Washington Secrets

Rare Reagan letter: Policy not based on astrology

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

A rare cache of Reagan letters set for auction this month reveals a former president defensive of his wife Nancy's inner-circle power, dismissive of ridicule that they used astrology to chart policy and coy about his emerging stand against the Soviet Union which would eventually help prompt the fall of the "evil empire."

Typed on White House stationery, the letters to Reagan friend John Koehler, a longtime AP foreign correspondent and administration aide who died last year, reveal a president reluctant to show his hand on key issues and irritated at the constant criticism of his wife.

Among those up for auction January 30-31 at Alexander Historical Auctions, a major seller of historic artifacts, is a May 16, 1988 letter to Koehler defending Nancy against charges she fired ineffective chief of staff Donald Regan and several Cabinet secretaries.

"You know, John, one of the hardest things to bear in all of this are the outright falsehoods. Nancy never opened her mouth about (former CIA Director William) Casey, (Labor Secretary Ray) Donovan or (Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret) Heckler, and she certainly didn't fire Don," Reagan said of Regan's claim the first lady kicked him out of the White House. "Truth is, he'd told me several months earlier he wanted to get back to private life, and I left it to him to name the day."

In the same letter, he also referenced reports at the time that Nancy Reagan was using an astrologist to help her husband determine policies. "Of course," wrote the Gipper, "we haven't been charting our course by the stars."

In another letter to Koehler, who wrote about the brutal East German secret police and whose papers are held by Stanford University, Reagan was appreciative of information his undercover friend provided on the Soviet Union.

Early into his administration, Reagan was hit for not being clear on his Soviet policy and he explained to Koehler, "I have a foreign policy; I'm working on it. I just don't happen to think that it's wise to always stand up and put in quotation marks in front of the world what your foreign policy is."

The hand signed letters are expected to fetch up to $800 each.

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