looked like they spent the winter in a flour sack were in their bathing suits, leisurely lying around as the motorcade came by, as if this was part of their life, like they lie out and get sun every day like we do. They must have read up on this stuff, what we do in California all the time.

It was interesting because I don’t remember seeing any traffic signals. There were men standing in the road with hand signals. Again, we packed some of our own food. The food was interesting because we didn’t always know what it was. They had just discovered how to make ice cream, so every night we would get vanilla ice cream. Sometimes, they would take a jelly jar and pour jelly over the top. One night we did get it with some chocolate syrup or something, but very bland and unusual food. We could not leave anything in our rooms. We were told that they would go through everything, which they did. We could tell that our luggage had been gone through. It was awkward, because we had to carry everything with us constantly. If I used a typewriter in my room, I had to take the typewriter tape out and take it with me so they couldn’t take that.

They were not very secretive about what they were doing. I mean, we knew that they were following us and watching us. They knew we knew, but it was okay, because that’s their whole life, this espionage game. Just coincidentally, all of our rooms were reserved, every other room we were in, and there was nobody above us and nobody below us. We were told that we would be recorded constantly, and we would be filmed.

We said, What do you mean, filmed? They said, In your rooms you’re going to be filmed, everything you do will be on film. We said, What do we do about taking showers? I said, Well, we’ll just turn the lights out. They said, No, no, no, they have infrared cameras. They’re just like a pinhole. You won’t even know it’s there. That really bothered a lot of us. How do we go in and take a shower? So we started out with little floppy hats and sunglasses, but it’s just like talking to Mr. Shultz. After a while, you do what you’ve got to do. There’s nothing you can do to change it. It’s their way of life, so they’re going to see all these crazy people in floppy hats and sunglasses on television on their little video tapes. It took some getting used to.

If we left our room for a meeting and went down the elevator and forgot something and came back, they’d already be in our rooms. And then, if we caught them going through some stuff—men in suits aren’t usually in your room cleaning it, it’s usually a housekeeper. They’d talk in Russian and just walk out as if they’d walked in the wrong room. We knew better.

Then, if we went to Red Square—and it was fine to go over there at midnight, it was all lit up—I was shocked to see that they had hookers in Red Square. Of course, that was one of the things some of the men were warned about, as far as if you go out and get a drink somewhere, these women are set up to try to get you drunk and get things out of you. But they were so obvious there in Red Square. We also all had a particular fellow assigned to us from the other side. After a while, we could figure out which one it was, and it got to be a joke. If we were getting ready to go to Red Square, we’d say, Okay, we’re leaving now, come on implying, follow us. It was just such a different way of life. It was difficult to get used to.

Young

You had Secret Service with you, too.

Osborne

Oh yes, being in the Kremlin was interesting. I mean, to look at how poor the country is and see all the gilded ceilings, see all that wealth, it was a shock. I didn’t expect it to be that ostentatious. But it was a fascinating trip, and I really enjoyed that.

Young

What was the highlight of the trip?

Osborne

Let me think. I think just being in the Soviet Union. It was a real treat. There was some sort of a dinner and a receiving line, and it was interesting because Gorbachev has a great memory. I’d met him on three or four occasions, and he always knew exactly who I was and where I worked and that type of thing. One of our press people, our own White House press people, had spoken to him earlier and then went through the line again. Gorbachev said through his interpreter, Haven’t you been here before? He had a great memory and a good sense of humor.

Young

Was that the address Reagan gave to the students? It was quite something.

Osborne

Right. He enjoyed that.

Young

He enjoyed it, yes. He had a rousing welcome.

Osborne

That was a fascinating trip.

Knott

So that fall—that was the summer of ’88, and that fall, of course, is the presidential election, and George Bush—

Osborne

Right.

Knott

Did you travel to New Orleans with the President to the Republican convention where President Reagan made his farewell speech to the party faithful? Were you there?

Osborne

Yes, I was with him on most of the campaign.

Knott

Do you remember that particular day? Could you sense any—? What was his attitude as the end of his Presidency was drawing near?

Osborne

I think that even though I know he loved being President, he was ready to turn it over to somebody else, ready to come back to private life. He didn’t mind that he had a schedule every day that he needed to take care of. I think he was a little tired of the traveling, and really, really missed his ranch.

Knott

So he was not sad about the end of—

Osborne

No, I don’t think so, especially when he was turning it over to George Bush. It might have been more difficult if it hadn’t turned out that way. But he was ready to move on. Mostly, as I said, ready to spend a lot of time at his ranch.

Knott

What were your post-presidential plans? Were you going back with the President?

Osborne

He asked me about a year and a half before he was out of office—in fact, I don’t remember how soon they had decided on the house they were going to have. I keep thinking it was about six months before we left. I remember standing on the balcony of his hotel, and he was saying, That’s where our house is going to be, and asking me how long a commute I was going to have to get to the office. He basically had just come out earlier than that asking if I would be able to come to Los Angeles with him and continue on.

I had sold my dress shop somewhere in there. I can’t remember exactly when. It was becoming too difficult. I was taking the red eye to get out to California to go to market for my shop four times a year plus travel with the President. It was an awful lot of travel, and I thought I could always have a dress shop, but I couldn’t always do this. So I closed the dress shop. Initially I thought I would go back there and do that, but since I no longer had that business, and I enjoyed working for him so much, I determined I would come out here with him, which I did. So I was here for, I guess a couple of years. We got both books written, and the library almost open—well on its way—and I determined I needed to go back to Sacramento to spend time with my mother, who was dying of Alzheimer’s.

Knott

Were you on the flight from Washington back to California—

Osborne

The last flight?

Knott

Yes, the last flight.

Osborne

Yes, I was on it, along with my daughter. The President asked her to come on board with us, which was very nice.

Knott

Any particular recollections from that day?

Osborne

Let me think. It was strange flying on that plane when it was no longer considered Air Force One. We felt that immediately, of course, because now there was a new President. And I think we had mixed emotions. It seemed like a very short eight years, very busy, short eight years. It went by so quickly because we were so busy. I was more fortunate than most people because when it was all over, it was all over for a lot of people. I didn’t have the White House any more, which was okay, but I still had the boss to work for. So my life was going to continue on, and I would be working for someone pretty special.

It was very emotional on the plane coming home. They invited some of their favorite press people who’d gone through campaigns with them, and some of the key staff people. We brought them out to Los Angeles, and there was a little arrival ceremony for a couple of minutes and then they drove them out to his house. The plan was for the plane to sit there for a few hours, and then we were all going to take the plane back to D.C. He wasn’t going to go into the office for another couple of weeks out here, so it gave me a week to go home and pack up my house and get the movers and get my daughter and then fly back out here.

I had previously come out and purchased a condo in the area, so we were ready to move in. That was difficult, going on the plane back to D.C. without him. The stewards on the plane were also like family to all of us because we spent so many hours on that plane with them. They were the same crew almost the entire time and took very good care of us. If we came in from a really long trip—like coming back from Russia or from China or something—as soon as we sat down in our seats, they’d have our favorite soft drink or snack or whatever sitting there waiting for us. They just spoiled us something awful.

Young

They were Navy?

Osborne

Military, Air Force. They were all based at Andrews. So it was hard to let go of people who had been such a big part of our lives for so many years.

Knott

Edmund Morris, and perhaps some others, made the claim that toward the end of the second term, President Reagan was, for lack of a better term, slipping a bit, was not quite as sharp as he was. I was wondering if you would comment on that, whether you saw this.

Osborne

I don’t know where Edmund is getting that from. I think you’d get a more accurate reading if you’d talk to people who were with him every day, all day long. We never saw any of that, never, when he was in the White House. It was quite some time after we were out in California that we would notice something, like maybe he would forget something or whatever, but that was years later.

I think, something like that, you can’t keep it quiet. Somebody’s going to notice it, someone is going to say something to the press. I was around him constantly, and I never, never saw a sign of that.

Young

There weren’t any stories in the press to that effect, were there?

Osborne

I don’t think so.

Knott

At the time I don’t think—this is later.

Young

But I mean, during the latter part of his Presidency. I think there was always this sort of watching and waiting, looking for signs that he may be too old or something, signs that might be showing. But I don’t recall that.

Osborne

That’s like whenever we had meetings with the Pope [John Paul II], somebody would print a story that the President fell asleep while the Pope was talking. Have you ever had a meeting with the Pope? A lovely man. He has a monotone voice, and he can talk solid for an hour and a half, and it’s unfortunate that when they report these things, they also don’t report that six other people in the room are nodding off. You know, the President just got in from a long trip, and then to be in that sort of a situation is really unfair. That doesn’t make it such an interesting story that way, does it?

Young

No it doesn’t, though sometimes when you see the Pope you wonder whether he’s talking in his sleep.

Osborne

I know. I have to confess, the last meeting we had with him we were in a semi-circle. Mrs. Reagan was on one side of the Pope, and the President on the other side, and a few staff members. We all just sat there very quietly, but I could see what was going on, that a lot of people were starting to lose it and nod off. I was so tempted to drop my purse, just to make a loud noise to wake everybody up, but I felt it would be disrespectful, so I just started clearing my throat. I remembered a trick Mrs. Reagan taught me a long time ago—you press your thumbnail into your palm constantly, and that keeps you alert. It worked.

Young

You, of course, know about the [Brent] Scowcroft Award?

Osborne

No, remind me.

Young

These are the Bush years. Scowcroft could fall asleep quite frequently in meetings, but he had this real gift for chiming in instantly after he came out of it.

Osborne

So his subconscious was taking all of this in?

Young

Must have been, because he never said anything that was out of line.

Osborne

That’s amazing.

Young

And the President, President Bush, noted this and invented the Scowcroft Award. Each year he would award the Scowcroft to somebody who had fallen asleep in a meeting.

Osborne

You know, what we used to do on Air Force One, especially coming back from one of these major long trips—I think a classic is the Russian trip. George Shultz was sitting across from me, and he had worked very hard on that trip, in preparation for it and on the trip. So he was conked out, like this, in his seat. We got up and got the President. The President came back, and George is sitting this way, and the President is standing like this, with this expression on his face in front of George Shultz. So we took a picture, and the next week when he came in for the national security meeting, the President had signed it, But George, the Russians are coming, and he gave it to him in front of everybody in the meeting. We used to do that all the time, so there was a rule, you never, never, never fall asleep on Air Force One because the President will come and have a picture taken, and you have no idea who’s going to see it and what he’s going to say.

Knott

You talked to us yesterday about a trip that the Reagans took—and I believe you were there—back to Dixon, Illinois, to his birthplace—

Osborne

It’s not his birthplace. It’s where he grew up. His birthplace was Tampico.

Knott

This was near the end of his Presidency—

Osborne

We made one trip back there when he was President, in the winter. I don’t remember what the occasion was, but we went back there for a quick visit, went to watch a parade. It was so cold that none of us could even go outside. It was just freezing. It was a very quick trip. I think we were coming back from something, and we made a stop. But after that period of time, after that trip, and by the time we were post-Presidency out here, some people purchased his old boyhood home and refurbished it and bought property next to it and then on the corner. It’s like a little museum in honor of him now. There’s a museum building, and then there’s his home. It was put back the way it was when he lived there. Post-Presidency we took him out there, not with Mrs. Reagan. We made a special trip out there. I think we were headed somewhere else and spent the day there. It was fun for him, because he went back to Rock River where he used to be a lifeguard for many, many years, and had fun talking to people he knew as he was growing up, as a young boy. A lot of them were still there.Then we took him back to the house, and he was excited to see that it was the same house he remembered. He showed us where his bedroom was, and there were bricks in front of the fireplace. There was a loose brick they used to hide pennies in, and, of course, we had pennies hidden for him there. He had lunch in the kitchen with the people who had actually gone to the expense and the trouble of putting this together for him, Norman and Harriet Wymbs. He had a nice visit with them, and then we went next door and he met all the volunteers. They had tons of volunteers in Dixon who loved to show people through the house and tell about Ronald Reagan, and had dessert with them. It was a delightful day for him. He just loved it. It was great because he wasn’t President any more, and he could just relax and see old friends and tell all of his stories of growing up there. I think he had a really great time. It was nice for him to get back.

Knott

Sure.

Young

You talked then about religion.

Osborne

Yes, when he met with Harriet and Norm. They had had a conversation with me afterwards about their discussion. We let them have lunch alone with him, and they said that it was such an insight, that they were pleased to find out how much his mother’s teachings and her way of life had rubbed off on him. He’s probably a little more religious than most people see on the surface. He just normally doesn’t talk so openly about it.

Knott

You played a role in helping him pull together his memoirs, is that correct? I know he thanks you.

Osborne

Right.

Knott

What was that like?

Osborne

What was the process?

Knott

Yes, did he enjoy that sort of—

Osborne

Well, I think he enjoyed talking about the different things that happened in his life. He had a writer help him with it. They had meetings and talked about where he wanted to start, what he wanted to include. We’d set up meetings, and he’d focus on one area for a meeting—maybe we’d schedule two or three hours, or four hours one afternoon. Then the writer would send back a draft, and he would fool around with it, and we’d go back and forth a few times and they’d move on to another area. There were a few of us in the office who would also look at the draft.

Some of the things that he might be talking about, especially the presidential years, nothing was inaccurate as such. But maybe there were some caveats to what he was talking about that he wasn’t aware of that might add to this particular story or issue. So we would just offer it if they wanted to use it. But that’s pretty much what we did—we just tried to help him in that respect. The first one, the speech book, was much easier. Landon Parvin did it, and it was easy to collect speeches that were especially important to him and pull it together with anecdotes and things. The autobiography took a little more time.

Young

Was that something he wanted very much to do, or something he felt he should do?

Osborne

I think he felt he should do it. Keeping a diary helped jog his memory on a lot of things. That was very helpful.

Knott

How long were you with him again in the post-presidential years?

Osborne

I’d say two years, two and a half years, something like that.

Knott

Is there anything else from that particular time period that stands out in your mind, other than the writing of the memoirs?

Osborne

No, just trying to get the library set up, working with the people who were working on the exhibits, what to include—

Knott

Was he interested in the exhibit and offering suggestions?

Osborne

He was interested, and he was delighted with the way the library was going, delighted with the setting. It’s on a beautiful hill overlooking the valleys, and it’s just gorgeous. As in most respects, he pretty much let them do their thing, and they would update him. I don’t know that he ever had any major changes or concerns with it.

Young

His burial site is there.

Osborne

Right. Actually, he and Mrs. Reagan had always, from my understanding, planned on being buried in Santa Barbara somewhere, actually at a specific place. But the day we came out to break ground, so to speak, it was like a little ceremony up on the mountain where the library is. Coming down the mountain in the car is when they decided they wanted to be buried there, which I think is very appropriate.

Knott

You were at the library dedication ceremony.

Osborne

Yes.

Young

Tell us about Richard Nixon at this library service. Pat was there with him.

Osborne

Oh, at the actual dedication ceremony, yes. It was really a beautiful ceremony and great to see all the Presidents together. We had learned that the four Presidents were together before they left for President Sadat’s funeral. Some photos were taken, and when they came back, all of a sudden we started getting photo autograph requests. Everybody wanted all four Presidents to sign. And most of them did sign them, but it got to be totally out of hand. Most people are looking at their picture, probably thinking there are only a few hundred, but there are a few thousand out there.

It’s very, very time consuming, and each President knows it’s tough if they’re the only one who doesn’t sign. But we anticipated this was going to happen with this ceremony, so we talked to all the presidential executive assistants and asked how they wanted to handle it. We agreed that we would get everybody’s signature, and when we had the photo taken, we would put facsimile signatures on them. Then we would reproduce the pictures that way. People could have that. We’d just make it clear that they’re really not going to sign them any more. So that was the plan to save them all a lot of trouble.

I think President Reagan was touched that the Nixons arrived for this event. President Nixon knew how important it was to do that, just as Ronald Reagan knew how important it was to go to Jimmy Carter’s library opening and dedication. Mrs. Nixon was not really feeling very well at all, so when it was time for them all to go in to have a private lunch with the Presidents and First Ladies, the Nixons bowed out and went home. It’s my understanding that she died just a few days later, didn’t she? But he was delighted to have President Nixon there, because he was somebody he’d been in touch with since he was Governor. They spent time together. Nixon sent him on a couple of trips. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember what they were, but they were representing the United States when President Nixon was President.

When Ronald Reagan was elected President, Nixon wrote him a lengthy letter trying to give him some advice on picking his Cabinet, on the type of people you need to have in certain positions, and different types of hints on running the office a little smoother, things like that. It was a nice personal letter and something we never put in the files. We had always kept it locked in my desk until after President Nixon died, and then we made sure Mrs. Reagan was aware of it. She’d probably forgotten, and I think they did put it on display in the library eventually, with the Nixon family’s permission. They had a very cordial relationship.

Knott

Was there anything about Ronald Reagan that you think the press or the public particularly misunderstood and perhaps to this day still doesn’t quite grasp?

Osborne

Oh, wow.

Knott

Something that irritates you when you see it repeated in print or—

Osborne

Oh, it bothers me, it did bother me, when somebody would write that he was detached from what was going on in meetings and so on, because it is absolutely not true. I think I mentioned this to you before. When you’ve got 22 appointments in one day, you’ve got a lot of things going on, and you’ve got to shift gears really quickly to move on to the next event. Maybe it’s going to take a couple of minutes to totally focus in on something. But I just think it’s unfair. Some things were more interesting and more important to him than others, so maybe he’d show a little more enthusiasm for some particular things than others.

You know, that’s a no-win situation. You’re not going to make everybody happy all the time. It bothers me that a lot of people didn’t see the kindness in this man and the generosity that we saw constantly, and the fun-loving part of him. He was always so good natured about helping us play a fun prank on somebody, just to make their day, so to speak, always willing to participate.

Knott

Was there one particular high point for you in your time with Ronald Reagan, one that stands out? Or is that asking too much?

Osborne

Wow, there are so many. Well, my last appointment from him. I started out as personal secretary to the President, and then about four years into it, I was commissioned as special assistant to the President. Then a few years later, as deputy assistant to the President, and then three or four months before the term was over, Jim and I were appointed assistants to the President—which, within the White House, if you’re working there, is a very, very big deal. It was a nice tribute he paid us, because to my knowledge, none of the other staff assistants or personal secretaries were given that privilege.

Young

That’s officer status.

Osborne

Exactly, right.

Young

White House mess privileges, we’ve heard—

Osborne

Oh yes, your own little pewter plaque that sits on your table in the executive dining room, not the staff mess. So you get to rub shoulders with the Vice President and the National Security Advisor and—

Young

That goes to some people’s heads, I’ve heard.

Osborne

Yes it does, that’s true. Actually, I didn’t take advantage of it. None of us did, really.

Young

I didn’t mean to imply—I got the feeling from some people that that’s why they were there, for that plaque and that status.

Osborne

I had so many wonderful experiences throughout the time that I worked for him, especially in the White House. I was always amazed at how compassionate he was when there was a tragedy, when somebody had died. It has to be difficult to get on the phone and call the parents or the wife of somebody who has just been killed, especially in the military, when you knew that you sent them there. Very difficult, but he felt it was something he needed to do.

I’m trying to think, there was something else I was going to mention.

Young

It’s emotional for you to remember.

Osborne

Well, there are so many wonderful memories. You know, when we had the hostages taken, and Terry Anderson and David Jacobson. That was just a constant on his mind. He always wanted to know, Where are we at this point in the negotiations? or When are we going to get them home? That was a wonderful day for him when David Jacobson—I mean, there were other ones too—but when he came in I remember it was put on the schedule at the last minute. I called Mrs. Reagan to let her know. I knew she’d find out that he was released, but I knew she had also been concerned about that so much with the President that she’d want to be involved in it. So I called her to let her know that he was going to be in at a certain time the next day.

She came down, too. She let them have their national security meeting as such, which she didn’t need to be involved in, but as soon as they got that out of the way, for a few minutes she was sitting in my office. Then she went in and spent some time with David Jacobson. There are some wonderful pictures when they walked out to the colonnade to talk to the press. David Jacobson was standing there holding Mrs. Reagan’s hand, and Sam Donaldson and everybody were shouting questions at the President and at David Jacobson, and he kept saying, Will you please just stop printing all these assumptions and things in the paper? You’re making it worse for the people who are still there. Just let the administration do what they need to do, and we’ll get them all home.

I think that was a big day for the President. That was important to him. I’m trying to think of it, there was something else I was going to mention.

Knott

Jim, do you have anything else?

Young

I’d like to detain you longer.

Knott

Why don’t we take a break?

[BREAK]
Osborne

We went to Korea in 1983. While we were there, first of all, we went to the DMZ [demilitarized zone] with the President, and he could have stayed there all day with the troops, just hanging out with the guys, having lunch with them and so on. He was so proud of them being there. I don’t recall the purpose of the trip as far as the meetings and all that. But before we left, Mrs. Reagan had been told that there were a couple of Korean children who needed heart surgery. They were having trouble getting them into the United States to have it taken care of—a young boy and a young girl.

Mrs. Reagan started making a few phone calls, talked to a couple of people, and on the plane trip home, a couple of people from the traveling staff were bumped off Air Force One, and the two children—I think they were about 7 and 9, something like that—were on the plane with us. It was a night trip coming home. I had the little girl with me in my area where I sit on the plane. There’s a guest seat, and I can turn sideways, and then there’s my memory typewriter and little desk items and things. They had an interpreter accompanying the children. Their parents couldn’t come. They were home with their families. The children spoke no English whatsoever.

The little girl was fascinated with my typewriter. Everybody was sleeping, and all the lights were out except over my typewriter. We sat there at the typewriter, and I was trying to make hand motions to show her what I was doing. I would type the letters of the alphabet, or type numbers 1, 2, 3. This was a memory typewriter, so I’d type it all, and she would see what I was doing. Then I’d hit a button, and it would repeat what I had just done. You put a clean piece of paper in, and it would type it out nice and pretty.

It just took her seconds to pick up what I was doing. She sat there and typed the entire flight manifest and then kept hitting the memory typewriter and having all these copies. They were her little treasures to take home. It was interesting. I don’t recall whether it was the girl or the boy, but in one of them, the heart was outside the rib cage. It was so strange, because you could just feel it on their skin, the heart beating. They both needed open-heart surgery.

She finally fell asleep. We took these kids to the United States, and they had their surgery. Both were successful, and before we left the administration they both came back to see Mrs. Reagan. They were almost teenagers, and she was able to meet with them and see that they were doing well. That was kind of fun, to bump some staff to bring the Korean children with us.

When you were asking about one of the things I remember, I think on all of our travels, one of the biggest things I remember is standing in front of Brandenburg Gate when he was giving the speech, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Little did we know, somebody heard him. You know, there are so many trips—going to China for the first time, to Russia for the first time, seeing those different cultures. Bitburg, Bergen-Belsen, the Brandenburg Gate, of course, Normandy, all of that. It was such a privilege for us to have been a part of all that.

I remember what I was going to tell you. On one of our regular scheduled days in the office, we’d gone through our morning meetings, and the President had lunch. It was a quiet afternoon with appointments. It was getting close to 3 o’clock, and the President wandered into my office. We always had jelly beans all over the office, but we also had M&Ms, and he would wander into my office quite often to steal some M&Ms. He would come out as if he had a purpose to tell me something, which was a ruse, because I’m in there all day long, and he doesn’t need to leave his office. He’d mosey over to the M&M jar.

He kept saying, What’s going on in the office? Is anybody here? and I couldn’t figure out why he was so nervous and so anxious. I was busy on the phone, and doing some paperwork and so on. Finally our 3 o’clock appointment arrived. I can’t remember whether it was Jimmy or Dave at the time. They said, We’re ready for your 3 o’clock, and he was out of his chair and waiting at that front door where you open it up across from the Roosevelt Room. He opened it up, and I thought, What is he so excited about?

They open the door, and Arnold Palmer walked in. He was Ronald Reagan’s hero. I thought, Isn’t that funny? Here’s the President of the United States, and Arnold Palmer has no idea that Ronald Reagan has put him on this pedestal and is so excited to see him. You know sports figures and celebrities like politicians. Of course, Ronald Reagan had already been a movie star, but it was just cute to see him really excited about something fun like that. He really enjoyed that.

He enjoyed seeing old friends who would stop in. I explained the access to the office. He had one friend out of all I’ve ever known, to whom we gave the privilege of just walking in. I mean, knowing that the President was just doing some paperwork or something, someone who could just walk in unannounced. That was A. C. Lyles. They had been friends for so many years—

Young

Go way back.

Osborne

Go way back. He and Jimmy Cagney were instrumental in getting the President and Mrs. Reagan together, and they all used to spend time together on the weekends, having dinner and all that. It was fun because they’d been so close for so long that it was just kind of nice. If A.C. was on a Government commission or something, and he’d be back in D.C. for a few days, he’d stop by and say hello. I’d look at the schedule and if the President was in the Oval all by himself. I’d say, Go on in and say hello. He’d go in, and I could hear how excited the President was to see an old friend. It was fun because there were surprises now and then. He was back every three months or so. Otherwise, of course, everybody was announced when they went in to meet with the President.

Young

You were with Ronald Reagan for a number of years.

Osborne

I think it was thirteen.

Young

Did you see any changes in him—I don’t mean for the better or for the worse, just—

Osborne

You know, I don’t think I saw any change. He seemed more anxious to get to the ranch when we were back east, maybe because we didn’t have the proximity that we had when he was in California when it was easy to get down to LA and get up to the ranch. But once we were back east, we pretty much knew not to schedule a lot of heavy things a couple of days before, because his mind was at the ranch. He already had these trails cleared and the fence posts put up and everything in his mind, thinking about what he was going to do when he got there. That was a great way for him to relax.

He worked hard when he was there, but that was his way of relaxing and just clearing his mind.

Young

What was his relaxation when he couldn’t get there? They went to Camp David frequently?

Osborne

Yes, yes.

Young

He worked out—

Osborne

At Camp David, basically, on Friday nights and Saturday nights, they would have dinner alone, and then they would invite the staff up to watch movies with them. We’d go in one night, and there was a set time—7:45, I think. We’d watch golden oldies one night and something current the next night. Sometimes he would ride—there were stables there.

Young

This is when he was in the White House.

Osborne

This is in the White House, at Camp David. Sometimes he’d go horseback riding—

Young

There were stables at Camp David?

Osborne

All that’s at Camp David. Camp David is a cluster of little cabins or houses, and it’s a big piece of property, all secured. It has a swimming pool and tennis courts and the stables. There’s a little putting green area, and a private swimming pool also at the little cabin that they stay in. They’d get out and go for walks on nice days. It was just an escape. To stay in the White House for three months other than a day trip here and there has got to get to you after a while. You need to have a change of scenery. He would just sit with a lot of paperwork, and there’d be a lot of phone calls. He’d still be doing work, but he’d be doing it from Camp David and have a little more privacy.

Young

And staff was regularly invited out there?

Osborne

No, there was a small staff who went with him—it was Jim or Dave. And if one of them couldn’t go, then I would go in their place. Some of our families would be able to go to stay there with us. The staff usually involved stayed right in those cabins—the head of Secret Service, a press aide, the doctor, the military aide, and then somebody from our office, and the helicopter pilot. Camp David had its own housing and barracks where other military people would stay. Secret Service didn’t go to sleep, of course, while he was there, so they’d just need a cabin as such.

It was a very small staff, but we could have our families. They could drive up and meet us there and stay in our cabins with us for the weekend and do their own thing. If there were children, they could go and play—there’s a little playground and things like that. It’s very safe. They can’t get lost, and they can’t get hurt.

I took my daughter up a couple of times. The first time she was about ten years old. She knew I was back and forth at the President’s cabin and on the phone and doing paperwork, so she’d go out and do her own thing. They had a cabin with ping pong tables and a pool table, and there was another kind of a cabin that had movies, and three rooms with televisions, so you could watch any movie you wanted to. There’s always something to do. Then there was a place where we all ate, and she could go over there and talk to the stewards. They taught her how to make roses out of radishes and potatoes and things, but they’d give her milkshakes and popcorn and all that. We’d have set times to go down there for meals.

On this one particular trip, she was driven in by somebody else, another family member who was coming in. I guess it was a Saturday afternoon, and she knew that we were supposed to be at this particular cabin at 6 o’clock for dinner. We had bicycles and little golf carts to get around Camp David. I didn’t worry about her because I knew she couldn’t get in any trouble or anything. She knew she was supposed to be there at 6 o’clock ready to have dinner. But she wasn’t there. So we’re all sitting down at dinner, and I’m not real worried because I know she can’t wander and get lost. So she comes in, and she’s not really freshened up and spiffed up the way she’s supposed to be for dinner. We’re all sitting there with the helicopter pilot and the Secret Service—actually it was Tim McCarthy that night—and the press aide and the doctor and a couple of us at the dinner table.

I said, You’re a little late, young lady. She said, Oh, I know, I’m sorry. I said, What have you been doing? She said, I’ve been playing basketball.

I said, Where have you been playing basketball? I didn’t know we had basketball courts here. She said, Yes, it’s in the helicopter hangar. I said, How did you play basketball in the helicopter hangar? The helicopter went in there last night when we got here. She said, I know, I asked them to pull it out. She got the military to pull out the helicopter so they could go in and play basketball. I said, Who won? She said, We did, my team won. I said, That’s good. I’m sitting there trying not to look at the helicopter pilot, thinking, Did she just get all these guys in trouble? What has my daughter done? He just roared. He said, That’s okay, we do it all the time.

Then, as we were sitting there, I was introducing her around to everybody. I mentioned Tim, and I could see she was looking at him. I said, He looks familiar, doesn’t he? And she said, Yes, because I saw him at the White House? I said, No, you probably saw him on the TV when he got shot. He was with the President when he was shot. So then she was all excited because she was doing a project at school, and she said, Oh, can I interview you? Can I make you my project? She just drilled him about everything that happened. That was quite a weekend for her. Almost got me in trouble.

Young

The President also did riding when he was in residence in the White House, didn’t he?

Osborne

Initially we tried to do that every once in a while. We started out saying, Okay, how about Wednesday afternoons? We’ll get him out of here at 3 or 4. He went with Mac Baldrige, sometimes Senator Laxalt, but then you couldn’t really plan on it because of things that were going on. So then we tried to do it once a month, but he was criticized about it, so we had to eventually stop doing it. He would just do it on the weekends at Camp David and when he got out to the ranch.

Knott

Were there any foreign leaders you sensed that he particularly liked to meet and see, and perhaps others he was less comfortable with?

Osborne

I don’t think he was terribly comfortable with Pierre Trudeau or with François Mitterrand, especially during the economic summits, because Mitterrand would play all these silly games about who’s senior, who should arrive first, who should arrive last. It got to be ridiculous because Ronald Reagan was the senior participant in the economic summit.

Knott

Seniority based on—

Osborne

I don’t recall how they figured it out, whether length in government service or what, but as the senior one, he was supposed to be the last to arrive and the first to leave so as to not have any inconvenience. But Mitterrand would play these games so he’d be second to last. So instead of arriving at a certain time when it was all planned, he’d have his motorcade stop a block away so Ronald Reagan couldn’t arrive yet. So his motorcade would have to stop, and everything would be all held up.

Then the same thing would happen when they’d leave for the day. Ronald Reagan is supposed to be the first to leave, but Mitterrand would have his motorcade in front so that Ronald Reagan’s motorcade couldn’t get there. Then he would go over in the corner and start talking to somebody, Mitterrand would. Then after about five or ten minutes, the President would say a few unmentionable words, We’re not waiting around for him, and he’d just grab his entourage and walk down a block and get in his motorcade and leave. It was just silly games like that that Mitterrand would do.

Favorites? Margaret Thatcher, Brian Mulroney. He adored President [Alessandro] Pertini. When they come for a state visit, they arrive on the south grounds, and they give their little speech. Then they all go indoors and go upstairs and have tea or coffee and then meet in the Oval Office for a while. But as Pertini was walking into the White House into the diplomatic room, he grabbed the American flag and knelt down and kissed it. Everybody got very emotional about that. That was so sweet.

Oh, Yasuhiro Nakasone. He liked Prime Minister Nakasone. I’m trying to picture all these countries and the people he was closest to.

Young

Helmut Kohl?

Osborne

Yes, they were very friendly.

Young

But not like Pertini?

Osborne

No, Pertini, I think, was more a very touching gesture. I think he was close to Kohl. Probably closest to Margaret Thatcher. He was very impressed by her. He was always such a gentleman in meetings, especially the economic summit. He would hear somebody else say something that was disrespectful to her, and it would maybe be slanted over the fact that she was a woman or something. Then afterwards, the President would talk to her privately. He’d say, I’m so sorry, I felt so bad for the way so-and-so talked to you. She’d say, Oh, Ron, don’t worry about that. Boys will be boys. Didn’t bother her at all. Of course, look what she dealt with on a daily basis with their legislators, so different from ours. They’d stand up and trash you in the middle of a speech.

Young

She could give what was given to her.

Osborne

Yes, yes. But he spent a lot of time with Mulroney and Mrs. Thatcher.

Young

Mulroney was also very close with George Bush.

Osborne

Yes, that’s what I understand.

Knott

Any members of Congress he was particularly fond of, other than Paul Laxalt, of course, who had gone back for some years?

Osborne

Hmm. I can picture them. Alan Simpson.

Young

Alan Simpson?

Osborne

He was fond of Alan Simpson.

Knott

Great sense of humor.

Osborne

Howard Baker, of course. He always had great respect for him. In the beginning it seemed that he was close to Senator [Ted] Stevens, but I didn’t see much interaction with him after a while. You know Paul Laxalt had been a friend from when they were both Governors, so he remained a good friend all this time. They used to do things socially together. One thing I hadn’t mentioned was, when we were talking about Chiefs of Staff, we started with Jim Baker and then Don Regan and then Howard Baker, but Ken Duberstein became Chief of Staff when Howard Baker left. Ken, as Assistant Chief of Staff, or Deputy Chief of Staff, and then as Chief of Staff, brought a change in atmosphere to the White House, too. We’d all worked with him before.

He was an easygoing guy, could get things done, worked well with the legislature, and the Reagans became much closer to him as Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff then when he was previously there. We had a better working relationship, very similar to the Mike Deaver relationship. And to this day they’re still close to him.

Young

I don’t have firmly in mind here when Mike Deaver left.

Osborne

I don’t know how long after the change with Baker and Regan.

Knott

It was right around that. It was ’85 some time.

Osborne

Right.

Young

So there’s another hole—

Osborne

There was a total gap when Don Regan came in and brought one of his people from Treasury as Deputy Chief of Staff, when nobody knew him. As I said, he really wasn’t in a position to make any decisions. So it was a void.

Young

Who was working on the public relations part? It just went down the tubes? Certainly that was one of Deaver’s real—

Osborne

No, I think Tom Griscom was communications director—

Knott

Then Pat Buchanan.

Osborne

Then Pat Buchanan.

Young

Pat Buchanan was no Mike Deaver.

Osborne

No, nobody, there was nobody who could replace Mike—

Young

Tom wasn’t either. Mike also had that connection, with both Reagans.

Osborne

Right.

Knott

But when Regan comes in, he redoes the entire—

Osborne

It was different, yes.

Knott

He puts Griscom, or Buchanan, directly reporting to him.

Osborne

That’s right. It was just a whole new ball game. Before, if we had some concerns on maybe changing our system—which we would only do to make things run smoother for the President—it was so easy to go to Jim Baker or Mike Deaver. I’m not saying that Don Regan wouldn’t listen to us or wouldn’t try to carry out some requests we had, that wasn’t the problem. It was just different because we didn’t have the long-term relationship with him that we had with Jim Baker and Mike Deaver. But it was a void in the sense that Mrs. Reagan was very close to Mike, and now there was nobody there—

Young

Nobody there, and Don Regan comes in and there’s a problem on that front. I hadn’t really thought about this very much until today, that it was really the old, trusted—the family had dispersed. The original family. You were still there.

Osborne

As I said, that was part of Ronald Reagan. He was always comfortable with the continuity of the people he had depended on in the past. When there’s a change, you have to adjust. He could adjust to it. It was just unfortunate that it was necessary to do that.

Young

I wonder if they adjusted to him.

Osborne

I don’t know. I’m not sure.

Knott

There’s been some speculation that Iran-Contra never would have happened if some of the old team had been around him. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.

Osborne

I guess it’s easy to second-guess all that now. Maybe the old team was always more protective of the consequences of some things, and other people weren’t taking everything into consideration. I don’t know if that’s the case. I guess I’m in no position to speculate.

Knott

We haven’t talked about Colin Powell.

Osborne

The Reagans are very fond of Colin Powell. The President was always very impressed with him. They got along great. All the staff really liked Colin Powell. He has a great sense of humor, too. He has a very funny laugh. I don’t know if you’ve heard him laugh.

Young

No, not recently.

Osborne

I know. It’s an unusual laugh, really sweet. He’s a fun man. I remember coming back from a trip on Air Force One. I was in the stateroom on board the plane with Howard Baker, Colin Powell, and Ken Duberstein. We were having dinner, and we were also watching a movie that was called No Way Out. You remember that movie? It was about the Secretary of Defense. Who was the fellow who played that?

Knott

All I remember is Kevin Costner as the young officer—

Osborne

No, the fellow who played—

Knott

Not Gene Hackman?

Osborne

Yes, Gene Hackman. When the movie was over, it was interesting. It was the first time I had seen it, first time we all saw it together. When it was over, I thought, Gee, that was an interesting movie. I said, I wonder what Cap Weinberger thinks about that movie. And I won’t tell you which one of those three—Colin Powell and Duberstein and Howard Baker—said, I wonder what Mrs. Weinberger thinks about that movie. It was interesting. Colin had a nice staff. I traveled with him quite a bit. He was generally with us along with one of his assistants. They all thought extremely highly of him.

For some reason, we didn’t get to know Admiral Poindexter that well, and I don’t know why. I don’t know how long he was there, but it just seems that we didn’t know him as well as the other people in that position. I mean, even Bud McFarlane, if I’d see him on the street we would give each other a hug, but I don’t know that Admiral Poindexter would even recognize me. I don’t know why. Maybe he didn’t travel with us as much as the other ones did. That’s the way you really get to know somebody, when you’re spending hours and hours on a plane together. You can’t just sit there and look at each other for five hours. You start talking about each other’s lives and things, and what’s going on in the White House. But I never got to know him that well.

Young

Maybe he just kept his own counsel.

Osborne

Maybe so, that could be. But it was fun times.

Knott

Sounds like it.

Osborne

Sad to leave.

Knott

Great experience. Well, thank you very much. Unless you have any further comments to make, we want to thank you so much for your contribution.