First lady Nancy Reagan said she felt compelled to exert her influence during her husband's eight years in office because he was poorly served by aides who pushed their own agendas over his, it was reported Saturday.
In an interview to appear in The Los Angeles Times' Sunday editions, Mrs. Reagan said she was "hurt, surprised and disappointed" by the actions of her husband's staff."I don't feel his staff served him well, in general," she said.
The first lady readily acknowledged she wielded influence over her husband's decisions but said her actions were necessary to counter Reagan's own aides.
"I'm more aware if somebody is trying to end-run him and have their own agenda," she said. "I'm more aware of that than he is. It just never occurs to him that anybody is going to do that."
She said "the best example" of the staff's failure was the Iran-Contra scandal that sprung up over arms being sold to Iran in hopes of freeing American hostages in Lebanon with the profits diverted to rebels in Nicaragua.
"He (Reagan) did not know what was going on, and that's not right," she said.
During the interview conducted Oct. 18 under the agreement it would not be published until after the presidential election, Mrs. Reagan painted a portrait of a presidential couple increasingly dependent on each other in the face of betrayal by staff members, an unsympathetic press, threats to their health and security, the death of both her parents and their estrangement from Patti Davis, their first child.
The first lady left some things, such as her interest in astrology, to an autobiography she is writing.
She rejected suggestions that President Reagan's staff problems were a result of his detached management style and reserved particular ire for former White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan, blaming him for not informing Reagan about Iran-Contra and for not cooperating with her.
But, she said she did not insist on Regan's being fired, as was widely reported at the time.
Mrs. Reagan said her influence focused on the staff and had nothing to do with such policy questions as arms control.
"A president's wife," she said, "will hear things that he doesn't hear. And many times I get phone calls about one thing or the other and I'd say: `Please go over and tell my husband.' But something happens to people when they walk into the Oval Office and they freeze up and they don't tell him. So then I end up telling him."
She made it clear that she resented stories depicting her as a shallow devotee of the worlds of fashion and luxury but refused to comment on the most recent controversy over her practice of borrowing high-priced fashions from designers.
"There are a lot of things I wish had happened differently, certainly I never quite understood why all those spate of bad stories appeared about me before I ever got here," she said. "I mean, they never knew me. And there was all this terrible stuff being written."
Severely shaken by the assassination attempt in her husband's first year in office, Mrs. Reagan not only turned to astrology in an apparent effort to protect him from further harm but also began "dragging my heels" at his running for a second term.
Although she said she has grown to love the White House and will miss Air Force One, the first lady said she is looking forward to a measure of privacy, especially regarding the couple's health.
"I'm looking forward to not being under the microscope so much," she said.