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Monday, March 27, 2006

Lyn Nofziger, the Truest and Toughest of the Reaganauts, R.I.P.

Even when it has been expected for many weeks or months, the death of somebody you've known, worked with, admired and loved is always a shock no matter when the news arrives. A little while ago, I learned of the passing of Lyn Nofziger, who died earlier this afternoon after a long battle with cancer.

It's just not possible to try to put into words at such a moment what Lyn represented, either to America or to hundreds of us who worked with and for him during the Reagan years. He was the truest and the toughest of the Reaganauts.

And so much more. For many of us, Lyn was also father, confidante and friend and we would walk through fire for the man. Even now years later, tears are being shed all over America by those who knew and loved him.

It's just not possible to say more at this moment.

May God rest Lyn's immortal soul and comfort his wife, Bonnie, in her hour of loss as only He can.

UPDATE: Post, AP, WTimes, NYTimes Obits

The Washington Post's Martin Weil does a wonderful job of capturing the key role Lyn played in Reagan's rise from Sacremento to the White House, as well as Lyn's irreverence, hard-nosed honesty and love for the truth:

"An offbeat figure who wore Mickey Mouse ties with the knot pulled down, Mr. Nofziger won a reputation as a shrewd, two-fisted political battler, who blended loyalty, cantankerousness and pungent phrasemaking. He was known as one of the key staff members involved in Reagan's rise from the California governor's chair to the pinnacle of American power."

The Washington Times' Ralph Hallow notes another important fact about Lyn - his loss of parts of two fingers to shrapnel during the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach.

The first version I read of the AP obit failed to report that Lyn's 1988 conviction for illegally lobbying the White House after he left it in 1982 was overturned by a federal appeals court that ruled the prosecution had failed to prove Lyn knew he was breaking a law and did it anyway. That is another way of saying he was innocent - just as he insisted all along.

But a friend just emailed to say another version she read does include the overturning decision, so apparently at least one editor failed to run the complete AP obit. Here's the full obit, including the sentence about the conviction being overturned.

Then there is this John Broder obit in The New York Times that makes the incredibly ill-informed statement that Lyn was "never part of the president's innermost circle" and suggests that Lyn's report of Reagan's "Honey, I forgot to duck" quip in the chaotic moments following John Hinkley's attempted assassination was "possibly apocraphyl."

Broder obviously didn't know Lyn because if Lyn said Reagan said it, then you could be certain that Reagan said it. The truth is Lyn relayed that quip and much else in an impromptu news conference he called precisely because other Reagan aides were trying to tell people Reagan was not seriously wounded. It was Lyn who stepped forward and reassured America that, while the President was in fact seriously wounded, Reagan was still Reagan.

And that, more than anything else, was what Lyn always wanted most to be able to say about his friend, "Ronnie."

UPDATE II: AP Corrects the Error

John Solomon of the AP Washington Bureau (and a superb investigative reporter, by the way) just emailed to reassure that the error has been corrected on the wire.

UPDATE III: David Keene's Moving Tribute

As my sweet friend and Reaganut comrade Claire Dorrell explains, it makes you cry again. David Keene was there with Lyn for Reagan for so many years.