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Inside Politics

Former presidents, aides remember Reagan


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REAGAN'S LIFE AND TIMES
Birth: February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois

Married: Jane Wyman 1940-1948, Nancy Davis in 1952

Education: Graduates from Eureka College, Illinois, in 1932

1932-1966: Sports announcer, motion picture and TV actor

1947-1952: President of Screen Actors Guild

1962: Campaigns for Richard Nixon, GOP gubernatorial candidate in California

1967-1974: Governor of California

1976: Loses Republican primary to Gerald Ford

1980: Elected 40th president, beating Jimmy Carter

March 30, 1981: Assassination attempt

January 11, 1989: Farewell address to the nation

1994: Announces he has Alzheimer's disease

May 16, 2002: Ronald and Nancy Reagan awarded Congressional
Gold Medal

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The death of former President Ronald Reagan elicited condolences, compliments and recollections on Sunday from former presidents, Reagan aides and other Washington figures.

The 40th president of the United States, Reagan died Saturday surrounded by family members at his home in Bel Air, California, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, one of the central figures in the Iran-Contra affair, said Sunday that Reagan "was easily the greatest president of my lifetime."

North, now an analyst on the Fox News Channel, released a statement on the death of his former boss.

"He will be regarded as one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had," said North, a member of Reagan's National Security Council. "He knew who he was, who we are as a people, and had an enthusiasm -- a great confidence for the innate goodness of this nation."

A special prosecutor's report named North "the White House official most directly involved" in the arms-for-hostages scandal that marred Reagan's second term. In the plot, money from covert arms sales to Iran was used to fund a rebellion in Nicaragua in violation of a congressional ban.

Another former Reagan aide, Secretary of State Colin Powell, said he was proud to serve him.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of former President Ronald Reagan," Powell said. "President Reagan fueled the spirit of America."

"I was privileged to serve as his national security adviser, and I was proud to be a soldier during his presidency as he restored the morale and fighting prowess of our armed forces."

Former President Bill Clinton praised Reagan's outlook.

"Even when we had a difference about domestic policy, the one thing I liked about him was that he was not mean-spirited, he was always optimistic about our country, and he believed that freedom was a universal value, as I do," Clinton said. "He believed that people everywhere wished to be free, and he believed the Cold War would end before most people did."

Former President Jimmy Carter, who lost his 1980 re-election bid to Reagan, said he admired Reagan's communication skills.

"President Reagan was a formidable political campaigner, who provided an inspirational voice to America when our people were searching for a clear message of hope and confidence," Carter said. "He had unshakeable beliefs and was able to express them effectively, both in America and abroad."

Reagan's vice president, former President George H.W. Bush, listed some of his favorite highlights of Reagan's administration.

"History will give Reagan great credit for standing for principles," Bush said.

"When he stood there in Berlin and said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall,' a lot of critics in this country were going crazy. He used the term, 'evil empire.' Some of the liberals in New York were wringing their hands and going crazy and saying, 'Oh, he doesn't know how to conduct foreign affairs.' And sure enough a lot happened on his watch that was very very positive towards new world order, towards peace."

Bush's son, President George W. Bush, expressed sadness about the news, which he learned during a visit to Europe to honor World War II veterans on the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France.

"This is a sad hour in the life of America," Bush said. "A great American life has just come to an end. I have just spoken to [former first lady] Nancy Reagan. On behalf of our whole nation, Laura and I offered her and the Reagan family our prayers and our condolences." (Full story)

Bush's presumptive opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry, D- Massachusetts, said Sunday he would cancel his "overtly political" public events this week in observance of Reagan's death.

"He had a way of making people feel as if the next day would be better," Kerry said of the former president. He said Reagan led "with great grace," and he expressed his condolences to Nancy Reagan.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Reagan earned a place in history.

"I think he is one of the two greatest presidents of the 20th century, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt," Gingrich said. "He shaped both America and the world, and they are different places than they would have been without Ronald Reagan."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-politician who has followed in Reagan's footsteps said, "I did not just admire him, I was fortunate enough to know him. He was a hero to me."

Reagan was governor of California from 1967 to 1975. He was president from 1981 to 1989.


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