Nancy Reagan: I still see Ronnie in my bedroom

If Nancy Reagan was offended when Barack Obama made a quip about her performing séances with the dead, she apparently got over it quickly, even offering his wife, Michelle, advice on the phone afterwards on how to ratchet up the social diary at the White House.

Now, in an extensive interview published in the July issue of Vanity Fair, Mrs Reagan, who will turn 88 next month, reveals her continuing contact with her late husband Ronald Reagan. Her love for him, as well her interest in taking advice during his presidency from mystics, remains legendary.

"It sounds strange, but ... I see Ronnie," she tells the magazine. "At night time, if I wake up, I think Ronnie's there, and I start to talk to him. It's not important what I say. But the fact is, I do think he's there. And I see him."

While Mrs Reagan admits that she voted for the Republican candidate, John McCain, in the presidential election campaign last year she did take notice of Mr Obama on the other side. "I thought Obama ran the best campaign I have ever known – disciplined, well organised, very, very good," she said. "I was very impressed."

That he then made a joke at her expense in his victory press conference did take her by surprise. It apparently helped, however, that he almost immediately telephoned her at her home in Bel Air in California to apologise. It was a little later that a call came from Michelle asking for some First Lady tips. "We had a very nice conversation," she recounted, adding that they talked about the importance of holding lots of state dinners. (The Reagans held 56 state dinners in eight years versus just six for George and Laura Bush.) Hosting the dinners, she said, is "the easiest thing in the world. You don't have to do anything. Just have a good time and do a little business. And that's the way Washington works."

One step taken by Mr Obama that Mrs Reagan approves of is easing restrictions for federal funding for stem cell research which may hold the key to a cure for Alzheimer's disease, the disease which afflicted her husband before he died in 2004, aged 93. Had she been invited to the Obama White House to attend the unveiling of the policy change she would have accepted. "I would have gone and, you know, I don't like to travel".

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