Former White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan says President Reagan "laid down no rules and articulated no missions" while his wife, Nancy, presided over a "shadowy distaff presidency" influenced by astrological advice.
Regan's book, "For the Record: from Wall Street to Washington," scheduled to be in bookstores Monday, details his allegations that Mrs. Reagan consulted an astrologer about scheduling of presidential events.The book pictures Reagan as a reluctant decision-maker, saying, "Never did he issue a direct order, although I, at least, sometimes devoutly wished that he would."
"He listened, acquiesced, played his role and waited for the next act to be written," Regan wrote of the president who dumped him in favor of former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. at the height of the furor over the Iran-Contra affair. Mrs. Reagan was widely reported at the time to have played a major role in influencing the president to replace Regan.
The White House issued a statement Sunday saying: "Vindictiveness and revenge are not admirable qualities and are not worthy of comment. Donald Regan's attempts to defame the first lady, on Mother's Day no less, are certainly in that category."
In an interview Sunday, Regan said, "I don't think this is an attack on his wife. . . . There are no adjectives, no deprecation of the first lady. I merely told the story of what she did or didn't do during my period as chief of staff."
The former chief of staff said he regarded Mrs. Reagan's interest in astrology as a harmless eccentricity at first, and "it wasn't until it began to impinge and in my judgment harm the presidency in the latter part of 1986 and early 1987 that I began to protest."
Asked why he did not wait until the president was out of office to make the disclosures in the book, he replied, "I didn't set the time of my leaving this administration, and I don't know why I should hold up the book for this administration. This administration certainly didn't hold up my job."
When asked about Reagan's conduct at the time of Regan's enforced departure from the White House, Regan said, "I was disappointed. I thought that he was a generous, considerate person with loyalty down as well as expecting loyalty up. I still am puzzled by it. It's not characteristic, and that's the disappointment."
Regan said he was donating all of his proceeds from the book, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, to charity.
In his book, the former chief of staff wrote "that my admiration for Reagan as president remains very great" although "my judgment of him as a man, in light of my final experience as his chief of staff, underwent a certain change."
Over and over, however, he described the president as a leader who holds the reins lightly.
"Theodore Roosevelt believed that the president could conduct his office in any way that was not specifically prohibited by the Constitution,"he wrote. "Reagan, who laid down no rules and articulated no missions, conferred a Rooseveltian latitude on his subordinates."
Regan, who was secretary of the Treasury before moving to the White House, said that in his four years at the Treasury Department, "I never saw President Reagan alone and never discussed economic philosophy or fiscal and monetary policy with him man-to-man.
"From first day to last at Treasury, I was flying by the seat of my pants. The president never told me what he believed or what he wanted to accomplish in the field of economics. I had to figure these things out like any other American, by studying his speeches and reading the newspapers."
As for the first lady, he said, "Mrs. Reagan regarded herself as the president's alter ego not only in the conjugal but also in the political and official dimensions, as if the office that had been bestowed upon her husband by the people somehow fell into the category of worldly goods covered by the marriage vows."
He said of Mike Deaver, who served as deputy chief of staff before Regan came to the White House, that "his function in the White House had as much to do with the mysterious process of managing this shadowy distaff presidency as with his visible role as the custodian of the presidential image."
Regan says that "virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House chief of staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.'
He said he did not know the woman's identity. However, Time magazine, which published excerpts from the book, identified her as Joan Quigley of San Francisco, and Ms. Quigley confirmed in a telephone interview that she had been giving Mrs. Reagan astrological advice since shortly after the assassination attempt on the president in 1981.
Wrote Regan: "At one point, I kept a color-coded calendar on my desk (numerals highlighted in green ink for `good' days, red for `bad' days, yellow for `iffy' days) as an aid to remember when it was propitious to move the president of the United States from one place to another, or to schedule him to speak in public, or commence negotiations with a foreign power."
In addition, Regan wrote, the first lady:
-Appeared to want to delay the president's July 1985 surgery for suspected colon cancer because of her astrological concerns.
-Ordered Vice President George Bush and then-national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane barred from the president's room for days after the surgery.
-Pressed for the ouster of CIA director William J. Casey as he lay dying from brain cancer.
-Demanded that passages referring to abortion be deleted from one of the president's State of the Union addresses, saying, "I don't give a damn about the right-to-lifers."
"By humoring her, we had given her control," Regan wrote.