I consider this a life lesson, and I picked it up from the sad case of Donald Regan as recounted in Bob Woodward’s oddball-but-often-fascinating book Shadow.
I have long since learned, just as introduction to my little topic here, never to do this:
Never tell a spouse not to tell something to their other half. Cause they’re going to to tell one another, and you’ll look sneaky to both of them.
And now I’ve learned for certain, “Never get into arguments or bad relations with the boss’s wife.” I hadn’t realized this meant so much.
Nancy Reagan is arguably a person of some integrity, but a real odd duck for sure. In the White House, she consulted with an astrologer on good days and bad days for her husband to have meetings, sign documents.
At first people did not believe this, but it is fully documented and it drove Don Regan (the President’s chief of staff) — bananas.
Look at it from his perspective: he had coordinated with the State Department, Reagan himself, the national security team, the diplomatic community, relevant Cabinet officials, and countless others, for Reagan to (say) sign a treaty on a certain day.
But he hasn’t cleared it with Nancy and the astrologer and it was a bad joo-joo day that day, so the deal’s off!
Regan found this maddening. He later said he began to color-code his calendar divided into good days, bad days, and iffy days.
But is getting fired any better?
Nancy figured out sooner or later that Don Regan couldn’t abide her, of course. What do you think she said to Ronnie about her antagonist when she and the President were snuggling between the sheets together?
“I know that Don Regan hates me, but if he’s your guy, I want you to stick by him?!” Here’s what she’d have said — she has come to realize that Don is disserving the President, bringing him down. It’s not about her, she’ll insist, perish the thought!
I always wondered what Don Regan had done wrong, how he got canned, and here it is, on February 23, 1987:
The President had been pushed by Nancy and ex-staffer Michael Deaver to fire somebody else over Iran-Contra. Who do you figure Nancy had in mind, gentle reader? President Reagan sat down with Don Regan and lamented the “paralyzing disagreements” that Regan had had with Nancy.
Regan had grudgingly accepted the astrology, and had just been trying to protect the President from what he thought were stupid and crazy ideas. But the lesson here is that life does not work that day. Regan explained that he did not consider it his job to work for Nancy. The President reminded him of his pledge to leave the Administration if he ever became a burden.
Regan must have thought he was just getting a talking-to, and he said he’d stick to that pledge — he’d go any time the President asked. Regan probably didn’t imagine it would be any time soon, but Reagan said it would be best if Regan left immediately, before the latest Iran-Contra report came out.
Regan was horrified. If he left before the report came out, that was like throwing him to the wolves! Donald Regan *was* the problem, is what that meant! The President spun some meaningless fluff about how it would be a good send-off, and Regan was mortified (and fired).
So why was he really canned? Well, because in their minds, they needed to symbolically fire someone. And by having bad relations with the guy’s wife, Donald Regan got himself nominated. And loyalty didn’t matter, nor hard work, nor results, nor the fact that he had little to do with Iran-Contra. It was those “paralyzing disagreements”, i.e., pissing off the guy’s wife. And that’s right out of the boss’s mouth!
To me, a lesson. I have internalized, and I intend to carry this with me from now on, friends. When Donald Regan figured that an employee does not answer to the boss’s wife, he was fucking dreaming! –O.T.