Former first lady Nancy Reagan is opening up about the intimate thoughts of her husband, the late former President Ronald Reagan, which were revealed for the first time in "The Reagan Diaries."
At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., she told ABC's Diane Sawyer about family life in the White House, her children and the most important question she ever asked the Rev. Billy Graham.
"I said to him, 'Now, Billy, I just want you to tell me that when I go, that Ronnie's going to be there, waiting for me.' And he said, 'Oh, yes. Absolutely, Nancy.' I said, 'You're sure, now?' [He said,] 'Yes, I'm sure.' Okay," she said.
Reagan still finds herself talking to her late husband. She said she just can't "turn that off." In a sense "The Reagan Diaries" speaks back to her, relaying glimpses of her husband's tenure in the White House, including what he was thinking before his first meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev.
"You know, after he was shot, he said, like the days that are left to me belong to you, God. And he felt it. He was put here for a purpose. And that purpose was solving the whole situation with Russia," she said.
Ronald Reagan wrote that it was his purpose to end the Cold War. Throughout the book he chronicles his time in office, from the Iran-Contra affair to his controversial visit to a German cemetery in Bitburg. He seemed, as many people suspected, to govern by reinforcing his big core beliefs.
"Micromanaging was not Ronnie's style," Reagan said. "He would tell somebody, 'This is what I want. This is what I believe we should be.' And then he expected them to do it. They didn't always do it, but that's what he expected."
Managing a Country and a Family
But even in the Oval Office, the former president also had to manage their kids. Like any daughter, Patti Reagan asked for money. Ronald Reagan Jr. had a raging battle trying to get his dad to get rid of the Secret Service that trailed him everywhere.
"Ronnie (Jr.) got pretty upset about that," Reagan said. "I wonder if he remembers that."
In the diaries, the modesty of the former president emerges from details of the every day -- fixing the White House plumbing -- once with Merv Griffin -- and cleaning up after he spilled water in the hospital with Vice President George Bush Sr. there.
"Ronnie had gotten up and water had been spilled and he was down on his hands and knees wiping up the water…and George said, 'Mr. President they'll take care of that.' [Reagan said,] 'No, no, if they come in and see it the nurse will be blamed for it. I don't want the nurse to blamed for it. She didn't do it. I did,'" Reagan said.
All these memories preceded the agony of the decade of Reagan's long goodbye to her Alzheimer's afflicted husband.
The former president penned a final entry in the diary, not knowing the end of his life was near. His time in office was over; his wife was packing furiously and fighting the flu.
"And then he's written, 'Tomorrow, I stop being president. And then it's Friday, January 20. After the inaugural ceremony, then home and a start of our new life,'" Reagan said, reading from the diaries. "Which of course, didn't last very long…and that's it."