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Interview of Robert Ivany, Army Aide to US President Ronald Reagan (1984-1986)

Témoignage de Dr. Robert Ivany, « Army Aide » du Président Ronald Reagan, 1984-1986
Pierre-Marie Loizeau


L’interview de Dr. Robert Ivany, « major General » de l’armée américaine qu’il servit pendant 34 ans, couvre la période 1984-86 durant laquelle il fut missionné en tant que « Army Aide  » auprès du Président Ronald Reagan. Elle nous renseigne sur le vaste appareil logistique et organisationnel autour du président. Ponctué d’anecdotes intéressantes, le récit nous éclaire sur les rapports qu’entretenaient Reagan avec les leaders soviétiques, les tractations diplomatiques derrière une cérémonie commémorative en Allemagne ou une revue de troupes au Japon. Dr. Ivany ne cache pas son admiration pour le 40e président dont il vante les qualités humaines, le caractère jovial et bienveillant ainsi que le respect de l’autre en toutes circonstances. Cependant, cette représentation élogieuse n’évite pas les clichés habituels dont se délectent les partisans de Reagan et par manque de recul critique, Dr. Ivany perd trace de l’homme dans son intégralité. Il n’en demeure pas moins que ce témoignage inhabituel sur la présidence américaine apporte une vision originale, de l’intérieur, et ouvre la voie à de nouvelles analyses.

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1Dr. Robert Ivany is currently the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He was born in 1947 in Gmunden, outside Salzburg, Austria, then a zone of American occupation, where, like many other refugees of World War II, his parents had found asylum after fleeing the Russian occupation in Hungary. His father served two years as KP (Kitchen Police) for the US troops before taking his family to Cleveland, Ohio, where the young Ivany grew up and was educated in local schools. At the age of 18, he joined West Point Military Academy and engaged in a 34-year-long military career, serving as an armored cavalry officer in various places around the world including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Federal Republic of Germany. He also operated in Vietnam where he was wounded in combat and for which he received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for valor. Once retired from the Army with the rank of two-star Major General, Robert Ivany, who has a PhD. in History from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, switched to academia and became the eighth president of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, in 2004. After thirteen years of service, at the age of 70, Dr. Ivany has decided to retire.

2Looking back on all these years, Robert Ivany has confessed that he enjoyed most his mission as the Army Aide to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986. We discussed his experience in close contact with the Commander-in-Chief in a 35-minute-long conversation (slightly edited to meet print standards), which focused on the major responsibilities of his mission in the White House and during the President’s travels. The details on his role as coordinator shed light on the different tiers of the vast logistical organization surrounding the President, the difficulties of finding a place within the wide-ranging White House staff and most of all, the constant concern for the President’s safety so that “every step he takes is choreographed.”

  • 1 Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution, New York: Random House, 1990, 151.

3The interview also addresses Dr. Ivany’s perception of Ronald Reagan’s character. This is of particular interest since it reveals the General’s fascination for the then Chief Executive. The anecdote on his first meeting with Reagan helps outline a series of character traits: sense of humor, cheerfulness, kind-heartedness, good-naturedness, ability to care, friendliness, etc. To substantiate his appreciation, Dr. Ivany refers to Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s former speechwriter and Special Assistant, also a great fan, and author of When Character was King, a best-selling biography in which she expresses Reagan’s humanity and describes his character as one of high, moral fiber. She praises the man in another book: “Imagine a president with no personal enemies.”1

4The word “respect” crops up ten times in the interview. Dr. Ivany insists that Reagan’s treatment of others with respect was his trademark attitude, whoever he spoke to, regardless of their political leaning. Even his ideological adversaries recognized his attention to others and “innate curiosity about people.” Dr. Ivany also claims that “respect” best defines Reagan’s relationship with Russian leaders Andrei Gromyko and Mikhail Gorbachev, the latter even calling him “a formidable President” whose amiable character was “one of the reasons why the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed.”

5Dr. Ivany’s fervent, almost emotional, portrayal of Reagan as a dashing, high-spirited but also caring, courageous and deeply patriotic president reveals his mark of gratitude towards a leader he holds in high esteem and towards a nation which hosted his family in difficult times and offered him the opportunities to achieve a remarkable career. Dr. Ivany’s personal experience exemplifies the many immigrants’ life stories typical of the American dream and his sincerity cannot be put in question.

  • 2 Martin Anderson, Revolution, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988, 291-292.
  • 3 The most glaring example is certainly George W. Bush’s made-for-TV’s “Mission Accomplished” (...)
  • 4 Michael P. Rogin, Ronald Reagan: The Movie and Other Episodes In Political Deontology, Berk (...)

6However, his dithyrambic portrait of the man he served for two years cannot be taken for granted either. It is interesting to note that someone who was close to the President mouthes the usual clichés about Reagan. Despite his personal charm, the “Great Communicator” could also be, in the words of historian Martin Anderson, a “warmly ruthless man.”2 Ironically, he had few close personal friends. Beyond appearances, it then appears necessary to separate perception from fact and to put in perspective the experience of a leader whose presidency was marked by paradoxes and double standards. Dr. Ivany’s account somehow illustrates the exaltation that Reagan’s supporters usually attribute to their “hero.” The anecdote about Reagan’s troop review in Japan illustrates this point as it tends to portray the president as a defiant yet imperturbable leader in the face of terrorist threat. American history, though, has shown that heroism is often a political and cultural construct where authenticity gives way to illusion.3 In the process, historical memory is clearly distorted into legend and idealization. Biographer Michael P. Rogin points out that in the golden age of television, political culture downplayed the distinction between the real and the virtual: “Reagan’s easy slippage between movies and reality is synecdochic for a political culture increasingly impervious to distinctions between fiction and history.”4 The popular image of the imposing figure then turns out to be pure artifice.

  • 5 Judith Trent, Robert V. Friedenberg & Robert E. Denton, Jr. Political Campaign Communicatio (...)

7Dr. Ivany declares that “people underestimated him.” Casting doubt on President Reagan’s outgoing character and remarkable achievements would definitely be a mistake but a man’s full picture cannot be limited to his qualities. Indeed, despite undeniable popular approval, Ronald Reagan also erred on the side of ambivalence and ambiguity. A combination of ideology and pragmatism permitted the President to make concessions without compromising his image as a man of unbending principle. Many observers also pointed out the paradoxical posture of the man who ranted about Washington’s excessive power for most of his political life, but encouraged popular faith in the presidency and the American government. He was imbued with a youthful optimism rooted in traditional American virtues but was also the oldest president in the White House. If his Hollywood background served him well to captivate the American people, it also provided him with a useful communicating tool to attenuate some of the political disasters that punctuated his presidency. Voices were also raised against the passive president who, particularly in his second term, “distanced himself from responsibility when things went wrong […]. It was as if he was a king who reigned but did not rule.”5

8Obviously, the interview offers only a partial view that does not do justice to Reagan’s multi-faceted character, presidency and legacy. It must be read as a testimony which, biased though it might be, brings out a rare and original look from within and evokes a recent yet distant period of modern history. It can be used as a thought-provoking document and a starting-point for a deeper analysis of the 40th President of the United States. In all respects, it comes from a high-ranking military officer whose unquestionable sincerity and candor in my company have made the Q&A a very enjoyable experience.

Interview Transcript, Interviewer: Pierre-Marie Loizeau, Interviewee: Dr. Robert Ivany, Houston, Texas – 5 May, 2015

PL— First of all, I would like to know what your exact assignment was when you were there.

RI— I was the “Army Aide to the President” and what that means is that the president has an aide from each of the services: one from the Army, one from the Navy, Air force, Marines and Coastguard. And our duties are basically three. The first is to act as an aide-de-camp when there are military-related events at the White House. So, if a military group, a group of veterans wants to come and see the president, of course it’s handled by the various different organizations within the White House, but the aide is always asked to come and facilitate the visit.

The second is to coordinate all the entities which support the president because obviously, he’s also the Commander-in-chief. Therefore, there is Air Force One which is the airplane which is manned by the air force, Marine One which is the helicopter fleet which the president travels in. And then, there is of course the drivers who actually man a whole fleet of cars, that’s run by the Army transportation service, and those are all sergeants from the Army who drive the officials in the White House.

There is the dining facility which is in the White House underneath the Oval Office that’s run by the Navy. And then the biggest one of course is the White House Communications Agency which is a very large organization composed of all the various services who contribute military personnel. All of these entities are under the military office of the White House, the office in the East Wing of the White House. The aides act as the operations officers to make sure that there’s effective interface between the staff and the military personnel, since they’re there on every trip. They make sure that coordination is done properly and done according to regulations.

And then lastly the most important was to carry the so-called “football,” as it was called, which was a [nuclear] briefcase, during my time, that had to be in close proximity to the president at all times. When we were horseback riding, we rode along with him. If we went to a hotel, then our room was next to the president’s suite. I knew where his bedroom was and we had access to the president.

PL— Why was it called the “football”?

RI— I don’t know, I assume the media named it, it’s been that for many years. So, those are the three responsibilities that the aides have.

PL— So, when you did that, did you feel that you had a very heavy responsibility?

RI— Well, we were trained before we took this job and once you’re selected you go through the training. So, you know what you are doing when you are in the position.

You learn to find your place within the White House staff. There’s the Secret Service, the national security advisors, the political staff, all with different functions. We all have to work together as a team. Especially when the President travels because he must stay in contact the whole time and everyone is concerned about his safety. So, all that has to be coordinated as a team.

PL— How was your first meeting with President Reagan? How was he? What do you remember?

RI— Well that’s a good question. In fact, the photo of my first meeting is right above your head there. I was a young major at the time, and had been through the training that was required and they came and introduced me to the president in the Oval Office. And, he made a big impression on me because, he took extra time to say something to put me at ease. Obviously he knew that I was coming in from the Pentagon and he knew that someone like me would be nervous, so he said, “Major Ivany I understand that you played football at West Point” and I said, “yes sir” and he said, “Now what position did you play?” and I said “Well I played offensive tackle” and he said “Well good, I played offensive guard when I went to Eureka college in Dixon, Illinois.” And he said “What side of the line did you play?” and I said “Well I played on the right side of the line.” “Oh good, I played on the right side too,” he said, “the right side is always stronger.”

That little interchange showed to me that he had asked an aide, “Tell me about this military aide that is going to be with me for two years.” And therefore, he came up with a little anecdote that made it very personal. He put me at ease and established a rapport that lasted for two years. Now of course, we rotated as to who was on duty everyday with the president. He was so respectful of the military in general, because he had been in the Army, and that helped us in our job because he treated us with respect even though we were very junior compared to the rest of the White House staff. And I saw him time and time again, when someone came to the Oval Office, he would find a way to give a little personal anecdote which immediately put people at ease.

PL— What are your fondest memories of the experience you had there? There are many I guess.

  • 6 Edmund Morris, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, New York: Random House, 1999.
  • 7 Note Dr. Ivany’s unintentional irony here: in fact, Dutch is a fictionalized biogra (...)

RI— I would say that what stuck in my mind were really two events that I was privileged to watch. If you remember back in, must have been, 1985 or ’86, there was the G7 summit in Germany. At the G7 summit, the free world leaders come together. Before meeting, the President indicated that he wanted to visit an Air Force base or an Army installation because we had a lot of troops in Germany at the time. In Bitburg there was a big Air Force base. We set up to go to Bitburg and visit the troops and I happened to be in charge of the military portion of that trip. In addition to visiting the air base, the President also agreed to lay a wreath at a German military cemetery because he had made a commitment to Chancellor Helmut Kohl to visit a German military cemetery. Helmut Kohl had come to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and so the President wanted to reciprocate. In fact, the story itself was in the Wall Street Journal last week. I was surprised to see it but it comes from a book, Dutch, by Edmund Morris, his biographer.6 So, they took a part of that book and put it in the Wall Street Journal, I think on Sunday. That describes it pretty accurately.7 When we made the preliminary trip, because whenever the president goes somewhere, every step he takes is choreographed. I mean there are groups that go before the event by weeks and months to determine where he can go and not go. It’s really very carefully thought out. So, at the time that we were at the cemetery, someone from our group asked if there was anyone controversial buried there, and the Germans who picked the cemetery said, “No it was just a typical military cemetery.” Well, there was snow on the ground and we didn’t see much of the graves, but as it turned out in that German military cemetery, as I’m told, in most if not all, military cemeteries in Germany, the German soldiers and the SS soldiers are buried together, there’s no distinction and so when it became known that there were SS soldiers buried there, it became a big issue. And the president was under a lot of pressure to not go and not lay a wreath there. He could have avoided going, he could’ve backed out. He could’ve said, “Well look I didn’t know about these SS soldiers, that’s not what I want to do.” His powerful backers, some veteran groups, some Jewish-American groups, all kinds of people, urged him not to go. But he said that he had told Helmut Kohl he would go and that he was going to go. And that took guts because he could’ve gotten out of it. But he did go. We asked Matthew B. Ridgway an Army general to go and accompany him. The Germans got a World War Two hero to accompany Helmut Kohl. The President laid the wreath, then later, he went to Bergen-Belsen and gave a speech there, a very moving speech, about the atrocities that had occurred there. I thought that he acted with great courage and kept his word.

PL— Have you had a chance to meet First Lady Nancy Reagan?

RI— Oh yes, we saw her.

PL— So, what was she like?

  • 8 Reagan spent much more time at Rancho del Cielo, his 688-acre ranch in California: overall, (...)

RI— Well I mostly ran into her when they were at the ranch at Santa Barbara. We would have one aide that was always at the ranch, slept there as did the doctor. We had a very nice trailer behind the house where the Secret Service had their command post. We would go riding with the President and we would be with him chopping wood in the afternoon. And so, I saw the First Lady there probably more than any other time and she was always very gracious, she was a very gracious person. She had a lot of friends in California but I think that she enjoyed being with the President when he was up there usually a week around Christmas, and for the summer time for a couple of weeks.8 He really tried to relax and so he had no aides up there at the ranch. A courier would come up from Santa Barbara where the staff stayed and then they’d leave anything for him to sign with the military aide who would then walk down leave it on his kitchen table in the morning around 9 o’clock, he’d look at it and he’d sign it then we’d pick it back up and take it back to the courier. They had a very small house. He would ride horses in the morning and take a little break at noon then go out in the afternoon and chop wood but that and reading is what he did. And I think that was very helpful to have a place and a time to relax. We respected them for their commitment to finding time to relax.

PL— President Reagan has often been presented as the president-actor from Hollywood. Do you think that was more an asset or a liability in the way he led the country… in the sense that people said that he was a great communicator – he was called “the Great Communicator” – and this was also due to his Hollywood experience. I don’t know how you would interpret that.

RI— Well, I think that it was a huge asset. I think people talked about “Oh he doesn’t really understand issues very deeply.” It’s true he wasn’t an expert on national security affairs or finance, but he showed that while he was governor of California that he could surround himself with some pretty smart people which is what he tried to do in Washington as well. I was always impressed by his ability to relate to people. I think that didn’t just come from his time in Hollywood. I think that that came from the time that he was a spokesman for General Electric. After he gave up his acting career he became a spokesperson for General Electric and toured the country giving speeches on free enterprise, capitalism, democracy. And there were probably dozens of relatively small meetings with average Americans where he would talk and he would get feedback and therefore he knew what Americans were thinking because he had spent a year or two or however long that was just going around the country and speaking to these different groups. There wasn’t just a speech it was a dialogue, where people would ask him questions. So, my perspective is that his ability to relate to people stemmed from his experience doing this and then he had an innate curiosity about people. He was always very interested in you and he’d ask you questions because he wanted to learn about you. Whether it was “where did you play football?” to larger issues. And I think that people underestimated him. One of my favorite books is called Reagan the Revolutionary. Have you read it?

PL— No I haven’t.

  • 9 James Mann, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War, New York: (...)

RI— Ah just a second... There it is: The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan.9

PL— The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, okay.

  • 10 Peggy Noonan, When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, New York: Viking/Penguin, (...)

RI— Yep and you might remember a book by Peggy Noonan, When Character was King.10 Well I enjoyed it, this [reads] “This ability to put people at ease had a very interesting impact.” I was able to be there at the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Andrei Gromyko, who, at that time, was the top diplomat for the Soviet Union. If you remember after Reagan came into power or I should say when Gorbachev came into power, Gromyko was sent, as far as I know, to kind of check out this guy Reagan and find out “Who is this guy? Can we talk to him? Is he this Hollywood actor? He’s the most anti-communist ah politician in America. Can we talk to him?” And I remember the car came up, I happened to be on duty that day, and so the car came up with Gromyko who got out very stiff and he had an interpreter with him, very somber-looking people. Then they walked into the Oval Office and the door closed and I was not in the meeting of course but I would say 45 minutes later, Gromyko comes out and he’s smiling, shaking the President’s hand and we’re all kind of amazed. We said, “What happened?” Well as far as I know what happened was the President treated him with dignity and respect. He opposed and hated communism but he was not going to hate Gromyko. And if, in my humble opinion, Gromyko had come back from that meeting and said to Gorbachev, “Look, that Reagan is someone you can’t deal with, he hates us.” It would’ve been much more difficult if not impossible to achieve the understanding between Gorbachev and Reagan. Gorbachev has been to Texas and to the Bush Library and he’s told my friends that one of the reasons that the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed is because you had a “formidable president.” But he wasn’t a personal enemy because if you remember at Reagan’s funeral, who was there from Washington to California? It was Gorbachev. And he was standing behind the First Lady when they laid the President to rest. The former military aides were invited to the funeral service in Washington. So, I was there at the back of the church, luckily, I was right by the aisle and I could see the dignitaries walking in and there came Margaret Thatcher, everybody you’d expect, Prince Philip and so forth, then comes Gorbachev. Now think about that. First of all, he’s a communist coming into a Christian church to pay tribute to the man who helped bring down the Soviet Union. And you can have no greater accolade then having your enemy come and do what he did. He didn’t just stay for the funeral, he flew to California. If you see pictures of the First Lady laying the President to rest as the sun sets, he was there. And that was her wish to lay the President to rest as the sun set on the Pacific Ocean. So, everything was backtracked from that event.

PL— Ten years ago, I was at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley and there’s a piece of the wall there. I think that is very symbolic precisely of his action to defeat the Soviet Union but also to show there was no hostility towards the Soviet people.

RI— And he did that after he had his greatest loss of prestige, which was after Irangate and all that followed. His popularity was down and people said he was washed up and then when Gorbachev wouldn’t sign the disarmament agreement that was supposed to be the end of the trail. But it didn’t happen because he was determined. Someone who is down in his fortune and then comes back up again, is someone you have to admire, he didn’t just give up.

PL— Then there was the age factor. He was about 70 when he came to the White House. There was the shooting in 1981, then the surgery operations to withdraw cancerous cells. Some people said that sometimes he was run out and overwhelmed with fatigue... Did you see that?

RI— I know that’s commonly said. I was there when he had the operation, of course he was shot a few years earlier. You know, he rarely seemed to delve into the details so even during his watch I mean some things happened that shouldn’t have, especially in Nicaragua. He trusted his subordinates. But I never saw him close his eyes, I never saw him fade away or doze off. He was obviously older but he was in good physical shape and he worked out a lot especially after he was shot. And he had a nice balance, he would go to Camp David on the weekends. And there the aides would rotate at Camp David with him. The Reagans were very kind with us, they let us bring our families to Camp David. Which was unusual but they knew that we were gone a lot and so there was an extra cabin where we could bring our family, which was obviously a great honor and joy to be able to take your children to ah Camp David. My kids still have great memories there. During those weekends, he had the military aide, he had the doctor and he had a personal assistant, someone from the political office but again it was three relatively junior people, no senior people, and on the weekends, he would relax.

PL— What would you say are the core principles of his leadership?

RI— Well I think that his main leadership principle was his commitment to treat everybody with respect. Unfortunately for American politics right now, there’s a huge divide between the different factions. He never gave up his basic principles, he would supposedly have a shot of Irish whiskey with his Democratic Irish political rival, Tip O’Neil, after a meeting, that was the story. But whether it was Gromyko, Gorbachev or the Democrats, he treated them with respect and I think that was very important. The ability to show that you are not some shallow actor, that you care about people, to have that basic respect for people. That permeates, as difficult as politics can be, the atmosphere and I think that helps a lot.

PL— What would you define as his main legacy?

RI— Well the obvious answer is the end of the Soviet Union. Of course, others helped, especially Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. I think [the fact that] these three famous people came together, just happened to come together, was amazing. I don’t think they had a great master plan but they all had the same basic desire to not just contain communism but to get rid of it; to find a way to end communism and its offspring: the Soviet Union. That was the first thing I think and then secondly, his ability to treat everyone with respect. It’s amazing how today Democrats and Republicans hearken back to Reagan, “those were the good old days,” and so forth and so on. He fought political campaigns but he was a true gentleman. Someone who treats people with respect is what I would describe as a gentleman and he had that ability without being mean or mean-spirited. That makes a big difference I think.

PL— How would you rate Reagan compared to Washington, Lincoln, the ones we commonly call the “Great Presidents” of the 18thor 19thcentury?

RI— Well that’s a very good question. And I think that only time will tell us that. I think that as time has gone on, and there’s more books out like that one I mentioned. We recognize that he had weaknesses, as we all do, but he had the strength of his convictions, I’m not sure where he got that strength from. His father was an alcoholic so his mother raised him, he went to college but didn’t go beyond an undergraduate degree. There was something about him that made him really unique and I don’t know what that really is other than, as I go back and look at it, it was that ability to treat people with respect. You might say that he had a love of people. I think that is what made a difference He obviously loved his mother a great deal. She’s all he had. He had a great love of his country so he was in the National Guard even before the war. He really kept his priorities, he never stopped being Reagan. This picture right over here, that’s in front of the Akasaka Palace in Japan. It was the second G7 summit I went to and I’m there behind the president. When you come to these kinds of conferences, at the opening session, you go in by seniority. So, he was the most senior leader, so he came last. But at that time there were threats because terrorists were shooting rockets across Tokyo. A rocket had gone in the nearby vicinity and landed in the Canadian Embassy right in the courtyard. The Canadian Embassy was not far from the Akasaka Palace. So the Secret Service did not want him to review the troops outside. So he asked, “Did the other leaders walk around outside and review the troops?” The Secret Service said, “Yes.” He said, “Well then, we’ll do it too,” and so, I was privy to this since I was walking behind him. We reviewed the troops, came to the American flag, he stopped and saluted. He walked calmly around and went into the palace.

PL— Did you have the chance to meet the French president at all?

  • 11 While Dr. Ivany is complimenting the Reagan-Thatcher relationship, he is actually c (...)

RI— No, I did not. I did have the chance to watch Margaret Thatcher. She was probably the most impressive other world leader I saw. She was a very deep, calm woman who clearly had a great grasp of the complexities of world politics and economics. And she often would sit down at this G7 summit and quietly just talk to the President, just one on one. And break it down the issue into understandable components.11 She was the most impressive person I saw.

PL— Well, I think this interview has come to its end. I would like to thank you so much for sharing your views, the views from someone who has been in the White House for… how long did you stay? Two years, three years?

RI— 2 years.

PL— Was it a choice, two years?

RI— That’s the normal rotation. I went from there to command an armored cavalry squadron in Texas, so that was my normal time in Washington. I actually spent three years in Washington, I spent one year at the Pentagon and then these final two years.

PL— Ok. Well, thank you again. [Chitchat]

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1 Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution, New York: Random House, 1990, 151.

2 Martin Anderson, Revolution, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988, 291-292.

3 The most glaring example is certainly George W. Bush’s made-for-TV’s “Mission Accomplished” show of force, wearing the US Army uniform, helmet in hand, saluting the troops, announcing the end of the War in Iraq (May 1st 2003).

4 Michael P. Rogin, Ronald Reagan: The Movie and Other Episodes In Political Deontology, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1987, 9.

5 Judith Trent, Robert V. Friedenberg & Robert E. Denton, Jr. Political Campaign Communication – Principles and Practices, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 7th edition, 2011, 112.

6 Edmund Morris, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, New York: Random House, 1999.

7 Note Dr. Ivany’s unintentional irony here: in fact, Dutch is a fictionalized biography, which narrates Ronald Ragan’s life in a romanticized way (by inventing characters for example) and which Reagan’s traditional biographers do not deem “accurate” at all.

8 Reagan spent much more time at Rancho del Cielo, his 688-acre ranch in California: overall, 484 days of his two-term presidency. He received a storm of criticism for avoiding his presidential responsibilities and the vacation property was ironically renamed “Rancho del Lazio” (In Spanish, “lazio” means lazy). See Jonathan Zimmerman, “For Obama, Bush, Reagan, no vacation from politics”, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 July 2013: <>, accessed on 12 February, 2017.

9 James Mann, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War, New York: Viking/Penguin, 2009.

10 Peggy Noonan, When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, New York: Viking/Penguin, 2001.

11 While Dr. Ivany is complimenting the Reagan-Thatcher relationship, he is actually confessing the president’s difficulties to understand the world’s complexities and his need for simplified explanations… Damning with praise!

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Pierre-Marie Loizeau, « Interview of Robert Ivany, Army Aide to US President Ronald Reagan (1984-1986) », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. XV-n°1 | 2017, mis en ligne le 20 septembre 2017, consulté le 17 février 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.9110

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Pierre-Marie Loizeau

Pierre-Marie Loizeau est Maître de Conférences à l'Université d'Angers. Il a obtenu son doctorat en civilisation américaine à l'Université d'Angers en janvier 2000. Sa thèse était intitulée : La Première Dame des Etats-Unis : une (Ir)résistible Ascension. Sa recherche porte sur l'histoire de la Maison Blanche, la présidence américaine et le rôle et le pouvoir de la Première Dame. Il est également l'auteur de First Ladies : De la Tradition à la Modernité (Paris : Ellipses, 2012), Martin Van Buren: The Little Magician. Hauppauge (NY: Nova History Publishers, 2009), Nancy Reagan in Perspective. Hauppauge, NY: Nova History Publishers, 2005.

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