2. desember

"Michael Deaver, in his version of more or less the same events, Behind the Scenes, gave us an arresting account of taking the Reagans, during the 1980 campaign, to an Episcopal church near the farm on which they were staying outside Middleburg, Virginia. After advancing the church and negotiating the subject of the sermon with the minister (Ezekiel and the bones rather than what Deaver called 'reborn Christians', presumably Christian rebirth), he finally agreed that the Reagans would attend an eleven o'clock Sunday service. 'We were not told', Deaver wrote, 'and I did not anticipate, that the eleven o'clock service would also be a holy communion', a ritual he characterized as 'very foreign to the Reagans'. He described 'nervous glances' and 'mildly frantic' whispers about what to do, since the Reagans' experience had been that of Bel Air Presbyterian, 'a proper Protestant church where trays are passed containing small glasses of grape juice and little squares of bread'. The moment arrived: '... halfway down the aisle I felt Nancy clutch my arm ... "Mike", she hissed. "Are those people drinking out of the same cup?"'

Here the incident takes on elements of 'I Love Lucy'. Deaver assures Mrs Reagan that it will be acceptable to just dip the wafer in the chalice. Mrs Reagan chances this, but manages somehow to drop the wafer in the wine. Ronald Reagan, cast here as Ricky Ricardo, is too deaf to hear Deaver's whispered instruction, and has been instructed by his wife to 'do exactly as I do'. He, too, drops the wafer in the wine, where it is left to float next to Mrs Reagan's. 'Nancy was relieved to leave the church', Deaver reports. 'The president was chipper as he stepped into the sunlight, satisfied that the service had gone quite well'.

I had read this account several times before I realized what so attracted me to it: here we had a perfect model of the Reagan White House. There was the aide who located the correct setting ('I did some quick scouting and found a beautiful Episcopal church'), who anticipated every conceivable problem and handled it adroitly (he had 'a discreet chat with the minister', he 'gently raised the question'), and yet who somehow missed, as in the visit to Bitburg, a key point. There was the wife, charged with protecting her husband's face to the world, a task requiring, she hinted in My turn, considerable vigilance. This was a husband who could be 'nave about people'. He had for example 'too much trust' in David Stockman. He had 'given his word' to Helmut Kohl, and so felt 'duty-bound to honor his commitment' to visit Bitburg. He was, Mrs Reagan disclosed during a 'Good Morning America' interview at the time My Turn was published, 'the softest touch going' when it came to what she referred to as (another instance of somehow missing a key point) 'the poor'. Mrs Reagan understood all this. She handled all this. And yet there she was outside Middleburg, Virginia, once again the victim of bad advance, confronted by the 'foreign' communion table and rendered stiff with apprehension that a finger bowl might get removed without its doily.

And there, at the center of it, was Ronald Reagan, insufficiently briefed (or, as they say in the White House, 'badly served') on the wafer issue but moving ahead, stepping 'into the sunlight' satisfied with his own and everybody else's performance, apparently oblivious to (or inured to, or indifferent to) the crises being managed in his presence and for his benefit. What he had, and the aide and the wife did not have, was the story, the high concept, what Ed Meese used to call 'the big picture', as in 'he's a big picture man'. The big picture here was of the candidate going to church on Sunday morning; the details obsessing the wife and the aide - what church, what to do with the wafer - was not."

-- Fra Joan Didon: "After Henry" (1992)

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35, Oslo

Inger Merete Hobbelstad (f. 1980) er kulturjournalist, teateranmelder og filmanmelder i Dagbladet og burde egentlig vre lut lei av skrive etter endt arbeidsdag. Men den gang ei. Jo, og s har jeg mastergrad i Litteraturvitenskap med en oppgave som handlet om Homers "Iliaden". Hvilket jeg altfor sjelden fr sprsml om. Og s ns jeg p imh@dagbladet.no.